TalkValkyrdeath's 2019 Reading Record Part 2

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Club Read 2019

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Valkyrdeath's 2019 Reading Record Part 2

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1valkyrdeath
Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 4:59pm

Time to start a new thread for my reading from August onwards...

Books read:
81. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
82. Clue by Paul Allor, art by Nelson Daniel
83. Best of British Science Fiction 2018 edited by Donna Scott
84. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
85. Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
86. The Forgotten Slaves of Tromelin by Sylvain Savoia
87. The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans

88. In Real Life by Charlayne Woodard
89. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
90. Capital by John Lanchester
91. Spring by Ali Smith
92. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4 by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
93. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 5 by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
94. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
95. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
96. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
97. Monument: Poems New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey

98. Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi, art by Mauro Marchesi
99. The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
100. The Girl from HOPPERS by Jaime Hernandez
101. The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi
102. Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm
103. A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
104. Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen
105. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

106. Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen
107. Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin by Emilie Plateau
108. The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz
109. DC Meets Looney Tunes by various people
110. The Digital Antiquarian Volume 9: 1987 by Jimmy Maher
111. Second Generation: The Things I Didn't Tell My Father by Michel Kichka
112. Ayoade on Top by Richard Ayoade
113. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel
114. Crumbs from the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage

115. A Body in the Bath House by Lindsey Davis
116. Perfect Sound Whatever by James Acaster
117. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
118. Crumbs from the Table of Joy and Other Plays by Lynn Nottage
119. Thérèse Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac
120. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
121. Ice Cream Man Vol. 1 by W. Maxwell Prince, art by Martin Morazzo
122. The Travelling Companion by Ian Rankin
123. After the Spring: A Story of Tunisian Youth by Helene Aldeguer
124. Rain by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
125. Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
126. Zero by Brian McCabe
127. Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
128. Sakina's Restaurant by Aasif Mandvi
129. I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason
130. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi

2valkyrdeath
Aug 20, 2019, 8:08pm


81. An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
I really loved this book. It’s an extremely well written first person novel from the perspective of a reclusive Lebanese woman who translates novels for her own enjoyment. Very little actually happens in the book, but the narrator is a compelling and entertaining character and the writing so good that I just wanted to keep reading. I’m definitely going to be checking out more works by the author and have already picked out a couple that sound intriguing.

3lisapeet
Edited: Aug 20, 2019, 9:03pm

>2 valkyrdeath: He has a fantastic Twitter feed, if you’re a Twitter user. Lots of art and poetry, often on themes, with a twinned appreciation of beauty and sense of humor.

4valkyrdeath
Aug 24, 2019, 6:12pm

>3 lisapeet: That's interesting, I'll take a look! I used to be on Twitter but deleted my account since the site in general was making me depressed, but I still check out interesting people on there occasionally.

5valkyrdeath
Aug 28, 2019, 8:03pm


82. Clue by Paul Allor art by Nelson Daniel
I’ve always been a fan of Cluedo, loving the original board game as a kid, playing computer game versions, and of course the film is one of the all-time great ensemble comedies. Because of that, I had to give this six issue comic series a go. I’m glad I did, since it was rather fun. It’s moved things to the modern day and does its own thing with the concept, though it’s full of references to the other versions, such as the reference to Mr. Boddy love of leaving random weapons in rooms and the first episode having three different alternate final pages (all included in this collected volume.) But it also has a butler that doubles up as narrator as well as character, constantly breaking the fourth wall and aware that he’s in a comic. It builds up to an ending that I really wasn’t expecting but that I really liked, though I feel it’s one that’s likely to have plenty of people hating it too. It’s not a classic like the film was, but it’s a fun read nonetheless.

6valkyrdeath
Sep 1, 2019, 9:13pm


83. Best of British Science Fiction 2018 edited by Donna Scott
Another strong collection of science fiction stories, showing quite a wide range of themes are styles. As with any collection, I liked some stories better than others, but I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like at all. Some of the more memorable stories included the mystery themed Waterbirds by G V Anderson, the very brief –Good by Sunyi Dean and the musical dystopia of F Sharp 4 by Tim Pieraccini. Another great entry in this anthology series, which seems to always be worth reading.

7valkyrdeath
Sep 2, 2019, 7:12pm


84. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice by Christopher Hitchens
I’ve heard Mother Teresa mentioned around a few times recently, and it always seemed to be in a positive light, and then I realised she’d somehow been made a saint, so I thought it was time to refresh my memory to see if I was misremembering what she was like. And nope, she really was a nasty piece of work, believing it was good for the poor to suffer, keeping them in terrible conditions and refusing adequate treatment and pain relief to the dying because it’s God’s will (while of course getting all the best treatment for herself when ill). Then there’s the forced conversions of people on their death beds, or the fact that she let an entire homeless shelter project fall through because she refused to allow the building to have a lift for access for disabled people, or her associations with so many awful people. This is a very good book that’s built around documented facts and Mother Teresa’s own words. It’s rather depressing that someone so terrible is so revered.

8valkyrdeath
Sep 14, 2019, 7:15pm


85. Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett
Continuing my Discworld rereads and back to the witches with this one. By this point, Pratchett was just on a string of great books and this is no exception. The witches are always such great, funny characters, the plot brings in evil elves and riffs on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and as is usual for these books, I spot new details and references that I’d missed before every time I read.

