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text 2020-02-08 19:42
Too many robots?
Exhalation: Stories - Ted Chiang

When I read Stories of Your Life and Others in 2017 I was blown away by Ted Chiang's writing. It's unique to find a short story collection where so many of the stories are standouts (and memorable) but his first collection managed to do both. I found it mind-boggling that he hadn't written more so when I heard Exhalation was coming out I added it to my library holds list. With the memory of the stories from the first book still pretty fresh in my mind, I went into Exhalation with high expectations...and was slightly disappointed. This collection veered much more strongly toward artificial intelligence and existentialism while his previous work was varied (and exceptional). The best story from this collection was actually Exhalation which was about robots constructed with artificial lungs (yes, it's creepy). I can't really remember any of the rest except one about a robotic nanny which had a great philosophical bent to it. Quite a few stories were novella length which I think contributed to why it didn't feel as diversified as the first collection since not as many stories could be included. (A/N: Many of the stories were collected from various publications over the years and some are as old as 10 years.) That isn't to say that I didn't still appreciate his artistry as a writer because without a doubt he is a brilliant wordsmith but when you come out of the gate with such a winner like Stories of Your Life and Others it can be difficult to reach that height again. ¯_(ツ)_/¯  My overall assessment: 6/10.

 

What's Up Next: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Do You Mind if I Cancel? (Things That Still Annoy Me) by Gary Janetti

 

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2019-12-26 21:24
Fact or fiction?
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History - Brian Kilmeade,Don Yaeger

About 3 pages into Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates by Brian Kilmeade I felt that the author had a real issue with Muslims and he wrote this book to denounce them through a historical lens. As he drew parallels to the Barbary Wars (what's detailed in this book) and present day conflicts, he made the claim that slavery was a unique and barbarous practice only perpetrated by Muslims against whites. (Duh that's not the case.) By the time I had finished the book my overwhelming impression was that this book was not only Islamophobic but a major piece of revisionist history. (I even checked other reader's reviews to make sure that I wasn't completely off the mark here and they back up my feelings pretty much across the board.) He makes a strong argument for a show of military strength over diplomacy. In fact, the Barbary Wars were what precipitated the formation of the Navy and Marines (the 'shores of Tripoli' ring any bells?). I couldn't even tell you if what he says happened really happened when such a large focus was on ideas other than the historical events of the moment. 0/10

 

And then to discover that this book which was recommended to me by a coworker was in fact written by a co-host of Fox & Friends made total sense after the fact. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ 

 

What's Up Next: The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Inside Out: A Memoir by Demi Moore

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2019-12-24 02:33
Rings of Truth Part 1: Dying Words by James Tayler
MYSTERY: RIng of truth - Religious Calling: (Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Suspense Crime Thriller) (ADDITIONAL BOOK INCLUDED ) (Suspense Thriller Mystery: Ring of truth 4) - James Tayler

Rings of Truth Part 1: Dying Words by James Tayler starts with Jessica Kinsey, a police officer who was a high profile homicide detective who has been demoted.

 

I received a complimentary Kindle copy in an Amazon promotion. That did not change my opinion for this review. I gave it four stars.

 

"She spies a young man at the scene of the crime looking suspicious. Before she can question him, he disappears like that of a ghost. He is a dark and mysterious man named Rafael Sanchez. She finds a ring with strange language inscribed on the back of it. She takes it into her custody and before she can make it to the station, she is ambushed on the road."

 

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/RIng-truth-Dying-James-Tayler-ebook/dp/B078RHMB6Y

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review 2019-12-14 19:43
Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville
Armageddon Summer - Jane Yolen

 

 

The world will end on Thursday, July 27, 2000. At least, that's what Reverend Beelson has told his congregation. Marina's mom believes him. So does Jed's dad. That's why they drag Marina and Jed to join the reverend's flock at a mountain retreat. From the mountaintop they will all watch the Righteous Conflagration that will end this world--and then they will descend and begin the world anew. But this world has only just begun for Jed and Marina, two teenagers with more attitude than faith. Why should the world end now, when they've just fallen in love? Told in alternating chapters from both Jed's and Marina's points of view, this first-ever collaboration between two masters of children's literature is a story about faith and friendship, love and loss . . . and the things that matter most at the End of the World.

