Papa Jim (jim53) starts the third half of life in 2018, part 2
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No particular message, just starting the new thread since the year is at the midway point. I'm currently reading A Visit from the Goon Squad and a couple of nonfiction titles.
>2 Peace2: Thanks, and back atcha! I hope the craft endeavors are going well too.
Your first half of the year stats were much more impressive than mine so I will be paying attention...(even if it just looks like I'm napping in the beanbag chair in the corner.)
>8 Jim53: I'm well, just stressed. By the time I settle I will have aged about 5 years in a few months. S'okay. It will be worth it, eventually.
>9 clamairy: When you are all settled, you can relax and listen to the sound of the waves wash that stress, and 10 years, away. Then you will be ahead! :)
I finished Goon Squad this morning. It was interesting but not fabulous. It read as if she had written a very long, wandering novel about a group of characters who were loosely connected to one another, and then gone to one of those workshops that you see at writing conferences where you play Jenga with your book, seeing how much you can remove without losing key elements. I experienced it as clever, but I missed having characters to whom I could relate. The individual stories were mostly pretty interesting, and the future that she forecasts in the final story was nicely done, and I really did like the chapter that was done in PowerPoint slides. 4 stars.
It was good to start the second half of the year with a work of "mainstream" fiction rather than a mystery. I plan to keep an eye out for more of the many non-genre novels on my list.
> Her latest, Manhattan Beach is much more conventional, I really liked both, actually. Manhattan Beach has a bit of mystery to it, as well, so you may enjoy it.
I've been keeping pretty busy lately, so I'm just reading a little here and there. We finally had a 70-ish day yesterday, after several in the 90s with high humidity*, so my sweetie and I went for a walk at a county park that we hadn't seen before. I'm in the middle of Midnight Riot, which is a good bit of fun.
* I was commiserating with my buddy Hank about the weather and said that I was tempted to drive to the mailbox.
Midnight Riot was good fun. I think I had started it once a long time ago but for some reason didn't finish it. There were a bunch of things in the second half of which I had no recollection. I enjoyed the humor; it was subtle enough to avoid detracting from the story, but it definitely helped to personalize Peter and to make the story fun. Almost like a mild form of watching the book on MST3K. I would jump right into the sequel, but there are all these other books already competing for my attention.
I've been fighting a stomach bug for a few days, and have been reading only intermittently. Last night I finished An American Marriage, in which a young black man, after a year and a half of marriage, is wrongfully imprisoned, and we see the effects that it has on his life and his marriage. The narration rotates among the man, his wife, and her best friend; for a small portion of the book, it consists of letters between the imprisoned man and his wife. We see bits of their parents' marriages, which contrast folks in poor rural Louisiana with more sophisticated residents of Atlanta.
There is a lot of nice writing in the book, and a number of attractive images. Beyond the false imprisonment, I'm not sure how much of the story was driven by the characters' race; I could imagine a very similar story about white people. I'll have to look for an interview or something that helps me see how the author saw the story.
This book was an Oprah's Book Club selection, so it satisfies one of the categories in the pop sugar challenge that I've been doing. So I'll copy that list from my previous thread.
1. A book made into a movie you've already seen
2. True Crime
3. The next book in a series you started Necessary as Blood
4. A book involving a heist
5. Nordic noir The Laughing Policeman
6. A novel based on a real person A Piece of the World
7. A book set in a country that fascinates you The Book of Killowen
8. A book with a time of day in the title Midnight Riot
9. A book about a villain or antihero
10. A book about death or grief The Tuscan Child
11. A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym Trust Me
12. A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist
13. A book that is also a stage play or musical
14. A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you The Killing Moon
15. A book about feminism
16. A book about mental health The Rosie Project
17. A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift A Hard Day's Write
18. A book by two authors Shoot to Thrill
19. A book about or involving a sport No Mark Upon Her
20. A book by a local author
21. A book with your favorite color in the title A Spool of Blue Thread
22. A book with alliteration in the title The Vineyard Victims
23. A book about time travel Night of the Ninjas
24. A book with a weather element in the title When the Wind Blows
25. A book set at sea The Cat's Table
26. A book with an animal in the title The Serpent's Tale
27. A book set on a different planet The Fifth Season
28. A book with song lyrics in the title All Mortal Flesh
29. A book about or set on Halloween
30. A book with characters who are twins When the Wind Blows
31. A book mentioned in another book
32. A book from a celebrity book club An American Marriage
33. A childhood classic you've never read Charlotte's Web
34. A book that's published in 2018 The Hush
35. A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
36. A book set in the decade you were born
37. A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to Land of careful Shadows
38. A book with an ugly cover Bossypants
39. A book that involves a bookstore or library The Little Paris Bookshop
40. Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges: a book set in a hotel A Gentleman in Moscow
1. A bestseller from the year you graduated high school
2. A cyberpunk book
3. A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place
4. A book tied to your ancestry
5. A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
6. An allegory The Magician's Nephew
7. A book by an author with the same first or last name as you
8. A microhistory
9. A book about a problem facing society today Land of Careful Shadows
10. A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge All Systems Red
narilka maybe we can recommend books to each other for that last advanced category ;-)
I've started the next book for my mystery book club, The Serpent's Tale. I see that the says The Death Maze; it's the same book, so maybe that was an earlier (or later?) title. It's the second in a series set in the late twelfth century, featuring Adelia Aguilar, a woman from Salerno, who trained as a mortician/physician with her adoptive parents. Apparently in the first book she solved a case and earned the gratitude of the King of England (Henry II), who showed his appreciation by insisting that she remain in his country in case he needs her again. So she's just delighted about that. She also has some interesting history with the man who is now the local bishop. In this second volume, the king's mistress (you've heard of Fayre Rosamund?) has been murdered, and clues pointing to the queen (Eleanor of Aquitaine) threaten to throw the country into civil war. High stakes, check. I like Adelia as the viewpoint character a lot, making this a big improvement on last month's book. I'm not usually particularly fond of medieval mysteries, but Adelia is fun and the style seems well suited to the material.
