Tad's Reading

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Tad's Reading

Aquest tema està marcat com "inactiu"—L'últim missatge és de fa més de 90 dies. Podeu revifar-lo enviant una resposta.

1TadAD
Editat: des. 29, 2014, 6:04pm

I skipped over the 2014 Group due to health but that is all, hopefully, behind me now except for some physical therapy. I need to push myself back into doing things, so I'll start a thread for 2015.

In a way, there wasn't much for me to say last year anyway. I read very little and, with the exception of Ogawa's book, none of the few things I read were anything I'd strongly recommend.

2014 Final Four
Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa
nothing
nothing
nothing

2013 Final Four
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Baba Yaga Laid An Egg by Dubravka Ugrešić
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Eggtooth by Solla Carrock

2012 Final Four
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon
Volkswagon Blues by Jacques Poulin
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

2011 Final Four
From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus
The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing
The Wedding of Zein and other stories by Tayeb Salih
Pied Piper by Nevil Shute

2010 Final Four
Children of the New World by Assia Djebar
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
White Masks by Elias Khoury
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

2009 Final Four
Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie
Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz
The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

2008 Final Four
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Random Harvest by James Hilton
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Prospero's Cell by Lawrence Durrell

2lkernagh
des. 29, 2014, 8:09pm

Welcome back!

3tiffin
Editat: des. 29, 2014, 8:30pm

So good to *see* you, Tad. And so very sorry you had a rough year. I hope 2015 is a better one.

4kidzdoc
des. 29, 2014, 8:22pm

Welcome back, Tad! I'm sorry that 2014 was a tough year for you, and I hope that 2015 treats you well.

5drneutron
des. 29, 2014, 10:00pm

Welcome back! Nice to have you in the mix again. :)

6arubabookwoman
des. 30, 2014, 12:45am

Welcome back Tad. I mostly sat out 2014 too. Are you still doing ceramics?

7Whisper1
des. 30, 2014, 12:48am

Tad, It is so good to see you back. I've thought of you and wondered what was happening. I'm sorry to hear of your health issues. May 2015 be healthier!

8TadAD
Editat: des. 30, 2014, 9:21am

Thanks all.

>6 arubabookwoman:: Deborah...no, I stopped that along with everything else. I don't even know the state of the studio any more, whether it's open or not. I'm trying to decide whether to restart with it.

I'm also thinking about getting back into photography. I used to spend endless hours in the darkroom, some of my happiest. I don't think a darkroom is in the cards anymore: I'd have to build one in this house and my film cameras were stolen. The days of film are probably behind me. However, I have a decent digital camera now and perhaps it's time to start learning how to work a "digital darkroom".

9TadAD
Editat: des. 30, 2014, 9:23am

While I did drop out of a lot of life last year, one thing I did do early in the year was walk the Camino Português, one of the many branches of the Camino de Santiago.

Most of my impressions of the journey I've left to a travel blog I've started, but there is one appropriate for this space. We were in the town of Barcelinhos. While there I did a double-take on a phone booth and was glad I had my phone with me for a snapshot.

What do you do with these dinosaurs in the age of cell phones? Self-service library, of course.

10bell7
des. 30, 2014, 11:37am

So glad to see you back, Tad, and I hope 2015 is full of many good experiences for you. Love the photo of the phone-booth-turned-library!

11lunacat
des. 30, 2014, 11:44am

Good to see you back Tad. Hopefully 2015 will be a better year for you, health wise and reading wise.

12lkernagh
des. 30, 2014, 2:06pm

What a great photo! A phone booth is prefect as a self-serve library.... and that one appears to be able to protect the books from the elements!

13phebj
des. 30, 2014, 4:04pm

Great to see you back, Tad! I've been AWOL from LT myself for about 6 months but am determined to be more active in 2015. Hope this is a good year for you.

14qebo
des. 30, 2014, 6:01pm

Nice to see you back!

15Whisper1
des. 30, 2014, 8:24pm

Great photo Tad!

16lit_chick
des. 30, 2014, 8:42pm

A self-service library in a phone booth relic? Works for me! Happy New Year, Tad. Here's to fabulous 2015 reading adventures.

17LizzieD
des. 30, 2014, 9:00pm

YAY!! Tad's Back!!!
You are most welcome, sir, and I hope that 2015 holds lots of good for you and your family - and that includes lots of books and lots of talking about them. Happy New Year!

18lunacat
des. 31, 2014, 8:45am

19TadAD
Editat: gen. 8, 2015, 9:31am

A Christmas present...



№ 1 - Through the Woods written and illustrated by Emily Carroll



I wasn't sure I'd like a graphic novel qua novel; I was afraid it would be too much of a comic book experience. However, count me in as yet another big fan of Through the Woods. In it you'll find five original, and delightfully creepy, tales plus a tiny riff on "Little Red Riding Hood" at the end. In particular, "Our Neighbor's House" had that feel of a timeless story passed on from grandparent to grandchild.

Rather than being a distraction, the drawings make the stories so much more vivid. Carroll has slight variations of style in her illustrations and each seems to fit the story they accompany. Occasionally they remind me somewhat of Charles Addams' work...if you take out all the humor and inject a large amount of the macabre...and, at other times, Frank Miller's "Sin City" panels come to mind.

Definitely recommended.

20brenzi
gen. 1, 2015, 9:35am

Glad to see you posting again Tad. I love the phone booth/self-service library:-)

21ffortsa
gen. 1, 2015, 9:39am

So nice to see you back! I'm sorry to hear last year was so difficult for you. Here's to a healthy and happy year filled with good reading.

22sibylline
gen. 1, 2015, 10:11am

Happy New Year, Tad

I cannot begin to tell you how pleased I am that you are here. Here's to a year of fine reading and discussions.

23SandDune
gen. 1, 2015, 12:19pm

Welcome back Tad. Nice to see you back again.

24BLBera
gen. 1, 2015, 2:06pm

Happy New Year, Tad. I hope 2015 is a better year for you than 2014. I LOVE the library phone booth. It sounds like you've started your year off with a good one.

25TadAD
gen. 1, 2015, 3:06pm

Thank you all. It's good to see old friends...Bonnie Judy, Lucy, Rhian...as well as meeting new.

26TadAD
Editat: gen. 8, 2015, 9:33am

I picked this one up sometime last year when I was poking around for more Caribbean authors as well as more speculative fiction written by women...



№ 2 - Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord



Redemption in Indigo is one of those read-it-in-one-sitting stories: short, amusing and very engaging.

Barbadian author Karen Lord takes the Senegalese folk tale "Ansige Karamba the Glutton"* and uses it as a way of injecting her main character into her own fable of responsibility and redemption. The story is filled with Anansi tricksters, with personifications of Chance and Patience, and all the other demiurges that make the world work. It is filled with human beings, none perfect, many comical, all of whom recognizable to the reader.

It's also filled with a great deal of sly and gentle humor. Plus, of course, the moral lessons. Some readers may find the story a bit bland in the way that those sorts of tales often are, and dread the inevitable Point (with a capital P). Lord knows this; as her narrator says,
There are those who utterly, utterly fear the dreaded Moral of the Story...Everything teaches, everyone preaches, all have a gospel to sell! Better the one who is honest and open in declaring an agenda than the one who fools you into believing that they are only spinning a pretty fancy for beauty’s sake.
To be honest, I didn't like her saying that. I prefer my parables to be unapologetic and unconfrontational about what they are: Here is what I wrote; if you like it then I'm glad and, if you didn't, then I guess you won't read my next story. Still, it didn't really diminish my enjoyment of this entertaining and humorous tale that seems surprisingly self-assured for a debut novel. There is something of the feel of oral tradition in this book, of the folk tale rather than magical realism — although darned if I know where to draw the line between those two — that appealed to me.

I hear her subsequent works are different in tone and style. I look forward to seeing what else she can do as I add her to the growing list of Caribbean authors of speculative fiction whom I appreciate.

* Which, if you want to read, find The Cow-Tail Switch by Harold Courlander.

27ronincats
gen. 1, 2015, 7:01pm

28tloeffler
gen. 1, 2015, 7:07pm

Happy New Year, Tad! Here's to a wonderful 2015! Great to see you here!

29The_Hibernator
gen. 1, 2015, 7:29pm

Welcome back Tad! I dropped out of LT due to illness last year too. I'm glad you're doing better! Happy New Year!

30kidzdoc
gen. 2, 2015, 9:53am

Nice review of Redemption in Indigo, Tad. You probably know that I reviewed it for Belletrista a few years ago, and I'm glad that you reminded me of its author, Karen Lord. The passage you mentioned made me think of listening to a village griot, as did much of the rest of the book, and I liked her use of the oral tradition throughout the book.

Lord has written a second novel after Redemption in Indigo, a sci-fi novel titled The Best of All Possible Worlds, which was published in 2013. Roni gave it 4 stars in her review of it.

31TadAD
gen. 2, 2015, 2:47pm

>30 kidzdoc: Actually, I didn't remember the Belletrista review but I'll go back and read it. I picked this one up, along with a Nalo Hopkinson, based upon enjoying Tobias Buckell's work. There was something about his Caribbean flavor that made me want to try others with that background.

I hope you enjoyed it and didn't write, "Anyone who likes this book is an idiot, imo!" ;-)

32jayde1599
gen. 2, 2015, 9:37pm

Welcome back, Tad! Happy New Year to you!

33TadAD
Editat: gen. 8, 2015, 9:33am



№ 3 - Houseboy by Ferdinand Oyono, translated from the French by John Reed



Bottom Line: A forceful anti-colonial narrative that pulls you in.



Houseboy is Ferdinand Oyono's first work, an anti-colonial narrative that takes place during the last years of the French control of his native Cameroon.

This is a novel that softly, softly got its hooks into me. As I started, I thought the opening plot device of finding the diaries of the dying protagonist, Toundi, and then recounting them was trite. I didn't care for Oyono's terse, abrupt and staccato prose.

As I ended, I had forgotten that I was reading a diary, for it reads nothing like one, and nothing about the language Oyono chose bothered me. Instead, I sat, mesmerized, in the way you do when watching a traffic accident unfold before you: powerless but unable to look away.

To say that Houseboy is anti-colonial literature is a bit of an understatement. On one hand it is a scathing portrait of the French overlords' cruelty toward a population that they viewed as not much more than property. It is also an indictment of the lie behind the policy of assimilation — learn to speak French and ape our manners and we will welcome you as Frenchmen — as almost every French person shudders at the thought of that actually happening.