9dchaikin
Sep 14, 2019, 8:29pm

>7 valkyrdeath: wow. I had heard of few negative thing, but wasn't aware it was so extensive.

>8 valkyrdeath: fun, one of the key ones I've missed.

Enjoyed catching up, and I'm intrigued by your comments on An Unnecessary Woman.

10valkyrdeath
Sep 15, 2019, 5:54pm

>9 dchaikin: An Unnecessary Woman was excellent, but one of those books I found it hard to think what to say about it despite that. Sometimes the best books are the hardest to write about.

11valkyrdeath
Sep 15, 2019, 6:28pm


86. The Forgotten Slaves of Tromelin by Sylvain Savoia
This was a really interesting graphical non-fiction book about a bit of history I wasn’t aware of. In 1761, a ship illegally carrying slaves was shipwrecked on Tromelin Island. The slaves helped to repair the ship and were then abandoned there. Some of them survived and ended up living there for 15 years before finally getting rescued. The book alternates between telling their story and the story of a modern day archaeological expedition to the island that the author travelled with. I found the historical sections more interesting than the author’s own story, but it worked overall. At the end of the book there’s a brief written account of the expedition by the leader of the expedition along with some photographs from it.

12valkyrdeath
Sep 17, 2019, 7:05pm


87. The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans
This is an absolutely huge history book covering in great detail the history of Europe in the period from 1815 up to the start of WW1. Evans has a real knack for imparting a lot of information in a short space, so he really crams in the facts. I read it gradually, one of the eight chapters at a time, over about three months, because it felt a little overwhelming to do more than that at once. That’s not a negative though, it’s an excellent book that covers a huge range of topics across many different countries, and follows the impact of changes across Europe. It’s a book that will tell you the details of the big events, covering the many political revolutions and battles such as the Crimean war, but also going into social history, and covering changes in various artistic movements, music and literature. It discusses anything from various famines to the different suffrage movements, the Great Exhibition, or the fact that the first football match to take place in Poland lasted only 6 minutes due to a lack of understanding by the referee who ended the game once the first goal was scored. Each chapter also starts with a brief biography of an interesting person from the era. It’s a really impressive work in scope. It can be a bit dry at times due to the volume of information, but that doesn’t really bother me in a book of this sort and everything was presented clearly. I found this to be a really worthwhile read.

13mabith
Sep 17, 2019, 7:55pm

>12 valkyrdeath: I look forward to getting to this one eventually!

14valkyrdeath
Sep 19, 2019, 6:26pm

>13 mabith: I hope you enjoy it if you do!

15valkyrdeath
Edited: Sep 22, 2019, 8:38pm


88. In Real Life by Charlayne Woodard
The third and final of Woodard’s trio of one woman autobiographical plays, this one covering her time covering the period of her life when she started acting. Once again, it’s an entertaining play that covers events with plenty of humour, and the performance of her audio version is very good. I’m not sure I liked it quite as much as the earlier ones, but it was still a good listen and effectively makes for an audio memoir when the three plays are listened to.

16valkyrdeath
Sep 22, 2019, 8:51pm


89. Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
This was a really good mystery novel that was outside the ordinary golden age mystery trappings. Brat Farrar is a character who bears a strong family resemblance to a boy who went missing years ago, presumed to have committed suicide. He gets roped in to pose as the long lost son in order to claim his inheritance. When there, things don’t go exactly as planned, and he finds himself uncovering past events while also growing attached to his new life. I really enjoyed this book. It’s very well written and has a different feel to the usual mysteries of the era. I’m looking forward to reading through Tey’s other works.

17valkyrdeath
Sep 27, 2019, 6:07pm


90. Capital by John Lanchester
This book follows a group of characters who live in or have a connection to houses on a street in London where property values have gone up into the millions. Set before and during the 2008 financial crisis, the catalyst for the plot is when they all start getting postcards of their own houses through their doors saying “We want what you have.” That mystery runs through the book and is the thread that ties everything together, but it’s a character piece about the various very different people who live there. It’s well written, often funny, and I really enjoyed it.

18valkyrdeath
Sep 28, 2019, 7:22pm


91. Spring by Ali Smith
The third of Smith’s season books, this is again separate from the previous ones but with thematic links. Again, it incorporates very current events and the state of the world, and this time pulls in the story of Katherine Mansfield and Rilke. And once again it starts with a twist on a Dickens opening line with “Now what we don't want is Facts.” I find it hard to know what to say about Ali Smith’s books other than that I really love her writing style and that somehow all the elements of her novels seem to come together into something that works for me but in a way I can’t really explain. I maybe didn’t like this one quite as much as the previous two, but I still really liked it and being Smith, there were regular moments of brilliance in the writing.

19valkyrdeath
Sep 29, 2019, 6:49pm


92. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
93. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 5: Like I'm the Only Squirrel in the World by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson
Another couple of volumes of Squirrel Girl, and they’re still hugely fun. There’s a good mixture of story arcs that span a few issues and single issue stories in between and the mock twitter pages that start each issue are still brilliant, as are the footnotes. Always a fun series to read.