>19 Jim53: I listened to the first three in this series and really loved them. I bought the fourth one titled A Murderous Procession (AKA The Assassin's Prayer) at a library book sale, and keep forgetting to read it. (Because it's paper...) Sadly the writer passed away before she could continue the series. :o( I haven't read any of her other works but they appear to be rather highly rated here on LT. Though they deal with some similar dark subject matters I recall they are much lighter in overall tone than C. J. Sansom's Shardlake Mysteries series, which takes place during Henry VIII's reign.
My impressions of The Serpent's Tale now that I'm halfway through: I'm enjoying several of the characters. Her scenes are very, um, thorough, with very few details left to the reader's imagination. I did not read the first book in the series before reading this one, the second; so far as I can tell, she has done a good job of giving me what I need so that that doesn't matter. If some key turning point ends up depending on something from the first book that she hasn't shown us in this one, I'll be very disappointed, but so far I'm not seeing any indication of it. I think I've got a key player identified; I'll be interested to see if I'm right.
The Serpent's Tale was pretty good, not great. I enjoyed several characters, but I found the pace quite slow. Maybe that reflects the time period (late 12th century). It was generally a pretty easy read. I had spotted a couple of evildoers pretty early on; I think Franklin's attitudes toward her characters is a bit transparent. At least I'll be able to identify some things I liked when we discuss it at book club.
ETA: and it lets me check off another category: a book with an animal in the title.
I decided to go for a comfort read next, so I've started To Dwell in Darkness, the forty-sixth or so installment in Deb's Duncan Kincaid series. Just one more after this.
This is sort of fun, although of course it gets a bit repetitive. I've been trying to think what other book deserves similar treatment. Wuthering Heights, maybe? Any other nominations?
>27 Jim53: I like the one comparing it to a small animal run over by a car. "Senseless, disturbing and everyone makes you look." :D
I finished To Dwell in Darkness, which was a nice addition to the series but not utterly fabulous. I've started The Cat's Table, which I've had sitting around for a while. So far the story is intriguing, a d the writing is beautiful. I'm reading it in pretty short chunks, which is not ideal, but all I can manage at the moment. I've been in the hospital since Wednesday night, after some scary numbers on a blood test at my doc's office, which suggest my kidneys have failed. Had a biopsy yesterday and I'm hoping for results soon.
>29 Jim53: The books sound good, but the rest sounds scary (and I claim to have room to talk!). Get well soon!
>29 Jim53: Jim, I'm sorry to hear that! Hope you can find out what is going on and fix it.
Jim, I hope things go well and the numbers go the right way. Thinking of you.
>29 Jim53: Oh no! I hope doctors can find the cause and get you on the path to health. Keep us updated as you can. Thinking of you.
I'm really enjoying The Cat's Table. He gives us brief but illustrative looks at the backgrounds of some of the narrator's shipmates, and looks into the future. The narrator's name appears to be Michael, making me wonder if there is some autobiographical element to the story. I'll wait till I finish the book to do some looking around.
I finished The Cat's Table last night. It was one of my best books so far this year. Remembering how I loved The English Patient, I can't figure out why I waited so long to read another Ondaatje. I'll be keeping my eye out for more of his.
But for now, I'm going to try The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, because it's due back soon.
Oh frabjous day! Calloo Callay! My biopsy results suggest that I have a condition that resolves itself in 80% of cases. We are relieved and thankful.
>40 Jim53: That is great news. Now, you take it easy, sit back, and read a book.
>40 Jim53: So pleased to hear this! Sending you all the very best wishes.
>40 Jim53: Yay Papa Jim! You are decidedly lucky, methinks. I'll echo Pete's advice.
>41 pgmcc: >42 Sakerfalcon: >43 hfglen: Thanks, y'all (It's funny to say that now that we're in PA; people look at me funny). Methinks you're right, Hugh. And the advice sounds very good. OTOH, I just brought a Duke Ellington concert DVD home from the library, so I might postpone reading for just a bit.
>44 Jim53: Listening to music is good too, as long as you do not boogie woogie too energetically.
>45 pgmcc: I'm not sure there is any other way. But I don't seem to have shaken anything loose.
I've been accumulating a few books here and there and forgetting to add them to my library. These are a head start on my next thingaversary.
A gentleman at the local Meeting who reminded me of my father-in-law (regular greeter, prone to Sipowiczin') died recently, and I found out that he had run a used bookshop in a neighboring village. I can't afford most of their books, which tend toward the rare, but they had put a few remnants out on the porch and I picked up two:
How Animals Sleep: for when the kids visit
Killoyle: I can't resist a cheap Irish farce.
There is a small used bookshop run by the Lions, open only on weekends in summer. There I picked up a copy of A Spool of Blue Thread. We have not seen Annie in many years but were good buddies with her parents when we and they lived in Raleigh.
At beautiful Longwood Gardens, I picked up a copy of Birds of Pennsylvania so I can recognize the many birds we get at our feeders.
I saw a couple of people praising Wallbanger and decided it would be something different from my usual reads.
Finally, one of the local libraries has a shelf out containing books that they want us to take away and "Don't bring them Back." Mostly field guides to different sorts of engines and other equally fascinating stuff, but I've picked up a couple of goodies:
Another Thing to Fall, another Tess Monaghan mystery
The Awakening, which I read in college but probably didn't really get, so I'll try it again some time. It's very short.
>48 Peace2: >49 Narilka: Thanks!
I finished The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, which was fun at times, but kinda meh overall. Jacobs tries hard to interest us in a couple of characters, but just when one is becoming interesting, s/he goes offstage for 40 pages or so. The story is clever, which would have been enough for me 30 years ago, but it isn't any more. The playing around with chaos and strings, and the idea that an equation can predict future occurrences, are pretty interesting, and overall it's pretty promising for a first novel.