Most of all, however, it is a mirror for the hypocrisy upon which the whole system was built. On the surface there is a strong thread of Christianity being wielded as a tool of "civilization", while the actions of its proponents belie every precept it teaches. The French elite speak knowingly of the lack of moral fiber among the natives when, in fact, the behavior of those speaking is far worse than those they criticize. In the end, they turn on Toundi, not because he has committed a crime, or because they are sadistic and brutal, but simply because they know that he has seen their hypocrisy and they cannot stand to see that knowledge in his eyes.

Houseboy's power comes from the scope in which it makes its statements. It shows you what it needs to show in the everyday life of a houseboy, not in the events of revolution or the political struggles that eventually threw off the colonial yoke. It makes you think of Arendt's phrase about the "banality of evil."

Oyono didn't write for long. He moved into politics, becoming a diplomat and a cabinet minister for President Biya before dying a couple of years ago. It would have been interesting to get one more book out of him from the viewpoint of 50 years after independence that showed how he saw things now.

Recommended.

34sibylline
gen. 3, 2015, 9:07am

Fine fine review, Tad. Thank you.

35alcottacre
gen. 3, 2015, 9:29am

Sorry to hear that you had such a bad year in 2014, Tad. I do hope you rebound both your health and reading habits this year!

>19 TadAD: Woot! My local library has that one and since it sounds like it is about my reading level right now, I put it on hold. I hope I enjoy it as much as you did. Thanks for the recommendation!

36The_Hibernator
gen. 3, 2015, 11:43am

Happy weekend Tad! Thanks for the review of Redemption in Indigo, I've been thinking about reading that book.

37Chatterbox
gen. 3, 2015, 3:36pm

>33 TadAD: Now that sounds very interesting indeed, for when I'm in the mood for something of that ilk... Tks for being a beta tester!

Glad you are on your feet (literally!) and that you enjoyed your trek through Portugal. *envy*

Looking forward to seeing what other book bullets you send my way...

38arubabookwoman
gen. 3, 2015, 9:13pm

Great review of Houseboy. I was similarly impressed by it when I read it a few years back. Interesting that he moved into politics. I might try to look a bit further into what he/the government(s) he was involved with accomplished. I know very little about post-colonial African history, to my shame.

39TadAD
gen. 4, 2015, 3:52pm

>38 arubabookwoman: I don't think Biya's government is that well regarded. From what I've heard, it's pretty authoritarian with infrequent elections that aren't exactly transparent.

40TadAD
Editat: gen. 4, 2015, 6:52pm

It's been a food weekend. We tried two new restaurants this weekend. One was only fair but the new Turkish restaurant was great. It's close to what I think of as Lebanese food and I'm a definite fan.

Last night I got to taste a dram of Teeling 26, a whiskey that costs about $680 a bottle. My wife found a place that splits bottles into small samples and gave me one for Christmas. Needless to say, it's not something I will ever buy myself but I can't deny that it was pretty durn good! What a smart racket: they probably got the bottle for half retail price and, by selling it in small quantities, are going to make about $8000 selling it.

Today I made my first sausage...we'll see how that tastes at breakfast tomorrow...and my first baklava...which we'll see how it tastes after dinner.



Edit: The baklava is seriously good! :-)

41lkernagh
gen. 4, 2015, 8:36pm

Your food weekend sounds perfect to me. That baklava looks amazing!

42kidzdoc
gen. 5, 2015, 12:06am

>31 TadAD: I hope you enjoyed it and didn't write, "Anyone who likes this book is an idiot, imo!" ;-)

Haha! No, I gave Redemption in Indigo 4 stars, but I'd take off 1/2 star if I would rate it now,

>33 TadAD: Great review of Houseboy. I don't have it in my LT library as I had thought, so I'll add it to my wish list.

>40 TadAD: The baklava looks scrumptious!

43lunacat
gen. 5, 2015, 7:31am

>40 TadAD: That baklava looks brilliant! Now I'm hungry *sigh*.

44sibylline
gen. 5, 2015, 9:29am

We actually had our own pigs, Tad, back in our early Vermont 'homesteading' era (short-lived I am glad to say) and attempted to use most of it..... (I drew the line at extremities of any kind in any sort of recognizable form). So, yeah, I made sausage. Learned the hard way that the word is 'fat fat fat' can't skimp on it or they just ain't any good!!! So how did yours turn out?????

But baclava! How did your pastry come out?

45TadAD
gen. 5, 2015, 10:53am

>44 sibylline:: The baklava is great! It won't last long as my kids keep going back for "just another little piece."

The sausage is good but not great. It's moist (I used plenty of fatback) and everyone is eating it, but I think I seasoned a little too gingerly...the sage and rosemary levels are good but next time more black pepper, more cayenne, more fennel, a bit more thyme.

46sibylline
gen. 5, 2015, 11:04am

Seasoning too, yep - pepper and thyme, I agree, essential!

47alcottacre
gen. 7, 2015, 4:34am

>19 TadAD: I finished the book tonight, Tad. Thanks for the recommendation. I enjoyed the creepy stories very much :)

48TadAD
gen. 7, 2015, 12:29pm

>47 alcottacre: I'm glad you enjoyed it, Stasia. Thanks for letting me know.

49TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:31pm



№ 4 - The Shotgun Arcana by R. S. Belcher



This book falls firmly into my category of Recommended for Limited Audience Only. If you're a fan of Western + Fantasy + Occult, this may be for you. Otherwise, you might want to move along.

My comment on the first book in Belcher's Golgotha series was, "The flaw in this book is that it's simply too much for its 364 pages." The implication, of course, was that I hoped the next volume scaled back a little. I'm not sure he did, although it's hard to judge. This book is still chockablock with angels, undead, mad scientists, secret societies, Chinese tongs, gods, Daughters of Lilith, immortals, Mormon magical artifacts and shapeshifters. However, they are all something we met in the first book so, perhaps, we can say that he limited himself to serial killers, pirates, Thugs (big T, as in the cult), cannibals, Cain and Abel (in a way) and devils, which are things we didn't meet last time.

I liked the story line, and the many subplots that went with it, more this time. It felt more coherent. Part of that is because there was a greater understanding of the motivation behind the evil threatening Golgotha. The other part is that most of the new additions to the weirdness are bit players, while the returning central characters are more fleshed out; they are no longer a barrage of backstory-less oddities with which we have to cope.

There's no way these books are for everyone. But, for their intended audience, they are a bit of fun.

50ronincats
gen. 7, 2015, 12:35pm

This series sounds intriguing but questionable for me--what do you think? Is it something I would enjoy?

51drneutron
gen. 7, 2015, 12:47pm

Ok, so I need to bump the series up on the priority list...

52TadAD
gen. 7, 2015, 1:43pm

>50 ronincats: I'm not sure, Roni, but I'd guess they wouldn't be your favorite. On the plus side, there are a lot of strong female leads. However, if I had to lump these into either-but-not-both fantasy or horror, they are horror...and I don't think of that as your cup of tea. I may be wrong.

>51 drneutron: Jim, I think these are definitely your cup of tea.

53ronincats
gen. 7, 2015, 1:44pm

No, you are right. Horror is NOT my cuppa. Thanks for the opinion.

54TadAD
Editat: gen. 7, 2015, 1:53pm

I notice another reviewer called them Western Weird. That's a perfect name for their category! More occult than Territory; less dreadfulness than The Call of Cthulhu.

Btw, Bull claims she's working on a sequel to Territory called Claim. That statement was a while ago; I wonder where the project stands.

55TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:31pm



№ 5 - Firefight by Brandon Sanderson



This book reads like a Marvel movie watches: light on depth, long on action, fun but it won't make you think too much superhero/antihero fantasy. I'd recommend it as an example of that genre although, obviously, only for those who enjoy such things, particularly Sanderson's work.

I think it's better written than the first volume in the series, Steelheart. The pacing is a little better and the plot slightly more intricate; I was actually a bit surprised...pleasantly...by the reveal. Sanderson moves the characters along nicely in their larger story line, unlike some series authors who just plop an unchanging character into adventure after adventure.

The series might be a wee bit frustrating since each book takes over 12 months to come out (next one due in Spring 2016).

56TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:31pm



№ 6 - 101 Legendary Whiskies You're Dying to Try But (Possibly) Never Will by Ian Buxton



Honestly, I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. I love whiskey. I like lists. What went wrong?

Most of it was misplaced expectations. I thought this would be a book of whiskies you might, with a few exceptions, endeavor to try in your life...sort of like bucket list items. Maybe you'd have to work at it, maybe you'd have to save a lot, but you could get there. Unfortunately, the word "possibly" in the title should be "almost certainly" for most of the contents.

Of the 101 whiskies, only 31 are designated Living, which means they are "readily available". I'm a bit skeptical of that designation in some cases since the availability notes might say "rare" which, in my mind, is sort of an antonym for "readily available".

The remaining 70 are unavailable or virtually so unless you have 5-6 figures to spend on a bottle of whiskey plus some exceedingly good contacts to find that bottle.

So, I was disappointed in what I found. I admit that this is as much me as the book.

What you do get is a listing of a bunch of whiskeys Mr. Buxton has heard about, most of which he's never tasted. The definition of "legendary" stretches to "famous" and you find a $23 bottle of Johnnie Walker Black in the same list as a $189,000 bottle of Dalmore. Each entry contains a short anecdote or history, some of which are amusing or interesting, others blandly factual.

I have a minor quibble. There's no index and the table of contents has four entries: Introduction, Acknowledgements, Picture Credits and everything else. An index is easy to create for a book like this and would be useful to find a particular brand without a linear search through the book, or to find all the whiskeys labelled Lost.

It was a Christmas present, so no harm done but I'd be hard pressed to justify spending $20 for something like this unless I had a passion for lists of unobtainable bottles.

57BLBera
gen. 8, 2015, 5:19pm

Hi Tad - Just checking to see what you're reading. I don't think Firefight or the whiskey book is for me. Sorry you were disappointed in the whiskey book.

58sibylline
gen. 9, 2015, 8:14am

The whiskey book would have maddened me!

I'm wondering if the spousal unit would go for a wester-fantasy-occult. He just might.