20valkyrdeath
Sep 30, 2019, 6:56pm


94. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa translated by Stephen Snyder
The Memory Police is set on an island ruled by a regime that regularly makes things disappear. People will wake up one morning and find their memories of a certain thing have vanished and set about destroying the vanished items or face arrest by the Memory Police. It’s a dystopian novel, but one that feels rather different to the usual 1984 influenced books, and has a slightly more surreal tone, especially towards the end. It’s a shame that more Yoko Ogawa books haven’t been translated into English yet as I’ve enjoyed all the ones I’ve read so far.

21rhian_of_oz
Oct 2, 2019, 11:04am

>20 valkyrdeath: This is sitting on my coffee table, partially read. I will pick it up again when I have the brainspace to properly appreciate it.

22valkyrdeath
Oct 5, 2019, 9:35pm

>21 rhian_of_oz: I'd certainly be interested to see how you find it. The ending was rather strange but I really enjoyed the overall style and feel of the book.

23valkyrdeath
Oct 5, 2019, 9:36pm


95. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This was quite a depressing read, though with thankfully a more upbeat ending than it could have had. It was very well done for the target audience, though the teenageryness of it all did feel a bit overwhelming at times with random strange slang and an obsession with expensive trainers. I’m glad to have read it though and ended up liking the characters, and the story stays generally realistic, which is where the depressing part comes in.

24valkyrdeath
Oct 6, 2019, 7:10pm


96. Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett
Another Discworld classic, the second book featuring the Ankh Morpork City Watch. There’s a police procedural storyline, and disturbing new weapon known as a Gonne, and plenty of social commentary as the Watch takes on new members from various other species such as dwarves and trolls. The characters in the Watch books are always a lot of fun, and this book is constantly funny throughout, while also telling a great story. Another example of Pratchett at his best.

I was interested to see that the TV series based on The Watch finally seems to be coming out. Sadly, I was less than thrilled to hear that they’ve apparently turned Lady Sybil into a vigilante and cast an actress who looks decidedly thin. I always live in hope that one day someone will make the Discworld adaptation the books deserve.

25bragan
Oct 10, 2019, 8:41am

>24 valkyrdeath: This was exactly my reaction to seeing the Discworld casting. Based on the article I read about it, it seems like they're changing quite a few things, but a thin and pretty Sybil who is apparently some kind of vigilante action hero is the one that really bothers me.

Oh, well. Even if it's disappointing, we'll always have the books!

26valkyrdeath
Oct 10, 2019, 6:18pm

>25 bragan: Yeah, nothing can ruin the books, no matter what they do. They'll always be brilliant. But if they've turned Sybil into a young vigilante then I'm not even interested in watching the series. The article also doesn't mention Cheery as being a dwarf and instead refers to them as a non-binary forensics expert, which may just be them not giving the full information, but worries me nonetheless. Almost as worrying is the fact that in the announcement of the main cast there's no mention at all of Nobby and Colon, and without them, half of the core Watch members are missing. They can make all the new stories they want, the City Watch are absolutely the most perfect characters to spin off into a series with new stories, but they have to be consistent with the characters and world that Pratchett created. I never quite understand why studios seem incapable of doing adaptations like that.

27valkyrdeath
Oct 10, 2019, 6:45pm


97. Monument: Poems New and Selected
This is a collection of poems taken from the author’s previous collections, grouped by book, plus some new ones. I’m not great with poetry but I enjoyed this book any found myself able to mostly understand them. It covers some dark territory at times, with quite a bit about her mother’s murder at the hands of her step-father. There are also poems about her relationship with her parents, who were married at a time when interracial marriages were still illegal. It covers quite a broad range of subjects over the course of the book though. I liked it but I’m no good at commenting on poems.

28valkyrdeath
Oct 10, 2019, 6:58pm


98. Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi, art by Mauro Marchesi
A brief and straightforward graphic biography of the science fiction author. It’s not hugely deep but is pretty good for what it is, following Philip K. Dick from awkward young man to author to his rather sad descent into paranoid delusions. He wrote some classic books but also went through several wives and by the end of his life was spouting bizarre conspiracy theories and writing thousands of pages of gibberish Exegesis based on his supposed religious revelations. A decent but patchy overview of the author’s life.

29valkyrdeath
Oct 14, 2019, 7:51pm


99. The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
This is the second book in the fantasy trilogy, following on from A Corner of White, and it continues to be a very imaginative and unusual story. Madeleine, living in our World, continues to communicate with Elliot in the kingdom of Cello, as they work to locate the missing royal family members and work out how to bring them home. There are lots of twists and turns along the way, keeping the plot intriguing, while there’s also plenty of humour too, and the characters are all a lot of fun. I really enjoy this series, and have moved straight onto the final book.

30valkyrdeath
Oct 29, 2019, 7:20pm


100. The Girl from HOPPERS by Jaime Hernandez
The second collection of Locas stories from the Love and Rockets comics, and I really enjoyed it. The sci-fi elements have mostly fallen away by this point and it’s focused on the characters. I can certainly see why these were so influential at the time they were written. I’m look forward to reading the rest.

31Dilara86
Oct 31, 2019, 2:06pm

>27 valkyrdeath: This is going into my wishlist!

32valkyrdeath
Nov 1, 2019, 8:31pm

>31 Dilara86: Hope you enjoy it if you get to it. I'm not the best at judging poems but I like to try them occationally and I did like that one.