>40 Jim53: I've not had time to read all the threads recently, so glad to come back here and read this!
>51 MrsLee: Thanks, Lee!
I have started Sing, Unburied, Sing, but it's a bit intense for bedtime. Last night I picked up The Worm Ouroboros, and I was enchanted all over again by Eddison's writing and ideas. I wasn't planning to read all of that one--it's not short--but stranger things have happened.
I've found Sing, Unburied, Sing to require more focus and energy than I can muster right now. Very frustrating! For something easier, I've returned to Deborah Crombie's series with Garden of Lamentations. So far it's reminding me of one of Louise Penny's.
I enjoyed Garden of Lamentations more than the last couple of Crombie's series. I particularly liked seeing Duncan and Gemma being a bit ill with one another and not immediately smoothing it over. A good solid four stars. Now she joins Julia S-F and others whose series I've caught up with, but never fear, there are more series waiting impatiently for me.
I kind of wandered through Bossypants, curious because I knew several people who had enjoyed it, and because I'm so out of touch with what passes for modern culture. I found it quite amusing in a few parts, but not consistently so. Not a highlight of this year's reading.
ETA: The cover isn't exactly ugly, but I found it creepy, so I decided it qualified for that popsugar category. That gets me to 20 of the 40 categories.
I tried The Masked City, the sequel to The Invisible Library, but it was just a little too precious or something; I couldn't get into it. I decided on a re-read and chose Land of Shadows, the first of Rachel Howzell Hall's series featuring detective Lou Norton. Good choice. I ripped through it and am about to start the second, Skies of Ash. I love Lou's voice and attitude.
I finished my re-read of Skies of Ash, the second Lou Norton novel. I remembered it better than I had remembered Land of Shadows, so it wasn't quite as great a re-read, but I still enjoyed the narration and a lot of the story elements. Our book club is reading Americanah for mid-September, and I'm waiting for my wife to finish it so i can read it again, and while I wait I'm starting Trail of Echoes.
I "zipped" (such as it is these days) through Trail of Echoes. Enjoyed it greatly. Since I don't own a copy of the fourth volume, I made a switch, to UKL's No Time to Spare, a collection of short essays on everyday topics. Some of the essays are better than others; so far I particularly like one on childhood and adulthood. I see that this book won a "related work" Hugo award. Here is the full list for this year:
I think I might want to check out this series that NK Jemisin has been writing!
I was both surprised and not by When the Wind Blows, which I read for my mystery book club. It's a genre-bender, with a strong science-fiction element. I didn't know Patterson did that sort of thing, but all I had read of his was a couple of the Alex Cross series. The story was intriguing in the first two thirds of the book but deteriorated badly toward the end. And the writing was bad, was distracting, was putrid (yes, I'm imitating one of his more obvious and annoying tendencies). The narrative alternated between first person when one character's viewpoint was being used and third person for the viewpoints of a few other characters. This in itself wasn't so bad, but sometimes we'd be a few paragraphs in before the "I" would appear, so that i would have to adjust midstream. Again, I can do it, but why? I'm off to find something better written, easier to digest, less annoying...
>62 Jim53: I am sorry you have had a disappointing read. It can be so deflating when that happens. Hopefully your next read will be a bit more fun.
>65 Jim53: I hope you get to The Graveyard Clay when you are in the right mood for it. I found the best way to think about it was to consider yourself listening to a conversation in which some people interrupt one another, other people just don’t finish their sentences, and you learn to know who is speaking by the words they use and the way they speak.
I sent in some suggestions for a library book club, and noticed after doing so that without intending it, I chose all female authors. Interesting. Here is the list:
Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (Man Booker nominee)
Madeline Miller, Circe
NK Jemisin, The Fifth Season (the first in her recent trilogy of SF novels, which have won the last three Hugo awards for best novel)
Roxane Gay, Hunger
Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire
Nina George, The Little Paris Bookshop
Eowyn Ivey, To the Bright Edge of the World
Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing (or any of her others)
Susan Quinn, Eleanor and Heck
We'll see if they choose any of them.
>70 Jim53: Some good choices there, and now I have some bullets, thanks!
Looks like I missed a health scare! While I'm sorry I was not around to offer my support, I am ashamed to admit I was relieved to be able to race through posts until I found your good news.
Stop scaring us like that...
>72 clamairy: No shame in that relief, dear Clam. I hesitated about even mentioning the problem, but it has affected my reading so strongly that I thought it would be a disservice for some future biographer to have to wonder what was going on ;-)
This bit of self-indulgent humor does entice me to wonder whether anyone will ever look at these scribblings at some later time. Will those we leave behind find them at all interesting? Probably only in the most peripheral way; I think my pleasure or purpose in it lies simply in sharing this piece of my journey as it happens with some rather like-minded folks, and having the wonderful opportunity to read about theirs.
>73 Jim53: Yup. I hear you. For me it's all about the interaction while it's occurring and not about leaving a record for any future
>73 Jim53: >74 clamairy: >75 pgmcc: I agree, and yet have to think that if I could find a thread which my great-grandparents (or even grandparents or parents) participated in, I would love reading it. Sort of an insight into a year of their lives and how they interacted with friends of the day. I love finding old letters for that reason, but all the letters I never write will not be read. ;)
>70 Jim53: What a great list! I've got Circe sitting on my ottoman.
>73 Jim53: Based on my own current read (scholarship on reading in the 18th century) I think that there may well be serious interest in the book discussions here -- assuming that everything gets preserved one way or another. Maybe we should print some stuff out for the sake of posterity.
>80 Sakerfalcon: >81 pgmcc: It was novel for me to see an appreciation by someone who read the book so long after it was published, but on whom it still made such an impression.