59justchris
gen. 12, 2015, 10:43pm

Both Houseboy and The Shotgun Arcana sound good. Me and my partner are probably the intended audience of the latter. I've never tried anything from Sanderson, though I've seen the books are popular. Thanks for the reviews.

60brenzi
gen. 13, 2015, 7:22pm

Hi Tad, my father made sausage quite regularly when I was a kid and we just grew up thinking oh, yeah, you have to make sausage. You can't buy it in the store. The baclava looks very good.

61TadAD
Editat: gen. 15, 2015, 1:53pm

Hi Beth, Lucy, Chris & Bonnie, thanks for stopping by.

Not much to say about books as I'm still in the middle of 3: Buddha's Orphans, The Cuckoo's Calling and a re-read of Infinite Jest. I may be a masochist for the latter and I don't know if I'll complete it or gradually switch to re-reading my favorite parts and skimming the rest. Somehow, I'm not certain that a month of solid reading on one book is what I want. I am enjoying all three, though.

Since nothing on books, how about lunch for my son and me? Saffron rice with chicken, tomatoes, green beans and water chestnuts. I seem to live by my wok during the work week.

62Copperskye
gen. 15, 2015, 10:09pm

>61 TadAD: Seriously, that looks wonderful! As does the baklava up higher.

Good to see you back, Tad!

63kidzdoc
gen. 16, 2015, 2:17am

That lunch looks great, Tad!

64sibylline
gen. 17, 2015, 9:35am

I am going to listen to Infinite Jest next go around. Assuming I like the reader that Audible offers.

65The_Hibernator
gen. 18, 2015, 11:41pm

Looks like a good lunch Tad. Thanks for sharing the picture. Happy weekend!

66TadAD
gen. 19, 2015, 8:31am

>64 sibylline: I can't figure out whether an audio book of IJ would be a good thing or a bad thing. I re-read so many passages the first time through and that's hard to do with a narrator.

I wonder how many hours it would be. :-)

>65 The_Hibernator: Hi Rachel, thanks!

67TadAD
Editat: gen. 19, 2015, 8:36am

I guess a year of (basically) not reading has built up a pressure. Despite the fact that I'm in the middle of 3 books, two of them long, I had to pick up a fourth today, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor.

I was just reading a late Christmas card from one of my neighbors — herself a published author — in which she talked about her daughter, Flannery. Well, one thing led to another since I've never read any O'Connor and here we are...

68BLBera
gen. 19, 2015, 4:08pm

Hi Tad - I'm smiling because I've had The Habit of Being on my nightstand for years. It's hard to read more than a few pages of letters at a time even though I love them. I'll be interested to see how long it takes you to get through them. Maybe you will nudge me to get back to them.

69TadAD
Editat: gen. 20, 2015, 8:42am

Hi Beth. I'm really enjoying her wicked sense of humor.
I just got back from NYC. There is one advantage in it because although you see several people you wish you didn't know, you see thousands you're glad you don't know.
I don't have the widest experience of reading authors' correspondence but there is an incredible sense of the person in O'Connor's. I think I would have liked meeting her.

70ffortsa
Editat: gen. 21, 2015, 12:00am

>69 TadAD: Oh how snarky! I can see I want to read this book.

Eta to correct the reference number. I can get so self-referential.

71TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:31pm



№ 7 - Buddha's Orphans by Samrat Upadhyay



Bottom Line: Well-drawn characters who deal with the privations and discrimination (economic, social and gender) of the last half-century of Nepal.



I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I am, however, surprised by some of the blurbs found on the cover:
...deserving of his acclaim as a Buddhist Chekhov...
...the sweep and romantic grandeur of a great old-fashioned Russian novel...
I didn't have any sense whatsoever of Checkhov's modernist style in this nor would the word grandeur have come to mind. I'm not sure why there is this urge to make this into a Russian novel when it works perfectly well as a Nepalese one.

At its heart this is a love story between Nilu and Raja — a life-long but perfectly ordinary one insofar as such can occur across class/economic boundaries (I would disregard the "epic love" hyperbole on the cover as well) — but it also reaches both backwards a generation and forwards a generation to show strong parallels in the lives of their parents and children. However, the love story is just the vehicle for several ideas that seemed woven through the story.

I know very little about Buddhist philosophy but the consciously cyclical nature of this story seems very apropos for a tale that never steps very far from the culture of the Indian subcontinent. I took away the message that, however much the specifics of misfortune or adversity may seem unique to those encountering them, the fundamental experience has been repeated many times and how you meet the trial is part of what shapes the ultimate outcome. Further, those actions we take cause ripples out through the lives of others across time and geography in a general connectedness that we may not always perceive.

I found the women, by far, the most interesting characters. The arc from Mohini to Nilu to Ranjana to Kali, although not told chronologically, was the most powerful, both in terms of characterization and the underlying ideas. The men in the story, while as colorful and alive, are weaker people and their presence doesn't loom as large. Part of this is that cultural misogyny plays such an important role and the women's reactions — be it acceptance or struggle — form so much of the fabric of the story that it's hard not to see their roles as the backbone.

For me, Upadhyay is a quiet writer. By that I mean that I wasn't conscious of his presence all the time. His characters were living and breathing and, generally, all I could hear was their story. They are, by turns, humorous, sad, encouraging and heartbreaking but they are always engaging. Where this fell short occasionally was in the backdrop. It takes place from the 1960s to the present, a very tumultuous time politically in Nepal, and Upadhyay seems determined to insert a note of each political shift...even when it didn't seem to have that much relevance to his foreground story and felt somewhat bolted on.

I really enjoyed this book, especially the second half, becoming more engrossed as it went along. I can see why Upadhyay's other works have won awards and look forward to trying them someday.

Recommended.

72TadAD
gen. 20, 2015, 7:52pm

>70 ffortsa: Hi Judy. Yes, I think you would enjoy it.

73sibylline
gen. 21, 2015, 8:21pm

The Habit of Being is one of my essential books, keep it near my writing desk.

I listened to Broom of the System and loved it as an audio book. I'm fairly sure that I wouldn't need to look much of anything up this time around in IJ as I was very diligent in that regard while reading it (including watching youtube versions of that game they play on the tennis court!) and studying maps of the presumed area of Boston.

From October to December 2014 I listened to Ulysses, read by Donal Donelly, and it was a truly transcendent and enthralling experience, so I would hope for something similar. That was 48 or so hours!

74TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm

I picked this one up on Lucy's strong recommendation...



№ 8 - The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gailbraith (aka J. K. Rowling)



The bottom line is that I look forward to reading the next one, but read on as this is based upon one aspect of the book.

This is a perfectly fine mystery as mysteries go. There was nothing exceptionally innovative about whodunit but, by the same token, it wasn't one of those stupid plots where you say, "Oh, come on!" when you reach the end. The word serviceable comes to mind as far as the plot goes.

I think Rowling did a good job of providing clues to the killer for those who care for that sort of thing. I think she also did a good job of not making them totally obvious for those who prefer not to spend the last part of the book waiting for confirmation of who did it. It was a tiny bit annoying how often she'd let the reader know, "Cormoran figured out something but I’m not going to tell you what it was."

What I really enjoyed about this story were the two main characters, Cormoran and Robin. They were interesting, amusing and engaged my attention. I want more of them. If you have a similar experience, I think this book will work for you. If these particular characters don't do that for you, this may be an average read for you.

As a side note, I don't understand — and have little patience for — famous authors who write under a pseudonym and then do nothing to keep that fact a secret...but that doesn't detract from the book at all so just treat that as me being fussy.

75TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 9 - 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer's Photographer by Gregory Heisler



A fabulous collection of some of Heisler's portraits. Many of the portraits are stunning; I keep returning to his image of Samdech Preah Maha Ghosananda or Luís Sarría (the cover photo) and wishing I could handle negative space that way or create a photo so spare that all you can do is look at the subject.

However, as amazing as some of these images are, they are actually not the most memorable portion of the book. Each picture is accompanied by a story and some thoughts on the techniques employed. Rather than being limited to "use f8" or "low key light over here", these discussions explore why a picture is structured the way it is, or how a particular type of lighting can affect a viewer's mood. He'll talk about body language, non-portrait portraits, about his mantra of "first, do no harm." This is not to say that there are no technical tips, only that they are wrapped in a thoughtful discourse on the art of making a picture.

In reading this, you get a real sense of a craftsman at work and that, despite how simple the final image might look, there is an enormous amount of work, mostly cerebral, that goes into it.

Regardless of why you approach this book—enjoyment of the photographs, philosophy of photography or simply 'I used a Rololight here'—there's something here for the photography lover.

76TadAD
Editat: gen. 22, 2015, 2:39pm

As an addendum to that last read...

I'm a total black & white photography fan and enjoyed those portraits the most. Still, he surprised me a few times with his color ones.

Look at this picture of Chinua Achebe. Despite being a photograph, doesn't it simply exude an Old Dutch Master feel? This could be a Rembrandt or one of the darker Vermeers.

 
 

77ffortsa
gen. 22, 2015, 9:09pm

>75 TadAD: Bang! You got me. and >76 TadAD: yes!

78TadAD
gen. 23, 2015, 2:51pm

>73 sibylline: I have say, I'm about 100 pages in (of ~550) and enjoying it immensely. However, like Beth, I'm starting to be able to read it only a few pages at a time. That's fine; it will last a long time.

79kidzdoc
gen. 24, 2015, 8:17am

>75 TadAD: Great review of Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits, Tad. It sounds like a fascinating book, so I'll be on the lookout for it next month.

>76 TadAD: That is an amazing photo of Chinua Achebe!

80sibylline
Editat: gen. 25, 2015, 10:17am

What an amazing photograph! Thanks for bringing my attention to it.

I browse Habit - when I feel blah or bleh about writing. It's not my only 'inspiration' book but it is one of them.

And whoops, I forgot to say, it's the development of the rellie between Cormoran and Robin, entirely. But that is all I really care about in mysteries. As long as, as you say, the mystery itself isn't too much of a stretch that's enough for me. The mystery in the second one works better in some ways, about the same in others, but the character development is super!

81TadAD
Editat: gen. 26, 2015, 2:02pm

Sticking her tongue out at the merest suggestion she should come in after 2 hours playing in the blizzard...