33valkyrdeath
Nov 8, 2019, 6:44pm


101. The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi
This was a really well done graphical biography about Rod Serling. I love The Twilight Zone but didn’t know much about the man himself, so this was a quick and informative read. It was interesting to see how much he had to fight to get what he wanted to say on the screen and how the fantasy and science fiction elements were created to let him do more of the things he wanted without being censored. The art was well done, and the thing was framed as Serling on a flight telling his story to another passenger in a framing story that feels like a Twilight Zone plot itself. One of the better graphic biographies I’ve read.

34mabith
Nov 9, 2019, 10:50am

Glad you posted to remind me of this one!

35valkyrdeath
Nov 10, 2019, 8:03pm

>34 mabith: Always good to have these reminders!

36valkyrdeath
Nov 10, 2019, 8:14pm

I'm way behind on reviews at the moment. It's been a hard time due to family illness and then bereavement and I've found it hard to get going on my reading again, so there's been a few comics and graphic novels recently and will likely be quite a few more before regular service is resumed. Here's another.


102. Mad Love and Other Stories by Paul Dini art by Bruce Timm
Paul Dini and Bruce Timm were two of the main people behind Batman: The Animated Series, a show I always loved, so I decided to get this back when I bought Dini’s Dark Night non-fiction book, but then forgot about it until now. The title story is the comic that first featured the origin story of Harley Quinn, a character they first introduced in the animated show and a story which would later be adapted within that show. The rest of the book is fairly average Batman fair but all perfectly enjoyable, and with a very well done Two-Face story later on. A fun quick read.

37valkyrdeath
Nov 10, 2019, 8:16pm


103. A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
The final book in the trilogy and an excellent conclusion to a series that I really enjoyed. When it was getting near the end I was getting worried since I was starting to think that there wouldn’t be enough space for her to wrap everything up, but I should have had more faith since Moriarty managed it perfectly. Now I need to read more of her other books.

38dchaikin
Nov 13, 2019, 1:56pm

V - wishing you well. I was (finally) catching up and saw your note in >36 valkyrdeath: and now I’m worried for you and what you might be going through.

On the books, all the bios sound terrific - Rod Sterling, Philip K Dick, etc. Interesting about the Pratchett adaptation. My first thought is a sarcastic What-could-go-wrong. Enjoyed your reviews overall, as always.

39valkyrdeath
Nov 13, 2019, 6:57pm

>38 dchaikin: Thanks for the thoughts Dan. My dad passed away last month. He brought me up on his own when I was a kid and then in recent years I've been looking after him due to his illness. It's always been the two of us so I'm at a bit of a loss now. Trying to stay occupied but I'm finding it hard to focus on reading a lot of the time.

I'm enjoying the graphic biographies. They're a good way to get a decent overview of someone in a short space of time without having to commit to a bigger book. And of course occasionally one can be interesting enough to lead to further reading. I'm certainly not too optimistic about the Pratchett adaptation sadly.

40valkyrdeath
Nov 13, 2019, 7:25pm


104. Last Night in Nuuk by Niviaq Korneliussen
A book by an author from Greenland. I quite liked some of the structure but unfortunately I didn’t feel there was much there in terms of plot and I never really got attached to any of the characters. It was all a bit too youth culturey for me. Still, it was a quick read and not terrible, and there were hints of potential considering it was a first novel.

41dchaikin
Nov 13, 2019, 9:32pm

I’m sorry about your dad, Gary.

I’ve seen the the Last Night in Nuuk come up here and there and was curious.

42AlisonY
Nov 14, 2019, 7:57am

Very sorry to hear of your sad loss too - sounds like you're going through a particularly tough time.

43RidgewayGirl
Nov 14, 2019, 9:24am

I'm sorry to hear about your father. I hope that books will eventually prove to be a solace.

44valkyrdeath
Nov 14, 2019, 7:31pm

>41 dchaikin: >42 AlisonY: >43 RidgewayGirl: Thanks everyone. It is a tough time and I'm very up and down at the moment but I'm getting by. I've often found reading a good distraction and I'm sure I'll be back to reading more very soon, I just need to find the right books.

45valkyrdeath
Nov 14, 2019, 7:43pm


105. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
This is a really well done graphic memoir of Takei’s childhood imprisoned with his family during WWII. I’ve been aware of the horrendous camps for Japanese Americans for a long time but never really knew the details, so I learnt quite a bit from this book. Takei’s writing was very good and the artwork was pretty good too.

46rhian_of_oz
Nov 15, 2019, 9:59am

I'm sorry for your loss. Did your dad also love to read?

47valkyrdeath
Nov 16, 2019, 7:55pm

>46 rhian_of_oz: He did love reading. He was a big science fiction fan especially and passed that on to me as a kid, though he was always happy for me to get whatever I wanted from the library whenever we went. He was always reading when I was younger but found it difficult later until I got him a Kindle where he could increase the font size and then he was able to start reading much more again. One of the reasons why I sometimes get annoyed when encountering snobbery towards ebooks, since I know how happy he was to be reading again thanks to them.

48valkyrdeath
Edited: Nov 20, 2019, 7:13pm


106. Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen
The third collection of Andersen’s funny comics about general life and anxiety that I find mostly very relatable. It ends with a short section with written sections alongside the comics about making art on the internet and dealing with the inevitable awful and aggressive responses. I like these books, it’s a shame there hasn’t been a new one so far this year.

