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lycomayflower reads things in 2016 she hasn't read before

75 Books Challenge for 2016

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Edited: Jul 5, 2016, 8:51am Top

Welcome to my 2016 reading thread! Click here to go to my introduction post. The photo above is one of my classics bookshelves.

This first post contains an on-going list of the books I've read this year, with the most recent reads at the top. Click on the book title to go to the book's post within the thread, where you will find a review. Numbers in parentheses are page counts for each book. Click here to visit my most recent previous challenge thread.

Completed Reads

Total Pages: 12,121

50.) Summer Days and Summer Nights (384)
49.) The Royal Nanny (357)
48.) The Year of Yes (audio)
47.) 11/22/63 (1089)
46.) The Geek Feminist Revolution (287)
45.) Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle (162)
44.) Merry Men #1
43.) The Three Body Problem (399)
42.) Edie Ernst, USO Singer, Allied Spy (~100)

41.) Repotting Harry Potter (338)
40.) The World Split Open (188)
39.) Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude (98)
38.) Is It Just Me? (audio)
37.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (734)
36.) Gena/Finn (287)
35.) Me Before You (369)
34.) Changing His Game (199)
33.) The Optimist's Daughter (audio)

32.) Double Blind (292)
31.) The Gamble (644)
30.) Symptoms of Being Human (335)
29.) A Tale for the Time Being (418)
28.) Because of Mr. Terupt (268)
27.) Kindred Spirits (62)
26.) Tough Love (308)

25.) 36 Books that Changed the World (audio)
24.) Pent Up (273)
23.) Glitterland (202)
22.) The Madwoman Upstairs (339)
21.) The Pedlar and the Bandit King (239)
20.) Lord Savage (292)

19.) Nimona (~150)
18.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (359)
17.) Lit Up (249)
16.) Outing the Quarterback (194)
15.) Lumberjanes vol. 2 (~100)
14.) Waiting for the Flood (78)
13.) Toward the Winter Solstice (61)
12.) Lumberjanes vol. 1 (~100)
11.) Kings Rising (341)
10.) What We See When We Read (419)
9.) Maurice (255)

8.) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (audio)
7.) For Real (332)
6.) The Burnt Toast B&B (214)
5.) Peril at End House (audio)
4.) Hercule Poirot's Christmas (audio)
3.) Luke Skywalker Can't Read (208)
2.) Murder on the Links (audio)
1.) Whale Talk (298)

Edited: Jul 5, 2016, 8:55am Top

Introduction Post

Hello! My name is Laura, and this is the ninth year I've kept an LT thread tracking and reviewing my reading (and the twenty-fifth year I've tracked my reading in some way--should there be a cake or something?). I read pretty widely, but I'm most likely to read romance, memoir, mysteries, YA, sci-fi, fantasy, and literary fiction. I'm in my mid-thirties, work as an editor, am married to a fellow reader, and carry on living in the south (it's been the majority of my adult life now) despite constantly missing winter and wanting to move back north (I grew up in north-east Pennsylvania). When I'm not reading or working (which is also reading), I like to crochet, bowl, swim, and watch TV. Please feel free to talk to me here. I love a good bookish conversation!

This year I'm setting myself an amorphous goal to read things that are new to me. In 2015, I read a lot of things (through no particular design) that fell into categories of books that I've never read much before (audiobooks, comics, and romance), and I had a great reading year. I'm hoping to do that a little more intentionally this year by seeking out kinds of reading that I haven't done before (or haven't done in a long time or haven't done often). I don't really want to set myself specific goals (because I know I will rebel against them), but some notions I have for this kind of reading include: more books by diverse authors (especially by poc, trans, and lesbian authors), poetry, literary fiction from my shelves, and loooong books I've been avoiding "because I won't make my book count goal." In 2015 I blew past my book count goal (I was shooting for 75, then I was shooting for 79 (to break my best ever reading year), then for 100, then to break my record for most pages read in a year. I ended at 107 books, and broke all those personal bests.), so I'm going to try in 2016 to pay less attention to the numbers and not avoid things I want to read because "they will slow me down."

I'm also moving a lot of my tracking (of things like whether a book came from the library or is a new book et cetera) off of LT and into a spreadsheet. I will still track a handful of these here throughout the year and will probably still include some of that information in monthly reading round ups. But no more bulky key in my completed reads post with abbreviations even I couldn't remember half the time!

Edited: Jul 5, 2016, 9:12am Top

Select Yearly Totals:

(updated 8 May)

Total Books: 33

Shelf Books: 5
Audio Books: 6
Graphic: 3
Nonfic: 4
Poetry: 1
Ebook: 0
Translated: 0
500+ pages: 1

Authors are:
Male: 14
POC: 2

USA: 24
Britain: 8
Ire., Aus., N. Zea., S.Afr.: 1
S. Am.:

Dec 31, 2015, 5:55pm Top

Welcome back!

Dec 31, 2015, 6:14pm Top

Thanks, Jim!

Dec 31, 2015, 6:24pm Top

Well, I won't be the one to point out that the REAL reason you blew past 100 books this year was so you could go "nyah, nyah, nyah" and one-up your mother. (I live to serve in these peculiar ways.) Look out in 2016. I have ALL the time. *snidely hands*

Dec 31, 2015, 9:29pm Top

Happy new thread!

Jan 1, 2016, 12:09am Top

Dropping my star and wishing you Happy New Year!

Jan 1, 2016, 10:09am Top

I'm not ashamed to say that I tried to zoom in on your classics shelf photo, the better to snoop.
1) Thank goodness there's some Faulkner in there, for obvious reasons.
2) I'm gonna need to know what those two books are that don't have the spines facing outward. I mean, really.

Jan 1, 2016, 10:19am Top

Hey! How long have you had my copy of The Forsyte Saga??? It isn't even in my catalog. Thief! Baggins!

Jan 1, 2016, 11:03am Top

>10 laytonwoman3rd: It's not in your catalogue because it's not your copy? You old reiver, you.

Jan 1, 2016, 11:05am Top

It has to be mine. I remember those rips in the dust jacket.

Edited: Jan 1, 2016, 11:18am Top

Jan 1, 2016, 11:09am Top

>12 laytonwoman3rd: I got it at McKays. *stuffs book under couch cushions* Go away.

Jan 1, 2016, 11:09am Top

Hello Laura, I look forward to visiting your thread more often in 2016. I love the overloaded with books shelf. My only resolution for 2016 is to try to get books in order. Happy reading to you.

Jan 1, 2016, 2:03pm Top

>13 lycomayflower: Much obliged.

Jan 3, 2016, 7:50am Top

In honor of Tolkien's birthday:

*raises glass*

The Professor!

Jan 3, 2016, 8:15am Top

Happy New Year, Laura :-) I'm also trying to read things that I might not normally pick up, so good luck to us both!

Jan 5, 2016, 7:15pm Top

Hi Laura! Happy New Year!

Jan 8, 2016, 4:52am Top


Jan 10, 2016, 6:31pm Top

Hi, Laura. Just dropping by to add a star.

Edited: Jan 12, 2016, 4:01pm Top

Behind on threads, behind on reviews. Things have been pretty crazy here the last few weeks. Hopefully after the next few days things will calm down a bit, I'll review things as I read them instead of letting them pile up (three? yes, I think three books need reviews so far that I just haven't got to), and I'll actually reply to people who are kind enough to stick their heads in here!

>18 susanj67:, >19 norabelle414:, >20 DianaNL:, >21 rretzler: Thank you all for stopping by and happy new year!

Jan 12, 2016, 4:47pm Top

1.) Whale Talk, Chris Crutcher ****

Young adult novel about a senior who starts a high school swim team of "misfits." An excellent read that explores racism, prejudice, coming of age, and high school sports. A little darker in places than I was expecting, but very good. Recommended.

Edited: Jan 19, 2016, 10:56am Top

2.) Murder on the Links, Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser ***1/2

As always an excellent performance on this audiobook by Fraser. These are kind of our "go-to" audiobooks for long car rides together these days. The story is solid, but not my favorite.

Jan 12, 2016, 4:58pm Top

3.) Luke Skywalker Can't Read and Other Geeky Truths, Ryan Britt ****

A collection of essays about things sci-fi-ery and pop-culturey. Entertaining, funny, and sometimes insightful. The title essay is particularly good on Star Wars (but makes some odd claims about readership within the world of Star Trek that I don't think hold up to scrutiny--and which the author seems to contradict himself in another essay in the collection). My other favorites were "The Sounds of Science Fiction" about sci-fi soundtracks and "All You McFlys" about Back to the Future. Recommended if the subject matter flys your starship.

Jan 12, 2016, 8:39pm Top

'Allo! I live in Maine despite despising winter; maybe we should discuss a life swap for these months... :) Happy reading!

Jan 12, 2016, 10:57pm Top

>25 lycomayflower: I ordered that one for work and I'm glad it's a solid read. The title cracked me up.

Jan 13, 2016, 4:22am Top

greetings! dropping a star and planning to lurk. loving the familial banter.

Jan 13, 2016, 8:54am Top

Hi Laura. I'm excited to see what you end up reading this year.

Jan 13, 2016, 9:17am Top

Yay, here you are! Star for you! Agatha Christies tend to be hit-or-miss for me too, but I love them all the same. I wish I had more of them around to read, but maybe I should seek them out in audio as you've done. Did you get it from the library or Audible, or...?

Jan 13, 2016, 10:02am Top

>24 lycomayflower: I never even heard of that one. Of course, I haven't read enough Poirot, in general.

Jan 13, 2016, 3:56pm Top

>6 laytonwoman3rd: Don't know how I missed out commenting on your snidely hands earlier. You devious thing, you. It's not the Canadian way. *Dudley hat*

>26 kgriffith: Ha! There should be some sort of seasonal exchange program in place for people like us...

>27 MickyFine: I was impressed by how solid a read it was, to be honest. I was afraid it would be like many such things are--two or three good essays and the rest fluff. But it was good all through!

>28 dragonaria: Hi! Welcome! Lurk away!

>29 Kassilem: Hi, Melissa! Gosh, hope I end up being up to scratch. ;-)

>30 dk_phoenix: We've been getting these from Audible. They have at least twenty of them read by Hugh Fraser--perhaps more read by other people?

>31 laytonwoman3rd: An oversight I'm sure you'll be remedying soon. (You really can't go wrong with the audiobooks ready by Hugh Fraser, honestly. An excellent way to get some AgChr in.)

Edited: Jan 13, 2016, 4:00pm Top

Took this pic of the books that comprised my birthday haul and kept not getting around to posting it. A most marvelous haul it is, too:

Jan 13, 2016, 4:55pm Top

You know I'm going to have to borry the Beaton...

Jan 13, 2016, 6:36pm Top

>33 lycomayflower: Let me know what you think of Foundling! I read it a while ago and really enjoyed it, and Lamplighter. I need to get around to Factotum one of these days...

Jan 14, 2016, 8:10am Top

Wow, that's quite a haul! I'm interested in Mapping the Deep.

Jan 14, 2016, 11:08am Top

The only one in that pile that i have read is the one by Ginn Hale. A lovely book as long as you don't mind some m/m romance.

Jan 15, 2016, 11:28am Top

Have a lovely weekend!

Jan 18, 2016, 3:49pm Top

>34 laytonwoman3rd: Of course!

>35 kgriffith: Will do. I'd never heard of them, but I saw them in the store and they looked really interesting. I mentioned to LW3 that I couldn't find the first one in the edition that matched two and three, and hey presto! (She's magic.)

>36 drneutron: It's an embarrassment of riches, is what it is. I am blessed to have friends and family who know just how pleased I am to receive a book for a gift (despite already having "too many" I haven't yet read). I've read the first little bit of Mapping the Deep, and it is excellent so far.

>37 Kassilem: I most decidedly do not mind that. I'm really looking forward to that one, so I'm glad to hear you liked it!

>38 DianaNL: Thank you!

Jan 18, 2016, 8:35pm Top

Don't mind me. Just passing through.

Jan 19, 2016, 10:24am Top

4.) Hercule Poirot's Christmas, Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser ****

A proper locked-room mystery. The TV adaptation of this one was quite faithful (they removed a character, but all the plotty bits were just the same), so I knew what was coming. That's even more fun sometimes, I think, than being in the dark. Since you know the solution, you can follow along and see how she puts it all together.

Jan 23, 2016, 6:17am Top

Jan 23, 2016, 10:31am Top

>42 DianaNL: Thank you! Such adorable puppies!

Jan 29, 2016, 5:35am Top

Have a wonderful weekend!

Jan 29, 2016, 10:02am Top

>44 DianaNL: Lol! Thanks!

Jan 29, 2016, 10:07am Top

5.) Peril at End House, Agatha Christie, read by Hugh Fraser ****

The last audiobook from our travels earlier in the month. We ended up finishing this one over dinner in the living room since we were enjoying it so much and didn't quite get to the end in the car. As always, Fraser is an absolute delight. This is one of my favorite Poirots that I've read/listened to (as opposed to the ones I've only watched the TV adaptations). The characters are all really interesting, and there's so much more going on than you think. Excellently done.

Jan 29, 2016, 10:48am Top

6.) The Burnt Toast B&B, Heidi Belleau and Rachel Haimowitz ****

Former lumberjack Derrick runs his late parents' B&B out of a sense of obligation and love for them. But he kind of hates it. Just as he's deciding to shutter it for good, temporarily out-of-work stuntman Ginsberg Sloan arrives hoping for long-term, cheap housing. Derrick decides he can't just toss the guy out into street, so he lets him stay, all the while determined to "convince" him through terrible service to leave on his own. Meanwhile, Ginsberg takes pity on the poor dude who obviously doesn't know the first thing about running a B&B and tries to help him out. They start to have feelings for one another, a development complicated by Derrick's (partly unconscious) hangups about gender, sexuality, and the fact that Ginsberg is trans.

I loved this book. It is sweet, and funny, and sexy, and deals with the issues it raises in compelling, interesting, and tender ways. I am also one hundred percent here for books featuring trans* characters in which the story is not about transitioning and/or the trans* character coming to terms with their identity.

Edited: Jan 29, 2016, 11:33am Top

7.) For Real, Alexis Hall ****1/2

Thirty-seven-year-old Laurie has never quite put himself back together emotionally after the disintegration of his long-term, BDSM relationship with the lover he knew since school. Nineteen-year-old Toby knows in his heart that he is a dom in the same way that he knows that he is gay, but he can't get anyone to take him seriously because of his youth. Laurie takes a chance on Toby when he sees him at a club one night, and what they both think will be a one-off starts turning all deep and emotional and complicated.

