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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 2018-08-15 01:25
I Don' Wanna
The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware

My IRL book club picked The Woman in Cabin 10 - Ruth Ware  as our next read. I've been resisting starting it, but feel obligated to at least give it a swing since I didn't even really give the last selection a try.

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review 2018-06-16 01:49
Before the Fall
Before the Fall - Noah Hawley

Several colleagues and I started an IRL book club at work four months ago.  We met at lunchtime on Thursday to discuss Before the Fall.  Marketed as a thriller with the hook “On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.” The book follows Scott in the days immediately following the crash with flashbacks to the lives of the now-deceased passengers and crew.

 

Surprisingly, our opinion of the book was unanimous.  Pretty much everybody was intrigued by the concept of the book and hated the execution. The general feeling was that Before the Fall wasn’t suspenseful enough for the thriller designation and that the story stopped living up to the promise of the opening sequence as soon as Scott left the hospital.

 

As one of my colleagues said, this book is awash in red herrings, but rather than them being fat meaty fish that we could believe in, there’s this swarm of pink minnows darting around pallid characters. 

 

While you can’t really say anything about how the book ends, or “whodunit” without spoilers, we were dissatisfied with how the book ended and had some significant questions about the timing of certain things.

 

As an aside, while the consensus is that we are unlikely to read anything else by Mr. Hawley, we wish that Gil the security guard had survived the crash so that he could be the protagonist of his own book.

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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 2018-05-05 02:20
April 2018 Roundup
Lake Silence - Anne Bishop

I read 4 books and finished 1 audiobook during April.  With one exception they were all part of a series. My favorite was the book I'd saved for Dewey's Readathon and then devoured in an afternoon and evening.

 

Lake Silence returns to the wonderful world of The Others created by Anne Bishop.  Like every other review I’ve read, I’d like to acknowledge up front that Lake Silence introduces new characters and that the denizens of the Lakeside Courtyard who we grew to love are NOT featured (Well there are a few phone calls to consult with folks from the 5-book sequence that starts with Written in Red, but they are incidental and don’t really add much to the story).  Aside from the bad-guys being a bit too obviously set up to take a fall, it was an enjoyable story.  I loved being back in this world where if you’re not good you will get eaten.  I’m very curious to see if Ms. Bishop tries to sustain a multi-book arc featuring the new characters and the hamlet of Sproing, or if currently unnamed Book #7 moves to a different place and new folks.

 

 

A Local Habitation - Seanan McGuire 

 

A Local Habitation  by Seanan McGuire is the 2nd installment in the October Daye series.  It’s a solid, “fae in California” urban fantasy, but Verity and friends in Ms. McGuire’s InCryptid series are more appealing and inventive.  I am unlikely to continue the series since there are only so many pages that fit into a year. 

 

Invisible City - Julia Dahl 

 

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

 

Standalone book reaction post.  Likely to continue the series

 

Cast In Secret - Michelle Sagara 

 

Cast In Secret  by Michelle Sagara is book 3 in the Chronicles of Elantra Series.  Fantasy by the yard, but sometimes that’s what you want for a comfort read.  Love the multi-species world.  Planning to continue the series.

 

Dune - Frank Herbert 

 

Dune by Frank Herbert, audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy, Scott Brick, Euan Morton, and others.

               

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain

 

Dune is a classic of SF.  I remember being wowed by Dune and enthralled by the Bene Gesserit when I first read it (college age I think).  However, as I mentioned previously, my worldview has changed and Dune now sounds misogynist and dated.  I remember the sequels as being horrid and don’t intend to continue rereading the series.

 

On the non-fiction front

 

 

  • I started a re-read of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks because my IRL bookclub will be discussing it in mid-May. I hope it will be a quick read because I haven't left myself a lot of time.

 

 

And that was my month. 

 

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