49lisapeet
Nov 16, 2019, 9:44pm

I'm sorry about your father. It's so hard losing folks.

But yes, ebooks have been real game changers for vision impaired people. And: ebook snobs, oy. You'd think that ship might have sailed already but no.

50valkyrdeath
Nov 16, 2019, 10:05pm

>49 lisapeet: The anti-ebook brigade always seem to be around. Personally, I say they're not true readers unless they read their books from papyrus scrolls.

51rhian_of_oz
Nov 17, 2019, 9:26am

>50 valkyrdeath: :-D. I prefer physical books (though logically I know ebooks are better in lots of ways) and I always think my e-reading friends think I'm a bit of a dinosaur.

52valkyrdeath
Nov 20, 2019, 5:47pm

>51 rhian_of_oz: I do like physical books myself and have a few shelves full of them, but those people who think that anyone with a different preference is wrong are very frustrating. I'm just happy that people are reading in whatever form!

53valkyrdeath
Nov 20, 2019, 7:40pm


107. Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin by Emilie Plateau
An interesting graphic memoir about Claudette Colvin, who I wasn’t aware of at all until reading this book. Several months before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus, Colvin did the same thing, and later testified in court in a case against segregation. But because she was a teenager and pregnant she wasn’t deemed to be respectable and her role was basically ignored by the civil rights movement who thought it would hurt their cause. This book tells her story so was well worth reading. It also touches on sexism in the civil rights movement in general, something Rosa Parks has also commented on. Colvin is another person I’m glad to have learnt about.

54valkyrdeath
Edited: Nov 26, 2019, 7:39pm


108. The Quarter by Naguib Mahfouz
The Quarter is a collection of stories by Mahfouz recently discovered labelled “for publishing 1994”. The stories are well written, as would be expected, and the sparse prose means each of the parable-like vignettes is very short, most only about three pages long. There really isn’t much there overall though. The book is less than 100 pages and that’s including an introduction, translator’s notes, some pictures of the original handwritten versions of some of the stories and Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. The introduction talks about there being no way of knowing if these were intended as a complete work or if there was more to be added, but I feel given the length and the fact that he didn’t actually publish them in the end indicates that it wasn’t intended in this form and there was probably supposed to be more to it. It’s not that what’s there is bad, it’s Naguib Mahfouz after all, but it doesn’t add up to much across the book.

55valkyrdeath
Nov 28, 2019, 6:12pm


109. DC Meets Looney Tunes by various authors and artists
I wasn’t expecting much from this but the ridiculous concept seemed like it would be quite fun at least, which is what I needed at the time. It was basically ok through most of the book but never really rose above that level. The comics each had a main story with Looney Tunes characters in a DC style story, and then reversed it for a shorter story in the Looney Tunes style afterwards. So there’s Bugs Bunny joining up with the Legion of Super-Heroes in an amusing enough send up of the superhero genre, though the extra story was just the same story retold again for some reason. Some DC character called Lobo that I’d never heard of gets Road Runner, Martian Manhunter meets Marvin the Martian, Wonder Woman befriends the Tasmanian Devil and Johan Hex is hired by Yosemite Sam. They’re readable but mostly forgettable. The centrepiece story is the Elmer Fudd – Batman crossover, which has cameos from many cartoon characters, though there they’re portrayed in human form. It’s a fairly average noir style story otherwise. Readable book and fun at times but nothing special, but that’s probably about what you’d expect from a book like this.

56valkyrdeath
Edited: Nov 28, 2019, 6:17pm


110. The Digital Antiquarian Volume 9: 1987 by Jimmy Maher
Another installment in the history of gaming. It covers another batch of Infocom classics, some more Sierra games, the foundation of Lucasarts and a few other key games of the era, plus an interesting series of articles about the early game piracy community. Well written as usual and full of interesting stories about the people behind everything as well as about the games themselves.

57valkyrdeath
Nov 30, 2019, 8:05pm


111. Second Generation: The Things I Didn't Tell My Father by Michel Kichka
Unavoidably comparable to Maus, which is even referenced within the book, Second Generation is a graphic memoir by the son of a Holocaust survivor. Unlike Maus, it’s focused a lot more on the second generation of the title, the children of the survivors. It deals with his difficult relationship with his father who initially won’t talk about his experiences at all and later won’t talk about anything else. It’s very short but quite well done and worthwhile as a quick read.

58valkyrdeath
Dec 1, 2019, 1:23pm


112. Ayoade on Top by Richard Ayoade
In Ayoade on Top, the author takes an in depth analysis of the neglected classic of cinema, View From the Top. At least, that’s how the book presents itself. As with his previous books, Richard Ayoade mixes his comedic talents with his film expertise with a work that makes fun of Hollywood cliches in the guise of praising one of the most cliched unimaginative films around, sending up film criticism in the process. He commits completely to the concept of the film being a masterpiece to enhance the comedy, and he digresses regularly into the most random topics. A really fun read, even better in audio format read by Ayoade himself.

