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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-04 09:26
September 2017 — A Month with an Abysmal Reading Record

 

 

The previous month was all about graphic novels, comics, and anthologies. Here is what I read in September and what I thought about it:

 

Preacher, Vols. 4-9

It was irreverent as heck:

 

 

He means the Heavenly Host btw

 

It was full of sexist characters who say things like:

 

 

 

But oh, it was so good!

 

 

 

I read this one as part of Work Book Bingo for the Bestsellers’ Shelf. Glad I did because I loved it! Find a detailed review here.

 

 

Started this one Because. Neil Gaiman. Turns out, the book had an itty bitty poem by him. Anyway, I plodded on and found a collection of really weird stories. Check out my review here!

 

 

A thought-provoking collection of stories. Read my review here!

 

September seemed endless; maybe because I couldn’t cram much reading time into it. How was your September?

 

Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on October 4, 2017.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-10-03 08:57
The Best SF Stories by Brian W. Aldiss –An Anthology that will force you to think!

 

 

 

Who Can Replace a Man?

As the human civilization collapses around them, the robots try to race their way to freedom. Read to find out, if they succeed!

 

Not for an Age

Get a glimpse into the lives of people who lived in the past. Like literally!

 

A quote that stayed with me

 

Psyclops

A father reaches across the boundaries of space and time to impart wisdom to his newborn kid.

 

Outside

Four people are trapped in a house. Or are they?

 

Dumb Show

A sort of apocalypse is caused by the use of sound as a weapon.

 

The New Father Christmas

You’d better hope the new Father Christmas doesn’t pay you a visit!

 

Ahead

The human race is drafted by another superior race to help the Failed Men from becoming extinct. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. At other times, it can turn you into a nervous wreck!

An excerpt that I loved:

Surrey was silent a moment, surprised to hear pride in his own voice. Pride left, after that experience! Yet there was no pride in him; it was just the voice running in an old channel, the naked soul crouching in an ancient husk of character.

 

A new word learned and savored

 

Poor Little Warrior!

A hunter may hunt as many animals (dinosaurs in this case) and yet the act won’t give any meaning to their otherwise inane life.


And a quote that I think all hunters should be made to read:

Those century-old lights, dim and sacred, go out with no indecision. These cloisters are closed till Judgment Day. Your reflection is torn and bloodied from them for ever. Over their ravaged panes nictitating membranes slide slowly upwards, like dirty sheets covering a cadaver. The jaw continues to munch slowly, as slowly the head sinks down. Slowly, a squeeze of cold reptile blood toothpastes down the wrinkled flank of one cheek. Everything is slow, a creepy Secondary Era slowness like the drip of water, and you know that if you had been in charge of creation you would have found some medium less heartbreaking than Time to stage it all in.

 

Another beautiful word

 

Man on Bridge

Those more suited to cerebral pursuits have formed a separate group called the Cs. But nothing is ever enough for man and this time, he wants to create geniuses without pesky notions, such as fear and morality to stop them.

 

The Impossible Star

A murder takes place on board a spaceship while it is trying to escape the gravitational pull of the Impossible star.

 

Basis for Negotiation

Britain declares neutrality in the American-Chinese war, which leads to some of its own citizens rebelling against it. The twist at the end was a lot of fun!

 

 

Old Hundredth

Humans have vacated the Earth and sentient animal-like beings populate it now. This is the story about one of them. I loved two things about it:

  1. I started with a presumption that I was reading about a human. I wasn’t! This became clear in a later reveal.
  2. The animals could choose their moment of death as they saw fit. When they did die, they turned into a column –a musicolumn to be exact — that would produce music when a living organism was in the vicinity.

 

A Kind of Artistry

A new living and sentient entity called the Cliff has been born from a non-living asteroid. The story is about a human’s attempt to contact it and bring back a sample.

What I loved about this story is how it challenged another one of my presumptions. If Man will change the world, shouldn’t the world change him too?