The Bulletin of Bibliography's issue of June 2001 has a nice picture of UKL on the cover, because the lead article was "The High Points So Far: an Annotated Bibliography of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed," by yours truly. I wrote it for a course on bibliographical methods, which I took at UNC-Wilmington during the time when my wife was teaching there and I was fantasizing about a retirement career as an English professor. My instructor had me submit it and it was accepted, so it's my one academic publication (so far). As I told my wife at the time, it was really just an excuse to crawl through those two books again and spend a couple of months reading a lot of critical articles about them.
We had a good discussion of Americanah at our community book club this evening. I wasn't sure how it would be received by this all-white group, but if anyone really hated the race-related portions, they didn't say so. Some of the readers had reactions that hadn't occurred to me, which is always good. Based on some of the comments, I believe I'm identifying some fellow thinkers in the neighborhood, which isn't always easy.
I went to an appointment in West Chester today, and stopped by the Exton library, which is much bigger and better stocked than the rather pitiful ones in our rural end of the county. I saw a sign that said "Bridge Books," and went to take a look. I didn't really think they'd be about the game, but you never know. It turns out that a "bridge book" is one designed to facilitate the transition for young readers from picture books to chapter books; in essence, they're short and fairly easy chapter books. My seven-year-old granddaughter has been making that transition this summer, so I may grab a few of these to have around when she visits. Today I brought home Night of the Ninjas, one of a series in which two kids travel back in time through a magic tree house and learn about a historical period. Now I can, as the cover urges me, Climb the ladder to adventure by reading the Magic Tree House books.
>82 Jim53: Is your article available electronically? It sounds like it would be a good and interesting read.
>84 hfglen: >85 pgmcc: My google-fu isn't up to finding that volume anywhere online. That sort of thing usually requires some sort of privileged access to university resources. I will see if I can scan it and create a file to send out. Don't slaver too much with anticipation, though; it's about four pages of overview and eight or nine pages of summaries of critical works. It will probably take me a couple of days to get to it; I'm currently spending most of my time learning about medical stuff.
I've been re-reading Gene Wolfe's Free Live Free at bedtime. It's an odd story, not one of his famous ones, about four misfits who answer an ad from an old man who is looking for people to live in his house and help him resist having it demolished. It's full of references to The Wizard of Oz, Popeye, Magoo, and the like. There is one scene, where numerous characters are caught in the dark when the electric power in a mental hospital is sabotaged, in which a long conversation takes place with minimal attributions. The attentive reader can recognize who's speaking most of the time. I decided this was good practice for tackling Graveyard Clay ;-)
>86 Jim53: As a big fan of UKLG, I'm also interested in reading your article.
(Doing my best not to slaver or drool in anticipation here... ;)
I received Sara Paretsky's Shell Game as an early review book and finished it this evening and posted my review. I believe it's #18 in her series featuring private detective V.I. Warshawski. It follows her usual approach to Vic's cases, and includes some digs at current politicians and social trends, which will come as no surprise to anyone who (like me) follows Ms. P on facebook. A good solid four-star book.
I was pleasantly surprised that the latest book for our mystery book club was also a good read. Some of the recent ones have been real clunkers, but I enjoyed Sworn to Silence, the first in Linda Castillo's series featuring police chief Kate Burkholder, who grew up Amish in Ohio, left for the big city (Columbus), and returned to her old world, tho not to Amishness. This one begins with an interesting twist: when a young girl is raped and murdered, people fear the return of a serial killer who operated in the area fifteen years ago. But that was when teenaged Kate, defending herself from a similar attack, shot her attacker. So she doesn't want the current investigation to dig up too much about the previous crime spree. My only complaint about the book was that there weren't many candidates for the killer; I spotted the person pretty early on. But it was interesting to see how Castillo got us there, and I'll probably look for more of these.
>90 Jim53: Enjoy your getaway.
Now, how are we to behave while you are not watching?
>91 pgmcc: I would think he means with several PGGBs and lots of cheese, wouldn't you?
>92 MrsLee: That sounds about right. I can always rely on your having the correct interpretation.
>91 pgmcc:, I know, I should have known better than to even say that, but I thought it might provoke some entertaining responses.
I was disappointed by Night of the Ninja; it sets up a story and then shows us only the first part of it. I assume the intention is to get us to purchase the next book in the series. In most other respects it seemed like a good book for a youngster making the transition from picture books to chapter books.
I've resumed reading A Spool of Blue Thread, and I'm enjoying it. It has prompted me to think about the difference between its pace and that of my prior read, Shell Game. Paretsky, as is the norm in genre fiction these days, gives us quite short chapters with minimal changes of POV and even of setting within a chapter. Tyler, OTOH, gives us long, flowing chapters with much less frantic action but with different POVs, etc., within a chapter. Each seems appropriate to the story being told, but they require different sorts of reading.
>96 pgmcc: Pete, logically no. It may, however, be possible to behave differently.
>96 pgmcc: In order to stop behaving, you would have to have started, and I certainly haven't seen any evidence of that.
So I finished A Spool of Blue Thread. It was pretty classic Tyler: touching stories of family members interacting, remembering their defining stories, worrying about this and that, doing a certain amount of navel-gazing, with some truly hilarious low-key bits of humor. Was this one, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, her best? Was it better than The Accidental Tourist? Than Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant? Than Breathing Lessons, for which she won a Pulitzer? I would say not, although I'd say it was better than any of her others that I've read. I appreciated the chance to spend some time reading in a more leisurely, but no less attentive, fashion than I do when reading modern mysteries. I appreciated the nudges to reflect about similar elements of my own family life, the stories that get told over and over, why those particular stories and not others.
Third-quarter summary: a surprising 18 books, including four re-reads. Not counting some bedtime re-reads of things like The Farthest Shore and others that I've read multiple times.
The only non-fiction title was Bossypants.
The one children's book was Night of the Ninjas.
The only books by men were Midnight Riot, The Cat's Table, and When the Wind Blows.