59valkyrdeath
Dec 11, 2019, 6:29pm


113. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel
I really loved Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home, which focused mainly on her relationship with her father. As the title suggests, this one focuses on her relationship with her mother, so it makes a nice supplement to the other book, though it’s not quite as good. The memoir parts are good, but she also went into therapy a lot at this time, with therapists who were training to be psychoanalysts, and she tends to spend a lot of time talking about psychoanalysis, in particular Donald Winnicott. She gets to the point of reading meaning into everything to the point of discussing what made her have accidents, apparently accepting in all seriousness the idea that accidents are all caused on purpose by the subconscious for a reason. I found all that a bit annoying, since I’d really like the book without all that, but then it was inevitably going to be a part of it since it was an important part of the author’s life at the time. An interesting read mostly, but not the classic that Fun Home is.

60valkyrdeath
Edited: Dec 15, 2019, 5:13pm


114. Crumbs from the Table of Joy by Lynn Nottage
This is a play set in 1950s Brooklyn, about an African-American family. The father, Godfrey, relocates to New York following the death of his wife, taking his two daughters with him. Once there, his wife’s sister, a communist, turns up needing somewhere to stay. The play focuses largely on one of his daughters, Ernestine, who steps in and out of the action to narrate the events in a way I quite like. I also liked that the narration aspect meant that some scenes would play out one way briefly, before getting a “Well, I wish that was how it went” and replaying. It was quite a good play, enjoyable though not quite reaching real greatness somehow for me.

61valkyrdeath
Dec 15, 2019, 5:21pm


115. A Body in the Bath House by Lindsey Davis
The thirteenth book in the Falco series, and this one sees Falco reluctantly return to Britannia in pursuit of the builders who left a corpse under the floor of his bathhouse, and also to investigate a building project on behalf of the emperor. Another really fun mystery based around a building from an actual archaeological site, allowing Davis to fit in a lot of builder humour into her Ancient Rome. A good read as always.

62AlisonY
Dec 17, 2019, 4:00am

>58 valkyrdeath: I'm delighted to see a thumbs up review for the Ayoade book. I bought it at a book festival in October solely because I'd expected he'd do signings after his event (he didn't), and it's been languishing on my shelf ever since with no real plans for me to ever pick it up again other than to give it the odd dust. Perhaps I should give it a go some time when I'm in need of something light and refreshing. I have to admit his talk on it didn't warm me up any more about reading it, though. I don't know the film he's talking about, so wonder if I'd miss the point as a result?

63valkyrdeath
Dec 17, 2019, 4:44pm

>62 AlisonY: I'd intended to put something about that in my review, but looking back I see I didn't. That's my brain working at its usual efficiency. I hadn't seen the film the book was about either, but every time he described a scene I recognised it from any number of other generic films I had seen, which I think was the point. It's definitely not going to appeal to everyone though, and it definitely helps to be have film buff tendencies. I'm not sure how much I'd have enjoyed it in print compared to having him performing it himself on audio since I just find Ayoade funny in general.

64valkyrdeath
Dec 17, 2019, 6:02pm


116. Perfect Sound Whatever by James Acaster
Another book by probably my favourite current comedian. This one is something a bit different though. While it is often funny, it’s Acaster after all, this is also a book about a truly terrible year in his life where he went through a break up with his partner, the relationship with his agent fell apart and he suffered badly with mental health issues, all while his career was hitting new heights with his series of four Netflix specials, and all of which he talks openly about. It’s also a book about music, specifically music released in 2016. He spent 2017 listening entirely to albums released the previous year as a way of reconnecting to modern music after previously having dismissed it. It eventually became a project where he sought out more and more obscure releases, and the book is interspersed with brief biographies of some of the artists he listened along with how the albums came to be recorded. It’s an interesting mix of different elements, but I enjoyed all the aspects and while not all of the music is the sort to interest me, it’s ended up adding a lot to my listening list along the way.

65valkyrdeath
Dec 18, 2019, 6:33pm


117. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
By complete coincidence I’ve ended up with two Frankenstein themed reads coming up this month, one a hold at the library I put in ages ago finally coming in and the other a book club pick, so I decided it might be nice to read the original first. I knew it was a very different thing to the film versions but it was definitely interesting to see just how different for myself. I don’t think I really need to say anything about the plot for this one. I mostly enjoyed it, though it was a bit slow at times, particularly to start with.

66rocketjk
Edited: Dec 19, 2019, 1:21pm

Just catching up with your thread, here. Really interesting. Thanks for all the insights. I was laughing to myself when reading your review of the Acaster book. Not only am I, as he was, out of touch with modern music (other than jazz), but I'm so out of touch with modern popular culture that I'd never even heard of Acaster, four popular Netflix specials notwithstanding! (Although, yes, my wife and I have Netflix and Amazon and HBO -- Derry Girls, anyone?) Anyway, Perfect Sound Whatever looks like a book I might decide to seek out.

67valkyrdeath
Dec 19, 2019, 6:03pm

>66 rocketjk: I'm not sure how well known James Acaster is generally in America compared to here in the UK, but I love pretty much anything with him in. I've long been out of touch with modern music myself, though I've been enjoying rediscovering some myself recently. (And I also love Derry Girls.)