 
 

82brenzi
gen. 27, 2015, 10:14pm

>74 TadAD: I'm loving this series Tad. When that book was released there was a big hullabaloo as to who the author really was. She claimed she wanted it kept secret and someone at the publisher's office leaked the info. Not surprisingly it was selling about as well as you would expect a new author's books to see but once the secret was out it raced to the top of the bestseller lists. I'm going to assume the publisher meant the name to be leaked all along.

What a beautiful dog you have!

83tiffin
gen. 27, 2015, 11:51pm

Really enjoyed your book reviews. Drooled over your saffron chicken. The baclava looked delish but would kill me. Love the dog!

Himself's whisky bible is Michael Jackson's Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch, fyi.

84TadAD
Editat: feb. 1, 2015, 11:48am

I was just reading in my alumni magazine about Matt Herron, a photographer who went down to Alabama and Mississippi in 1964 to photograph Civil Rights Movement activities. Based upon the few photographs in the article, I think I'll order Mississippi Eyes: The Story and Photography of the Southern Documentary Project (hard link as touchstone doesn't work).

This was the photo that caught my attention. The contrast between the first officer and the sign the second officer has confiscated from the boy is stark. I confess I haven't seen a lot of images from that period in American history and now I want to.

85TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 10 - Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson



When you look around for Caribbean writers of speculative fiction—particularly ones that focus heavily on feminism and Afro-Caribbean culture—Nalo Hopkinson's name is pretty much guaranteed to be on the list. Brown Girl in the Ring was her first novel, winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, the Locus Award for the same, and garnering a Philip K. Dick Award nomination.

Having said that, the novel promised me just slightly more than it actually delivered. I enjoyed it. Good pacing. Wonderful "local" color (I put that in quotes as half of the color is, presumably, Jamaican even though the setting is Toronto). The women who form the story are strong, fascinating and engaging, although the men are either miniscule in character or totally unsympathetic. However, I'd only give the plot a C. It's a fairly straight line from Point A to Point B with no twists, surprises or particular depth.

Since I've had so little exposure to vodoun beliefs, it was fresh and appealing and I will certainly try something else of hers at some point. Recommended if you like speculative, feminist fiction not set in mainstream Western mythology.

86TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 11 - Big Data Analytics with R and Hadoop by Vignesh Prajapati



Just noting it in the list of books read, nothing here for anyone to bother with.

Not good.

* * * *

Otherwise, still trucking along with Infinite Jest and The Habit of Being. Trying to decide between Zero History (an SF book I've had sitting around for a bit), Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World (an Early Reviewer copy) and Memoirs of a Porcupine (for my reading around the world thingie) as a third book.

87sibylline
feb. 1, 2015, 8:38pm

We've got that Gibson around somewhere . . . probably languishing in the S.U. TBR shelves. That is one of the most forlorn bookshelves in the house. What I do when I want him to read something from it is pull it out and throw it in the messy heap on his side of the bed.

88TadAD
feb. 1, 2015, 10:22pm

Stupidest play in Superbowl history. New England doesn't win...Seahawks lose it.

89ronincats
feb. 1, 2015, 10:49pm

Yep, gotta agree.

90ffortsa
feb. 2, 2015, 10:17am

>86 TadAD: Thanks. I'll avoid it.

91TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 12 - Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby



In the Introduction the author says, "As girls in science look around for role models, they shouldn't have to dig around to find them." The rest of the Introduction goes on to imply—and I'm summarizing—that we need to get this book in front of our girls and young women.

I agree wholeheartedly. However, I don't think it's enough of a statement. It is necessary but not sufficient to instill a sense of expectation and confidence in the female half of our youth; we also need to instill a sense of expectation and normalcy about it in the male half.

The New York Times obituary for Yvonne Brill (inventor of the hydrazine propulsion system still used in satellites) spent the entire first paragraph lauding her cooking, her loyalty as a wife, and her excellence as a mother. Though Swaby doesn't note this, that obituary wasn't written by a woman. Nor was the British Daily Mail article expressing its pleased surprise over "Nobel Prize for British Wife"...presumably, per Ms. Swaby's delightfully wicked aside, Dorothy Hodgkin did so while matching her husband's socks.

While this book occasionally reaches for an awkward bon mot and has a couple moments where it is uneven, it is usually illuminating, inspiring and exceptionally readable by a person of any age or gender. Moreover, Swaby's informative but easy style is suitable for anyone regardless of their investiture in STEM disciplines. It doesn't teach science, it teaches about those who did science.

I might say, "As boys in science look around for models of peers, they shouldn't have to dig around to find them." Honestly, I think this book, or one very similar to it, should just be required reading for every middle schooler. It should inspire them at times and make them mad at others but, in the end, credit where credit is due.

92qebo
feb. 4, 2015, 2:15pm

>91 TadAD: I got this book as an ER too, expect to read it within a few weeks.

we also need to instill a sense of expectation and normalcy about it in the male half
Yes.

93TadAD
Editat: feb. 4, 2015, 2:24pm

>92 qebo: Katherine, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I confess to a lump in my throat reading about Virginia Apgar (among others) and being totally pissed off (for her sake) when reading about Lise Meitner (among others).

My only hope is that a good editor goes through the book. My ER copy is marked Uncorrected Proof and...wow!...it certainly was. :-)

94sibylline
feb. 4, 2015, 5:16pm

Let's hope they get those errors corrected! It would be a shame if they don't. Sounds very good.

95charl08
Editat: feb. 4, 2015, 6:11pm

Just found your thread - will be back as your reviews of Houseboy and Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World have added two more books to the TBR pile. Thank you!

96arubabookwoman
feb. 5, 2015, 7:55pm

Of my 5 kids, my 2 girls went into the sciences. Both got their undergraduate degrees in Biochemistry. The older is an MD currently completing a Fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics, and the younger is starting her third year of a Ph.D in Genetics. Somehow, we've never talked about the issues this book seems to raise. I'm going to recommend we all three read it and discuss. (On the other hand, My 3 sons ran as far as they could get away from the sciences. They should probably read the book too!)

97TadAD
Editat: feb. 6, 2015, 9:36am

>95 charl08: Hi charl08 (Charles?, Charlotte?, Charlene?, Nothing with "charl" in it? *smile*) I'm glad you stopped by and you're welcome. Looking at our shared books, a fondness from Jane Austen to Lindsey Davis as well as Terry Pratchett plus some African authors seems to appear. That's quite a spread! :-)

>96 arubabookwoman: Hi Deborah. I'd be very interested to hear the results of that conversation!

It was fun to try to discern trends or lack thereof. Swaby has a nice mixture of women spanning two and half centuries and the experiences — assuming she did a balanced job of reporting — of women who started chronologically where another left off make for interesting comparison.

98TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 13 - Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace



Since this is a re-read, I'm not going to write a new review. My old one is here if you want to know what I thought about the experience of reading it.

The second time around is a bit different as I know what's going on; the characters are familiar; I understand the chronology. It's still a trip, however.

I found myself skimming through the Marathe/Steeply sections. I still don't quite get their Rosencrantz & Guildenstern presence and, given that, I don't enjoy their surreal existence. On the other hand, Don and Joelle sucked me in even more than they did the first time. They were the major characters for me in this reading.

I still recommend this with the caveats listed in the review.

99TadAD
Editat: feb. 9, 2015, 8:32am



The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley



I'm not going to count this one in the numbering since it's a short story.

In my opinion, part of Flavia's allure is her tweener interactions with grown adults. This story was set among teenagers and, quite frankly, was completely unmemorable, sort of like the more formulaic Sherlock Holmes stories.

100TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:32pm



№ 14 - As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley



Alan Bradley had originally said the Flavia de Luce series would be five books long. Since I enjoy them, I was pleased to see he had re-thought that position, although a little nervous about an author carrying on a series he had originally finished in his mind. So many authors go back to the well and come up with only half a pail of water.

Let's say ¾ of a pail. Flavia, herself, was as enjoyable as ever but I missed her interactions with her father, Dogger, Feely & Daffy and the rest of the inhabitants of Bishop's Lacey. The relationships with the students and teachers at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy simply weren't as rich.

(Minor Spoiler)

Moreover, since most of them aren't to continue and we barely met the ones that might do so, the pro forma nature of these interactions came across as marking time with the reader rather than the productive introduction of new cast members. I do hope that the next book brings us back on track.

If you like Flavia's stories and plan to continue with the series, you'll need to read this one but it's the least of the six full-length volumes written so far, in my opinion.

101lkernagh
feb. 9, 2015, 12:20pm

I was wondering about the Flavia novella. Sounds like I can pass on it. I do enjoy the Flavia books, more for Flavia and Buckshaw - I love the idea of a crumbling mansion - and like you, found the most recent book to be a bit of a let down from the previous books in the series.

102TadAD
Editat: feb. 16, 2015, 3:33pm



№ 15 - The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria



Bottom Line: The history portion is interesting and the memoir portion, while dryly factual rather than intimate, is also interesting. However, it struck me as two separate stories shuffled together rather than a coherent single narrative.



This book is one part history lesson and one part memoir. The history portion recounts the major political events and upheavals of Pakistan from its founding until the death of Benazir Bhutto in 2007. It focuses on the shifting tension between democracy, military rule and Islamic fundamentalism and on the refugee nature of much of the populace. While it doesn't go into any great depth, it is interesting.

The memoir portion centers on the author's Aunt Amina for whom the book is named. The family is Muslim and Amina's husband, Sohail, decides to take a second wife as permitted under Islamic law but not practiced in the cultural circles in which the family moved. Pakistani law at the time required that the husband get permission from the first wife in order to marry the second. Sohail did not adhere to that — although he was scrupulous in following Islamic teaching that the two wives must be treated equally — and Amina finds herself unwillingly living on a new-built floor of a house, the new wife living on another, and Sohail spending alternating weeks with each.

Unfortunately, the point of juxtaposing these two stories was rather vague. Usually, when an author interleaves two stories in quick alternation, they are trying to draw parallels between the two or, perhaps, use one as an example of the other.

What I suspect she was trying to do was draw a parallel between dashed hopes. Many segments of the Pakistani population had hopes: ethnic groups for opportunity, women for equality, refugees for refuge, everyone for safety. Amina had hopes: a stable marriage with a man she cared for without a third party in the mix. In each of these, the hopes were dashed by the betrayals of those they trusted.

If this is the objective, there is a very soft focus on it.