This is a slow, deep dive into the emotional state of Laurie and Toby (in alternating points of view, and boy does Hall ever slam-dunk giving them distinct voices). Their relationship encounters almost no external obstacles (even the most obvious--the age gap--is pretty much taken in stride by everyone they know), and the majority of the plot is an exploration of how they relate to one another, their individual fears about the relationship, and the ways their differences and their hangups about them self-sabotage what they have going. There's a solid HFN, but I wasn't sure until nearly the very end that they would get there.

One of the best things about the book (aside from the fact the writing is great and the characters are awesome), is the way Hall twists around so many stereotypes. Laurie and Toby are in a BDSM relationship, but they have almost no use for "the scene." Toby is young, skinny, and short, but still a dom. Laurie is older, successful, and well off, but he's a sub. Laurie tops more often then he doesn't, while still subbing. Their sexual inclinations do not transfer into their interactions as a couple outside of sex (e.g. Laurie is not submissive in the relationship itself, only during sex). Their BDSM play relies primarily on psychology rather than toys. None of this is particularly odd or even remarkable--except in the fact that all of it busts up "lazy thinking" assumptions about BDSM, sexuality, and sexual roles.

When they are done well and feature characters I care about, I love this kind of story where we get elbow-deep into characters' feelings and follow their emotional lives more than what is happening to them. And For Real is done well. Usually when I get to the end of a romance novel, even if I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I'm content to let the characters and the story go, but I would happily read another 330 pages about Laurie and Toby. I just didn't want this to end.

Jan 29, 2016, 11:45am Top

>46 lycomayflower: That sounds like one we watched with you all last time we visited...is it?

Jan 29, 2016, 2:03pm Top

>49 laytonwoman3rd: Maaaybe? We have it, so we certainly could have. I don't remember which we watched.

Feb 1, 2016, 3:35pm Top

8.) The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, Douglas Adams, dramatization ***1/2

Another car-trip audiobook. Adams just never quite does it for me. I see that it's funny, and sometimes it even genuinely makes me laugh, but on the whole I just don't click with it. I did enjoy this (and I like the Dirk Gently books more than I ever did the Hitchhiker's books), and I'm glad I listened to it. Some things are just not my kind of nonsense, I guess.

Feb 1, 2016, 10:54pm Top

>46 lycomayflower: That is my favorite A Christie! I may need to give it a re-read just for fun :)

Feb 2, 2016, 7:33am Top

>51 lycomayflower: Maybe try listening to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on audio? Stephen Fry....

Feb 3, 2016, 12:07pm Top

Doing a return pop-by after you stopped in to see me on my thread. Some fun reading going on over here.

Apparently it's a built in reaction among LTers to immediately zero in on any photo of a bookshelf to see if contains anything familiar ...

>51 lycomayflower: Due to an increased amount of time in the car, I'm doing far more audiobooks than before. A good narrator can make all the difference.

Happy HUMP Day!

Feb 16, 2016, 11:14am Top

>52 kgriffith: Yay! for Christie rereads!

>53 scaifea: I have heard snippets of him reading it. (Husbeast has listened to it.) I dunno. I never seem to get caught up in it. Like I'm always too aware that it's funny. *shrug*

>54 michigantrumpet: *waves* Hi!

Apparently it's a built in reaction among LTers to immediately zero in on any photo of a bookshelf to see if contains anything familiar ... LOL. Yep!

Feb 16, 2016, 11:16am Top

Ug. Health issues have kept me mostly away from LT the last week and a half or so. (In and out of the hospital; gallstones; fine now.) I'm three reviews and a monthly round-up behind, and I should get to those fairly soon. Hope everyone else has been having a nicer time of it lately!

Edited: Feb 19, 2016, 8:48am Top

January Round-Up:

Books Read: 8
Pages Read: 1052

Shelf Books: 2
Audio Books: 4
Graphic: 0
Ebook: 0
Translated: 0
500+ pages: 0

Authors are:
Female: 4
Male: 4
POC: 0

I feel like these January numbers are crud, but then I have to remind myself that 1) I enjoyed everything I read (and that's what matters most) and 2) we spent at least a third of January traveling to and from Delaware twice because of an ailing relative and then a funeral. Have to keep telling myself that reading doesn't happen in a vacuum, that sometimes life is happening, and that's all okay.

Feb 16, 2016, 12:48pm Top

Laura, Love the Christie and the Adams reading! I find that I enjoyed the Adams more as audiobooks than I did when I read them. I'm not sure why, as I like both Dirk Gently and Hitchhiker series.

Sorry to hear about your relative.

Yes, life does happen and at times it gets in the way of reading!

Feb 18, 2016, 11:14am Top

>58 rretzler: Thanks, Robin. This was my husband's grandfather. He was so ill for so long that it was a bit of a blessing, really. But it still made for a hard couple of weeks. At least the audiobooks made the long drives more fun!

Edited: Feb 18, 2016, 11:21am Top

9.) Maurice, E.M. Forster ****

This is the third or fourth time I've read Maurice, and I never get tired of rereading it. I marvel at the way Forster writes a character who isn't particularly likable but for whom the reader still has a great deal of sympathy. I desperately want Maurice to be okay despite shuddering at the thought of having to sit down to a meal with him. Forster has a great knack for putting things, especially things going on in a character's thoughts, just so. Over and over I think to myself, "Oh, come now, that's just too, too navel-gazey" and then on second thought realizing that, no, that's just the way of it! And how clever of him to have figured out how to say so. The end is a bit "isn't it pretty to think so," but bless him for doing it, for writing a happy ending for his character who feels "the love that dare not speak its name," even if the book couldn't be published for decades after it was first written.

***For Book Club.

Feb 18, 2016, 11:24am Top

>60 lycomayflower:. Yes, but HOW will those two ever ever have a happy life together? AH...yes...they will die of boredom in a year, and perhaps they can live on love for that long.

Feb 18, 2016, 11:32am Top

>61 laytonwoman3rd: I did say it wasn't realistic. But don't be bringing all your cynicism round chere. Maurice and Alec have a beautiful, long life in the greenwood, communing with nature and each other. If you can't see that, we don't need your kind here. Git along. Git.

Feb 18, 2016, 11:33am Top

Read my review...I said they needed to go off to the Argentine together...but he didn't have them DO that.

Feb 18, 2016, 11:35am Top

>63 laytonwoman3rd: I SAID "Git. along." You're still here, all with your criticisms and your... reasonableness. Next you'll be bringing up World War I. Just. Git along.

Edited: Feb 18, 2016, 12:43pm Top

10.) What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund ***1/2

A discussion of what goes on in our minds and our brains when we read. The text interacts with the illustrations, though I'll admit that sometimes I didn't fully understand how they were meant to do so. A lot of interesting points, and the book made me think a good deal, but in the end I was a bit disappointed. I would have liked more consideration of actual science, I guess, along with the anecdotal discussion and the references to the way readers and writers have talked about this subject before. Well worth reading, but still doesn't quite hit the mark.

Edited: Feb 18, 2016, 2:43pm Top

11.) Kings Rising, C.S. Pacat ****1/2

Political maneuverings and personal relationships come to a head in this final book in the Captive Prince trilogy. This is an excellent end to the series, with all the plot threads coming together and the resolution of the various tensions between Damen and Laurent hitting all the right notes. If I have any complaint, it is that I could have happily read more (more! more!) about these characters. (The story ends maybe just a touch abruptly, like, maybe there could have been an epilogue.) Well worth the wait for the final volume, and I have no doubt that someday I will sit down and reread the whole series back-to-back-to-back. These characters and this world will stay with me forever.

Edited: Feb 19, 2016, 3:35pm Top

12.) Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy, Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis ****1/2

The first volume of Lumberjanes in trade, collecting issues 1-4, introduces the Lumberjanes, five friends at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Girls Hardcore Lady-Types. Jo, Mal, Molly, April, and Ripley go on adventures at camp (usually unsanctioned adventures that involve escaping their counselor, Jen) and experience "friendship to the max!" Something weird is going on in the woods surrounding camp, and they're going to find out what. The girls are all awesome and badass, the art is fun, the humor is great, and I am for serious curious what is Going On. This falls solidly into the category of "Things I Wish Had Been Around When I Was Twelve and That I Am Crazy Glad Today's Girls Will Get to Read." Recommended. And now I have to go back to the bookstore, stat, to get volume 2.

Feb 18, 2016, 3:41pm Top

>67 lycomayflower: Yes! The second Lumberjanes is good, too, Laura. I can't remember - did you read Nimona? If not, you'll probably want to.

Feb 18, 2016, 3:48pm Top

>68 jnwelch: Good to hear Lumberjanes carries on being good into the second volume. I'm seriously considering going out to see if the bookstore has it, like, tonight. I have not read Nimona, but it is on my radar. And it's just flown up to the top of my list on the strength of Lumberjanes.

Feb 18, 2016, 3:59pm Top

13.) Toward the Winter Solstice, Timothy Steele ****

Poetry has never been a form that clicks super well with me--which is not to say that I don't sometimes come across a poem that I just love or a poet who I want to read more of. I read the title poem of this collection through Book Riot's Literary Advent Calendar in December and thought, "I need to put more of this in my brain." Holding true for my past experiences with poetry, reading this collection, much of the time I felt like I was looking at something I could tell was good but that which I just didn't get. But sometimes I did get it. Steele often has an absolutely stunning way with imagery, with capturing what a moment in time looked or felt like, and that was a joy to read. A few of the poems really struck me as a whole as well--"In the Italian Alps," "Jardin des Tuileries," "April 27, 1937," and "Starr Farm Beach." I'm being just slightly intentional about trying to read some things I usually don't this year, poetry being one of those things, and I think this was an encouraging start.

Feb 18, 2016, 7:19pm Top

Some great reviews here, love your comments on Lumberjanes in particular. My library system doesn't have it, but perhaps I can justify the request that they order it in the hope that some young readers find it too (After I've read it though :-)

I've not read Maurice, but from your review I'm thinking that I really should. Did you read Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut by any chance?

Feb 18, 2016, 7:25pm Top

>61 laytonwoman3rd: to >64 lycomayflower: Hahaha - Now now ladies; must read Maurice if it makes mother and daughter quite so feisty.

Great to see your thread ticking along nicely, Laura.

Feb 19, 2016, 8:28am Top

>71 charl08: Thanks! Your library should definitely have it--for young readers and everyone else. Definitely justified.

I'd never heard of Arctic Summer! It looks really interesting. Onto the wishlist it goes! Do give Maurice a try. Definitely worth a read, especially if you like Forster anyway.

>72 PaulCranswick: Don't mind us. We're all mad here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Feb 19, 2016, 8:30am Top

>61 laytonwoman3rd: ...>64 lycomayflower: You know, I just live for this sort of thing cropping up on your threads...and other folks' threads... You two are The Coolest.

Feb 19, 2016, 8:32am Top

>74 scaifea: *sporfle* I'm glad our nonsense amuses someone other than just us!

Feb 19, 2016, 10:42am Top

Feb 19, 2016, 10:52am Top

>76 laytonwoman3rd: *gigglesnort*

Feb 22, 2016, 10:41am Top

14.) Waiting for the Flood, Alexis Hall ****

A novella taking place over a few days during a flooding event in Oxford. Edwin is a resident on a street that is sure to flood, and Adam is an engineer with the Environment Agency who has been sent to help the residents of that street during the flooding. They meet, and the very fledgling beginnings of a romance hatch. But Edwin has to decide if he's willing to let someone new in, as he's still hurting from the end of a ten-year relationship he thought was forever. Almost more of a character study than a straight-up romance, this story was just a joy. The characters are individuated and interesting, their budding romance was sweet and believable, and Edwin has an elderly older neighbor who was a hoot. Recommended.

Edited: Feb 22, 2016, 11:42am Top

15.) Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max, Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis ****

The continuing adventures of the Lumberjanes. Still quite excellent, and we find out what's going on! Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoyed volume one.

Feb 22, 2016, 11:30am Top

16.) Outing the Quarterback, Tara Lain ***1/2

Will Ashford's dad wants him to play football, finish his business degree, join the family business, and marry a pretty girl. Will wants to be a painter, and he's known he was gay since he was twelve. Will can't bring himself to disappoint his dad, so he's trying to pass as straight (he has a cheerleader girlfriend whom his dad loves but whom Will is afraid is going to figure out about Will's sexuality any minute), secretly applying for a full-ride scholarship for art school (so he can get by without his dad's money), and doing his best to appear not just good at football but into it as well. He keeps telling himself he just has to get though his senior year of college, and then he can stop lying to everyone. But that's becoming increasingly difficult (football practice overlaps the summer master painting class he's taking; he has to drink himself to near-drunk to get physical with his girlfriend), and when he meets Noah, a fellow art student, and starts to fall for him, it becomes almost impossible.

This is a pretty solid new adult story. I liked Will and thought his plight was well realized on the page. Some of the scenes where he's trying to talk himself into doing something (like make out with his girlfriend) that every bit of him screams he shouldn't were very tense and affecting. The relationship with Noah is by turns steamy and sweet. A number of the secondary characters were great. Will has a best friend, Jamal, who is awesome (and I'm hoping there already is or will be a book about him in the series, because I would definitely read more about him). But I sometimes felt like the story was reaching for substance it didn't quite achieve. Noah is an abuse survivor and had a miserable childhood filled with bad foster homes and homelessness. But it sometimes feels like that background is there just to create a foil to Will, who comes from a privileged background. It never quite felt real as a part of Noah's character. I also thought that there was too much hand waving regarding how Will and Noah would make a life together work given all their differences. The book suffers a little in comparison to, say, Courtney Milan's Trade Me, where I felt the class differences (among other things) were fully realized on the page and were part of the story. On the whole, I enjoyed Outing the Quarterback quite a lot (and I sat up late to finish it, which is a thing I don't do, so I was clearly invested in the characters and the plot), but I wish that either Noah had not had the background he did or (better) that it had been more fully integrated into his character and the story.

Feb 26, 2016, 4:35am Top

Feb 26, 2016, 6:58am Top

>81 DianaNL: LOL. Thank you!

Feb 28, 2016, 9:51am Top

>80 lycomayflower: Never heard of that one Laura, but looks interesting. I have a very good friend who I think I realised before he did himself that he was gay. When he came out during college he quickly found out who his real friends were and unfortunately he was quickly estranged from his Dad who didn't take his news so well. Spent many a tear filled and beer filled Coventry evening with him as he tried to come to terms with his decision and his future.