5 by writers of color, of which the best was my re-read of Americanah
3 by non-Americans, of which the best was The Cat's Table (and also Americanah)
11 mysteries, including 3 re-reads; the best were Shell Game, Sworn to Silence, Garden of Lamentations, and the re-reads of the Lou Norton series.
5 other fiction, of which the best were A Spool of Blue Thread and An American Marriage.
11 library books and 7 that we own, including my only ER book so far this year.
Having noted the dearth of non-fiction in 3Q, I'm beginning 4Q with Outliers, which is for our neighborhood book club. I'm about 100 pages in and it's pretty readable. He delights in finding unexpected reasons for the successes of groups of people whom we have tended to regard as self-made.
Outliers had some interesting ideas but was ultimately quite underwhelming. Gladwell is looking into factors that affect who is successful, in his very limited, materialistic definition of the word, i.e., making a lot of money and achieving recognition in one's field. He looks at factors such as being born at the right time of year, so that one will stand out when compared to younger agemates; growing up in a "rice paddy" culture, where continuous hard work is the norm; having unusual opportunities such as access to computers before they were widely available; and growing up with certain cultural disadvantages, which can turn out to be advantages. He seems primarily interested in debunking the notion of the "self-made man," which is so prevalent in the American mythos. His discussions are interesting, but in most cases they rely on a single source rather than on a broad survey of relevant scholarship; they also reflect a privileged male standpoint. For example, when he goes on about the "culture of honor" in Appalachia and the American South, which provoked and lengthened many famous feuds, I wondered if he had ever met a southern woman. And when he talks about the KIPP schools, which improve students' abilities to pursue academic success by working them six long days a week, it doesn't sound as if he has any understanding of healthy social and emotional development.
The book is a pretty easy read and contains some interesting ideas. I'm glad I read it, and I'm looking forward to our book club discussion about it. I just wish he'd taken a broader look at what success might be, and considered more than one theory in several of his theses. 3 stars.
After re-reading the first three of Rachel Howzell Hall's series featuring detective Elouise Norton, I got the fourth from the library and read it this week. It's a little more of a downer than the previous volumes; Lou's chirpy attitude is still there, but it's tempered by a lot of physical pain resulting from her last case. I haven't seen anything from her since; I looked for a web site but it seems to be a couple of years old. I'll have to see what some of my buds in the mystery world know, because I'll certainly be interested in any further Lou adventures.
>105 Jim53: Which of her mysteries might you recommend? What is the first in the series? I ask because I'm beginning the process of selecting titles for 2019 and I'd be grateful for your recommendations. I see that Garden of Lamentations is something I noted as a possibility. I think you've expressed an affection for the Deborah Crombie titles. Which of hers do you think the best?
>106 jillmwo: Garden of Lamentations (#17 of the Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series) is IMNAAHO the best of Crombie's last few. It does refer in a few places to events from prior books, so I'm not sure if it's the best place to get into that series. My favorites have been #5 Dreaming of the Bones (the first one that was really excellent), #6 Kissed a Sad Goodbye (she does a great job of revealing things gradually), and #8 And Justice There is None. If you've got the copies, any of these would be a good intro to the series and enable folks to see if they want to read more.
The first of Hall's series is Land of Shadows. I have not recommended this series to my local mystery group because I don't think they can take the violence or the sexiness. Lou is a great character, and several of the supporting characters are well drawn. If your group is somewhat adventurous, and would like a little diversity in their reading, some at least would probably enjoy it. I read a lot of mysteries by black women last year, and none of the others were this good.
Beyond that, I'd encourage you to take a look at my usual faves: Julia Spencer-Fleming, Louise Penny. Ellen Crosby. I liked Defending Jacob a lot, and Hank Ryan's new one, Trust Me, a standalone, is one of her best. If you've never read John Hart, take a look at The Last Child. I'll shut up now, but can resume if desired ;-)
>107 Jim53: You're being tremendously helpful. Keep going! The group I'm working with hasn't read any of Crombie's books so those are great suggestions. I am a little hesitant over Hall based on what you say because I'm not sure that my group would care for either the violence or the sexiness.
We've not tried Hank Ryan at all and if Trust Me is a stand-alone, that would be a real plus.
>108 jillmwo: Here are a few more, beyond my favorite series, that I remember enjoying a lot:
Alafair Burke, The Ex
Diane Chamberlain, The Midwife's Confession, combines mystery with women's fiction
William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace, Edgar winner a few years ago
Lawrence Levy, Brooklyn on Fire, Brooklyn in the 1890s, sex roles, humor
Then there's my favorite book of all time, The Eyre Affair, the ultimate genre bender
I was pleased to see this morning that Johns Hopkins University is naming a new research building after Henrietta Lacks, whose story was chronicled in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which is a great read.
How very appropriate -- far better than naming it after a mere politician!
>111 Jim53: Took them long enough to acknowledge her, I thought. But yes, it pleased me too!
Glad to see you've been reading up a storm. How are all of those book clubs going?
>113 clamairy: Good to see you dragging yourself from the beach to post! ;-) I just dropped out of the mystery book club because the selections were so bad. So right now it's just the one for our community, and I'm going to try to keep up with another one starting in November.
I zipped through Off the Grid, the sixth of the Monkeewrench mystery series. John Smith, the retired FBI agent, has been monitoring web traffic for conversations about terrorism and posting his findings to various law enforcement agencies. Apparently someone else has been getting Smith's communications too, and the results have put the Monkeewrench software team in danger. It's a pretty good story.
The Monkeewrench software plays the superpower role in these stories: it's so powerful, giving the team, and the officers with which they work, the ability to see and hear all sorts of things that they couldn't otherwise. There might be real-life analogs that would enable a lot of these capabilities, but it feels a lot like magic (yes, Clarke's Law seems to apply).
So.. when you see this headline, what do you think of?