The history side of the narrative wanders far and wide listing facts without ever drawing conclusions. As a college professor once said to me, "Okay, you've given me all this data...now, what's your point?" There's a Bhutto-centric emphasis to everything that leads the reader to guess that Zakaria saw her as the hope, yet the actual facts recounted highlight how little Bhutto actually accomplished to alleviate the plight of women or to draw the country together, even at the height of her power.

The memoir side was more clearly on target. However, I found my concern over Amina's hopes waning a bit as the story progressed. The more we learn about Sohail, the less he is the monster originally portrayed through a child's eyes and more just a man who married once because it was expected and then found love later in life. We may not forgive him completely but we understand him. The more we see of Amina, the more we recognize that she was quite determined to make the worst of a bad situation.

In the end, the history is interesting and the memoir, while dryly factual rather than intimate, is also interesting. However, it struck me as two separate stories shuffled together rather than a coherent single narrative illustrating the macrocosm of Pakistan side by side with the microcosm of a troubled marriage.

103charl08
feb. 11, 2015, 12:15pm

Really interesting review (the college professor sounds like my supervisor). I have had Songs of Blood and Sword vaguely in the TBR pile for a while - this has reminded me (thank you!).

104TadAD
feb. 12, 2015, 10:26am

>103 charl08: Hi Charlotte. That book looks interesting based upon the fact that Fatima is an opponent of her aunt and uncle. That's a Wish List item.

105ffortsa
feb. 12, 2015, 12:56pm

Facebook says it's your birthday. Is that right! If so, happy birthday to you! After a year of struggle, it must feel good.

106TadAD
feb. 12, 2015, 1:18pm

Yes, it is. Thanks.

107ronincats
feb. 12, 2015, 8:42pm

Happy Birthday, Tad! Hope you've had a great one.

108TadAD
Editat: feb. 13, 2015, 9:50am

Thanks, Roni. It was nice. I got a bunch of books and a new camera lens, then we went out to dinner with just the family and then drinks with some friends.

109The_Hibernator
feb. 15, 2015, 10:32pm

Too bad As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust wasn't as charming as the rest.

110brenzi
feb. 15, 2015, 11:28pm

Lots of interesting reading going on Tad, as usual. I have the first Flavia book on my shelf and would like to get a start on the series sometime soon. It's hard to believe you've made your way through Infinite Jest for a second time and here I sit with it still unread. At some point I still believe I'll pick it up. Headstrong is now on the teetering tower:-)

111TadAD
feb. 16, 2015, 3:09pm

>110 brenzi: Hi Bonnie. Regarding IJ...some day when you have a lot of time available it will feel right. :-)

The Swaby is such a quick read that it won't require any scheduling.

112TadAD
Editat: març 9, 2015, 10:37am



№ 16 - Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis



I liked this second volume in Lindsey Davis' newer series about informers (private investigators) in ancient Rome slightly better than the first volume (last year's The Ides of April).

One of the reasons why I enjoyed her original series so much was the interplay between Marcus Didius Falco and his acquaintance→girlfriend→wife, Helena Justina. The mysteries were fine, the settings well-rendered, but the acerbic and clever exchanges between the two were the best parts.

I missed that when Davis retired Falco and started this series about his adopted daughter, Flavia Alba. While she had her mother's cynical view of men (and, when needed, her mother's acid tongue) and her father's self-reliance, she needed a foil. Ides showed us a potential candidate but didn't move him into the role. Enemies at Home moves it a bit farther along. If Davis can cement this by the next book, it's probably a series that will have a lot of legs with me. If not, it's probably three and out simply because there are just so many books out there.

113TadAD
Editat: feb. 22, 2015, 4:35pm



№ 17 - Zero History by William Gibson



I find this a rather hard book to talk about because not very much happens. This is certainly not a plot-driven book, ironic when you consider the closest genre for placement would probably be thriller. And I can't call a character-driven book. In fact, it took me a while to get into it as the rapid switching of viewpoint between the two main characters held them at arm's length for a while (although I eventually became quite heavily invested in them).

I think I'd describe it as an idea-driven book, touching on cultural trends, memes and behaviors. When you look at Gibson's work as a whole, this isn't a departure. While his stories range from cyberpunk to steampunk to action, there's an underlying awareness and perspective on our culture that is very dominant.

I think the best description of what it felt like to read this book is the blurb on the back from Time: "...writing about the present as if it were the future." That's exactly the sense I had. It felt like speculative fiction but, when I stopped to think about it, everything in the story could exist today.

114TadAD
Editat: feb. 22, 2015, 4:48pm

When Googling around, I found a quote from the Providence Journal describing Gibson as a man who wrote "at the intersection of paranoia and technology." That made me laugh it was so true.

Anyway, on to Dominique Fabre's Guys Like Me. Ever since I read The Waitress Was New back in 2010 and was so captivated by it, I've been waiting for another of his works to be translated.

115kidzdoc
feb. 23, 2015, 5:07am

I look forward to your comments about Guys Like Me, Tad. I enjoyed The Waitress Was New, and the Amazon description of Guys Like Me made me put it on my wish list.

116sibylline
feb. 23, 2015, 5:54pm

I love that Gibson quote!!

117TadAD
feb. 26, 2015, 6:23pm

>115 kidzdoc: I'm not done with it yet, Darryl, but it's a very different book. It's much less...accessible?...I'm not sure that's the right word but something around there. I think I might end up loving it but it's a harder read and the themes are less obvious.

>116 sibylline: Hi Lucy. Something to disturb the sound of crickets chirping here. :-)

118TadAD
Editat: març 3, 2015, 11:09am



№ 18 - Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre, translated from the French by Howard Curtis



Bottom Line: Recommended, especially if you enjoyed The Waitress Was New.



Guys Like Me is Dominique Fabre's second novel to be translated into English. Like 2008's The Waitress Was New it is immersive and satisfying.

There is a different experience this time around. Fabre drops us into the mind of his protagonist...I never noticed a name for him...in a first-person, stream-of-consciousness narration. All of us have a lot going on in our minds most of the time; I've noticed about five different topics flit through my mind in the last minute. So, too, in a half a dozen sentences our narrator will comment on the state of the Seine, reflect on the need to have a meal with his son, remember places he had lived, talk about filling out a landlord's social security paperwork, only to return to talking about the Seine and how it makes him feel good. Pronouns switch their targets, sentences change subject and/or predicate partway through. It struck me as exactly how our internal monologue runs when we don't have to organize it for the consumption of others.

Yet, somehow, Fabre takes this and molds it into an impressionistic discourse on middle age, loss of hope, loneliness and trying to recover a life that, somehow, got away from one. A bad divorce years ago left our narrator in a state where, as he says of himself, "That day, without knowing it, I'd signed up for years of not living." That condition might have lasted the rest of his life had not events caused him to notice the "few million guys like me" who messed up their lives without meaning to and who believed, as he did, that you only got one shot at life, that there was no second act. “But I still believe there are, from time to time," he muses and, because of that little measure of hope still remaining, he starts to open himself to the possibility of living and loving again.

It's a story where very little happens and, yet, there's such a genuine quality to the thoughts of this ordinary, middle-aged man that I think many of us will find it easy to relate to him and be satisfied with watching the slow shift of his life.

Recommended.

119tiffin
març 4, 2015, 11:00am

I haven't read the latest Flavia set in Canada and have a bit of trepidation about it, but you read it and survived intact so I guess I'll hold my nose and jump. I don't see how she could be topped in her home in England with Dogger et. al. The Fabre sounds good.

120TadAD
març 4, 2015, 1:38pm

>119 tiffin: It won't be the best. In fact, it may be the least-best other than the short story. However, it's readable and we'll get back to normal with the next one (I hope).

121TadAD
Editat: març 4, 2015, 1:54pm

Straight White Cisgender Male & fun with numbers

I've been thinking about a conversation that got started in Zoë's thread that referenced a group starting up (http://www.librarything.com/groups/diversereadingchalle). It was aimed at taking up K. T. Bradford's challenge to, for one year, read no works by straight white cisgender male authors. (NB: The group backs off that by welcoming those who wish to limit their total to under a half over the year, or slightly different variations on the category as long as they are "non-default".)

This got me thinking about my own reading. As I mentioned in that conversation, LT statistics tells me that I'm definitely above 33.47% overall because that's the percentage of female authors I've read and I'm pretty sure at least one male author I've read was either gay or not white.

However, that didn't tell me about recent reading. It also didn't address the point that...in my opinion...culture needed a role in that equation since African or South American authors don't exactly saturate the NY Times Best Seller list. I decided USA/Canada/Western Europe formed one classification and everything else was "Other". I've got Caribbean as the latter; have to think about that a bit.

It was interesting enough to me to do some calculations. The first cut was summed in the purple columns. 57.14% of this year's fiction is not straight, white, cisgendered, male authoring.



The first difficulty with this is that I have very little knowledge about an author's sexual preference or gender identity unless they are quite obvious about it...William S. Burroughs or Janet Mock level of obvious. So, while I could say if a book was non-SWDCMW, I couldn't definitively say it wasn't. I don't know what to do about that (if anyone has a brilliant idea).

The second was that, say I read two books: one by a white straight woman and one by a white gay man. In that case, 100% of my reading is non-SWCMW.

However, if the first was by a black gay woman and the second by a transgender man from Bhutan, then it seemed to me I was even more so.

So, I added the concept of a SWCMW Index; these are the green columns.

I did two of them: (raw) is only counting categories that aren't "unknown" and (absolute) counts all categories. I then set up a weighting system so that I could weigh the factors unevenly, although I'm not sure what I would use for uneven values. 0 means only straight white dudes, 20 (absolute, raw would vary) means they hit in one category only, and 100 means it varies in every single category.

The interesting thing will be to see how this goes over the year. Does the Raw Index go up or down?

The next step would be to find out the demographics of the publishing industry and figure out the standard deviation of my reading. Unfortunately, I have no idea where to gather those numbers. :-(

122_Zoe_
març 4, 2015, 2:21pm

I'm impressed with all your tracking!

123TadAD
març 5, 2015, 8:51am

>122 _Zoe_: Only 14 books so far this year, so it was easy to just categorize the authors with a couple quick Web searches. :-)

124TadAD
Editat: març 5, 2015, 1:16pm



№ 19 - A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab



Bottom Line: Fantasy fans may enjoy but others might be put off by characters who are uncertain if they belong in a grownup book or the author's normal young adult fiction.