It had a happy ending as he is now in a seemingly very loving and happy relationship and was able to make peace with his father who is now his business partner.

Have a great Sunday.

Feb 29, 2016, 11:16am Top

>83 PaulCranswick: Stories like yours of your friend are one of the reasons I'm so pleased to see more (and more diverse) LGBTQ representation in fiction, whether it's literary, science fiction, romance (as this book was) or what-have-you. The representation matters.

So, so glad your friend's story turned happy. And yay! for you being a good friend during a hard time! :-)

Edited: Feb 29, 2016, 11:25am Top

17.) Lit Up, David Denby ***

Reporter David Denby sits in on sophomore English classes to see if teens do/can/will "read seriously." The result is a perplexing mix of hand wringing about teens and reading (largely unwarranted), commentary on the way literature is taught, analysis of the works taught in the classes he sat in on, and the minor revelation (I guess?) that maybe the kids are all right after all, especially if they have a good teacher. I will be writing up more thorough thoughts about the book, but for now I'll just say I wasn't a fan of Denby's starting premise, his failure to interrogate his assumptions, or his attitude toward teens.

Edited: Feb 29, 2016, 11:31am Top

18.) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz ****1/2

A reread for book club. I think I feel about this book largely as I did the last time (it hasn't been long since I read it): I love the characters, I don't love the style, I love, love, love the depiction of the relationships between teenaged boys and their parents. Recommended.

Mar 1, 2016, 10:08am Top

19.) Nimona, Noelle Stevenson ****1/2

A graphic novel about a young shapeshifter girl who makes herself the sidekick of a villain with a conscience. I *loved* this. The humor is perfect, the art is distinctive, and the characters are great. The setting is also pretty cool--it's like a medieval/future mash-up with no particular explanation of how/why that is so. Nifty. Nimona reminds me a lot of Ripley from Lumberjanes. Both characters share a kind of humor and a happy, childlike floppy physicality that I want to love and hug and call George. Ballister Blackheart and Ambrosius Goldenloin (a moment of silence, please, in honor of the genius of these names) are excellent nemeses, and more duos like this in fiction kthanxbye. Stevenson includes two bonus Christmas shorts that appeared on her website (Nimona was originally a webcomic) in 2012 and 2013. The 2013 one is the absolute best the end. Recc'd.

Mar 1, 2016, 10:27am Top

>87 lycomayflower: Nifty is a brilliant word for this book. I'm hoping there might be a sequel at some point.

Mar 2, 2016, 6:37am Top

>87 lycomayflower: Ooof. Whelp, that clinches it. Wishlisted.

Edited: Mar 7, 2016, 5:19pm Top

20.) Lord Savage, Mia Gabriel ***

Widowed American Evelyn Hart travels to England for an adventure, where she quickly grows tired of all the young men swarming around her, a still-young woman with a huge inheritance. One night she spies handsome Lord Savage having relations in the garden at a party and finds herself intrigued, both by Lord Savage and by the idea of having relations in a garden at a party. Her interest does not go unnoticed by Lady Carleigh, who throws intimate week-long country house parties for very particular guests where having relations in a garden is just fine and everyone agrees that what happens in the country stays in the country. Thus, Evelyn and Lord Savage get to relate to their hearts' content.

Eh? I dunno. The book has its good points--it's written pretty well (a slightly annoying tendency to repeat words, especially body-part words, in close proximity aside), it's reasonably fun, the premise is amusing, the sex writing is decent--but it feels all setting and sex to me. The setting/premise (kinky, orgiastic party in an Edwardian country house) is compelling enough and there's plenty of sex to keep one entertained, but beyond that there's nothing to it. Neither of the characters has much substance or interest, and there's no plot to speak of (beyond some mild confusion on Evelyn's part as to the nature of the party, and that rubs close enough to squicky dubcon to be uncomfortable without the interrogation of issues of consent that would make the discomfort useful). The BDSM elements also seem hazily realized, with neither Evelyn nor Savage ever really appearing to be into what they were doing but never really casting it as just a lark either. I was also supremely distracted by the fact that Evelyn doesn't give one second's consideration to what's going to happen if the result of this week of debauchery is pregnancy (or disease? Maybe a nice well-bred Edwardian-era lady wouldn't immediately think of that, especially if she's cavorting with a well-bred gentleman? I dunno. But the possibility of a sproutlet, surely?) I'm willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of romantic fantasy sometimes, but on top of the other dissatisfactions here, I just couldn't get past this little piece of reality. YMMV.

Mar 7, 2016, 3:58pm Top

>88 charl08: Yaaas. I am so here for a sequel.

>89 scaifea: I think you would love it.

Mar 7, 2016, 5:11pm Top

21.) Scarlet and the White Wolf: The Pedlar and the Bandit King, Kirby Crow ****

A fantasy with a bit of romance. Scarlet is a pedlar (who wears the traditional red coat of his profession) who travels around Byzantur for business and comes home to his parents and sister as often as he can bare to stop traveling. One day when he comes home, he learns that a nearby mountain pass is being held by bandits led by a strange white-haired man named Liall and called the Wolf. (Yeah, there's a Little Red Riding Hood parallel; nah, it doesn't really work. But the story doesn't hit the conceit hard enough for it to matter that it doesn't really work.) Liall tries to joke with Scarlet, demanding a kiss for passage over the mountain. Scarlet refuses, gets prideful, and starts trying increasingly elaborate plans to sneak past Liall's blockade, all of which fail. Meanwhile, Byzantur is rapidly descending into civil war, with ethnic factions fighting and Scarlet's faction almost certainly on the losing side.

The story carries two main tensions: first, the brewing civil war and Scarlet's attempts to convince his family to move out of Byzantur, and second, Scarlet and Liall's feelings for one another. Both of these tensions just bubble along under the surface while the story is busy world building, developing characters, and following various little bits of action. One is not surprised when these tensions boil up (if for no other reason than that the jacket copy telescopes it), but it's lovely to watch it all unfold, especially Scarlet's feelings for Liall, even more so because his angst is very much about personal identity and very little about societal questions of propriety or masculinity or similar.

A slim first entry in a series, but one that packs a whole lot of interesting stuff into its pages. I find myself daydreaming a bit about this world, and I'm excited to get on to the second volume soon. Recommended.

Mar 7, 2016, 5:46pm Top

I've never really mentioned what we've been watching much on my thread (just never got in the habit, I guess), but Saturday night we watched a movie that I think I've heard other people (Amber?) here warble about: Rise of the Guardians. I just loved the stuffing out of this movie! It was so good and funny and the animation was *stunning*. (And Chris Pine doing the voice acting for the main character did not hurt either, let me just say.) Mum, you and Dad should see this. Jack Frost joins forces with Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Sandman to save the world's children from the Boogeyman. What is not to love?

Edited: Mar 7, 2016, 9:49pm Top

>93 lycomayflower: OK...q'd it up.

Mar 8, 2016, 3:57am Top

>93 lycomayflower: I love that one too! Hugh Jackman as the Aussi Bunny! Such a hoot

and your summary of >90 lycomayflower: made me laugh "Thus, Evelyn and Lord Savage get to relate to their hearts' content"

Mar 8, 2016, 7:45am Top

>93 lycomayflower: WOOT!! We LOVE that movie here at Scaife Manor. Now, you absolutely need to read the books that came first and are a bit different but are *amazing*, The Guardians of Childhood books:

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King
E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core
Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies
Sandman and the War of Dreams

There are also a few picture books at accompany the series, which are beautifully illustrated. William Joyce is amazing.

Edited: Mar 8, 2016, 9:47am Top

>94 laytonwoman3rd: Good, goooood.

>95 dragonaria: Yes! Bunny was great (and Hugh Jackman is always great)!

*snork* re: the review. I might have been a little snarky there. Glad it made you laugh!

>96 scaifea: I thought it was you! I have put in a request for the first book at the library. I might have to see if I can get a copy of the movie on the cheapish too. I think it needs to be in our collection for repeat viewing. Husbeast enjoyed it too (I think--he can be a little hard to read at the best of times and he wasn't feeling good that night, but he definitely sporfled a few times and wowed at the animation. I call it a win!)

Mar 8, 2016, 10:16am Top

>97 lycomayflower: Oh, yay! I think you'll love the series.

Mar 11, 2016, 4:46am Top

Mar 14, 2016, 10:46am Top

>99 DianaNL: Thanks!

Mar 23, 2016, 6:06pm Top

>85 lycomayflower: Sorry that one didn't work well for you. I came across it when looking for interesting items to post to our library Facebook page (there was an interview with the author talking about the fact that kids *do* still read and how to make them love it) and was hoping it would have examples of really good high school English classes that kids found exciting. Ah well, will probably give it a miss then.

Mar 25, 2016, 12:09am Top

Have a wonderful Easter.

Mar 25, 2016, 6:45am Top

Apr 2, 2016, 10:16am Top

Life (and a dead computer) have made me super neglectful of LT of late. So stand by for, like, a million (or four) reviews.

Apr 2, 2016, 10:22am Top

>102 PaulCranswick: and >103 DianaNL: Thank you! Hope you had lovely holidays as well!

>101 bell7: Oooo, Denby. His tone just drove me up a tree. So superior and condescending and hand-wringing-y. And he made all these assumptions and value judgements that he failed to interrogate in any way. It came off very much like he was incapable of seeing any value in lives (and especially lives of the mind or soul) that didn't look like his life. He did eventually get to some decent conclusions and some of the reportage on the classes he sat in on were interesting, but for me it was mostly not worth the spike in my blood pressure.

Apr 2, 2016, 10:40am Top

22.) The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell ****

The Madwoman Upstairs follows Samantha Whipple, the (fictional) last descendant of the Brontës as she attends Oxford and tries to sort out both the emotional and actual legacy left her by her recently deceased father. I loved this novel. It's part literary mystery (was Sam's dad hiding Brontë treasures from the world?), part character study, and part romance (the romance, which I won't identify here because it's treated as a bit of a reveal (though I spotted the characters' attraction immediately), was just lovely. A really nice illustration of two people "fitting" each other). It read quickly but still had substance, and the literary discussions of the Brontës was fun. (At first I thought this was a little overdone, but then I settled into and decided it was just right.) This is a perfect example of what I'm looking for when I read literary fiction. Recommended.

Edited: Apr 2, 2016, 11:19am Top

23.) Glitterland, Alexis Hall ****1/2

Oxbridge-y Ash Winters writes novels and hides from the world, laid low by his struggle with bipolar disorder. One night when he's out at a club attending a friend's bachelor party, he feels himself drawn to "Essex boy*" Darian Taylor. They have a world-shifting one-night stand, but then Ash runs off in the morning, pretty terrified. And then we follow Ash as he tries to sort out his feelings for Darian (complicated by the difference in their social class), meets up with him again, and tries to form a relationship.

I just loved this to bits. The portrayals of Ash and Darian are awesome. The depiction of Ash's mental health feels real and affirming but never romanticized (or stigmatized). The whole (inevitable) realization on Ash's part that Darian is not just a stereotype comes off interesting and particular rather than cliché. As is always true with Hall's books, I wanted to crawl inside the story and live there for a while. Recommended.

*I had a general sense of what this means before I read (from watching the TV), and the book descriptions make it pretty plain too. Youtube is helpful (NTSFW language). Best American equivalent (not that there's any particular reason there should be an equivalent) I can make a guess at is a certain stereotype of people from New Jersey?

Edited: Apr 4, 2016, 4:35pm Top

24.) Pent Up, Damon Suede ***1/2

Ruben Oso is recently divorced and working a new job as a body guard for his brother's security firm. He's protecting high stakes trader Andy Bauer. They are personality opposites but eventually start to fall for each other, despite neither of them ever seriously considering attraction to men before. The story is told only from Ruben's pov, and while I see why the author made that choice, I felt weirdly distanced from Andy and could never fully warm to him as a character. In fact, I never felt like I got either Andy or Ruben. I enjoyed the book, but it didn't quite work for me. YMMV.

Apr 2, 2016, 11:41am Top

25.) 36 Books that Changed the World, lectures by various professors ****

A Great Courses audio course. Does what it says on the tin, focusing on primarily nonficton works (and a few novels) that had a profound and wide-ranging impact on human thought and/or history. Starts in the ancient world (with texts like The Odyessy and Gilgamesh) and proceeds through the 20th century (the last lecture is on The Feminine Mystique). Entertaining and informative, though my interest level waxed and waned with the subjects at hand, of course. And some professors were excellent while others were painful to listen to (this later category was thankfully quite small). I bailed on the lecture on The Jungle (I read the book in full in high school; I did my time with that text, thank you), but listened to all the rest. Worthwhile. My only real complaint is that the lectures were all pulled from other courses and assembled in roughly chronological order. Since these lectures didn't actually go together, there was no way for the course to make any connection among texts and individual lectures were constantly referring to things that would be discussed later that I never actually got to hear about.

Apr 2, 2016, 12:10pm Top

>106 lycomayflower: Does this one belong to you? If so, is it borry-able?

Apr 2, 2016, 12:32pm Top

>110 laytonwoman3rd: Yep! I think you would enjoy. Shall I put in mail or wait and bring it when we come up?

Apr 2, 2016, 12:33pm Top

You can bring it with...just don't forget. Also, while we're on that subject, please be sure to bring your camera.

Apr 2, 2016, 12:54pm Top

>112 laytonwoman3rd: Okay... Becauuuse?

Apr 3, 2016, 9:02am Top

>112 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, do tell why she'll need her camera. Nosey Nosertons need to know...

Apr 3, 2016, 10:20am Top

>113 lycomayflower:, >114 scaifea: Because I may be in the market for a new one, and I want to see how hers works. Sorry not to have anything more fascinating to report!

Apr 4, 2016, 7:31am Top

>115 laytonwoman3rd: Okay, I'll accept that explanation. Flashy? No, but I'm also a fan of practicality.

(Nota Bene: Pun fully intended in previous line. There will be no apologies for that one.)

Apr 4, 2016, 12:18pm Top

>115 laytonwoman3rd: It sounded a lot more interesting than that - maybe it is and you just don't want to fess up?

Apr 4, 2016, 3:49pm Top

>114 scaifea:, >115 laytonwoman3rd:, >117 Familyhistorian: I was kind of disappointed in that explanation too. I thought maybe there was going to be secret spy activities or something.