The Children’s Classic That Secretly Brought Existentialist Philosophy Into American Homes
Yeah, I had no idea either... I thought of Pullman, but not this guy.
Yeah, I didn't see that one coming. Also shows how much I remember of the Prydain Chronicles which apparently isn't as much as I thought :)
I started The Fifth Season, the first of Jemisin's three consecutive Hugo winners. It requires a little effort to get into, but I'm enjoying it. I haven't been reading nearly as much SF the last few years as I used to, and my getting-into-a-new-world muscles are a little out of shape.
Here's a really good interview with Tana French. I'm on the list for her new one at the library and am even more excited to see it than I am about other upcoming new ones . Her point that "we are all unreliable narrators" is something that other writers, including Gene Wolfe, have been stressing for a long time, but it's still good to see because it's not universally accepted.
>119 YouKneeK: I'm going pretty slowly right now. A couple of the story lines, one in particular, seem to involve a very dominant male mentor who must hurt his female charge in order to establish the proper relationship--I'm hoping the story will include getting away from this sort of thing.
I'm not sure what to say about The Fifth Season. She clearly thought a lot about this idea of orogeny (mentally controlling tectonic shifts) and the way in which the people with this gift/curse would be treated. I spent some time wondering about the three narrative lines and how/if they would connect; once I got the first part of the answer, I guessed the rest. We learn some things that made me think about the significance of one particular character and why others have been keeping an eye on her; that makes me mildly curious about what might come next. Unfortunately I didn't really connect with the characters, and the bleakness of how orogenes are treated was no fun to read. I hope this is the "before" picture and we will see a reworking of society to treat them more justly. I'll pick up the next volume at some point, but I'm not moved to drop everything else and finish the trilogy now. 3.5 stars.
I've started Winter Garden for our community book club. I've heard effusive praise for Ms. Hannah from several sources. So far it's quite good.
I finished Winter Garden and was mostly impressed. Hannah knows where she wants to go and goes there. The "fairy tale" told my two adult sisters' Russian mother turns out to have special significance. I thought the final twist was unnecessary and a bit much. I was also a little disappointed in her unwillingness to allow the reader to figure out what she's up to: she does a good job of showing us something, but then she has to tell us the significance of it to make sure we haven't missed it. I'd rather participate in creating the meaning, even at the risk of missing something that she is doing. But overall it's a very good solid read. Four stars.
I finally got around to The Laughing Policeman, just to fulfill a category in my POPSUGAR challenge. Not quite my cuppa whatever. It's certainly not bad, and I can see how elements of its dry humor have seeped into many other places. Other authors have combined its good qualities with less bleak settings. Some of them even have women being something other than wives and girlfriends.
>129 Jim53: The Martin Beck stories, as written by Maj Sjöwall and Peter Wahlöö, are deeply steeped in the context of the age and culture from which they originated. They were originally written as a commentary on society, and without that context they fall flat.
For me when I first read them they spoke of a partly shared experience, as they are set in the land of my childhood. Now, they are highly nostalgic, evoking a time lost (but perhaps not in a good way).
I am not one bit surprised that they don’t travel well, particularly not in time.
Back from another week in the hospital. This time we gave up on the kidneys righting themselves and began peritoneal dialysis. I'm finding myself too tired to focus well on reading. This is really pissing me off, especially since the library has just come through with new books by Tana French and Ellen Crosby. I'm hoping for some level of recovery before I have to take them back.
>133 Jim53: I’m holding my thumbs for you to get well, and sooner rather than later.
>133 Jim53: Wishing you all the best. Do not get too pissed off, just focus on getting well.
>133 Jim53: Hope the strength and mental willingness to read return soon for you. Not to mention a large measure of health.
>134 Busifer: >135 pgmcc: >136 MrsLee: >137 Narilka: Thank you, friends. I'm feeling lots of support from various directions.
I had been trying to read The Great Alone for a book club, but I gave up after 100 pages. The story seemed to have a lot of potential, but I was a bit put off by the delivery. The author has a very clear picture of what's going on, and she doesn't want us to have a chance to miss out on any of it. When I read a book, I think of it as collaborating with the author to create the story, but here my contribution as the reader is quite minimal; I felt more like a bystander. I had a similar but less strong reaction to Winter Garden. It may just be that she will not be one of my favorites.
Today I finished college friend Ellen Crosby's latest, Harvest of Secrets, and wrote the first review. I liked it a lot, and was relieved to be able to process it after a few difficult days.
Land of Careful Shadows was a good read. Chazin portrays the plight of Latinx immigrants, seen through the light of a murder case and how the police in suburban NY treat different groups of people. Latino detective Jimmy Vega is an interesting character, with his own personal issues related to his heritage as well as a case to solve. I foresaw one of the twists in the story but not another.
I grabbed PJ Tracy's Nothing Stays Buried because the previous Monkeewrench novel, The Sixth Idea, really grabbed me and was a good read. This one was less so. It's the first one written solely by daughter Traci Lambrecht after the death of her mother and writing partner, Patricia. All the usual colorful characters are back, with Minneapolis detectives Magozzi and Rolseth chasing a serial killer while the Monkeewrench team visits Iowa to apply their super software to a missing-person case. The dialog is still pretty snappy, and I enjoyed a couple of new characters, but somehow this one didn't keep pulling me back like the last couple did. Three stars. I'll still continue with the series, but maybe at a slightly lower priority.
Back to giving The Witch Elm another try before I have to return it. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
I gave The Witch Elm a couple of tries and couldn't get into it. This was a surprise since I liked her previous mysteries. I might try it again later, but for now I'll return it for the next person in the lengthy hold list.
I've been rereading Guy Kay's Sailing to Sarantium. I'm really noticing this time how much each scene is dragged out and interspersed with history, philosophy, and whatnot. Not a bad thing; it just makes for fewer convenient stopping places. I'm reading without a bookmark and enjoying finding my way back to where I was each time.