68valkyrdeath
Dec 19, 2019, 6:42pm


118. Crumbs from the Table of Joy and Other Plays by Lynn Nottage
I listened to the title play in audio just four books previously but I wasn’t in the best frame of mind at the time of listening so decided to read it in print, and found it in this collection, so got to read a few other plays too. Most of the plays I enjoyed, though they all fell into that same sort of middle ground where they somehow lacked something to make them great.

Poof! was quite a fun short play that opens with a wife shouting “Damn you to hell” at her abusive husband only to have him spontaneously combust. It was very funny and seemed to have a lot of scope to develop into a really intriguing full play so I was disappointed when it ended in something that must only have about a 15 minute running time.

Por’knockers features a group of people who’ve bombed an assumed abandoned building but then discovered kids had gotten in and been killed. It revolves around their attempts to make a phone call to take credit for the attack, first as no-one wants to do it, and then as they’re constantly foiled by bureaucracy and incompetence when they do make it. There’s some funny moments in that, but it never commits to the absurdist comedy that it feels like it should be and spends much of the script with the characters making philosophical speeches, and occasional scenes with the por’knockers of the title that I assume were supposed to be analogical to the events but I didn’t see any real relevance to them.

Mud, River, Stone had a really enjoyable first act where a couple lost in the jungle stumble upon a rather odd hotel, but the turn of events that set up the second act I found less interesting and ultimately it became the most forgettable of the plays for me.

Finally, Las Meninas closes the book with a historical play set during the reign of Louis XIV and focusing on the relationship between Queen Marie-Therese and the dwarf Nabo and their possible child together. I enjoyed this play which I felt balanced the comedy and serious elements a bit better than the previous ones, though it still didn’t quite make it amongst my favourite plays.

Overall, an enjoyable book of plays that, if I didn’t love them, I at least liked well enough.

69valkyrdeath
Edited: Dec 21, 2019, 5:07pm


119. Thérèse Desqueyroux by Francois Mauriac
This is apparently a French classic though it’s a book I don’t think I’d heard of before I came across it in the library and randomly decided to give it a go. It’s a fairly quiet book, though one that throws you straight into events with the title character having just been acquitted of the attempted murder of her husband by poison, but with no doubt that she’s actually guilty and that everyone has only worked to get her found innocent to save the honour of the family. The first half of the book sees her look back over the events leading up to this on her journey back home, and the rest follows what happens next. It was well written and had psychological depths to the characters, never making the motives immediately obvious. The confused reasoning of Therese felt quite believable. There’s some interesting sections where the writing shifts perspectives amongst the various characters to give different views on events. None of the characters are particularly likeable, with an attempted murderer as a lead, an emotionally distant (and anti-Semitic) husband and an uncaring misogynist father amongst others, but the main characters have complexities and are far from one-dimensional. An interesting read from an author I didn’t know.

70baswood
Dec 21, 2019, 6:50pm

>69 valkyrdeath: Interested in your review because Francois Mauriac came up in a list of books that I might want to read. Encouraged by your review.

71valkyrdeath
Dec 22, 2019, 3:55pm

>70 baswood: I'll be interested to see your thoughts if you read any of his works. He seems like an author worth checking out.

72valkyrdeath
Dec 23, 2019, 5:08pm


120. Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
This novel switches between two major threads, starting in 1816 with Mary Shelly writing Frankenstein and alternating with a modern day / near future doctor called Ry Shelley and their relationship with an eccentric professor called Victor Stein. Along the way it takes in various other brief interludes, such as the story of Bletchley Park codebreaker I. J. Good. It pulls together all the various elements by recurring themes, with the modern day characters paralleling the ones from Mary Shelley’s time. The book looks at themes of artificial intelligence and transhumanism with a lot of philosophical discussions along the way, via some very pulpish sci-fi elements and with plenty of humour too. A fun short read.

73valkyrdeath
Dec 26, 2019, 5:17pm


121. Ice Cream Man Vol. 1 by W. Maxwell Prince, art by Martin Morazzo
This collects the first four issues of an anthology comic, each telling the a separate story about different characters, with the Ice Cream Man acting as the Rod Serling of the series. Though he actually passes through each of the stories and as it goes along it seems he has powers and that there’s something more going on beyond the individual stories. The stories themselves were quite varied and I mostly enjoyed them, though they didn’t quite hit perfectly and felt like something more could be done with them. The third story was disappointing, full of references to music that were fun to spot but which don’t make up for a plot amounting to nothing more than a one-hit wonder musician having a bizarre fantasy themed dream. The others were interesting enough to read, and much darker and more disturbing than I was expecting, and I’ll certainly try another volume to see how it goes along.

74valkyrdeath
Edited: Dec 26, 2019, 5:42pm


122. The Travelling Companion by Ian Rankin
A novella themed around Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Jekyll and Hyde story, this tells the story of an English student from Edinburgh writing a thesis on Stevenson. He visits Paris and ends up working in the Shakespeare and Company. While there, he meets a man who claims to have manuscripts of both the original manuscript of Jekyll and Hyde and another work called The Travelling Companion, both of which were presumed to have been destroyed by Stevenson. I found the initial setup quite intriguing, but the main character’s descent from being a straight laced religious guy who doesn’t even drink to a drugged up alcoholic is ridiculously rapid and doesn’t make much sense, and then the ending just seemed ridiculous.