>116 scaifea: *affects Count von Count voice* That's two--two!--bonus points for puns in the morning!

Edited: Apr 4, 2016, 4:34pm Top

26.) Tough Love, Heidi Cullinan ***1/2

Chenco Ortiz has been doing okay, eking out a living at part time jobs and perfecting his drag act whenever he can. Then his pos dad dies, and it turns out that he left the trailer where Chenco has been living (and which his dad promised to him) to the KKK. Chenco flips out over this is the office of the lawyer handling his dad's will, and fellow client Steve Vance witnesses the freak-out and tries to calm Chenco down. Chenco and Steve eventually start seeing each other, and the story explores all sorts of things including found family, a BDSM relationship between Steve and Chenco, the emotional fall-out from a decades-defunct but still-damaging relationship Steve had with an old boyfriend, and Chenco's continuing blossoming and success with his alter-ego Caramela.

It's a lot to be going on in one romance novel (and there's a whole passel of side characters, all of whom form the found family and only a couple of whom really get any particular face-time in the story), and sometimes it showed. I occasionally felt like the novel was referring to things that hadn't been mentioned before as if they had, and I'm still unsure if that was a function of slips in the editing (I mean, that can be as simple as a "the" where you need an "a") or if it was a bigger problem, either of structure or of asking the reader to hold too much in mind at once. The minor characters also felt a bit under-developed. (This is the third book in a series, and I'd only read the first one before. I didn't expect that to matter, but maybe that was the problem. Although, the characters I did know from book one didn't feel anymore real in this book than the ones from book two, who I didn't, so *shrug*.)

The novel thus felt a tad uneven; however, I did love love love the main characters and thought that Cullinan did her usual brilliant job of portraying complex emotional relationships and giving her characters a believable HEA. She absolutely nails difficult scenes. One in particular in this book is just crazy intense and so well done. (Though I really hope Steve seeks out a kink aware therapist at some point because man the outcome of all that stuff with the ex is rough). Recommended with slight hesitation generally but wholeheartedly to Cullinan fans.

Apr 5, 2016, 2:19am Top

>118 lycomayflower: It did sound kind of tame, didn't it? But maybe there is a surprise waiting for you - one can only hope.

Edited: Apr 7, 2016, 2:39pm Top

27.) Kindred Spirits, Rainbow Rowell ****

A novella written for World Book Day. Follows eighteen-year-old Elena as she sits in line for four days for the opening day of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The experience isn't what she was expecting, but in the end she learns things from it. A lovely little slice of YA-ness which hits some nice notes about fandom and fandom, being a girl in.

Edited: Apr 7, 2016, 2:37pm Top

28.) Because of Mr. Terupt, Rob Buyea ***1/2

A middle-grade story about a year in Mr. Terupt's fifth grade class, told in rotating points of view from seven of his students. The voices are distinct, and each child has their own problems they are dealing with as the year goes on. There's also a Big Event that Changes Everything and affects each of the students. They must figure out how to deal with it and what it means for them. The book does a good job dealing with heavy subjects for a young audience. I, however, liked the book better before the Big Event happened. I thought it was more rounded and interesting earlier, and while some really good moments came after it (and because of it), I thought the story got a little one-note and anti-climatic in the last hundred pages or so.

Apr 8, 2016, 12:27pm Top

29.) A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki ****

In the Pacific Northwest, Ruth finds a journal washed up on the shore encased in a Hello Kitty lunchbox and a ziplock bag. She begins to read, and we, as readers, read the diary along with her. It's from a teenager in Japan named Nao, and she narrates her life. The novel switched back and forth between Ruth and Nao's journal as we learn about each of their lives.

I don't really know what to do with this book. I enjoyed reading it for the most part, and the writing was very good, and some moments will likely stick in my mind for a long time, but in the end, I feel like there's no take-away, nothing that I can put my finger on and say, "This, this is what I got from the story." There's a lot of discussion of Buddhism, and I toyed around with the idea that the story is one that you're just meant to sit with and that there isn't supposed to be a thing you can put your finger on. But that doesn't sit quite right either. I can intellectualize that response, but I don't feel it.

I think this is absolutely worth a read, since Ozeki does so many things so very well, even if I can't wholeheartedly recommend it. This was a book club read, and most of us seemed to feel about the same way about it, but it was also the book that's sparked the most discussion in a long time.

***For Book Club

Edited: Dec 31, 2016, 10:05pm Top

30.) Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin ****1/2

Riley Cavanaugh is a gender fluid teen struggling with the pressures of starting a new school, trying to decide how to/who to/when to come out, clinical anxiety, and being the child of a congressman whose re-election campaign puts his family in the spotlight. I loved this book. Riley is both snarky and funny, and following them while they make new friends, figure out how to talk to their family, and discover their voice (both on- and off-line) was wonderful. Garvin writes the whole book without ever identifying what gender Riley was assigned at birth or using any personal pronouns to refer to them. The narrative is in first person from Riley's point of view, so this is easier than it might sound at first, but even so, that Garvin does this almost seamlessly is no mean feat. That Riley's parents (to whom Riley is not out) never refer to them with any gendered language seems a bit odd at first, but it really didn't bother me much as I was reading. The only moments when I really saw the seams of this narrative decision was when Riley would talk about formal clothes their mom had picked out for them that they hated wearing because they were so gendered. It's very obvious here that the narrative is intentionally not telling the reader what kind of clothes they are (suit? dress?), but even then, since the narrative is from Riley's pov, it's easy to read this as information Riley simply doesn't choose to share. (And in presenting the clothes this way, it subtly emphasizes that it is okay that Riley doesn't share that information; that if Riley doesn't want others to know that about them, then it isn't our business.) And the effect of not knowing how Riley is seen by others (like their parents) is that the reader see's Riley as gender fluid instead of as a human with x genitals who identifies as y. The reader has no choice but to read Riley as both instead of as one or the other. In addition to being a great YA story about all kinds of teenaged problems as well as gender identity, The Symptoms of Being Human is an excellent exploration of gender and why/whether/when it matters. Recommended.

Apr 27, 2016, 11:08am Top

31.) The Gamble, Kirsten Ashley ****

Nina has booked a two-week stay in a rented house in the Colorado mountains as a break from her fiance to sort out her changing feelings for him. When she arrives, the owner of the house is in residence, the caretaker having messed up with the dates. Nina prepares to find a hotel in town, but a snow storm is rapidly brewing and Nina is rapidly succumbing to the flu. The owner of the house, Max, who is, as I'm sure you've guessed by now, gorgeous and muscular, insists that she's in no condition to go anywhere or, probably, to be left alone. Nina ends up staying (mostly essentially unconscious), and Max cares for her. When she gets over the flu, they start to get to know each and fall in love. Et cetera.

I almost quit reading this early on for a couple of reasons. First, the book is not quite aware enough of how terrifying Nina's situation should be. She's stuck in an isolated house in a strange town while travel becomes dangerous and her wits leave her. It turns out that Max is an upstanding guy (and I suspect a lot of guys would be), but Nina takes the whole thing a little too in stride. Second was the writing style. I think this story first existed on the internet or as a self-published book and was subsequently picked up by a publisher. I have no problem with that at all, except that it often seems to be the case that such works don't get the editorial attention they should before being published by a house. This one feels like it was never line edited. Awkward phrasing abounds.

Ultimately I'm glad I read the whole thing, as by the mid-way point I was pretty in love with the book. It is long and gives lots of space to developing the community Max is a part of (and which Nina starts to be a part of too), and that was a large part of what was so fun about the book. It has an atmosphere that was lovely to sink into and the book was long enough that I felt like I could get lost in it. And some of that awkward phrasing started to grow on me. Most of it is an attempt at replicating particular speech and thought patterns and while the editor in me probably would have excised most of it, I think a lot of it actually mostly works once you get into the flow of it. Recommended reservedly.

Apr 27, 2016, 11:22am Top

Couple of mentionable DNFs:

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
I read about fifty pages, and it wasn't doing a thing for me except making me cross at that characters. Not my usually kind of read, so no particular regrets about quitting it.

The Other Side of the Pillow, Zane
Zane is supposed to be an amazing writer of erotic romance. I read about a third of this, and I pretty much hated it. The characters just droop on the page, the sex reads perfunctory and pretty much as unerotic as you could get, the heroine seems to get over the part of her character that was creating tension in a space break with no explanation or exploration of what caused the change, and the dialogue falls like a lead balloon, with characters often explaining things or going off on long tirades that would work better (if needed at all) somewhere in the narration and/or interiority of the characters. I've read a bunch of reviews that said that this book is not representative of Zane's usual work, so I'm probably going to try another one at some point, but man.

Apr 27, 2016, 11:44am Top

>126 lycomayflower: Hmmmm.... Well, actually TWO Hmmmmm's. One, I thought I had a copy of The Girl on the Train but it doesn't show up in my catalog, and Two, I thought I wanted to read it. Maybe I don't.

Edited: Apr 27, 2016, 12:34pm Top

>127 laytonwoman3rd: There's a fair number of other books with similar titles: Girl on a Train, Orphan Train.

You might like it, maybe. I dunno. I'm in a little bit of a reading funk, so it's possible I would have gotten further along than I did otherwise. I didn't get to the point where I had any sense of Wanting To Know What's Going On. Although, that's kind of also why I quit. I mean I was fifty pages in, come on.

Edited: Apr 27, 2016, 2:26pm Top

Well, I'm over 300 pages into American Gods, and I've sort of Stopped Caring What the Hell is Going On. Should I quit, or finish? There just doesn't seem to be any point to any of their little adventures, although some of them are fairly amusing.

I do have Orphan Train, but I don't think that's what I was thinking of. I remember someone else pointing out the difference between Girl on a Train and THE Girl on THE Train (I don't have that one either). Why do they do that?

Apr 27, 2016, 2:34pm Top

>129 laytonwoman3rd: I'd keep going with American Gods if you're enjoying it at all. Which it sounds like you are. With a three hundred page investment, you might as well finish it and count it. You're over halfway, right?

Apr 27, 2016, 2:38pm Top

April has been somewhat of a banner month for book hauls for me. First, my loot from the Library Express Shop in Scranton, what I trawled with LW3 when we were visiting the other week. Those Penguins! At $5 a piece, I could not leave them. Everything else was part of some manner of deal too--BOGO or what have you.

And then when we got home, our library was having their spring used book sale. And! I had a $10 certificate still from winning a prize in last summer's reading program.

Apr 27, 2016, 2:52pm Top

All those penguin classics. Ooh.

I listened to an audio version of Shonogon's pillow book: a fascinating part of Japanese history. I still have to get to the original though.

Apr 27, 2016, 5:02pm Top

Oooh...High Tide in Tucson....very good stuff there. (You didn't have a copy of The Uncommon Reader?)

Apr 27, 2016, 5:10pm Top

>129 laytonwoman3rd: This post very nearly broke my Gaiman-loving heart, Linda. You're killin' me, Smalls.

>131 lycomayflower: And *this* one makes me absolutely green. Completely green. Those Penguins!!

Apr 27, 2016, 6:26pm Top

>134 scaifea: Well, then, Amber, as I'm sure you're much more conversant with the ancient gods than I, what IS the point of this novel? Hmmmm?

Apr 27, 2016, 8:01pm Top

>131 lycomayflower: Great hauls there Laura. Some of the penguins you added are not that easy to find these days.

Apr 28, 2016, 8:01am Top

>135 laytonwoman3rd: I won't go so far as to try to divine Gaiman's point, but I'll happily tell you what I love about the book: For me it's in part a treatise on the beauty of mythology, how it shifts and changes and in doing so continues to live, while at the same time it takes part in, contributes to that evolution. I love (LOVE!) how Gaiman imagines what the world would look like were the old gods still around, what they would make of it, what it would make of them. And I love that it's dark, because those Norse stories and those Norse gods are very dark (as are the Egyptian ones). So, I guess I read it as a love story to the old mythologies, which is what a lot of Gaiman's stuff is, and that's why I love him so much. He doesn't just use the stories for his own ends like some Philistines (*cough*Riordan*cough*); he *knows* these stories and loves them and lovingly pays tribute to them. I could just squeeze him for that.

Apr 28, 2016, 8:02am Top

(Apologies for the gushing, but you did ask...)

Apr 28, 2016, 8:31am Top

>137 scaifea: EXACTLY! Well, that's kind of my thoughts. I love Neil Gaiman's works, I love the ideas he tinkers around with and how he spins them off, BUT! >129 laytonwoman3rd: I also understand how you feel. I'm glad I read American Gods and Anasi Boys, but I certainly wouldn't spend money to own a copy and I can't see suggesting or recommending them.

Apr 28, 2016, 9:35am Top

>137 scaifea:, >139 dragonaria: So, am I missing a lot because I'm not terribly familiar with stories of the Egyptian gods and the Native American legends, and so on? I suspect that is true. I applaud Gaiman for giving readers like you something that engages you so well. I guess I'm just not his target audience. I know how it feels to really "get" an author that other people aren't keen on. Why should everything appeal to everyone? That would be borrrrring.

Apr 28, 2016, 10:12am Top

Good heavens. People.

>132 charl08: We read an excerpt from The Pillow Book in my World Lit class in high school, and I remember being intrigued.

>133 laytonwoman3rd: I did not have a copy. I had yours for a while, but I believe I gave it back.

>134 scaifea: Points for "You're killin' me, Smalls"!

I know right? It was like a Penguin smorgasbord in there!

>136 PaulCranswick: Ooo, really? Didn't know I was snagging things that are hard to come by. Just picked up what looked good.

>137 scaifea: Mum, there, see? Keep going.

Apr 28, 2016, 10:15am Top

>141 lycomayflower: "a Penguin smorgasbord" Oooh....that line makes Opus kinda nervous.

Edited: Apr 28, 2016, 10:43am Top

>142 laytonwoman3rd: Not that kind of pengling, Opus!

Apr 28, 2016, 10:35am Top

32.) Double Blind, Heidi Cullinan ****

The second book in the Special Delivery series, but I read it last, which I think messed up the reading experience, honestly. I said I thought that might be the case when I reviewed the third book in the series, and I'm even more sure of it now. My experience with romance series before has been that the characters from previous books might pop their heads in to later books and that reading them in order enriches while reading them out of order does not confuse. But in this series the characters from the first book are very much part of the emotional arc of books two and three, and I should have read them in order. I've given a half star "back" to my rating for this one above my gut feeling because I think many of the problems I had with the story were my fault for reading out of order.

