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text 2018-09-03 16:10
August Retrospective

Between procrastinating the book for my IRL book club, getting hooked on an online farming game, and starting to watch Dr. Who with my husband, I’ve spent a surprising amount of August not reading.  I’m especially surprised because I’ve been on vacation for the past week and instead of my usual book a day, I have only finished one book (though I did DNF 2 others). 

 

During August, I finished 3 books in print and 1 audiobook.

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance 

 

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance got a lot of press right after the 2016 presidential election, but it took me until now to listen to it as an audiobook.  As advertised, Hillbilly Elegy discusses the plight of  whites of Appalachia in the story of one family told by the son who "made it" and moved away.  Like many personal narratives, I think Hillbilly Elegy would have made a wonderful long-form article, but the full  book was a bit thin and repetitive.  While Hillbilly Elegy does a good job of personalizing one segment of the white working class and their struggles, I found it long on anecdote and short on rigorous analysis that would have deserved the reviews saying that it explained the appeal of Mr. Trump to these voters who swung the election. 

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware 

 

My IRL book club read The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware for August.  After procrastinating starting it, I did finish it in time for the book club meeting, due in part to insomnia the night before the meeting.  I didn't find the protagonist appealing, but once the story got going, the pages turned.  The opinion of the book club was that The Woman in Cabin 10 was the suspenseful/thriller-like story that we were expecting for our previous selection Before the Fall - Noah Hawley.

 

Tinker - Wen Spencer  

 

My husband has been trying to get me to read Tinker - Wen Spencer for over a year.  My younger son devoured the series this summer.  I brought the opening volume of this urban fantasy-like series based on the premise that an orbital gate transfers a near-future Pittsburgh to the planet of the Elves on vacation with me. Tinker had some rough edges and Mary-sue-like moments, but I was right, it did make a good vacation read.  I am curious to see where the series goes, but not quite sure how it might fit into Halloween Bingo (while you could stretch and call elves cryptozoological and there is a murder, at least this first book doesn't fit the suspense/mystery/horror requirement).

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward 

 

I've been intentionally trying to read more books by African-American authors.  So after seeing glowing reviews, I started the 2017 National Book Award winner Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward. I can't articulate why, but the book just didn't grab me (The extended episode with the car-sick little girl was the penultimate straw). So, despite feeling that Sing Unburied Sing is something that I should have read, and a book that would be good to be conversant with as part of cultural literacy, I guiltily decided to DNF. 

 

 Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey  

 

The rest of the family has also devoured Leviathan Wakes - James S.A. Corey this summer.  DH is on book 4 of the series and older son is up to book 6.  I started Leviathan Wakes late last week.  After getting about 50 pages in on August 31st, I decided to throw it back onto the someday/maybe pile and move on to Halloween Bingo selections instead.

 

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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 2018-04-05 01:10
February and March 2018

Round-up of books read in February and March that I don't intend to write standalone posts for.

 

The Obelisk Gate - N.K. Jemisin  The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin  

 

My favorite of the books I've read recently were probably Books 2 & 3 of N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth Trilogy.  I typically don’t like to read books by the same author or in the exactly same genre right in a row.  But this trilogy benefited from keeping the characters and situations very fresh.  If you like speculative fiction, I definitely recommend 2016 Hugo Winner The Fifth Season and the solid sequels The Obelisk Gate  and The Stone Sky.

 

Cast in Shadow - Michelle Sagara West,Michelle Sagara  Cast In Courtlight - Michelle Sagara  Destroyer - C.J. Cherryh  

 

I restarted the Cast In ____ series by Michelle Sagara and continued the reread of C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner Series with volume #7.  Ms. Sagara’s writing isn’t anything extraordinary, but I’m enjoying the multi-species world and their interplay (with DRAGONS!).  Cast in Shadow and Cast In Courtlight  are definitely light reading unlike the convoluted language used by Ms. Cherryh in Destroyer, but there's a place for both types of books.  