 

 

 

Man in his Time

A man becomes out of sync with time on Earth after spending some time in space. While he treats his life like a science experiment, it is especially hard on his loved ones.

Kind of reminded me of the whole science has consequences mindset that Mary Shelley was in when she wrote Frankenstein.

 

While I wasn’t blown away by this anthology, it has given me ideas for future stories, things to think about, and challenged some of my previously conceived notions. What else should I expect from a good book?

 

 

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 Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on October 3, 2017.

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review 2017-09-22 10:09
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — A Story about Mothers, Sisters, and Slaves!
The Invention of Wings: A Novel - Sue Monk Kidd

 

 

Fifteen years before Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was wholly influenced by American Slavery As It Is, a pamphlet written by Sarah, Angelina, and Angelina’s husband, Theodore Weld, and published in 1839, the Grimké sisters were out crusading not only for the immediate emancipation of slaves, but for racial equality, an idea that was radical even among abolitionists. 

That is the kind of women this book is based on!

 

The first book that I read by Sue Monk Kidd was The Secret Life of Bees. It didn’t mince words when it came to the cruelties that slavery brought. While I loved the candor, what touched me, even more, is that the author didn’t mention those incidents in a salacious way. She included them in the story as the reality of that time. The focus remained on the characters who evolved as real people do.

 

This book wasn’t different in that regard either! Like always, I will try to review the story with quotes from the book. As I mention each quote, I will include the context it is taken from and what it signified to me.

 

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Another thing that I have always loved about Ms. Kidd’s novels is that she weaves humor into her stories. With the subject being as grim as slavery, it should be difficult to make the reader laugh. The best part is that the humor doesn’t detract or mock the theme of the story. It simply makes it possible to go on reading and with what is happening in it, this is a good thing.

 

The Sisters

 

This particular quote is taken from a scene where one of the Grimké sisters is receiving a suitor in her drawing room. The fear of carnality had been put into her very recently by a man of God in the very words that she mentions here! What’s funny is that it is the fact that the man smells of soap that is making her think carnal thoughts (or at least, what she thinks are carnal thoughts).

 

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This is how we are introduced to one of the main characters from this book, Handful. Born a slave, she was mouthy as heck and tough as nails. I loved right from the start, which was probably what the author intended. It is mentioned in the Author’s Notes (given at the end of the book) that while there is evidence of Handful having existed, she didn’t survive long enough to play an important role in the life of the Grimké sisters. I am glad that the author thought otherwise.

 

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More of Handful’s golden words for you. This is her pretending to be brave while she was about to be punished severely enough that it left her with a maimed foot.

 

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This is her description of the legalese that she had to muddle her way through before she could find out if she was being sold after her master’s death or retained for her services!

 

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A few pages later, we are introduced to the other main character, Sarah Grimké.While Handful mouthed off to people, Sarah had trouble getting out a whole sentence without stuttering. She had the same iron backbone though that Handful did, which soon became evident when she tried to emancipate Handful at the age of 11!

 

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This is how Sarah was indoctrinated to what was really happening around her. She was just a little girl then but the incident remained with her all her life. It was a defining moment in the life of her character. Consider the following quote to see how she arrived at the root of the problem of slavery. This is an excerpt from one of her letters to Nina, her sister and another important character in the book. She raised Nina like a mother on revolutionary ideas like equality and it paid off. Nina gave her strength and achieved things that even Sarah thought meant going too far.

 

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She changed her faith and left the safety of her house later in life, so she could be the kickass feminist that we know her to be. This is one of my favorite moments from the book. While it might come across as caustically feminazi, it wasn’t so in the book. That being said, I could see the point the men were trying to make. By taking up both the causes of slavery and feminism, the Grimké sisters caused their followers to split into two groups. However, the point lies in the fact that they even had to raise their voices for either cause.

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The Mothers

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Sarah’s mother is one of the important characters in the book. She terrorized her slaves and refused to relent even when she was close to death. I think this quote defines both hers and her husband’s characters perfectly.