All that said, this is Randy and Ethan's story. Randy works part time in a Las Vegas casino and spots a man on the monitors at the roulette table he's sure is down on his luck and down to his last dollar. On a bet, he intervenes, and he and Ethan find an emotional connection immediately. Eventually Randy's boss at the casino maneuvers Ethan into a job putting the casino back on its feet. All manner of emotional fallout, poker playing, and out-maneuvering the Vegas gangsters of old ensues. I got a little restless midway through with the maneuvering, but I probably would have been happier to sit still for it if I weren't expending so much energy trying to piece character stuff together out of order or remember what we know already about certain people but what we don't (because I'd already read book three). Recommended if it sounds like your cuppa, but read 'em in order!

Apr 28, 2016, 11:56am Top

>137 scaifea: American Gods has always been the toughest Gaiman book for me. I understand your reaction, Laura. Amber's thoughts help orient me into a new way of viewing it. I'm re-reading it, and I'll keep those thoughts in mind.

Apr 29, 2016, 6:45am Top

>140 laytonwoman3rd: >145 jnwelch: Linda & Joe: Yes, I completely understand that Gaiman isn't for everyone. His stuff tends to be pretty deep and dark on various levels. But he's also pretty much tailor-made for my tastes and my interests; also, I'm convinced that we'd be best, best friends should we ever meet... Ha!

Apr 29, 2016, 8:39am Top

>140 laytonwoman3rd: I don't know that you're missing anything by not knowing about the legends/myths because it's really just the idea that the gods "exist" because people believe in them.

And you're right it would be most boring if we all enjoyed the same things. The only Gaiman I've ever recommended to anyone is M is for Magic. The others are too...Gaiman. Yeah, that's the word.

Apr 29, 2016, 10:25am Top

>147 dragonaria: " the gods "exist" because people believe in them." Ah...see...I think he's failed to make that point. I'm now less than 100 pages from the end, and I have to admit the tale has become more interesting with Shadow's vigil for the dead god. I will reserve final judgment, of course, (you see what I did there?) but so far it kind of boils down to the whole is less than the sum of its parts for me. It's less that I "don't get it" and more "this isn't meant for me"...and I'm kinda jealous of you all who love it, 'cause I see how much fun that would be.

Apr 30, 2016, 12:11pm Top

I should have Neil Gaiman for the BAC if I am able to foist it on all of you for a third year, if only to see the sparks fly from his supporters and detractors.

Have a lovely weekend, Laura.

May 7, 2016, 2:27pm Top

Edited: May 7, 2016, 2:34pm Top

33.) The Optimist's Daughter, Eudora Welty, read by the author ****

I had trouble getting in to this, then I discovered an audiobook version read by Welty herself and that fixed it. She just makes it all come alive. Mostly a character study (and also a study of a family and the community it's a part of) in the sixties in the south after a small family tragedy. Good stuff, and sparked lots of interesting conversation at book club, which is made up of women from the south, the north, the midwest, and the west (and all living in southwest Viriginia now) and all varying ages.

***For Book Club

Edited: May 7, 2016, 3:14pm Top

I've been having a bit of a mini-slump, of the kind I think of as caused by too many good choices. I have so many good things I want to get to that I'm having trouble sticking with any one thing long enough to get to the end! I've also been a little scattered this week, with little minor projects popping up every day, and that tends to throw me off my reading stride, for whatever reason. Tomorrow I intend to put the laundry away and then Sit Down and Read. (The majority of the rest of today is already spoken for). We'll see.

Active Reads Pile:

May 7, 2016, 5:06pm Top

>152 lycomayflower: I couldn't do it. Reading more than one book at a time makes me anxious. I can sometimes do two but only if they're really different. Best wishes on finishing one of those fantastic reads!

May 7, 2016, 5:46pm Top

>152 lycomayflower: Yeah...that's just silly. No wonder you can't concentrate on one of them. Tch, tch, tch.

May 8, 2016, 4:45pm Top

>153 MickyFine: Thanks!

>154 laytonwoman3rd: Look, you. No tching. Outta the pool.

May 8, 2016, 4:48pm Top

I finally updated my Excel spreadsheet, so I also actually updated my totals post above.

Edited: May 8, 2016, 6:16pm Top

>152 lycomayflower: Can't wait to hear about Emma by Alexander McCall Smith - I've got it on my wishlist at amazon, but haven't decided if I want to buy it. Perhaps I'll check the library for it.

I've also got Because of Mr Terupt on my wishlist, but it sounds like maybe I will pass on that one after all.

Definite BB on The Madwoman Upstairs!!

May 9, 2016, 2:51pm Top

>157 rretzler: AMS's Emma is good so far!

Yeah, Because of Mr Terupt was good, but not great.

The Madwoman Upstairs was just a joy. I hope you love it!

May 11, 2016, 2:02pm Top

34.) Changing His Game, Megan Erickson ***1/2

Erotic romance about two slightly nerdy people with slightly unusual sexual desires who have a spark that develops into something more. But she has an ambition she needs to protect and he has a secret he doesn't want to share, and these things may derail what's building between them. Well written, nice characterizations, and reasonably sizzly, but something seemed to be missing here. I was both slightly impatient for it to get to the end and annoyed that the book was so thin. I just felt like there could have been more, somehow, though the climax of this was just perfect enough to almost make up for it. I'll be checking out of more of Erickson's writing on the strength of what I did like about this one.

May 11, 2016, 2:36pm Top

35.) Me Before You, Jojo Moyes ***1/2

After losing the job she loved in a cafe, twenty-seven-year-old Louisa takes a job as a companion and non-medical caretaker for Will, a thirty-five-year-old man who suffered a road accident two years prior that left him a C5-6 quadriplegic. When she discovers that he is determined to go to Switzerland in six months to avail himself of legal assisted suicide, she nearly quits, but eventually she agrees to stay on and (unbeknownst to Will) try to convince him that life is worth living by finding him activities he can participate in and getting him out of the house. Eventually she develops feelings for him, and their friendship begins to change her life.

I liked a lot about this book. It's written well, the characters are well drawn, and Moyes's depiction of Will seems respectful, fully realized, and well researched. But I didn't like it nearly as much as I would have liked to. The narrative does that thing I can never decide whether is an editing error or a deliberate decision of dropping in minor new details in ways that read (to me, anyway) as references to things we should already know about. (I. hate. this.) But much more bothersome was my impatience with the story. Once you know that Will wants to kill himself, there's only two ways things are going to go. Either Louisa will successfully change his mind (I won't say this would be impossible to pull off well, but how? I mean, really, that would have such potential for sappy and for not regarding Will as a human being with choices, I just don't know how it would come together) or she won't. So I'm reading the whole second half of the book going, "This is either going to make me mad in the end or it's going to make me smad because it's heart wrenching but I've seen it coming for 200 pages." And I was never fully convinced of their love for one another (affection, yes; friendship; yes; deep respect, yes; desire for one another's happiness, yes; but not romantic love), and that made sitting through all that I knew was coming even less welcome. Finally, while I have no notion that Louisa was ever trying to use Will, I have this lingering sense that the book was. It's Louisa's story; we never get Will's point of view; ultimately Will's circumstances serve to make Louisa's life better (although, Will's life is better too. I don't know; maybe this assessment is unfair given the sensitive portrayal of Will and the reciprocal nature of the relationship, but in the end I had a bit of a sense of having been manipulated.

I will probably read more Moyes since I liked much about how this book was written and since so much of what I didn't like was probably plot-specific. But ultimately, Me Before You was kind of disappointing.

May 12, 2016, 7:00am Top

>160 lycomayflower: this book is waiting for me at my library; it's this month's book club read. I skimmed your review reading the opening and closing paragraphs. To be honest, I was already half expecting a "kind of disappointing" book. We'll see how it goes.

May 12, 2016, 9:11am Top

>161 lauralkeet: I hope you do enjoy it more than I did. Many many people have, apparently. Weirdly, I was expecting it to be disappointing in ways it wasn't.

May 21, 2016, 9:06pm Top

36.) Gena Finn, Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson ***1/2

This YA novel is told all in blog posts, text messages, emails, and journal entries and follows Gena, a high school senior, and Finn, a recent college grad, as they bond and become friends over a shared love of and participation in the fandom of a (fictional) cop show. I loved the first two thirds of this book to bits. The authors do an excellent job of recreating what fandom looks like on the internet, right down to the ways various fan personalities interact in comments on fanfic posts. The friendship between Gena and Finn was also lovely to watch develop. But then it turns out that Gena was a child actor and knows one of the actors on the show that has been the focus of the fanning in the book. And then there's a terrible accident on-set while Gena is there to do a quick guest spot, and the whole tenor of the book changes. Gena's knowing the actor might have worked if the book had integrated more fully how the lines between real people (actors) and characters get blurred (the story does touch on this, but it doesn't really become a fully realized piece of the book), but mostly it just muddies what the novel was doing. And the accident sends the whole thing into completely different territory than it was setting up in the first two thirds, exploring mental illness, trauma, and PTSD. I am one hundred percent here for explorations of those things in fiction, but it just felt like a different novel at that point. And finally, I was fully expecting Gena and Finn to end up together (come on, that slash in the title? that means romantic pairing in fandom, and if the characters don't get together, that's just full-on misleading in a novel about fandom), and the story seemed to being going in that direction. And then in the last third, it just kind of fizzles out. Ultimately, I quite enjoyed the way the story was told (the pseudo-epistolary form) and was fully invested until the last one hundred pages or so, but in the end, disappointing.

May 21, 2016, 10:52pm Top

Stopping by to wish you a lovely weekend, Laura. Will you be joining in the 44th wedding anniversary celebrations?

May 22, 2016, 7:01am Top

>160 lycomayflower: just finished Me Before You yesterday and returned to read your review, revealing spoilers. Excellent comments which I agree with completely. I liked this book more than I expected to, but it could have been better.

Edited: May 23, 2016, 11:36am Top


Letting Go, Maya Banks **

Good gravy, this is awful. I was going to push through to the end since I'm over halfway through, but I picked it up this morning to read a few pages, read a paragraph, and said, "Nope. Life's too short."

Bullet points of wretchedness:

--SO so so repeatingly repetitive. OMG. By 175 pages in, we have learned only three salient things about the couple: 1) heroine was married to hero's late best friend; he's loved her all along; the best friend knew and was okay with it; 2) she's longed for a Dom/sub relationship for always but couldn't ask her husband for it because of his past; he's a dominant who's never pursued a serious relationship because of his love for her; 3) he's bringing a new partner into the business he ran with his late best friend. And every three paragraphs or so, one or the other of the main characters agonizes over one (or several) of these points WITHOUT EVER COMING TO ANY CONCLUSIONS OR ADDING ANY NEW INFORMATION. I actually yelled "We know!" at the book at one point yesterday.

--The characters talk about Dom/sub relations ad infinitum. And there's nothing compelling about their discussions--not as a discussion of the practice and not as revelations of their characters. It's as though the author feels she has to very gently pull her reader along to this very very strange, very very shocking, but I promise you it's really okay if you look at it this way, idea. Which is *weird* (this was published post-Fifty Shades of Grey, so, again, we know) and kind of insulting, honestly. It's like an inside- out version of protesting too much. The insistence on the convincing starts to make it feel like there's something wrong with it after all. Which, just, GTFO. And ALSO, if you DO feel like your readers need convincing, the best way to do that is by showing the relationship in action, not by having two characters sitting on the couch spewing a bad wiki article about BDSM.

--The DOM/sub stuff is presented oddly. The hero describes it almost as if it's a stereotypical* 1950s marital situation. (I take care of everything and make all decisions; you do exactly what I say, always.) Which, I mean, if that's your kink, sure, you do you. But as an explanation of what it's about, it's *strange.* It's like, almost, but no. And, memo: Being a Dom does not give you license to be creepy af. The male MC does all kinds of borderline abusive stuff like stalking the female MC, dictating the FMC's behavior before he has any "right" within a mutually consensual agreement to do so, and insisting on removing the FMC from her accustomed environment.

--The author interrupts sex scenes to give us character interiority we've already heard a thousand times. What?

--And, possibly the single most maddening thing: when discussing Dom/sub relations, the characters invariably refer to Doms as men and subs as women. *angry kermit arms* I can excuse this on occasion because that is the particular make up in this story and it would be natural in dialogue for the characters to insert their own situation into a general discussion. But it happens over and over. References that have no need to be gendered *whatsoever* are constantly gendered as Dom = male, sub = female. Like so: "'I know some Dominants... Well, I've heard that they punish their women if they disobey or displease them.'"** THEIR WOMEN? Aside from the fact that the language plays into that weird, limiting perceived 1950s thing, some Doms are women! Some male Doms have male subs! Gosh, sometimes they're BOTH women! Take all of your erasures *waves arms about encompassing the all of it* and get. out. *retires to quiet corner to take deep breaths*

...And that is why I'm not finishing this book.

*I know many, many marriages in the 50s did not look like this. But you know the image we all have in our heads? Dude goes to work with the only car. Lady stays home tending the home and meets him at the door more dressed up than I've ever been and takes his briefcase while handing him his slippers and a drink? That.

**Page 101 if anyone cares.

May 23, 2016, 11:36am Top

>164 PaulCranswick: Thanks! No, we're a bit far off, unfortunately, to make it for the day. Also, *whispers* we weren't invited. *ducks whatever LW3 lobs my way*

>165 lauralkeet: Thanks! Yeah, I went into it thinking some things might be disappointing (the writing) that weren't at all. So I liked it more than I thought I would in some respects, but in other ways I wasn't looking for, it annoyed the socks off me!

May 23, 2016, 11:58am Top

>167 lycomayflower: Well two is company on such occasions, I suppose. xx

May 23, 2016, 12:20pm Top

>168 PaulCranswick: Indeed. Though I think they spent most of the day in a crowd, honestly.

May 23, 2016, 12:50pm Top

>166 lycomayflower: ha ha ha I know nothing about this book but enjoyed your review immensely.

May 23, 2016, 1:43pm Top

>170 lauralkeet: Lol. Glad you got a chuckle out of it!

May 24, 2016, 8:24am Top

>166 lycomayflower: *angry Kermit arms* LOL I'll have to remember that phrase!!

May 25, 2016, 8:49pm Top

37.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling ****

Carrying on with my Harry Potter reread after a several-months break from it. I had trouble getting into this one this time, which surprises me a little bit because HP4 has consistently been in my top three Harry novels in the past. By the start of the third task, I was pretty much riveted though.