I've been thinking about doing a reread of Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors. It has been a long time since I read them, and back then my main interest and area of knowledge was in the western part of the Mediterranean. Now I've balanced that with a more thorough knowledge of the Eastern Roman Empire, so maybe I'll read the suite in another way this time around...
>145 Busifer: I can imagine that knowledge lending more interest to some aspects of the story. I'm nearing the end of StS and not sure whether I'll continue with LoE this time.
I tried Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad, which is very interesting but a bit too dense for me right now. My days are getting somewhat more normal, but my lack of good sleep is slowing down my recovery of energy and mental acuity.
I managed to get through Little Fires Everywhere, which I'd seen recommended and debated in a couple of places. It had its moments. I felt a bit beaten over the head with how wonderfully planned everything is in Shaker Heights; I recognize the author's ambivalence about it, but I didn't need to be reminded of it so often. The way a certain character changed her view of other characters based on scraps of incomplete information was well done. 3.5 stars.
I've decided not to read any more mysteries this year; they're fun but I've read so many that they blur together. I've put holds on a few F&SF titles from other libraries, and grabbed a couple of titles that the Times Literary Supplement recommended, so I'll pick and choose among them. I think I'll try The Little Paris Bookshop first.
>146 Jim53: I look forward to seeing what you think of The little Paris bookshop.
>146 Jim53: Like Claire, I too look forward to reading what you think of The Little Paris Bookshop. I picked it up on the strength of the title (it had "bookshop" in it) but have not read it yet.
I am glad to hear your days are getting more normal. Keep up the good work. I hope you get more energy back soon.
>147 Sakerfalcon: >148 pgmcc: >149 clamairy: I don't know about "sterner stuff" (that's not a nautical pun, is it?), but so far I'm mostly enjoying the book. It's about as subtle as a jackhammer--clearly Mr. Lost is more in need of his own services than any of his patrons--but I'm enjoying the imagery and the style overall is only slightly clunky, some of which might be due to translation. Presumably some interesting things will happen as he tries to run away. I haven't yet figured out the purpose/value of Max.
My wife and I visited the Christmas lights show at Longwood Gardens, which included a tree made mostly of books.
>151 Jim53: The pictures look good. Very seasonal.
We started to get into the spirit of the season by watching Scrooged last night.
>151 Jim53: Lovely! But I want to read that book. You know the one. about 2/3 of the way down the tree, in the middle? That one.
>156 clamairy: Wouldn't that be a fun Christmas if all of the books were really gifts for each member of the family?! Or for a community which didn't have access to many books. Or the start up of a community library. What fun it would be to gaze at the tree, trying to see all the titles. :)
I did look while we were there. It looked like mostly older children's books. I really like the idea of it as the start of a community library.
>157 MrsLee: What a great idea. If only my kids still read paper books. (Just kidding, they do...sometimes. It's me that has gone the 100% ebook route.) My old library has a book tree in the children's area every year. But they hang numbered book-shaped tags on the tree, and the books are in a pile. :o)
I've decided I'm going to try to make a decorated book tree this year in my home with my sets of literature classics. We had to discard our artificial tree last year, and I'm not ready to replace it. However, if my skills are not up to snuff, I will probably opt for another artificial one. :)
>157 MrsLee: I love the idea of a community library tree!
And I'm sure you're up to building a book tree. If anyone can, it's you, I'm sure :-)
I finished The Little Paris Book Shop and enjoyed it quite a bit. I liked the second half better than the first half. I haven't felt like putting all my thoughts together, but I'll get to it Real Soon Now. In the mean time, here's some entertaining reading for the non-squeamish:
The Guardian's bad sex writing awards. All the cited passages are by men.
I like the idea of wrapping books and setting them up as a "tree" but also as a prospective pile of gifts. The challenge comes when a child automatically picks out a present on the basis of the size of the book and/or its wrapping paper. What if s/he isn't really ready for Gray's Anatomy and mistook it for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? There are ways around it but those kind of wreck the magical aspect of finding exactly the right book for the individual. Of course, sometimes the surprise gift is the one that oddly works out as the best match. You open the book w/o any expectations and find that it precisely meets your need...
>163 jillmwo: of, course, you could use magic if you do not want to leave things to chance.
>163 jillmwo: & >164 pgmcc: Or name tags.
We have a new, little, used-bookstore in town and they have some wrapped "surprise" books for sale. I would indulge, but the rest of the inventory didn't inspire me to take a chance. I doubt they will be in business for long if they don't add to their stock soon.
>162 Jim53: Well that is good to hear. :o) Perhaps I bailed out too soon.
I'm having a hard time pulling together my thoughts on The Little Paris Bookshop in a coherent fashion. This is partly due to the fact that I've been reading The Collapsing Empire (after falling in a hail of bullets), and I'm enjoying it quite a bit, especially Kiva's vulgarity and Cardenia's thoughtfulness. But back to M. Perdu and his boat: the idea of a literary apothecary, who prescribes books for his customer's emotional needs, is appealing. The book starts slowly, because Mr. P is in a state of denying himself any feelings after the loss of a lover. When he makes an important discovery, he is terrified by the prospect of new love and runs away as fast as his little feet will carry him, or rather, as fast as the locks on the river will allow his boat to travel.
We see right away that Mr. P is more in need of his prescriptive services than any of his customers; the remainder of the story consists largely of his coming to terms with his discovery and the possibility of reopening his heart. I was pleased to see that while some insights seemed to come fairly easily, the process as a whole was more difficult. I was also pleased/relieved to see that a certain character was not
I think the story lost a some speed in installment two, The Consuming Fire, but hopefully it will pick up in part III (which is yet to be published, alas).
Book two definitely had all the signs of a bridge story, and not such an addictive read as the first one. Kiva is still delightfully vulgar, though!