I give this full marks for originality. That's curious given that it uses ideas that have been around for a while. It's hard to miss the echoes of Zelazny's Amber or, to a lesser extent, the malefic White Courts of Butcher and others. However, just as she did in her last book, Vicious, Schwab shows a knack for taking a theme and making it feel new and interesting. The world-building is well done. The plot has an interesting premise, although the pace is, perhaps, 5% too slow.

Why, then, the middle-of-the-road rating?

Well, it's the half of the characters who aren't particularly believable. Kell is reasonably well done. He's a likable, if sometimes exasperating, blend of power and a bit of naiveté. He's also someone who, in the current jargon, needs to "check his privilege" and the reader can sit back enjoy it when those around him call him on it.

Lila, however...well, in my opinion, she's an unsuccessful glue job between a woman whose orphan life amidst the hard-scrabble underbelly of London turned her into a flint-hearted killer and Tom Sawyer-esque wanting to be a pirate when you grow up...literally. Some authors carry off the child-like adult badass but Schwab didn't: Lila failed to convince me either of her street smarts, her intelligence, or her dream of singing, "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum." Since she didn't convince me, I couldn't engage with her.

The supporting cast also had this 50/50 split between interesting characters and stage props. Unfortunately for the sequel (and, make no mistake, there are plenty of little things left unresolved), the most interesting to me died or maybe died. Hopefully the former will be replaced and the latter replaced or experience Sequel Resurrection.

So, it's a three star book. Fantasy fans may very well enjoy this book (see all the stars given to it here and on other sites) for its fresh feel, interesting world-building and decent plot. I suspect other readers, however, will find enchantment a little wanting.

125tiffin
març 5, 2015, 9:05am

Those are exactly the kinds of things which drive down a book for me, Tad - and drove me away from fantasy for a long time too, because there just seemed to be too much of those two dimensional types. Writers like Robin Hobb have engaged my interest again.

126kidzdoc
març 5, 2015, 11:09am

Nice review of Guys Like Me, Tad. I enjoyed The Waitress Was New, so I add this book to my wish list.

Interesting comments about Bradford's challenge. A sizable percentage of the books I read are by non-straight cis-gendered white male authors already, and I'm sure that I wouldn't want to go a year without reading certain books that would interest me that happen to be written by straight cis-gendered white male authors.

Hmm...I wonder what percentage of books I read by non-straight cis-gendered white male authors last year? Off to check...

127TadAD
març 5, 2015, 11:24am

>126 kidzdoc: That's kind of the way I felt, Darryl. I don't want to limit myself to make a point.

128kidzdoc
març 5, 2015, 11:32am

>127 TadAD: Right.

Ugh. This is going to be a bit of a chore to look up the backgrounds of the authors I'm unfamiliar with. I checked the first 25 books I read in 2014: 16 were written by non-traditional white male authors, 8 by traditional WMs (including one by the Catalan author Quim Monzó - is he WM or non-WM?), and one by a WM whose status I couldn't confirm.

129TadAD
Editat: març 5, 2015, 11:51am

>128 kidzdoc: That's exactly why I built my spreadsheet to allow an unknown category and keep two sets of statistics: including unknowns and not including unknowns.

I boiled the whole thing down to a much simpler form that shown in the illustration above and I think I'll try to keep it up over the year for academic interest.

I would say that Quim Monzó is definitely WM (looking at his picture). He appears to be very involved in gay rights but don't now if that's personal preference or personal ideology.

130sibylline
març 5, 2015, 12:34pm

Fabre is on my wishlist now!

Your spreadsheet is impressive!

131arubabookwoman
març 7, 2015, 8:11pm

I hope this doesn't turn out to be an embarrassing question, but what is "cis" gender?

132TadAD
Editat: març 7, 2015, 9:11pm

>131 arubabookwoman: When your body matches the gender you perceive yourself to be or experience. The opposite being trans. I think there are a lot of subtleties beyond that, but that's what I've gathered. I haven't done much reading on it.

133sibylline
Editat: març 8, 2015, 11:35am

Even though I consider myself firmly cisgender female, for several years after puberty I really loathed being female. I thought menstruation and all was just unbelievably unfair and gross; it was a shock. I had no interest in being male either but that was when I noticed that the protagonists in a lot (most?) of the books I read were male and even the more adventurous girls/women would be in charge of, say, feeding people on the adventures and . . . and I felt left out and confused and angry about it. Even the hobbits bothered me! Also that my parents, aunts and uncles didn't restrict my brothers and male cousins the way they did me. I was big into going to rock concerts and it was always a nightmare getting permission. Yeah, so I sneaked and lied. So much safer, eh?

Anyway - I suspect there is more of that at that age than people are comfortable admitting - a feeling of having been boxed in somehow by virtue of your physical appearance. I still feel some of those conflicts and I do wonder if I just 'got used to' some of it.

Anyhow, an example of subtlety I hope?

134TadAD
Editat: març 8, 2015, 2:41pm

>133 sibylline: ...I had no interest in being male either...

As I say, I've done so little reading on the subject...but what I have done contains a recurring theme: basically, the opinion that viewing gender as a polar binary is just wrong, that it's a scale and people can fall all over the place. Many even go on to say that it's not a single dimension to the scale and that some people legitimately fall outside the male:female axis. I don't have an opinion yet but it doesn't seem unreasonable.

It's certainly something I want to read more about when I get through my current backlog because it's so outside my experience. I wouldn't even think for a second before checking cisgender male on Facebook's 50+ gender options. Like so many things, I'm interested in understanding more about what I'm not wired to experience.

I'm still minded of that book (I think you) mentioned a long time ago written by a transgender. It's somewhere in my Wish List and I'd have to dig it out.

135arubabookwoman
març 8, 2015, 6:45pm

Lucy--aren't those things you mention the result of cultural/societal constraints placed on women, not something inherent in the female body (other than menstruation, which I guess never bothered me. I think I saw it as a rite of passage.)? I somehow am thinking of gender as something much less mutable, and also as something intimately connected with sexuality.

I say this having read absolutely nothing on the subject, and as someone who has always identified as female, and always been satisfied to be female. In fact, I think I always felt lucky to be a female. (I was particularly happy as a child when at about age 11 or 12 the boys were expected to go spearfishing outside the reef, and I was terrified to swim outside the reef. I'm sure I could not have done that. On the other hand, I was one of 5 females in my law school class, when men still felt it was ok to ask me if I didn't feel bad taking a man's place in the class).

I do recall reading a memoir many years ago about a person raised as a boy, but who always felt he was a girl. (I think....this could have been vice versa). I don't remember much about it, but do remember that the author ultimately committed suicide. Also, doesn't Middlesex by Jeffrey Euginides relate to some of these issues?

136TadAD
març 9, 2015, 8:41am

Lucy, I can't find that book about a man who had the operation to switch to a woman that you recommended a couple of years ago. Do you recall its title or author? If it helps, you mentioned that you were struck by his comment about how his/her skin became more sensitive.

137sibylline
març 9, 2015, 9:27am

Oh yes. It is Conundrum Jan Morris.

>135 arubabookwoman: That's the difference, right there! It's very hard to convey the depths of my shock and discomfort. REALLY uncomfortable. REALLY angry. REALLY confused.

And I would have wanted to go out spear-fishing! :)

138qebo
març 9, 2015, 9:53am

>137 sibylline: Oh, Jan Morris. Who I know of as a a travel and history author, and was aware she’d once been James Morris, was not aware of the book. BB.

I’d consider myself to be firmly cisgender also, but my intellectual interests skew toward math and science, and that has been a source of discomfort and misfittedness because I’m not at all a one-of-the-guys type. In the 1980s I read In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan, which was a revelation and something of a relief, a model of female mind that fit.

139sibylline
Editat: març 9, 2015, 10:30am

yep, Q.

Gilligan is dated now, although she was taking a step in the right direction, by tackling the subjects at all. I remember being excited by the fresh direction of it when I read it, but I also remember not agreeing with all that much of it, or feeling that it was too simplistic, but it's been a long time. I probably have it around somewhere. Should take a look. But I've moved away from the idea of using gender as the basis for study about something like morals because I think it skews the results from the get-go. Like asking someone a question in such a way that they are cornered into giving you the answer you want or are expecting to hear.

140TadAD
Editat: març 9, 2015, 10:34am

>138 qebo: I read In a Different Voice back in 2011. I had some quibbles with the book...notably what I perceived as abandonment in the bulk of the book of the thesis she presented in the Introduction. Still, I found the variance in the boy/girl models an interesting thing to read about.

I find it difficult to think as someone "other". I don't know if everyone does or it's simply a weakness of mine. When someone knowledgeable says that girls/transgenders/insert-not-my-category-here "thinks so-and-so" I find it fascinating because I can only appreciate it from an intellectual point of view, not a gut view. As such, those modes of thought only occur to me when someone mentions them since I can't come up with them on my own.

I don't know where I'm going with this...random stream of thought... :-D

141qebo
març 9, 2015, 10:47am

>139 sibylline: Gilligan is dated now
Yes, well, 1980s, and I was in my 20s. And I don't have enough interest to reread for a current take. I'd expect girls this and boys that would annoy me, but at the time my reaction was maybe I'm not so weird so it served a useful purpose.
>140 TadAD: girls/transgenders/insert-not-my-category-here "thinks so-and-so"
I generally prefer individual accounts, and possibly loose generalities with many examples, but don't trust tight categories. It's really only with individuals that I can begin to get "other"; otherwise it's just an intellectual exercise.

142TadAD
març 9, 2015, 10:49am



№ 20 - Memoirs of a Porcupine by Alain Mabanckou, translated from the French by Helen Stevenson



According to Congolese myth, people have an animal double or spirit who is tied to them. For most people, the animal is a peaceful double that protects them. Some children, however, have a grandfather who performs a black magic ceremony in their tenth year that gives them a harmful double, an animal spirit who does their bidding...which is usually to kill anyone to whom their human takes exception. Our narrator is just such a creature: a porcupine given to social commentary, existential ponderings, reading literature and acting as the hand of fate for his master, Kibandi.

It may sound somewhat odd to say that a book about an ever-accelerating serial killer is humorous, even light, but that's exactly how I found it. The narrator's musing on Kibandi's missing moral compass and his sly reflections on the customs and foibles of both Westerners and Africans is told in a voice so conversational and engaging that it's if you're sitting in a room with a black sheep uncle who is telling you about the more colorful aspects of his life.