Bullet Points of Points (spoilery for anything HP, mostly not under cut)

--A looooot of pages go by in this one before we even get to Hogwarts. Despite my general gentle impatience with the book this time around, I still loved the Quidditch World Cup stuff. Rowling does such a great job presenting all the bits of a giant sporting event and offering social commentary on it. And the continued world building is aces throughout this bit. But what really struck me as I carried on with the book was how well Rowling uses this opening bit given the story she wanted to tell. With the Triwizard Tournament as the center piece of the book, she clearly had to leave out the usual quidditch games at Hogwarts. So we get a match in the beginning so quidditch fans aren't disappointed that they won't get any more throughout. And we she introduces a number of things in these chapters so that we don't need any explanation later: Death Eaters (what they are, what they look like), portkeys (how they work, what traveling by one feels like), the effects of Veela on human men, etc.

--The actual opening of the book at the Riddle House is delightfully creepy and very well done.

--As much as I poke a little fun at the way most of the books have the "explaining chapter" where someone tells us (and Harry) what we missed and what was really going on at some point in the school year, I do enjoy those bits. It's like Poirot gathering all the suspects together and revealing who done it. But in HP4, by the time we get to the explanation, a large portion of which has to do with what happened with the Death Eaters and the Dark Mark at the QWC, all that seems so long ago that the explanation falls with a little bit of a thud. The mystery of this book (and more on this in a second) is who put Harry's name in the cup. Of course we get that answer in the explanatory bits, but I'd almost kind of forgotten by the end (and this is a many times over reread) that there's also the mystery of who set off the Dark Mark and how/if Winky could have been involved. Because it just isn't remarked on all that much throughout the book (it certainly gets a fair amount of attention early), I felt a bit "Oh, right, that" when we got that piece of the puzzle.

--All the HP books, to varying degrees, are mystery novels. There's always something the Trio has to puzzle out, something they have a wild hare about (and often get at least partially wrong while also being some of the only people who seem to be looking in even remotely the right direction for what's really important). This one feels a bit mystery light. Who set off the Dark Mark at the QWC and who put Harry's name in the cup are really the big questions. (There are some little other ones too: What's the deal with Karkaroff? How/why could Mr. Crouch have been in Hogwarts in the middle of the night? How is Rita Skeeter getting her scoops?) But compared to some of the other mysteries (like, who's the heir of Slytherin and what happened when the Chamber of Secrets was opened before), they aren't super exciting, and--and this is the salient bit, I think--the Trio doesn't do a whole lot to try to solve them. There's little sense of Harry, Ron, and Hermione researching things, putting clues together, and ultimately building an understanding of something (even if an erroneous understanding). Most of the other books have events that stack--each big piece of information adds something to what we already knew and the sum of all those pieces equals something greater than each piece on its own. But the events of HP4 are more parallel than stacked. Each thing we learn tells us something, but they don't all go together to get us somewhere big. This is probably a result of the story being more episodic than any HP book since HP1. The nature of the tournament sort of dictates this. Much of the Trio research activity goes toward doing the tasks. All this isn't a criticism as such. I just personally prefer stacking stories, and I don't usually care for episodic stories. On this umpty-dump reread, I imagine that accounts for some of my impatience with the book post-QWC and pre-third-task. Just being in the world is enough in the beginning because Rowling does the beginning so well. And the end is so plotty and meaty and horrifying and hurdling-forward-y.

--The very nature of this non-stacking, episodic structure does give the last hundred pages an incredible oomph though. Man. The first time I read this, I was just blown away by Cedric's death. It is SO. SUDDEN. (It just kills me in the movie too. Even though I know it's coming, I almost don't see it coming.) I think this is largely because the structure doesn't really telegraph that Something Is Coming. I mean, you kind of think, sure, we must be getting to it because we're to the third task and the book is nearly over, but the climax pretty much comes out of no where. That's pretty brilliant.

--The scene in the graveyard, man. OMG. It is horrific. Well done, JKR. Well done.

--When Lily's echo tells Harry to hang on because his dad is coming. All the feels trying to leak out of my eyeballs on this read at that moment.

--I love Dumbledore in the aftermath, the way he treats Harry. The way he refuses to let anyone squirrel him off before he has a chance to know what happened, the way he makes Harry talk about it right away, the way he insists that no one badger him about it after that. Dumbledore is a scheming old schemer with his own "greater good" issues still, but he's got his head on straight here protecting Harry's emotional and mental well-being.

--A couple of minor inconsistencies in this one that I don't remember noticing before. Molly Weasley seems to imply that Hagrid wasn't around when she was in school, but we know from previous books that he should have at least been assistant gamekeeper if not gamekeeper proper by then. And shouldn't Harry be able to see the thestrals (which aren't introduced until the next book) at the end of this one?

--This book makes me want a novel from Krum's pov. Deep waters in that boy, I think. (I always, always wish for novels from Dumbledore's and Snape's povs. And a maurader-era book. And book from Hermione's pov where we get to see the lives and friendships of girls at Hogwarts. What do they do about their periods? And who explains to them about them if they start at school? What friendships does Hermione have with other girls that go on when Harry and Ron aren't around? It's implied later that she's decently close to Ginny. But who else? /tangent)

--Ug, HP5 next. Maybe I'll be all about that one, contrary to usual, since this one didn't floo my powder as much as I expected it too.

0h! So, it's 25 May, right? And this is my 37th book read this year. Guess what book I posted about on 25 May last year? 37th! And guess what book it was? HP1!

May 25, 2016, 8:51pm Top

"0h! So, it's 25 May, right? And this is my 37th book read this year. Guess what book I posted about on 25 May last year? 37th! And guess what book it was? HP1!" Spooooooky.

May 25, 2016, 8:53pm Top

>174 laytonwoman3rd:

Yooooou didn't read all that in two minutes. Shenanigans! Shenanigans!

Edited: May 26, 2016, 9:20am Top

*finally gets to the end of brilliant dissert. on HP4* Well, done, you! You should be collecting all these musings together as you do your umpty umpth read of each one. And why are you mean to me?

May 26, 2016, 6:48am Top

Oh, I like the idea of you writing a book about your re-reads. A memoir of sorts through the years, how your life and thus your reading of the books changes as you go along... Oh, yes, I'd read that. Hop to it, lady.

Also, you're making me even more excited to get started with HP1 with Charlie in, let's see now, 7 days! Woot!

May 26, 2016, 12:13pm Top

>173 lycomayflower: I enjoyed those comments on HP4, Laura. I got a new illustrated edition of HP1 over the holidays, and expect to re-read the whole series, too.

Good luck dealing with laytonwoman3rd. She somehow seems to know you pretty well.

May 26, 2016, 4:08pm Top

>178 jnwelch: Ha! She's not a match for me yet...but she is a right worthy contender. (After all, she's a laytonwoman too!)

May 26, 2016, 4:16pm Top

>179 laytonwoman3rd: I know the feeling, Linda. I do my reading work out every day just to try to keep up with stay ahead of ours.

May 31, 2016, 9:23am Top

>172 dragonaria: Angry Kermit and his arms is one of my favorites.

>176 laytonwoman3rd:, >177 scaifea: *runs away from writing project* Shush. Shuuuush.

>177 scaifea: I'm excited for your HP read with Charlie too! I think hearing that first chapter of HP1 as a kid must be amaaaazing. *is briefly sad never got to have that experience* Am I right in remembering that you'll be surprising him with that great trunk of the hardcovers on the last day of school?

>178 jnwelch: Thanks! I got that illustrated HP1 for Christmas. I haven't actually read it yet, but I spent a nice time paging through the illustrations. It's just lovely!

>179 laytonwoman3rd: Oi!

May 31, 2016, 10:09am Top

38.) Is It Just Me?, Miranda Hart, read by the author ****1/2

Miranda Hart, I have learned only very recently, is a British comedian, not just my beloved Chummy on Call the Midwife. I had no idea. And I've forgotten now how I came across this book, but there it was available on audible, so on I listened. It is hilarious (or hil-air, as Hart might say). She talks very little about her career, but rather about life in general, and the theme is all those little things that happen to people but that no one ever tells you how to deal with (think, oh, giant piece of toilet paper following you out of the restroom as it's attached to your shoe, that sort of thing). Hart has a very upper-middle-class sort of received British accent, and she uses it to great effect in the comedy here. The book is so funny, both in its content and in its presentation, that I spent the thing laughing out loud. People behind me at traffic lights (I was listening in the car, mostly) probably thought I was having some sort of fit. Nestled in among all the jolity are some nice little nuggets of wisdom and encouragement as well. Highly recommended, but do get the audio. I think you'd be missing half the fun if you read it.

Edited: May 31, 2016, 10:31am Top

39.) Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay ***1/2

More contemporary poetry for me, the non-poetry reader. I can tell that this is really good stuff, but most of it just doesn't sing for me. There are some really great images in here, some of which will almost certainly stick with me, but mostly the poems as wholes didn't strike me. But if you are a poetry reader, I think you want to read this.

Edited: May 31, 2016, 1:14pm Top

40.) The World Split Open: Great Authors on How and Why We Write, various ****

A collection of essays taken from thirty years of talks given for the Literary Arts' lecture series. While a number of these essays put my back up with the amount of effort they put into creating insiders and outsiders (the insiders being those who read, write, and are concerned with *nose in the air* Serious Lit-er-ature and the outsiders being those who write or read *sneer a bit* commercial fiction), for the most part this was an inspiring, compelling read. I particularly enjoyed the pieces by Chimamanda Adichie, Ursula K. LeGuin, and E.L. Doctorow; I've been inspired to seek out their fiction by the essays by Edward P. Jones and Wallace Stegner. Recommended.

May 31, 2016, 10:46am Top

>182 lycomayflower: my daughter introduced me to Miranda Hart before she was Chummy, and yes she's hilarious. The Chummy role was a departure from her usual stuff. She had a BBC TV series until 2015, not sure if it's available on Netflix but somehow I caught a few clips at that time and it was wonderfully self-deprecating and very funny. I can imagine the book would be fabulous in audio form.

Edited: May 31, 2016, 10:51am Top

>185 lauralkeet: I have heard mention of this show, but haven't checked yet to see if I can watch it anywhere. I really want to now, having listened to the book!

May 31, 2016, 5:10pm Top

41.) Repotting Harry Potter: A Professor's Book-by-Book Guide for the Serious Re-Reader, James W. Thomas ****

Does what it says on the tin. Thomas divides each book into sections (three or four chapters) and discusses things that strike him as worth noting on a reread. Given the nature of the book, the discussions abound with spoilers for the whole series throughout, which allows Thomas to discuss the series as a whole if need be at any given point. He returns to a number of different topics, including punning/word play, use of humor, fore- and aft-shadowing (events, dialogue, or references that both foreshadow something to come and look back to something that already happened), writing style, Christian symbolism, and the ways the books "grow up." For someone who has already reread the series something like five times, a number of Thomas's points are things I've already noticed, but there was still a fair bit of stuff I hadn't (and it's fun to read about those things I already knew). I read the section about HP4 immediately after finishing reading it then read the rest of the book straight through. Having done that, I think the best way to read this if you really want the most out of it, would be to read each of Thomas's sections on each book then read that part of the book (so, read what he has to say about the first chapters of HP1 then read those chapters). This book absolutely passes my ultimate test for this sort of thing: it makes me want to read the books again.

May 31, 2016, 5:25pm Top

>183 lycomayflower:, >184 lycomayflower: As we've discussed now, I must read both of these. When, I dunno. But. And next time I'm in the mood to read the Hogwarts saga again, Thomas sounds like an essential companion. I count on you to remember I said this.

May 31, 2016, 5:51pm Top

Just unlurking to say so great to read about the Miranda love here. I read the autobiography but as she has such a distinctive voice she kind of read it to me in my head.

Her tour show is available on dvd here, so I guess might be streamed somewhere? She also played a completely useless cleaner in a couple of series of Not Going Out.

Jun 1, 2016, 6:39am Top

>181 lycomayflower: Agreed that I wish I had been able to read/listen to that first chapter as a kid. And yes, we're surprising Charlie with that amazing trunk of hardcovers tomorrow evening! WOOT!

Jun 1, 2016, 3:47pm Top

>190 scaifea: Oh. Oh. Pictures, please!!

Jun 2, 2016, 7:17am Top

>191 laytonwoman3rd: Ha! I plan on trying to capture the reveal on film. We'll see how it goes. I'm so excited that I so very much want to give them to him this morning, but will endure and wait until after school, so that it can be the proper 1st Grade Is Over celebration it's meant to be. But...it's so hard to wait... Waiting Is Not Easy!

Edited: Jun 2, 2016, 1:27pm Top

>190 scaifea:, >191 laytonwoman3rd:, >192 scaifea: Eeeeee! So excited for Charlie and you!

Jun 2, 2016, 2:25pm Top

>189 charl08: So cool to see Miranda fans popping up! I have got to get some of her shows to put into my eyeballs soon.

Jun 2, 2016, 2:26pm Top

>188 laytonwoman3rd: I am taking "count on you to remember this" as permission to hound you about rereading HP. Nope! So sorry, too late to back pedal now!

Edited: Jun 2, 2016, 2:47pm Top

42.) Edie Ernst, USO Singer, Allied Spy, Brooke McEldowney ****1/2

The is a collection of strips from 9 Chickweed Lane that formed a sort of interlude in the strip for some months somewhere round abouts 2009. These strips tell the story of Edna (Gran from 9 Chickweed Lane) during her time in the USO in WWII. I loved loved loved this story when I read it in the daily strip and have been trying to get my hands on a copy of the collection since I first knew it existed. For whatever reason, I never could find it new and used copies were running at high high high prices. The other day I stumbled across it again on my amazon wishlist and saw that someone was selling it for a five or six dollars over the cover price rather than five or six times the cover price, and I snatched it up. The story of Edna's adventures and loves as a USO singer and allied spy is just as wonderful as I remembered it: sweet and romantic and bittersweet and real, and just beautifully illustrated and told. I'll be rereading this one many times, I'm sure. Recommended.

Jun 2, 2016, 2:42pm Top

>195 lycomayflower: Yeah, um....that's not exactly what I meant, and I think you know that. *shakes head* Some people's adult children, I tell ya.

Edited: Jun 2, 2016, 2:46pm Top

>197 laytonwoman3rd: It's all in the way they're raised, I suspect.