>170 Busifer: That's good to know. I won't go into The Consuming Fire with high expectations, but I'm curious about how he'll develop various threads. I'm #3 on the hold list for it at the library, so I'll probably get it after Christmas.
I'll also get my copy of the new Louise Penny right after the first of the year. I decided to keep to my decision not to read any more mysteries this year, so Armand and company will just have to wait. They have a cool feature at the library where you can freeze a hold, so you don't get the book before you're ready, but you don't lose your place in line.
I'm really enjoying Luncheon of the Boating Party, which describes all the goings-on surrounding Renoir's painting of his famous picture. Renoir is an interesting character, dedicated to his art but letting it blind him to healthy relationship opportunities. He's caught up in the debates among artists and critics about Impressionism, and whether to support the group of impressionists or submit his work to a more prestigious Salon. And of course most of the models in the painting have their own lives to deal with (one assumes that they all do, but we don't see quite all of them ;-).
>170 Busifer:, >171 Jim53: Ditto as regards lowering expectations for The consuming fire. I'm still looking forward to seeing where the story goes though.
>171 Jim53: Whenever I think of Renoir's Luncheon at the Boating Party I now see the sculptural representation of the painting, by Seward Johnson, at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey. It's one of my favourite places and I love his three-dimensional takes on the Impressionists.
>172 Sakerfalcon: I'd never heard of GFS, but it looks interesting, and it's just a couple of hours from us. I've added it to the list for when we want an ambitious outing. Thanks!
I enjoyed Luncheon of the Boating Party quite a bit, although I was continually annoyed with Renoir himself. I think my favorite character was Alphonsine, a young widow and the daughter of the couple who own the cafe where the group assembles on several Sundays to pose for the painting. Several others had interesting quirks or generous spirits. The story was interesting, and took place in a period (France after the Franco-Prussian war, 1880s) about which I knew very little. The discussion at our book club didn't get much beyond folks who liked it or didn't like it, with a lot of generalizations about how artists are. So it goes. Definitely glad I read this one.
Last night I started Where'd You Go, Bernadette?, which is off to a very funny start.
>173 Jim53: I hope you get time to go! It's a great place in any season, and you can easily spend a whole day finding all the sculptures.
>174 Jim53: I really enjoyed Where'd you go Bernadette. The epistolary style kept me reading for far longer than I should have as I wanted to read "just the next little bit".
Where'd You Go Bernadette was odd but entertaining. There were times when I thought she might be making fun of various people with mental illnesses, but I decided that wasn't really the case. I knew it would be fun from the first sentence, when the school's motto contains the word "connectitude." I remember in school making fun of some of these absurd abstract nouns by adding "tude" at the end; perhaps Semple is a kindred spirit. Eventually we get what seems to aspire to being a Shakespeare-like mess of misunderstandings, missed communications, and the like. Though I still don't care about this fellow Ted and this talk of his that you won't shut up about.
I've been seeing Rachel Cusk's name on a lot of best-of-this-that-or-the-other lists, so I picked up Outline and started it yesterday. Apparently our narrator is going to have a series of conversations that will eventually reveal her to us. The first conversation is a bit dry, but I'm trying to soldier on. Has anyone here read Cusk? Have any thoughts about her writing?
Can't help you with Cusk as I've not read her, but I'm glad you enjoyed Bernadette. Unfortunately from what I've heard, Semple's other novels aren't as good.
I'm getting back into having multiple books going at once. In addition to Outline, I've started our book club's January book, The Orphan Master's Son, which is odd but gripping. The one that is calling to me, though, is Mark Lawrence's Red Sister. I tried his Prince of Thorns a while back and was underwhelmed, but I'm enjoying this one.
>179 Jim53: Orphan Master's Son is one of the best books I've read in years. Hope you like it (some of it can't be enjoyed).
>179 Jim53: I enjoyed Red Sister and its sequel. Hope you continue to enjoy it :)
I enjoyed Red Sister a lot, although there were sections that seemed padded. Nona is an appealing character, and her fellow novices and nuns are well described. We learn about the world, whose livable area has been reduced by an ice age to The Corridor, without a huge data dump, which is refreshing. You know a book has some good qualities when it brings out the Chosen One trope and I roll my eyes but don't discard it. The mix of a medieval society and a high-tech past reminded me of Pern and of The Book of the New Sun. I wanted to know more about the origins and histories of the convents; I hope we'll get that in a later book. Lawrence does a good job of portraying friendship as both important and problematic. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, and I didn't understand the purpose of killing off a character who had become rather appealing. There are a lot of loose ends left, and I'm interested enough to grab the sequel fairly soon.
Summary of fourth-quarter reading:
14 new books in all, plus some re-reads that I didn't count
Just one non-fiction: Outliers, which had its problems but was interesting
5 mysteries, of which the best was Harvest of Secrets
3 F/SF, all of which I enjoyed, and all of whose sequels I plan to pick up before too long
5 mainstream fiction, of which the best were both set near Paris on the water: The Little Paris Bookshop and Luncheon of the Boating Party
Just one by a writer of color, Fifth Season, other than a re-read of a Rachel Howzell Hall mystery
4 by men, 10 by women
Leaving me with a total of 61 books for the year
I satisfied 29 of the 40 categories in the PopSugar challenge that I tried this year. It didn't really affect my reading much; the only book that i read specifically to fulfill a category was The Laughing Policeman. I'll have to see whether a new challenge grabs my interest for next year.
I won't be staying up late tonight, so I can't wait till midnight to wish all of you a very happy new year. I am grateful for your many kind words, book bullets, and other contributions. I hope 2019 is a more sane and joyful year for the world and for all of us.
>186 Jim53: It is ok, Jim. It is 1:41am here so I sat up for you. Happy New Year! Have a great 2019.
>186 Jim53: Happy new year! I probably wouldn’t be waiting up until Midnight either if it weren’t for the fact that the fireworks would just wake me back up anyway. :)
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