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

Reverend Beelson tells his congregation that the world will end on July 27, 2000. He explains that 144 people will be "the chosen", the ones spared to rebuild the world, everyone else will die. Two members of the church --- Marina's mom and Jed's dad --- believe this so strongly that they are happy to relocate their families to the secret mountain retreat Beelson has set up for his followers. The reverend has everyone follow him up to a portion of state park that sits above their city in Massachusetts. They dub the area "Armageddon City". Beelson orders that the all educating will be done through monitored homeschooling and there will be no tolerance of drinking, drugs, caffeine or TV viewing. Not even consumption of chocolate is allowed.

 

Pure coincidence, I'm sure, *smirk*...the end of the world date just happens to be the same day Beelson's two week camping permit expires!

 

With all the violence, epidemics, and natural disasters running through the world, it's easy for the children to calmly follow their parents' lead at first. Marina wants to remain optimistic --- she can see some truth in her mother's beliefs -- but questions begin to flood her mind when she sees that the Beelsonite Believers mountain community actually ends up being a compound surrounded with barbed wire and electrified fencing, flanked by armed guards. Why does a "retreat" need a full patrol armed with automatic rifles?

 

JED >> You wouldn't think having a two-day lead would be that big a deal. But it was enough to give the people in the First Wave --- the Ten Families, they called themselves --- a major case of Attitude. Those of us in the Third Wave did get to look down on the people who came the next day, but by that time the major ego points had already been distributed. Besides, it was hardly worth the bother, since only eight people showed up on Day Four. Those eight meant there were 121 of us in all. I know because the Believers had put up a signboard where they kept track of how many people were on the mountain. I wasn't quite clear, yet, on whether we were worried about actually being able to get the full 144, or nervous about exceeding the limit. I also wondered what it would do to their math if I told them I didn't really believe. Would I only count as a fraction? Or even a minus number?

 

Marina and Jed eventually come together in mutual concern and skepticism over the whole situation, though many of their meet-ups have to be done somewhat in secret, since Marina's mother, Myrna, seems suspicious of any males hanging around her daughter, but especially has a sharp eagle eye on Jed. He gets a severe tongue-lashing one day when the two teens are seen just having a quiet, perfectly civil and platonic conversation!

 

But at the same time, Myrna herself becomes increasingly consumed with trying to catch the eye of the reverend. Over time, Myrna becomes a mother Marina doesn't recognize. When Marina's baby brother, Leo, comes down with a sickness that leaves him with feverish skin and diarrhea, it progresses enough for Beelson to give permission for a doctor "down mountain" to be brought in. Even after the doctor examines Leo and determines the kid has a severe case of dehydration requiring hospitalization, Beelson insists the boy cannot leave, treatment will have to come to him.

 

Jed, who has taken to calling the compound "Wicky Wacky LastChance, headed up by Rev. Beetlebutt", 100% believes his father has gone off the deep end, but agrees to move with him to Armageddon City only to ensure that his father remains safe until sanity is restored within the community. Even other children in the community take to giving silly names to things to show they are not entirely on board with Beelson's beliefs, but being dependents of their parents, they have no choice but to ride this craziness out. Chapters featuring alternating voices show kids describing the emotional shifts & rifts that begin to develop in these individual families as little by little more and more of the congregation begin to doubt the truth of Beelson's prophecy.

 

Yolen teamed up with Bruce Coville back in 1998 to write this piece of apocalyptic fiction. Being this many years out from Y2K, it may be a little quaint reading this type of story now. But time period aside, it still has power in the fact that there are still groups like the Beelsonites out there in the world today. Small though they may be, these groups and this type of mentality are still very much alive in pockets of the world. As violence, depression and a general sense of being lost in this world continue to be on the rise, there are still those Beelson-types out there who will happily swoop in and feed on the fears of the easily impressionable to create communities similar to the one described in this novel. Unsettling as that is, Yolen and Coville graciously incorporate humor here and there to infuse the heavier themes with a little levity now and then. They also do the reader the service of ending on a high note, with the idea that it's never too late to turn things around and rebuild.

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review 2019-11-21 17:42
All In by L.K. Simonds
All In - L.K. Simonds

Twenty-nine-year-old novelist and blackjack dealer Cami Taylor seems to have it all—but just underneath her confident exterior and newfound celebrity is a young woman in trouble. Cami’s boyfriend, Joel, wants to get married, buy a house on Long Island, and raise a family—a life that’s a million miles from Cami’s idea of happiness. Her therapist suggests compromise and trust, but Cami would rather bolt like a deer. Breaking things off with Joel, Cami launches herself on a new quest for happiness. But her pursuit of pleasure only takes her further from herself—and toward a harrowing new reality unlike anything she’s faced before.