Jun 2, 2016, 4:03pm Top

>197 laytonwoman3rd:, >198 lycomayflower: Ha! Enjoying this witty banter.

Jun 2, 2016, 4:55pm Top

>199 lauralkeet: Of which you have no experience of your own, I suppose!

Jun 2, 2016, 6:03pm Top

Well ...

Edited: Jun 11, 2016, 5:03pm Top

43.) The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu ****

This is one of those books where the degree of pleasure I take in having read it far exceeds the degree of pleasure I took in reading it. I am very glad I read this, for the perspective it gave me on China and on what science fiction is, for the way it made me think about storytelling structure and how our expectations for it may be tied to the culture/s we've grown up in, for the pure fact that I think it's good to read outside our comfort zones, outside our nations of familiarity, and in translation. But while there were several sections of the book that wowed me in a purely readerly sense, on the whole, I did not enjoy this. It takes a very long time to get going, parts of it are grimmer than I usually prefer in fiction, and ultimately I feel a little held captive by the fact that (despite there being no cliffhanger) I will have to read two more books if I want fully to understand what is going on. I'm just not sure I have the stamina to get through two more of these, though I would like to. (And I'm curious to see how the second book, which was translated by a different translator, reads. I didn't care for the translation of Three Body, and I see from the translator's note that I disagree with him about what translation should do.) On the other hand, some of the author's science fiction ideas, his use of science to speculate about where science might go and how science might be used, were enthralling and mind-bending. There was also one development in particular that was fascinating, compelling, and alarming. So while I certainly took a lot away from this read, and while I don't read just for (or always for) enjoyment, I do wish I had found more to enjoy here in addition to finding much to appreciated. For anyone who hasn't read this yet who thinks they might like to, I say do.

***For Book Club

Edited: Jun 11, 2016, 5:01pm Top

44.) Merry Men # 1, Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis, Marissa Louise ****

First issue in a new comic series about Robin Hood. The hook is that the merry men all enjoy sex with men. (Modern readers will see some of them as gay and some as bi; these are not concepts that existed at the time in the way we understand them. These were behaviors, not identities.) They live in a band in the woods in order to keep themselves safe from the Sherriff of Nottingham, who, among other dastardlinesses, wants to make life wretched for men such as Robin and his friends. This issue is mostly about introducing the concept and the characters (one of whom is Scarlett, who is trans*), but we do get a hint that Scarlett's arrival in Sherwood is going to spur Robin to the kind of action (savior of the poor etc) that we associate with the character. What little comics reading I do, I do in trade, but this series might prompt me to pick up each issue as it comes out--not so much because I can't wait for five or so issues to hit a trade edition (although, I am pleased with the first issue and want to know more) but because I am *in* for a queered version of this tale and I want to support the title. And I gather that in the world of comics, things like buying individual issues and especially ordering issues before they've come out has a huge impact on whether titles carry on. I may actually have to go to the comics shop and set up a pull list. *grumbles* Anyway, recommended.

Edited: Jun 11, 2016, 5:44pm Top

45.) Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle: The Magical Structure and Transcendental Meaning of the Hogwarts Saga, John Granger ****

Most of the litcrit I've read about Harry Potter has been of the sort that makes me nod in agreement or realize that the author has explained something or made some connection that I almost saw myself. I don't say this to wave my own wand or anything; it's just that I'm trained in this close reading and reading for layers and symbols and junk and I've read the whole series umpty-dump times. I just mean it's hard to wow me with something about Harry. To interest me is easy; to impress me with the cohesion or thoroughness of an argument is slightly harder, but not much (assuming the work is good). But to wow me, to make me go, "OMG, how is this not a thing we are all talking about how how how?" is hard. Granger nearly did this to me with his discussion of literary alchemy in some of his previous books, but while that feels important and probably accurate, it also feels esoteric and, well, a little complicated. Not saying it doesn't sharply illuminate the books (it does), but it lacks that elegant, perfect simplicity that makes a theory about a text feel like a bolt from the blue. But he got me with this book and the theory herein, boy.

Here it is, in a nutshell: the HP series as a whole, and each book singly, operates as a cycle, with events paralleling each other in roughly an ABCDCBA structure. Each book has a central moment (often a chapter) around which the rest of the events of the book hinge, and in that moment, the book turns (this is the "D" in the formula) and proceeds back through the events and symbols in parallel to the beginning chapters. (I'll clarify here that each book has more than seven moments/events/chapters--I'm just giving you the idea with that "ABCDCBA".) So if you have seven chapters, chapter one parallels chapter seven, chapter two parallels chapter six, chapter three parallels chapter five, and chapter four is the hinge or turn. Granger demonstrates this with examples for each book, as well as for the series as a whole: Goblet is the turn, Stone parallels Hallows, Chamber parallels Prince, and Azkaban parallels Phoenix. Granger goes into all this in detail and discusses the power of this construction, its use in other literature, and why (beyond just: NEAT!) this is important. This is a structure I'm familiar with (I talked about it in my review of Cloud Atlas), but I did not pick up on it in HP. Anyone who's read HP even just once (and defo if multiple times) has noticed at least some of the foreshadowing. This theory is like foreshadowing to the nth, I'd say. It demonstrates not just that Rowling uses foreshadowing well, but that all her foreshadowed events come to pass in a pattern. It's completely fascinating. The next time I reread HP (after I finish my current reread), I'm going to read following the parallel chapters outlined in the charts Granger includes (the chapters aren't always exactly one-to-one; sometimes there are two chapters in the first half of the cycle to one in the second, and so on) to see if I really feel the theory holds water. I'll read HP1 first, first chapter, then last chapter, then second chapter, then penultimate chapter, and so on. Then HP7 in the same fashion, then HP2, then HP6, then HP3, then HP5, then HP4.

I recommend Granger's book to anyone interested in HP (though, unfortunately, again with the usual caveat lector for his stuff: there will be typos and the occasional actual error. smh)

Jun 12, 2016, 9:22am Top

>204 lycomayflower: I'm admitting up front that I didn't read all of your review, just the first paragraph. And I'll tell you why: As you know, I'm trained with that particular skill-set of close-reading the crap out of stuff, too. But so far, I've been able to ignore those skills when it comes to certain books, and the HP series is one of them. And I don't want to change that. I love that I can still get lost in them like a kid and not be burdened with deep-thinking about them. So, while I'm happy that you've been wowed, I'm going to skip this one because I don't want to be wowed in any different way than the ways that Harry (and Rowling) already wow me.

Jun 12, 2016, 11:06am Top

>204 lycomayflower: Is Granger one of only a few people giving HP the scholarly treatment? Perhaps that explains why "everyone" isn't talking about this? I mean...are a lot of *clears throat* "serious" scholars still on the Bloom bandwagon, thinking this series is not worthy of their attention?

>205 scaifea: Or maybe it's just that....the books are so beloved that no one wants to pull them apart. It could just be too soon for that sort of thing? When, for instance, oh Mayflower, did serious criticism of Tolkien's work begin to proliferate?

Jun 12, 2016, 1:26pm Top

Just lurking here waiting for the next salvo ...

Jun 13, 2016, 7:01am Top

>206 laytonwoman3rd: I'm not at all up on current lit-crit-y scholarship anymore, as I'm sort of out of the biz (sort of), but clearly Imma gonna answer the question anyway (How academic of me! Ha!): I suspect that there's a crap-ton (technical term, of course - pardon the jargon) of HP scholarship out there, especially since the original audience is now of an age to produce it. I remember that there was a flood of Buffy the Vampire Slayer scholarship back in the day, and even whole conferences popped up to support the movement. I suspect that there are HP scholarly conference, too, no? Maybe? At any rate, I kind of assumed that I'm one of the minority here, with my wanting to keep my academia away from my acceptance letter to Hogwarts. Okay, I'll go back to my Corner of Ignorance now...

Jun 13, 2016, 9:58am Top

And this is why I love this group... :)

Jun 13, 2016, 10:21am Top

>208 scaifea: Thanks, Amber. I know there's more than Granger...I'm just not up on it myself, and wondering...not challenging... And you, of all people, do not belong in the Corner of Ignorance. It's pretty crowded over there already...come on out!

Jun 13, 2016, 3:16pm Top

>205 scaifea: Oh, I understand the reluctance to read about books you love for fear of ruining them in some way. I feel this way for the most part about Pride and Prejudice. I don't want to look at that book through any lens but my own. (Though I will read continuations and retellings if they're up to snuff.) And I don't think I could sit still for proper academic waffling about Harry Potter either. What I've read is mostly much closer to "fannish theorizing" than it is to "rigorous academic study." For me, that keeps these books like Granger's fun and entertaining and far away from ruining the magic of the series for me. But I completely respect your desire not to go there at all. :-) (Incidentally, you're probably safe to read the rest of this post; I reference the Granger book some more, but no specifics!)

>206 laytonwoman3rd: Lots of other people write about HP in the same sort of vein that Granger does, what I would call, maybe, serious work written for a lay audience and that remains about one and a half steps away from rigorous academic literary criticism. I have no idea how much of that RALC there is out there about HP. Probably some, probably some that is very good, probably some more in Cultural Studies and Children's Literature Studies than elsewhere, probably anyone trying to be taken seriously by doing serious academic work on HP in English Lit journals is getting shat on, even if they are doing good work. (I'm guessing here, based on my experience with Tolkien in the recent past.) As to my comment about not being able to believe that we aren't talking about it, it's more that I can't believe more people haven't picked up on it than that I can't believe we all haven't taken Granger's book and run with it. Granger's observation isn't really one that requires any particular knowledge or training in any litcrit-adjacent field. (Some of conclusions are, but the thing itself, not really.) I'm surprised that more people who have read the books a thousand times haven't just picked up on it, in the way that, say, some of the minor inconsistencies in the series have been noticed independently by thousands (or more) rereaders and those things are all over any forum or website devoted to the books.

As for when work on Tolkien started, the answer to that is both "Immediately" and "Not yet." That is, there's scholarly work that goes way back (certainly by the mid 60s people were writing crit and writing about how to write crit about Tolkien) and people still feel a lot of pushback against doing serious work on Tolkien unless they are working within a few accepted areas (philology, medieval studies). A good deal of Tolkien criticism still feels like it needs to start by defending its right to exist (I reviewed a book that tried to push back against the pushback in 2014). Since HP1 was first published in 1997 and HP7 in 2007, I think we're well past "too early" to write about it.

>207 lauralkeet: *waves* Hiya!

>208 scaifea: Agreed, there's probably a lot out there. I also suspect there's a lot of snobbery about it too, at least if one is trying to write about the books as literature. If you're trying to write about the movies and/or fandom and/or the phenomenon as a whole, you're probably publishing in different places than if you were writing about the books alone, and those different places are probably very welcoming indeed. My experience is that the keepers of the keys to Twentieth Century Lit-er-a-ture do not take well to elves and things if they're meant to be taken seriously and for their own sake. (C.S. Lewis is okay because it's actually about religion; Tolkien isn't because it's actually about elves.... Never mind that both of those statements are only sort of true.)

>209 drneutron: :-) Yay!

>210 laytonwoman3rd: *sporfle* Amber. Ignorant. *sporfle*

Jun 13, 2016, 3:25pm Top

Ugh, that snobbery is annoying. As if more than half of what those snooty folk are doing isn't absolute bunkum. "Here, let me take this theory stuff that I don't actually understand but pretend to and plop it down on this piece of classic literature and act like I've re-invented that round vehicular thing." As far as ancient lit goes, I always thought it was way more interesting when the scholar looks at the lit through the lens of theory and talks about the bits where the theory didn't quite fit and why. That's when things get interesting, to my way of thinking. For whatever that's worth.

(You know, the Corner of Ignorance has really good cookies...)

>209 drneutron: Also, hugs to Joe, uh, I mean, Jim!

Edited: Jun 13, 2016, 3:28pm Top

>212 scaifea: " Also, hugs to Joe, uh, I mean, Jim!" Don't you mean Dan? ;>)

And just bring the cookies with you...

Jun 13, 2016, 3:31pm Top

>213 laytonwoman3rd: DAN! Right! Of course. Silly me.

Cookie thievery?! Linda, I'm shocked. SHOCKED, I say!
(Also, I've already eaten them all, so there's that.)

Edited: Jun 13, 2016, 3:56pm Top

46.) The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley ***1/2

Oh, how I wanted to like this more than I did. This collection of many of Hurley's blog posts (plus a few essays written specifically for this volume) deals with science fiction, fantasy, fandom, being a woman in 21st century America, and being a female SF fan in 21st century America. And some of these essays are excellent and on point. Occasionally I was nodding and "yessing" so hard I thought I might give myself a fit. But, I dunno, somehow the whole thing just leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I've been trying to put my finger on what it is that bugs me about this book for days (ever since I first started feeling that way about it), and I can't quite get there. Hurley is often very angry, but rightly so, and I've read other angry people (and other angry women) who didn't turn me off. She's not terribly likable, I guess, but so what? It's not a memoir, where that might matter, and again, I've read other work where I didn't care much for the persona behind it and still got on fine with the work itself. Maybe it's that her view seems so unremittingly bleak? She hits what's difficult and unfair and angry-making about being a woman really hard (fair), but rarely (if ever) points out anything joyful or good or hopeful. I remember thinking about this a lot in the opening section where she talks a lot about her writing career. She says so much about how it's hard work and how the odds are stacked against new writers (especially female ones) and how you must workworkwork and still you are very unlikely to ever live on what you make writing. All true, all fair, and all things (especially that last point) that need to be said, that need to be talked about. But I don't think she ever once said that she kept on writing through the (really) hard times because she loved it, or because it brought her joy, or solace, or hope, or even because she just couldn't not. And the whole collection has that little jag to it. So often I felt: so why bother then? And it's not that there isn't an answer. It's that you'd almost think there isn't an answer from reading this collection. *sigh* YMMV and, honestly, I hope it does, because there is so much here that is good and important and well said, and lots of people should read it. Just. Maybe, while you do, eat a cookie.

Jun 13, 2016, 3:48pm Top

>212 scaifea: Yes to aaalll this. Also: I always thought it was way more interesting when the scholar looks at the lit through the lens of theory and talks about the bits where the theory didn't quite fit and why. That's when things get interesting, to my way of thinking. For whatever that's worth. I've heard you say this before somewheres, and I remember thinking then (and still do) that this is such an interesting way of looking at it. It sounds so much more fun and compelling than what I was usually confronted with (which often felt like "use this lens to WRECK EVERYTHING GOOD").