In fact, told entirely first person and meandering along using no punctuation other than commas, Mabanckou has captured a strong sense of the underlying oral tradition in this story. There's that sense of a fable where one is not asked to suspend disbelief entirely but to listen for the meaning. Or, perhaps, not a fable but a well-done satire. Either way, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

143TadAD
Editat: març 9, 2015, 1:21pm

I was searching around the interweb to learn more about Mabanckou and Congolese authors in general. I found a place where someone has said it maybe wasn't a "proper African novel."

To which, someone replied with a link to an article in Granta on How to Write about Africa.

I couldn't stop laughing!!

144sibylline
març 9, 2015, 12:09pm

ow ow ow

145TadAD
març 9, 2015, 6:47pm



№ 21 - The Patience Stone by Atiq Rahimi, translated from the French by Polly McLean



The Persian legend of the sang-e sabur, the Patience Stone, is that it absorbs all confessions until it bursts and frees you from all your torments. An Afghan woman sits beside her wounded, comatose husband and slowly begins to tell him her secret resentments and confessions. With each thing she reveals, she feels freer.

It seems clear to me that Rahimi means this, as Khaled Hosseini says in the introduction, to be a voice for marginalized Afghan women...or, in fact, for all women who have been suppressed and silenced. The universality of the narrator's feelings is a matter for each woman to decide for herself but I think there's no question this story will evoke a reaction: outrage, affront, discomfort, empathy, whatever...depending upon the moral/social/religious makeup (and, perhaps, the gender) of the reader.

What keeps it from a topmost rating is that there's an air of staginess about the story. Everything from the detailed descriptions of the set, to the noises heard offstage that give the actor something to which they respond, to the paced dialog feels as if it was written as a script rather than a novel.

Yet, well worth reading. The Prix Goncourt committee agreed, if their taste tends to coincide with yours. Personally, I found it a single-sitting read.

146qebo
març 9, 2015, 9:34pm

147TadAD
març 10, 2015, 9:36am

>146 qebo: Indeed. He's clearly someone whose style appeals to me greatly.

148TadAD
Editat: març 25, 2015, 3:35pm



№ 22 - After Abel and other stories by Michel Lemberger



Bottom Line: Definitely recommended.



The Bible is largely a book of the men, by the men, and for the men. The women in it are largely there to: a) bear children, b) provide financial or sexual benefits, c) obey and admire, d) illustrate some negative moral or legal point, e) all of the above.

Lemberger has offered nine tales written with the women as the central figures in their own life stories. They are excellently imagined and beautifully written, and each is different: some are heartbreaking, some not; in some we like the protagonist, some not so much. What unites them is a sense that these are real people facing real situations in their biblical world, not cutouts perceived dimly through religious archetypes.

The thing that struck me most was how much the biblical stories are still presented to us...not in the Bible itself, but in other sources...in that limited, male-centric manner. The second of Lemberger's tales is about Lot's wife. Not sure if I remembered the story well, I did a search and the first hit told me that she is found in Genesis 19:16-26 when she was turned into salt for looking back at the burning town of Sodom, and again in Luke 17:32 as a reminder of the penalty for disobedience. Every reference seemed to limit her to just that: Gen. 19:26, killed for looking back at a burning city, everything you need to know right there.

Really? What they failed to mention is Genesis 19:6 when Lot offers a hostile crowd of men unlimited rape of his two youngest daughters if the men just won't embarrass him by hassling his guests. Honestly, after reading that, I don't think Mrs. Lot was looking back wistfully toward a dissolute life. I think she was looking back to make sure those bastards burned and wondering if there was any way to include her husband in the catastrophe. (By the way, the author's version is quite different, so that isn't a spoiler.)

She has taken nine women — some, like Eve, that everyone knows and some, like Yael, that are relatively obscure — and made them come alive beyond the one or two sentences they receive in the Old Testament. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking and eminently readable book.

149TadAD
Editat: març 25, 2015, 6:26pm



№ 23 - O Jerusalem by Laurie R. King



This was my favorite in Russell/Holmes series so far: the colorful setting, Mary's reactions to playing a young boy for so long, Holmes somewhat crippled by injuries still healing.

This was an audio book and perfectly paced for listening while walking.

150sibylline
març 26, 2015, 8:35am

You tempt me with After Abel!

151charl08
Editat: març 26, 2015, 9:46am

>147 TadAD: Might also want to check out Kwani?, the journal he co-founded (and the trust of the same name, set up to promote / publish writing) http://www.kwani.org/

152TadAD
març 26, 2015, 10:36am

>151 charl08: Interesting site. Other than the couple of books they have available for online purchase, getting copies seems difficult.

153TadAD
Editat: març 26, 2015, 10:40am

The Guardian used to have this wonderful app that sent their pictures of the week right to your iPad. They stopped supporting it which is really too bad. Now I have to expend the incredible energy to go to their site, click down through the menus to find them.

;-D

Anyway, Robert Bukaty's photograph of the top of Mt. Washington is amazing. It's so surreal...looks like it's out of Game of Thrones or Middle Earth or something.


154charl08
març 26, 2015, 11:16am

>152 TadAD: I think from my reading of the contact page you can order books to be delivered in the US through Michigan state UP. There's also back issues of Kwani? on abe and amazon.

155ffortsa
març 26, 2015, 2:47pm

>148 TadAD: and >149 TadAD: ouch. book bullets duly reported. And thanks for the shot of Mt. Washington in the snow. For a moment, I thought the building (observatory? weather station?) was surrounded by the wings of an enormous bird.

156kidzdoc
març 26, 2015, 8:28pm

157ronincats
març 26, 2015, 8:45pm

>153 TadAD: Absolutely amazing photo!

158lkernagh
març 27, 2015, 9:54am

>153 TadAD: - Great photo!

159sibylline
Editat: març 27, 2015, 10:25am

That is a splendid photograph! Wow. The top of Mt. Washington consistently logs the coldest temps in the lower 40.

And I've been to that building! Ages ago - they did not have the tower then, or at least, it was different. It was a lot more rustic, in fact.

Back to add: I did not drive in a car -- I hiked up!

160TadAD
Editat: abr. 20, 2015, 2:46pm



№ 24 - All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

to

I might have rated this book a bit higher for the wonderful, evocative way that Doerr has for describing people and events. I might also have rated it higher because the latter part is rather engrossing and moving.

I might have rated it a bit lower because the first half dragged...needlessly so, I feel.

In the end, however, the rating balance seems right...especially because I'm left wondering whether there's much beyond some good character studies. Other than meeting Werner, Marie-Laure and the supporting cast, I don't see much that hasn't been done quite ably in other books.

While the story is worth reading, I'm not sure that there's a good answer to the question, "How do I look at World War II — or any war for that matter — differently after reading it?" While you can't fault a book for not being able to answer that question, it makes it harder to call it one of the best.

Perhaps the incredible hype surrounding this book set my expectations at an unreasonable level but I can't set Doerr's creation on the same level as Remarque's or Heller's. A darn good read but not one of my all-time favorites.

161TadAD
abr. 20, 2015, 3:31pm



№ 25 - Pirates of the Universe by Terry Bisson



It's one part incredibly depressing, post-apocalyptic setting. Unfortunately, it's one that doesn't seem particularly consistent with its own rules.

It's one part teenage boy fantasy. Come on, when most of the women are described solely by the color/size of their panties and bra, and when the girlfriend...the female character with the biggest role in the story...appears to exist solely to have her blouse unbuttoned on the front seat of the car, things start to feel a little puerile.

It's one part an attempt at mystical mumbo-jumbo about sentient universes that reads like a bad fortune cookie.

If you take all that away, you're left with a sparse plot line, full of characters you don't particularly like, behaving according to motivations that are poorly explained. I did rather like the depiction of the hold virtual life had on people but it wasn't enough to rescue the story.

I read it on an airplane and didn't skim, so I'll give it two stars, but it's not recommended.

162Whisper1
abr. 20, 2015, 5:39pm

Hello Tad. I am simply dropping by to say hi. I hold all is well with you and that your work load has slowed. I remember that you were working many long hours and it seemed there was a lot of stress.

All good wishes.

163TadAD
abr. 23, 2015, 11:26am



№ 25 - Tracker by C. J. Cherryh



A bit slow to start, even for this series. I felt like Bren and Cajeiri just kept reiterating what happened recently in alternating viewpoints. It finally got moving toward the final third and we got a little bit of excitement but too little too late, imo. Clearly this is all a setup for the next volume.

I know any series as long as this one has to have a clunker here and there but I have to say, I feel a bit cheated: this could have been condensed into a few chapters in the next book.

164sibylline
abr. 23, 2015, 12:10pm

Had to go back and remind myself what this book was about - which just about works with your category system (passed an afternoon, will probably forget within the year). I did rant in my review about the sexism, but found enough other bits and pieces to be reasonable enough, but I don't remember anymore, so I should probably drop it down to a three!

165LizzieD
abr. 23, 2015, 1:54pm

I see that I have missed most of your year, Tad...... my loss. Loved the glimpse of Irish single malt and baklava and put several of your earlier reads on my wish list. I thought about rereading *IJ* just yesterday and concluded that not enough time has passed since my first reading. I hope to live long enough for at least another couple of rereads at decent intervals!
You liked *All Light* maybe a bit more than I did, and I feel churlish about it. It was bad in no way but just not good enough to excite me.
I'm way far behind in my *Foreigner* reading. I'm not sure that I read one last year, and here it is April, and I still haven't started the next. In fact, I'm not sure what I'm doing in the reading department except that it's not enough.

166TadAD
abr. 24, 2015, 10:25am

>162 Whisper1: Hi Linda. Thanks for stopping by.

>164 sibylline: I found it very odd...the sexism, I mean. It was almost as if it was written by a 14 year old boy rather than someone Wikipedia says is 73.

>165 LizzieD: I'm glad you finally found me, Peggy!! I keep re-thinking the Doerr. Sometimes what I remember is how much I enjoyed his style. Other times, all I think about is how the book didn't seem to have any...I don't know...depth, maybe?

167LizzieD
abr. 24, 2015, 11:06pm

>166 TadAD: I absolutely agree depth is the problem with *All Light*. It reminded me of The Invisible Bridge that I read a couple of years ago in that it was absorbing and surface. I'm sure I'll remember them both as pleasant in a few more years. I'm not sure that that's the reaction a writer wants for a WWII story.