 

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This is how we meet Handful’s mother, Charlotte. She shaped Sarah’s and Handful’s lives by being who she was. Even though she couldn’t do anything openly, she figured small ways to show her rebellion. She continued to do so, knowing the punishment would be too severe and there’d be hell to pay if she got caught! I think this quote would fit almost anyone who is living under an oppressive regime. Don’t you?

 

The Slaves

 

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Handful is much smarter than people gave her credit for. Sarah, whom she said these words to, used to think that being a woman was keeping her from making a difference. Handful knew otherwise. When the story begins, we think that Sarah would be the one protecting Handful but this quote and the next one shows us how the roles are reversed.

 

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I can’t wait to try out another Sue Monk Kidd book after having read and loved this one. Have you read it? How did you like it?

 

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Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com< on September 22, 2017.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-09-13 08:41
Inside the “Outsiders” — An Anthology with stories by Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, Joe Landsale, & Poppy Brite
Outsiders: 22 All-New Stories From the Edge - Brian Hodge,Neil Gaiman,Tanith Lee,Bentley Little,Lea Silhol,Michael Marano,Jack Ketchum,Freda Warrington,Elizabeth Massie,Brett Alexander Savory,Melanie Tem,Yvonne Navarro,Steve Rasnic Tem,David J. Schow,Katherine Ramsland,Elizabeth Engstrom,Thomas S. Ro

 

 

Below, I mention how I liked each story and include a favorite quote:

 

The Empty Chambers by Neil Gaiman

A poem. Very creepy but I’d rather have read a Gaiman story.

 

The Company You Keep by Steve Resnic Tem

Walking among us are the members of a secret company. I don’t know what I took away from this story if anything.

 

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Scarabesque: The Girl Who Broke Dracula by Tanith Lee

This was actually an excerpt from one of Tanith Lee’s novels. It was also the first time I read anything by her. I liked the imagery that her words created. For instance:

 

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Under the Needle by Lea Silhol

You’d appreciate this story more if you focused on how it was written rather than the plot. I did and I ended up liking it!

 

Expanding Your Capabilities Using Frame/Shift(TM) Mode by David J. Schow

A literally visceral story about a man who discovers his remote can do much more than change channels!

 

Cat and the Cold Prince by Freda Warrington

A story that brings to mind dictatorships and restrictive regimes, such as the Prohibition in the Cromwell era. Oh, and a girl falls in love with a tiger!

 

Faces in Revolving Souls by Caitlin R. Kiernan

This one was about a splinter group of people who left their human status behind by choice fighting for their rights.

 

Lighten Up by Jack Ketchum

Smoking is banned. Smokers decided to retaliate.

 

Pit Boy by Elizabeth Massie

The beginning of the story is set up to deceive the reader. The end is one of the saddest endings I have ever read!

 

The Country of the Blind by Melanie Tem

A blind girl will accept you into her family but she needs a sacrifice first.

 

Ruby Tuesday by Kathe Koja

A hidden cult in the midst of the society and a boy with a dying mother looking for a place to fit in.

 

Running Beneath the Skin by Brett Alexander Savory

Can you even said to be alive, if your insides have been replaced with metal? No, this isn’t about Wolverine!

 

Grim Peeper by Katherine Ramsland

There’s necrophilia and there are grim peepers. Read this story, if you love being grossed out.

 

Craving by Yvonne Navarro

This story is based on a certain type of “outsiders” who like to watch accidents.

 

Violent Angel by Thomas S. Roche

A planned hit where the hitman isn’t on the complete plan.

 

…And the Damage Done by Michael Marano

Beautiful imagery is one of the characteristics of this story. The other is heartbreak!

 

Pop Star in the Ugly Bar by Bentley Little

Simply gross but a fitting addition to this collection. A wannabe pop star ends up in a gore-hardcore bar. She doesn’t make it out.