Goodreads.com

 

 

 

In her debut novel, L.K. Simonds introduces us to main character Cami (Camille) Taylor, who, on the cusp of thirty in the late 90s, has found professional success over the years as a blackjack dealer and published author with one best seller already under her belt. Cami's Long Island boyfriend, Joel, is more than ready to marry her and settle into domestic bliss; his only frustration with her is the emotional wall she tends to have up, blocking them from ever reaching that deepest level of emotional intimacy.

 

Cami's not even sure she wants to go as far as marriage. She's always valued her independence far too much. But she does love Joel, so she makes an attempt to work on her emotional wall by going to therapy. In the beginning, she hopes the gesture will appease him, but it soon becomes clear that her heart isn't in the therapy process at this stage in her life. Joel and Cami come to accept they just want different things in life and the nearly two year union quietly dissolves.

 

While splitting up felt like the right move, it still hurts to lose someone whose presence you've gotten so used to. She tries to dip her toe back into the dating world but the pickins' ain't great out there. Even when she thinks she's scored a maybe, things turn sour one night when he mentions his girlfriend, followed by "You didn't ask." UGH. It'd be super cool if it could just be an understood rule all the way around that if you're already in a relationship YOU DON'T GO FISHING FOR ANOTHER.

 

This little talk does wonders for Cami's already fragile mental state and she gets to reflecting on her former life, working casinos back in New Mexico as Leona Lingo (her birth name). She thought she'd finished with that era of her life, but feeling herself heading towards a dark headspace in NYC, she figures a trip back to her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona might not be such a bad idea. But "going home" just ends up being a safe space to binge on vices. By this point in the story I was reminded a little of that Charlize Theron movie, Young Adult.

 

Note: the mention of casino life does not factor largely into this story except through some of Cami's referenced memories.

 

More of the same isn't going to be enough. I can see that now. When I think about it, I realize it isn't strange at all to need new goals after having reached all the old ones. I should've seen this coming. I'm doing okay, professionally, and now I need to concentrate on feeding my soul. Just as soon as I figure out what exactly my soul needs.

 

Eventually Cami works her way back to NYC, where she has an unexpected introduction to distant relative Kate Davis. After a day spent getting to know each other, Kate invites Cami to a family reunion being held in Texas. This ends up being the start of a legit growing family bond between the ladies that will serve Cami well later in the story when she'll need all the support she can get after receiving some life-altering news.

 

Cami's main motivation for going to new places or meeting new people often seems to fall to "well, it'll be great material for the next novel." Though she's rarely in it to make new friends or grab life by the horns, she still grudgingly puts herself out there time and again. By doing so, life shows her (and through her experiences, the reader) that if one is willing to embrace experiences even halfway openly, the takeaway can be so much more than ever imagined. It's no different when Cami takes on Texas (even if she's inwardly laughing to herself about just how out of her environment she truly is). I did find it a little weird, though, her being flirty with Jake. Yeah, he's a distant cousin... but, still. Should be a pretty standard rule: don't hit on people at a family reunion!

 

Throughout the entire story, it's alluded to that there might be something off with Cami's health, but she drags her feet getting herself checked out. Finally, after a bout of sickness that scares her enough to finally make an appointment... the diagnosis the doctor comes back with... wow, I was not expecting the story to go that direction at all! Virtually nothing hints at it, save for maybe one scene. The reality check leaves atheist Cami pondering on God, life, all the big questions.

 

Cami as a character, well, she can be a tough one to bond with because she often reads emotionally flat. It makes sense, that's part of the character flaw in her that sort of sets her on this whole path. Still, it can make for frustrating reading when she comes off as so emotionless. But I don't think it's a matter of her being devoid of feeling, but more her being afraid to feel. Life experiences, the world at large... it's all left her with a lot of disappointment. You go through enough of that for long enough, you get to where it seems like the easier path to just numb your heart to any more stabs. As far as other characters, it seemed like each one has a quality to them that'll have you saying YES! I know someone exactly like that! So, bravo to Simonds on wonderful attention to character detail!

 

There is an understated lyrical quality to Simond's writing style that I ended up quite liking. It took me a little time to really get into this plot... but I'll admit I wasn't in the best mood the day I decided to start this one. Initially, I wasn't sure I was going to like Cami, but, if I'm being honest, it might've been because I was seeing more of myself in her than I liked LOL, some of the sides of me I'm not so proud of. But like Cami, I'm working on them in my own time and I'll get there, eventually.

 

FTC DISCLAIMER: BookCrash.com & author L.K. Simonds kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

 
 
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