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text 2018-06-03 22:44
May Musings

Still haven’t been feeling the urge to review as much, so here’s another quick month-end summary. I read 4 pieces of fiction and parts of 3 non-fiction books during May.

 

Fiction:

 

A is for Alibi - Sue Grafton 

 

A is for Alibi is the first book in the long-running “Alphabet Mysteries" series. While the novel was originally contemporary, it now reads as a period piece from the days before cell-phones.  While there were some wobbles, I’ve been looking for a new mystery series and I’m curious to see what kind of writer Sue Grafton matures into.  Ms. Grafton, unfortunately, died at the end of 2017.

 

Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee 

 

Ninefox Gambit was the winner of the 2016 Locus Award as wells as being nominated for the 2017 Hugo, Nebula And Arthur C. Clarke Awards. I read Mr. Lee's first full-length novel because the sequel was nominated for the 2018 Hugo Award.  The start of Ninefox Gambit was very confusing start as you are thrown headlong into a very inventive world.  But I very much enjoyed the story once all the players were in motion. I’m likely to re-read this since I feel like I missed a lot of the nuance.

  •  
  • All Systems Red - Martha Wells 

 

I’ve been seeing  glowing reviews of All Systems Red  on my feed for a while, and was able to download the ebook for free from Tor.com in April.  The story won the 2018 Nebula Award for Best Novella. I'm glad I spent the time with Murderbot and I hope that my local library makes the sequels available.

 

The Protector's War - S.M. Stirling 

  

Meh.  See stand-alone review of the The Protector's War  

 

 

Non-Fiction:

 

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life - Ed Yong  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot  A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup  

 

I finally finished I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, which was the March selection from the Flat Book Society. The story of the microbiome was interesting, but for whatever reason, I found it hard to maintain the attention needed to follow Ed Yong’s well-researched summary.  I love that, while I Contain Multitudes was clearly written for a general audience, the back 20% of the book was still footnotes and citations of primary documents.

 

My IRL book-club read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for our mid-May meeting.  I’d read it several years ago as an audiobook.  I didn’t start until a week before the meeting and had finished about the first 1/3 by our discussion.  After the meeting, I just didn’t feel like taking the time to finish, so moved on to other things.

 

I read a few chapters in A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie  by Kathryn Harkup, which was the Flat Book Society selection for May.  As a non-Christie reader, I didn't find it all that compelling and chose not to finish.

 

Happy Reading!

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text 2018-04-17 02:57
Dewey's and Caldecott

It's a bit over a week until Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday, APRIL 28, 2018.

 

 

Reader Sign-ups are open:

http://www.24hourreadathon.com/april-2018-reader-sign-ups/

 

There are over 700 people signed up already.

 

I've made a tradition of reading the  2018 Caldecott Award winner and some of the Caledcott Honor books as a change of pace between novels during the Spring Deweys.  You can find the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery and other awards from http://www.ala.org/news/press-releases/2018/02/american-library-association-announces-2018-youth-media-award-winners 

 

This is nicely compatible with the low-key Readathon I'm planning, since there is also a visiting scholar at my synagogue and the local Earth-Day celebration competing for my attention.  I don't expect I'll actually read much, since I'd rather spend my time social media-hopping and cheering others on.

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review 2017-01-30 02:33
Beggars in Spain
Beggars in Spain - Nancy Kress

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress uses speculative fiction to explore two fundamental questions – What happens if you genetically engineer a group of people  so that they are radically different from the rest of the humans – in this case by eliminating the need to sleep in a group of children (potentially accompanied by other intelligence enhancing modifications)?   What do the strong/wealthy/more intelligent owe to those they deem lesser? 

 

I don’t remember if I read the Hugo and Nebula winning novella that forms the first section of the book, but I did read Beggars in Spain in print when it was new.  Somehow I missed that Ms. Kress had written two sequels.  So I picked up the audiobook of Beggars in Spain 23 years after the original publication of the full length novel.  Some books hold up to time and to re-reading and others quickly become dated. Beggars in Spain belongs in the first category. 

 

I enjoyed my reread, though it’s been a bit surreal reading this story of xenophobia with its extended musings on what society owes to those deemed non-productive at this specific moment in US History. 

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review 2016-06-30 02:54
Speak
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson

Not an easy book, what with the underlying trauma.  But I can see how this issue book has become a staple of high-school curricula. 

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review 2016-05-08 01:59
Girls Like US
Girls Like Us - Gail Giles

Girls Like Us won the Schneider Family Book Award*for teen readers in 2015.  The book was good, though I was a bit disappointed about how easily all the characters meshed and the pieces fell into place in the middle of the book. 

 

The language used in Girls Like Us is not complicated, since it is told from the perspective of two young women with intellectual disabilities.  As the sensational statistics splashed across the news report, approximately 1 out of every 6 women has been the victim of an attempted or completed sexual assault, and as many as 83% of women who are developmentally disabled are the victims of sexual assault.  I applaud Gail Giles for tackling the subject in Girls Like Us.  So, while a middle grade reader would easily be able to follow the story line, the subject matter, makes Girls Like Us unsuited to middle grade and younger teen readers.

 

I also found the dialect and poor grammar used by both Biddy and Quincy off-putting.  It read to me as more characteristic of economic disadvantage and poor education than of the disabilities it was intended to signal. While the book clearly supports the efforts to ban the “R-word,” when Biddy clearly states on the first page “Granny shouldn’t call me Retard.  I know that. It ain’t nice,” I disliked the constant use of “Speddie” to indicate people with disabilities throughout the book. It does no good to eliminate one derogatory term just to replace it with another.

 

I was also uncomfortable with the interior dialog and thought processes portrayed in Girls Like Us.   The author biography states that Ms. Giles was a special education teacher for 20-years, which means she had plenty of experience with the externalities of being with and interacting with disabled students.  My time at the edges of the Autistic community has sensitized me to how much the internal lived experience of a person with a disability can differ from what can be observed from outside.  I left Girls Like Us wondering if Quincy and Biddy would ring true to young adults with disabilities.

So in the end, my conclusion is that Girls Like Us  is well worth the time to read though the reservations described above kept it from earning a 5-star rating from me.

 
*
 The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. Awards are typically given in three categories: birth through grade school (age 0–8), middle grade (age 9–13) and teens (age 14–18). 

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