>213 laytonwoman3rd:, >214 scaifea: Hey! Someone bring me some cookies! *whispers* I ain't got no cookies. Mean old wimmin, eatin' all the cookies and not sharing.

Jun 13, 2016, 3:51pm Top

>216 lycomayflower: "WRECK EVERYTHING GOOD" *snork!* Yeah.

I'll make you some cookies, eh? How's that.

Jun 13, 2016, 3:56pm Top

>217 scaifea: Oooo, even the thought of Amber-made cookies makes me feel less cookie-less.

Jun 13, 2016, 4:06pm Top

>217 scaifea: You know she's perfectly capable of making her own cookies, right? But if you're makin' 'em anywaayyy....

Jun 13, 2016, 4:15pm Top

>219 laytonwoman3rd: Cookie-blocker!

Jun 13, 2016, 7:26pm Top


Any excuse to make cookies is enough for me, though. I love to bake.

Jun 13, 2016, 7:29pm Top

* late to the party; waiting for cookies *

Edited: Jun 18, 2016, 9:10am Top

Oh, saaay. I was poking around on my profile this morning and I see that apparently I passed 500 reviews a few reviews back. All righty then.

Jun 18, 2016, 9:15am Top

>223 lycomayflower: Excellent! I think you deserve a WOOT! today, too!

Jun 18, 2016, 9:16am Top

>224 scaifea: Thanks, Amber!

Jun 18, 2016, 9:36am Top

Edited: Jun 18, 2016, 11:02am Top

>226 laytonwoman3rd: Well, ain't that purdy.

Jun 18, 2016, 2:31pm Top

How's this for purdy?

Jun 21, 2016, 4:52am Top

Jun 21, 2016, 9:38am Top

>228 laytonwoman3rd: When do I get to see yours?

>229 DianaNL: Thanks!

Edited: Jun 21, 2016, 2:54pm Top

11/22/63, Stephen King ***1/2

Stephen King is not my bag (I do. not. do. horror), though my dad loves him and holds him in high regard as a storyteller. I've also read and loved King's On Writing. So since 11/22/63 is one of King's not horror books and because the Dad recommended it, I gave it a whirl. And, gosh, there's a good deal about it I enjoyed a lot. King can pull you through a story, boy. My mass market copy is 1089 pages; I started it around 6:00 o'clock Friday evening and finished around 11:30 last (Monday) night. That is, like, lightning speed for me. And he can write you into a place like nobody's business. The description of the first time Jake goes back to 1958, of what he saw, what it felt like, how it smelled, that was all just fantastic. I enjoyed the romance element of the story. And some of the time travel details (or maybe more accurately, the time travel questions) King comes up with are fascinating. But on the whole, the book didn't quite work for me. (Sorry, Dad.)

The first issue is entirely idiosyncratic on my part, and that is that I don't particularly like suspense of the violent kind and I hate graphic, gruesome violence. Because this was Stephen King, and because he does some graphic, gruesome violent stuff near the beginning, I spent all 1089 pages tensely waiting for him to do the next horrible thing to his characters. That gave me rattlers in my stomach, and three days is a long time to have rattler gut from a book you're reading for fun. That's not a criticism of King or the book; that's me.

My second problem is that the book is too long. The whole second section (162 pages) seems almost wholly unnecessary. Jake wants to test whether he even can make big changes to the past and so spends months in the past waiting for the day to roll around when he knows a father is going to brutally murder his family so he can stop it, go back to the present, and see what's what. This section moves along at a good clip and is successfully suspenseful, but by the time you get to the mid-point and back half of the novel, you wonder if it was really necessary to spend all that time there, especially as none of those events have any further baring on the rest of the tale, beyond functioning as a time travel test. I also would much rather have had some more explanation at the end than have all this dithering about in the beginning.

Perhaps my biggest bugaboo is that the book doesn't seem to know what it wants to be and thus tries to be many things at once. That can work, but I don't think it did here. It starts out with a really good adventure/thriller/spec fic set up, then moves to a suspense/horror novel, then to a historical love story/slice of small-town life story, then back to a thriller (though now of a political spy sort rather than a spec fic/adventure sort) then back to the spec fic adventure, then ends in the small-town life tale. It all connects up, but it didn't quite all coalesce into one thing for me. I also found the middle (the political spy thriller part) fairly draggy.

I feel like King was trying to so something big here, something that would say something about America, especially 20th century America, and about history and memory, and about the American dream possibly and how that is all tied into JFK. But if he did say something about all that, I'm missing it. It crosses my mind that this may have something to do with me, with when I grew up, with my situation in time. JFK was assassinated almost twenty years before I was born. I don't quite understand the fascination with that moment in time (and I suspect anyone who lived through it does), or why Al and Jake think that stopping his assassination is The Thing That Will Make Everything Better. (I'm also a little perplexed by Jake. He's thirty-five in 2011, making him five years older than me. Near as makes no difference my age, I'd say. But he doesn't feel like he is. He hardly seems tapped into the technology age we live in, and he doesn't feel particularly shaped by the popular culture he would have grown up in. And maybe most niggling but most hard to put aside: unless this guy has never watched a movie, he should KNOW not to muck around with time travel. Come oooooon, dude. Anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s would tell the guy who wants to time travel to change the past to step back. Did Jake not *see* Back to the Future II? Which is a long way of saying, "Why does Jake think this is a good idea?" I can sort of maybe buy that Al does. He's old enough I guess that the assassination of JFK might feel like the moment it all went wrong. But Jake?) Maybe this is a failure of my understanding of mid-twentieth century history more than anything else. (We never got past Korea in high school, and my study of the twentieth century in college was pretty Europe-centric.) Of course I understand (intellectually) the horror of the assassination of a sitting president and the desire that that should never, ever have happened. I get that part of it. But why the complete faith that the world would be better if he'd lived? I kind of feel like if someone put this time travel proposal to me, my reaction would be, "No way ever no how nuh uh." We just barely managed to get through it once without nuking the entire planet. Wouldn't you be terrified that even the tiniest change to the past might have made the cold war go hot? (And didn't JFK have some horrible disease that probably would have killed him shortly anyway? Or is that some slice of a conspiracy whack-theory I've picked up somewheres?)

Finally, I want to smack King with my copy of the book for the end. HE COMPLETELY ERASES EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED! THE WHOLE THING WAS FOR NOTHING! I am sure this is supposed to resonate somehow, is supposed to tell me something about time or memory or love or history or dancing or SOMETHING, but I don't get it. Also, all privileges revoked for not explaining who the "rabbit hole" guardians are in the end. Dirty pool.

*deep breath* Right. In the end, I'm glad I read this. Like I said up top, I enjoyed some of it immensely, and I also learned some things about Lee Harvey Oswald that I knew nothing about. I'm super interested to hear other people's opinions about the book, especially if you really like it and/or have thoughts about any of the things I said I didn't get. (I'm looking at you flamingrabbit.) Also would be interested to hear from people who remember the Kennedy assassination and can shed some light on that aspect of things.

ETA: As I expected, talking to my dad clarified some of the stuff about the time period, about what it was like in the days after the assassination, about what it meant. King pretty much starts assumming you get that, and I'd guess that anyone born after, oh 1958, say, probably doesn't, not really, not wholly.

Edited: Jun 21, 2016, 6:10pm Top

>230 lycomayflower: It's in Westchester now. It has to navigate up the Turnpike, and will be here Thursday. We will bring it home Friday after its bath.

>231 lycomayflower: I haven't read the book yet, as you know. Hence I haven't looked at your spoilers. Not having been privy to your conversation with your dad, and not yet having heard his version of it either, I will just say this. The 1950's...you know, "Happy Days"...really ended on November 22, 1963. They were already slipping away, but that did it. And yes, JFK had a couple of serious medical conditions, and was on a boat load of high-powered med's, including steroids, and he collapsed a couple times in office, but the thing is WE (that is, the American people in general) did not know that; to us he represented youth and VIGAH and the future ("the torch has been passed to a new generation..."). And then he died. So.

Edited: Jun 21, 2016, 6:15pm Top

>232 laytonwoman3rd: Yeah, the convo with Dad was enlightening. This helps too. Though, my question about JFK's health is really about the guys in 2011 who are deciding to save him. THEY should know.

Jun 21, 2016, 8:14pm Top

>233 lycomayflower: Yes. That is true.

Jun 23, 2016, 3:45pm Top

>231 lycomayflower: Though I ultimately disagree with you and really enjoyed 11/22/63 I'm enjoying reading your take on it. Funny that you pick up 1958 as the date to be born by, since that's the year my parents were born and my dad was hugely into the assassination and had a ton of books on it when I was growing up. He would be what King terms the conspiracy theorists, however, and when we had a conversation about it after I read the King story (my dad has not), he gave me a suggestion of a book that I haven't yet managed to bookhorn into my reading.

Jun 23, 2016, 5:38pm Top

Hollins! WOOT! Charlie *loves* it, and the lovely note you sent. Green is his favorite color, too! Apparently Mario is considering enrolling, now that she knows it's an all-gal school:

Many, many thanks, friend.

Jun 24, 2016, 7:14am Top

>236 scaifea: Oh, wow, it got there fast! Glad he likes it! (Very discerning lad--green's my favorite color too.) You are most welcome!

Jun 29, 2016, 8:53am Top

>235 bell7: Thanks! 11/22/63 made me think I might want to read a good book about the assassination--something I've never wanted to do before!

Jun 29, 2016, 9:03am Top

48.) The Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes, read by the author ****

One Thanksgiving Shonda Rhimes's sister told her that she never says yes to anything. Rhimes mulled that over for awhile and realized her sister was right: she turned down pretty much every opportunity that would have challenged her in new ways or that scared her. She decided that was no way to live and embarked on "the year of yes," where she would say yes to everything. The book chronicles that year and explores what Rhimes learned by making it a prerogative to say yes. It's funny and insightful and feminist and body positive, and I enjoyed it a lot. I wouldn't describe it as self-help (there's no plan to follow or anything), but rather inspiring, in a way that feels real and organic rather than Inspiring. Recommended.

Jun 30, 2016, 7:23am Top

>239 lycomayflower: sounds like just what I need right now! BB!

Jul 1, 2016, 9:09am Top

>240 dragonaria: *does fairly subdued little dance* Glad to have BBed you!

Jul 1, 2016, 9:28am Top

49.) The Royal Nanny, Karen Harper ***

Historical fiction telling the story of Charlotte Bill (or Lala), the real-life nanny of the children of George V (those children including David, later Edward VII, and Bertie, later George VI, who was, of course, Queen Elizabeth's father). There's something pleasantly compelling about Harper's prose--it pulls you along nicely--but otherwise it is fairly unremarkable. The story itself is also rather bland, focusing more on Lala's on-again, off-again, ill-fated, and tepid romance with Chad Reaver, a groundskeeper at Sandringham, where Lala is most often in residence with her royal charges. The romance did nothing for me (honestly, it just sort of sits there, and I was never terribly convinced of the depth of Lala's feelings for him). The life of royal children and the role of their nanny in bringing them up was far more interesting, but while the book did spend a lot of time on that, it never felt like Harper was really that interested in that part of the story. Lala is portrayed as extremely devoted to the children and fiercely protective of them, but Harper never succeeds in making me worried about any of them (or, again, really convincing me of those feelings on Lala's part). This is history, so I know to what degree they're all going to be okay or not, and the book just doesn't get over that hump of making me invest in their problems despite knowing the outcome. The last third or so of the book deals almost exclusively with Lala's care of Johnnie, the youngest of the children, who suffered from epilepsy and was almost certainly autistic as well. This should have been fascinating, but was just sort of blah, just like the rest of the book. I think there was an excellent story in there, but one that would have been better served by a more substantial telling, a more serious tone, a lighter hand on the romance (or its absence altogether, as it did not really happen and added little to the book), and probably the third person rather than first. Disappointing.

Jul 1, 2016, 9:51am Top

50.) Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, edited by Stephanie Perkins ****

As it says on the tin, a collection of twelve short stories, all YA, all romance. Anthologies of this kind are almost always hit and miss, and this one is no exception. A worthwhile read on the whole, but with its clunkers (and its bright shining winners). I particularly liked "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail" by Leigh Bardugo, "In Ninety Minutes, Turn North" by Stephanie Perkins, "Souvenirs" by Tim Federle, and "Good Luck and Farewell" by Brandy Colbert. "Brand New Attraction" by Cassandra Clare seemed especially weak (great premise; not really a story), and Veronica Roth's "Inertia" also seemed a bit more good idea than great execution. "A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong" by Jennifer E. Smith was possibly the most frustrating in that there was so, so much I loved about it but in the end it didn't quite feel whole. I'm now more than ever convinced that I need to read some of the books by Bardugo I already have on my shelf, finally seek out the Colbert stuff I have on my wishlist, and probably try to remember to check out some longer work by Perkins and Smith. Recommended to YA romance fans and to completeists of any of the authors included.

Edited: Jul 1, 2016, 10:58am Top

>242 lycomayflower: First person is hard to pull off, I think. Of course there are a lot of notable exceptions...all of my favorite detective fiction, To Kill a Mockingbird, Jane Eyre...

Edited: Jul 1, 2016, 10:20am Top

>244 laytonwoman3rd: Agreed. Here I think the biggest problem was that the first person prevented the author from giving the novel any sense of scope or perspective or providing any historical details that a skilled author could have done in third.

...Is Jayne Eyre the more famous lady's 21st century cousin?

*hoots. runs away*

Edited: Jul 1, 2016, 10:59am Top

>245 lycomayflower: Oh, hoot away, smarty britches. The damned touchstone actually WORKS that way, but I fixed it just for youse. (Did you see the Bas Bleu bracelets?)

Jul 1, 2016, 12:56pm Top

>243 lycomayflower: I've loved all of the Perkins and Smith that I've read (and I think I've read everything they have out) so I highly endorse this resolution. I'm waiting my turn for this collection and I'm hoping my hold will come in sooner rather than later. :)

Jul 2, 2016, 11:04am Top

>245 lycomayflower: >246 laytonwoman3rd: *SNORK!*

Did someone say "Bas Bleu"?!

Jul 2, 2016, 4:25pm Top

Jul 3, 2016, 10:08am Top

>249 laytonwoman3rd: Oooh, lovely! Love their stuff, and those are very nice.

Jul 4, 2016, 1:52pm Top

Jul 5, 2016, 8:10am Top

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2016

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