 

We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie   A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier - Ishmael Beah 

 

And while I haven’t made much progress on I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, the Flat Book Society selection, I’ve read some non-fiction during February and March including:

 

 

  • Ishmael Beah’s  A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, which was assigned to my 10th grade son.  I think A Long Way Gone was groundbreaking when first published in 2007, but I found it rather dry and not particularly well organized,  As the world continues to spiral with horrors, I hope they can come up with something better edited to represent the child soldier experience. 

 

I'm currently on-pace for my goal of 52 books read this year, despite my other responsibilities, which makes me happy.

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review 2017-11-11 00:00
Nutshell: A Novel
Nutshell: A Novel - Ian McEwan 4.5

This was a book to enjoy sentence by sentence, not to mention its incredible POV - highly creative and leveraged in a wonderfully entertaining way.

Hamlet like you've never read!
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text 2017-05-28 22:04
Summer Reading List 2017 (in a Nutshell)
Nutshell: A Novel - Ian McEwan

I've been on a bit of a reading slump in the month of May.

 

Oh, I'm still reading every day. But instead of having 3-5 books going on in various categories, I've mostly just been reading Philippa Gregory novels. To mixed effect. (You can read more about that in my last post here: http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/1566197/in-her-head.) And always a poem, or two or three, every day (mostly).

 

I suppose it's partly an end-of-school-year thing. Lots of energy gets invested in the last weeks of April and beginning of May when you work in academia, regardless of your job. I also read like a champion in February-March, preparing for our university's Writers Conference, completing a personal project, and working my way through August Wilson's Century Cycle, one of my 2017 reading marathons. 

 

Being in a slump with relatively low reading energy and focus was frustrating, because good things continued to happen in my reading life. A friend sent me his new novel (look for a column on that soon). An interlibrary loan request fell through, so our local library just purchased the book and reserved it straight through for me, which was nice. Another friend published a new middle grade novel. There's a writer's conference with free public readings coming up in my area in June.

 

But now it's Memorial Day Weekend, the official summer kick-off, and time to publish my Summer Reading List for 2017. You can read the "app" list on BookLikes here: http://booklikes.com/apps/reading-lists/792/summer-reading-list-2017. Each book fits a category that I've been working with for the last several years of these lists, and I'm going to walk you through my choices below:

 

1. An Ian McEwan novel - "Nutshell." McEwan is one of my favorite living authors, and "Nutshell" is his fall 2016 release - too late for last summer's list. Last summer, I read "The Comfort of Strangers" from far into his backlist, and it was firmly in the "Ian Macabre" phase of his career. I'm happy to get back to his more current oeuvre. 

 

2. A Michael Chabon novel - "Moonglow." One of my other favorite living writers. I went to the Cities back in December for Chabon's book signing. I've saved the book for this summer because, except for graphic novels and screenplays, I'm pretty much completely caught up with his published books. 

 

3. A recent "big" book  - "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot. I just can't be the last person on planet earth to read this important, beloved book. Plus: Oprah movie.

 

4. A classics I have neglected - "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" by Anne Bronte. Saw that Bronte biopic on PBS earlier this spring and realized I had completely neglected poor Anne. 

 

5. A YA / Middle Grade book - "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. Film releasing soon (always read the book first). My boss' kids loved it. Who didn't love it? 

 

6. A play - Finish August Wilson's Century Cycle, so the last play, "Radio Golf," will stand for that.

 

7. A baseball book - "Slouching Toward Fargo" by Neal Karlen. Last year, I discovered a cool website called the Casey Awards, which honors the best baseball books of each year. These kinds of "best of" lists are one of my true loves, and from it, I found a book that not only fulfills the "baseball" part of my summer but also relates to the region of the country in which I live. 

 

8. A recommendation from a friend - "The Luminaries" by Eleanor Catton. Both my aunt, who read it before her NZ adventure, and my friend D., who included the book in his students' syllabus last year, said I'd like it. Say no more.

 

9. The book from last year's list that didn't get read - "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke

 

Not on the list, but coming up quickly, will be "Life on Mars" and possibly another work by Tracy K. Smith, who is reading in my area on June 21. Poetry (always) and plenty more to be determined. Won't you read along with me?

 

-cg

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