 

Miss Singularity by John Shirley

A teenager’s depression comes out to play!

 

The Working Slob’s Prayer by Poppy Z. Brite

The going ons in a restaurant with some very interesting characters thrown in!

 

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If I Should Wake Before I Die by Brian Hodge

Expectant mothers miscarry all around the world. No one knows why until we reach the end of the story…*shudder*

 

Honing Sebastian by Elizabeth Engstrom

A sad story about the dreams of those below being crushed by the powers that be. This line from the story says it all:

 

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Another favorite quote:

 

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The Shadows, Kith and Kin by Joe R. Landsale

A broken man tired of being put down by the whole world makes friends…with shadows…who talk to him…

 

My Favourites

Lighten Up by Jack Ketchum

Pit Boy by Elizabeth Massie

Miss Singularity by John Shirley

The Working Slob’s Prayer by Poppy Z. Brite

 

Have you read this anthology? Which ones are your favorites?

 

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Originally published at midureads.wordpress.com on September 13, 2017.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-08-16 12:07
Books&Chai Series: 6 Reasons I Fell in Love with Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker
Raptor Red - Robert T. Bakker

 

Introduction to the Book

My friends already know how crazy I am when it comes to fiction based on dinosaurs. I have been known to wax poetic about such books.

In this book, however, Bakker takes facts about dinosaur life and weaves them into a story. So, it is like reading fictionalized non-fiction!

 

Introduction to the Chai

Now that you have had your book intro, let me proceed by introducing you to another series of blog posts: Books&Chai. Whenever I post with this tag, you will find a book from a genre that goes beautifully with the featured flavor of chai (tea).

Black tea, which is the flavor featured in this post, is known to improve concentration and focus. Since I was reading a book about a very intelligent species, the Utahraptor, I decided black tea would be a smart choice!

 

 

Reasons for all that Book-Luvin’

Now, we move on to the six reasons that made for an awesome read:

 

The Humor

If you have been following this blog, you must know now that for me, humor is an important part in a book. In any book! The more unlikely it seems that the author might be able to create humorous situations (say, like in a book from a bloodthirsty monster’s POV), the more I appreciate it!

 

I found the two examples from Raptor Red funny as heck!

 

 

 

The Sciency Bits

You can’t have a good fact-based book without some science in it. For me, catching glimpses of the science while being embroiled in Red’s latest adventure was a lot of fun!

This particular quote is from a scene when a male raptor comes face to face with a field of red flowers. What’s more, they smell like rotten meat, which the raptor considers food. This kinda blows up its sensory perception temporarily. Faced with such an evocative color, it doesn’t know whether it is supposed to court the blooms, fear them, or eat them!

 

 

This quote is from a scene where Red sees a turtle for the first time. The whole scene was written well enough to have me go Awww and Lol in turns.

 

 

The Dino-Facts

I am aware that I could have included these in the sciency bits mentioned above. But, no! These facts were juicy enough to merit their own category. Snippets of how life used to be for different kinds of dinos gave the book an authenticity.

 

This quote explains how after speciation (birth of a new species from an old one) Utahraptor society had adopted a matriarchal structure.

 

 

This one is about how two completely different species banded together for survival. One of them had longer necks that enabled them to check for predators over a wider area. The other one contributed by their sheer numbers.

 

 

The Poetic Language

I am a sucker for when a scientists takes a theory or fact and describes it with beautiful language.

 

 

The Squicky Bits

Another favorite. There was a bit about how dangerous assassin bugs could be to the raptors. I looked them up and science (and class Insecta) did not disappoint!

 

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Ferocious Bug That Sucks Prey Dry and Wears Their Corpses

 

 

…wears their corpses. I mean corpses! Duuuuuuuuuuuuuude!

 

A Mixture of it All

The example below is an unholy combo of all the reasons that I have mentioned above. Watch them in action:

 

 

Lastly,

 

 

What do you think about the book? Do you like the new tag that this review is sporting?

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