75valkyrdeath
Dec 27, 2019, 6:28pm


123. After the Spring: A Story of Tunisian Youth by Helene Aldeguer
A brief graphic novel following a group of people dealing with the events of the Tunisian revolution. It was decent though very brief and mainly consisted of conversations between the characters. Not bad but it didn’t have a great deal of impact on me and I’m already struggling to remember much of the specifics.

76valkyrdeath
Dec 27, 2019, 7:05pm


124. Rain by Mary M. Talbot and Bryan Talbot
The previous three graphic novels by Mary Talbot have been based around historical events, but this one took a more contemporary theme. Based around the floods in Yorkshire in 2015, it follows the relationship between two women, one an environmental activist and one who is complacent about the whole issue. It’s not bad but it lacks subtlety and a lot of it involves one character lecturing another on various issues, and these sorts of things are rarely read by the people who really need to read them. When the flood itself comes, it’s very well done and the artwork is very good, despite the front cover of the book which I think looks awful. And being set in 2015, it ends with an optimistic comment from one of the characters about 2016 looking like it’s going to be a great year. If only.

77valkyrdeath
Dec 28, 2019, 2:28pm


125. Ethan of Athos by Lois McMaster Bujold
Another book in Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, but this time it’s a separate side story with Miles only being mentioned in passing. This instead focused on Ethan, a scientist from an all male colony planet. With their supplies of ovarian tissue cultures used to reproduce deteriorating and the new shipment they were expecting turning out to be full of junk, Ethan is sent off world to find obtain new samples and find out what had happened to the original shipment. The world of Athos is an interesting one to base the story around. It’s a self contained world containing all men, so homosexual relationships are the default (though there’s no actual sex in the books as usual). The colony has been going for 200 years and everything is self contained, so no-one there has actually met a woman, and their assumptions of what they’re like are rather distorted by the views put forward by the original settlers. While off the world, Ethan gets mixed up with Elli Quinn, the one character who returns from the other books and gets to learn a bit more of the truth of what life is like outside their world before returning home. The story is fast moving and action packed with plenty of humour and while not the best of the series I found it a really fun read.

78valkyrdeath
Dec 28, 2019, 5:06pm


126. Zero by Brian McCabe
A book of poems with a mathematical theme, roughly the first half dealing with numbers, both real and invented, and the second half having poems about different historical mathematicians. As usual, I’m not good with poetry, so I’ll just say there were some fun poems in here, occasionally funny.

79valkyrdeath
Dec 30, 2019, 4:58pm


127. Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
One of the better graphic novels I’ve read recently, this follows a French comic writer feeling aimless and unsure of what he wants to do and his visit to Portugal where he reconnects with his family there. It’s very well written and the artwork is really beautifully done.

80valkyrdeath
Dec 31, 2019, 5:11pm


128. Sakina’s Restaurant by Aasif Mandvi
Quite a fun one-man play, but one that suffers from the “one-man” part of that. Mandvi plays a whole range of characters, male and female, but his voice just isn’t versatile to carry it off in the audio version. Often, he was a couple of minutes into a new character’s monologue before I realised he’d even changed character, because they nearly all sounded the same. Aside from the performance issues though, the actual play itself had plenty of funny moments, and is mainly about an Indian family adjusting to life in the US.

81valkyrdeath
Jan 1, 12:45pm


129. I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason
This book was a bit of a surprise. I’ve read a few fairly short graphic novels recently that just felt inconsequential and like the story they were trying to tell needed more space, which is quite frustrating. I’ve also only read one book before by Jason, Werewolves of Montpellier, and while I liked the artwork, the story felt dull and pointless. As a book by Jason that’s over in less than 50 pages I really wasn’t expecting much from this, and I only decided to give it a go because I wanted to fit in one extra book before the end of the year, and this one was handy and at least had an intriguing title. I’m glad I did, because it turns out I really enjoyed it. Set in a world where assassination is legal and commonplace, a scientist who has invented a time machine hires a hitman to travel back and assassinate Hitler. The time machine can only be used for one return trip as it takes 50 years to charge up, and things don’t go quite to plan, and Hitler inadvertently ends up coming back in it. Despite the complexities involved in the plot, which does get quite involved, the story for the most part focuses on the relationship between the assassin and his ex-girlfriend. A very well told story with a really good ending that never felt rushed, and a great usage of the graphic novel medium to tell the story with relatively little dialogue too. It seems I dismissed Jason a bit too quickly before and think I’ll be trying some more of his books at some point.

82valkyrdeath
Jan 1, 1:07pm


130. Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi
My third Frankenstein related book for December, and my final book of the year. I really enjoyed this one, which was a much quieter and more thoughtful book that expected. Despite the plot of the book, involving a collection of body parts stitched together inadvertently coming to life and starting to take revenge on the people responsible for the deaths of the various people it’s body is made up of, the novel mainly tells the story of various people in a Baghdad neighbourhood in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion. There’s quite a large collection of characters and changing perspectives but they were all distinct and for once I had no trouble distinguishing them. A good read and a nice book to end the year on.

83valkyrdeath
Jan 1, 7:26pm

And on we go to 2020. My new thread is up and ready to go:
https://www.librarything.com/topic/314935

84dchaikin
Jan 4, 10:44am

Enjoyed your end of the year blitz of reviews. Frankisstein will be my next audio book, I should start it next week. You’re comments have me looking forward to it.