168sibylline
abr. 30, 2015, 9:10am

73! That is thought-provoking. How inconsistent of me not to have been as bothered as I should have been - I knew it was bothering me. I think I was too lenient. We all have our moments of weakness, i guess.

169PiyushC
maig 3, 2015, 4:16pm

Hi Tad,

Not much common reading this year, other than The Cuckoo's Calling, which I also read earlier this year; and Firefight and Infinite Jest, which are on my short term (2015 or 2016) TBR list.

170TadAD
Editat: maig 19, 2015, 7:58am



№ 26 - The City and The City by China Miéville



At its heart, this is a serviceable but unspectacular police procedural. A woman has been murdered: whodunit and why?

What moves this beyond a straight average read is that Miéville has done a rather remarkable job of creating a story in which it is entirely up to the reader as to whether he/she is reading a fantasy novel or one set in a city where the inhabitants entertain some rather (to our minds) odd perceptions of reality.

Some cultures think that spirits inhabit everything in the world, some cultures believe that time is circular, some cultures believe trickle-down economics work (*smile*)...the inhabits of the story believe that two separate cities are physically co-located, overlapping and intruding upon each other at many points. Miéville is good enough as a writer that he can draw you into the world enough that you understand its rules and believe in its characters yet, at the same time, stop just short of making a declaration of whether your choice is accurate. Or, rather, you can find several passages to confirm your belief...just as the exegetical work of those of the opposing viewpoint will indicate proof for their side.

I didn't enjoy this as much as my first venture into his Weird fiction, Perdido Street Station, but I did appreciate it. He has said in an interview that he dislikes allegory but it's hard not to read some into this story and to think about what it says about human perception.

171TadAD
Editat: maig 19, 2015, 8:00am

An Early Reviewer book...



№ 27 - The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips



This story is somewhat like Franz Kafka meets Eric Ambler meets George Orwell. In that vein it did a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere but I didn't find much else to really draw me in. It's not the type of story where I expect the plot to be that big but I did expect either a much deeper world-building or a much richer set of characters.

However, in this story about a young woman working in a crushingly monotonous job whose purpose she cannot fathom—it's hard not to think of the "pushing the button" scenes in Lost—the world was virtually non-existent beyond a featureless office building and a dirty sublet apartment. The characters were strangely flat: Josephine and Joseph seemed to lack most human reactions, even with each other, and the rather strange supporting cast members were defined almost solely by some attribute they possessed, even when they were obviously emblematic of much more.

I found myself distracted both by the annoying nonsense rhyming that, as far as I could tell, contributed no real benefit to the story, and by trying (unsuccessfully) to figure out what the persistent motifs running through the story might mean (pomegranates = Persephone myth?, dirty sheets = the cares of life?).

Gracefully short, I think a much longer version at the same level would have been unpleasant.

172sibylline
maig 19, 2015, 8:33am

The last book sounds like a bust.

I hugely enjoyed The City & the City. I don't know what I was expecting, but it just surprised me, I think, and that made me enjoy it even more.

173TadAD
Editat: maig 27, 2015, 10:40am



№ 28 - Feast of Fates by Christian A. Brown



I was looking for light reading and it was on sale for the Kindle, so I bit: an average of four and a half stars on Amazon; I just don't get it. I'm cranky about bad stories lately and probably slamming this one much harder than I would had I been in a better mood, but...

It takes a pretty good author to try to write a character who sometimes is talking from the gutter, full of four letter words and frank discussions about interesting bits of anatomy, and the next is all stilted "backwards ran sentences" and "you have lost someone...a precious heart." Brown isn't. It jars.

And, honestly, I cannot abide place descriptions such as, "It had a song unsung. A lonely melody, crying on the wind like a nestling in an empty nest."

Breathless. Tall, dark, predatory heroes. Fiery-haired women with hidden depths. I suspect bodices were ripped but I stopped reading after 40 pages and missed it.

174TadAD
maig 27, 2015, 10:42am



№ 29 - The Silkworm by Robert Gailbraith



I enjoyed it slightly more than the first in the series. The characters solidified a bit more and the mystery was fine. Rowling backed off on telling us that Strike had figured out something a bit, which was welcome.

A decent, solid mystery for me with interesting series characters. Worth reading if you enjoy the genre.

175ronincats
maig 27, 2015, 11:52am

>173 TadAD: Well, I see that on LT, it has 2 1 star ratings and 1 5 star rating. Evidently readers are either hot or cold on this one, but I'm betting on the lower end of the scale getting the majority from your description.

176LizzieD
maig 27, 2015, 12:49pm

Happy to see you posting again, Tad. I'll remember what you say about The Silkworm if I turn out not best pleased with *Cuckoo*...... I have it and I'm not reading it. I wouldn't touch those songs unsung with whatever it is that touches songs.
Like you, I find that *Perdido* remains my gold standard for Miéville. Some others come closer than *C&C* did, but I liked it a lot.

177sibylline
maig 27, 2015, 3:17pm

I do agree that Rowling was beginning to hit her stride with book 2! Nice to see you here!

178TadAD
Editat: jul. 17, 2015, 6:46am

Utterly mind boggling

Thank heavens it's a joke. :D

179connie53
jul. 27, 2015, 12:52pm

Hi Tad! Just waving.

180Whisper1
jul. 27, 2015, 11:13pm

Hi Tad. I'm stopping by to say hello.

181LizzieD
jul. 27, 2015, 11:48pm

>178 TadAD: Tad, are you sure it's just a joke??? This one isn't.

182kidzdoc
jul. 28, 2015, 8:12am

Tad, did you go to any bookshops when we were in Amsterdam? If so, which one(s) did you visit, and what books did you buy?

183TadAD
ag. 19, 2015, 6:53pm

>182 kidzdoc: No, I didn't. I had many more books along than I could read...especially given that I'm having difficulty reading lately.

184TadAD
ag. 19, 2015, 6:59pm

>182 kidzdoc: No, I didn't. I had more books with me that I could possibly read, especially given how much difficulty I'm having with reading lately.

185TadAD
ag. 19, 2015, 7:04pm



№ 30 - Outlaws by Javier Cercas, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean



Go read Darryl's review. He recommended the book to me and said it all.

186TadAD
ag. 19, 2015, 7:07pm



№ 31 - The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin



A good second book in the series; I enjoyed Franklin's continued exploration of her rather non-traditional characters. It reminds me a lot of the Brother Cadfael series (for obvious reasons) but with a more interesting protagonist.

187TadAD
Editat: ag. 19, 2015, 7:23pm



№ 32 - A Drink Before the War by Dennis Lehane



This was recommended to me by Jim (drneutron). Bordering on 4 stars. Good noir-ish detective story lightened by occasional flashes of humor. Recommended.

188TadAD
Editat: ag. 19, 2015, 7:24pm



№ 33 - Anathem by Neal Stephenson



Interesting premise, good writing style and marvelous world-building but it just didn't do it for me. That's surprising as I'm normally quite the Stephenson fan. However, despite a great first third or so, I felt the book just fell down as it went along. It seemed to me that character actions began to rely more and more on plot convenience and less on common sense or believability, and that many of the minor threads of plot just seemed to get forgotten, turning the story into rather single-dimensional action pulp at the end.

As a side note, many have complained about the math and logic in the book; I didn't mind that aspect at all. My tepid response was purely a reaction to the crafting of the plot: 1008 pages just didn't seem a reasonable ante for what I got in the end.

I'll still continue with his books and hope that they're more like Zodiac, The Diamond Age or even Snow Crash.

189Whisper1
ag. 19, 2015, 8:39pm

Hi Tad! I've added Outlaws to the tbr pile.

190kidzdoc
ag. 20, 2015, 10:51am

I'm glad that you also enjoyed Outlaws, Tad.

191TadAD
Editat: oct. 4, 2015, 10:18am



№ 34 - Singularity Sky by Charles Stross



I liked that he actually grappled with the glaring hole in wide-screen space opera: causality violation caused by faster than light travel. Very little science fiction does...and that's fine if the author is just saying, "Hey, totally suspend reality for a while." However, a lot of hard science fiction actually wants you to believe the science is real or possible as an extension of the physics we know and, yet, neglects this. So, kudos to Stross for this.

On the other hand, there was just something about the main characters that seemed a trifle teenager-ish despite their advanced ages; they didn't ring quite true to me.

I'm still trying to decide what I think about Alice in Wonderland meets the Russian Revolution meets Baba Yaga...

It seems to be becoming a minor classic so perhaps worth reading if you're a fan of that genre but I'd neither recommend nor discourage.

192TadAD
Editat: oct. 4, 2015, 10:16am



№ 35 - Justice Hall by Laurie R. King



A good book but O Jerusalem, the previous book in the series, is a hard act to follow. It was great to see Mahmoud and Ali again but I wanted the backdrop of Palestine.

193TadAD
oct. 4, 2015, 10:24am



№ 36 - Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Phil Markowski



A great discussion of the history and influences of the Saison and Bière de Garde beer styles. However, it's rather repetitive — it's 256 pages should have been more like 128 — and more focused on talking about existing brands than helping you brew your own. You can decide if that's worth $12 to you ($10 on the Kindle) but, while I enjoyed reading it, I wish I had just found it in a library somewhere.

194sibylline
Editat: oct. 8, 2015, 8:31am

Had to go and find the book and look through it (Singularity Sky to see what I could remember (not much at first) . . . ah yes, The Festival. I may have to give it a quick reread. Sometimes once you start the whole thing comes back. I can hope!

195TadAD
Editat: des. 4, 2015, 3:08pm



№ 37 - Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman



I'm not sure that this book delivers entirely on the title (and lengthy Introduction): a collection of stories that may trigger fears and phobias. I didn't see much that would give a sense of a trapdoor opening beneath one's feet except maybe the story that evokes Alzheimer's.

But who the heck cares!?! It's very nice collection of Gaimania: twisty, dark at times and thoroughly enjoyable. There's quite a broad range of settings, from traditional fantasy to science fiction, not to mention a few poems. You get to revisit American Gods for a brief moment as well as step over the border into Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who.

Well worth it, in my opinion.

196TadAD
Editat: des. 4, 2015, 3:05pm



№ 38 - Slade House by David Mitchell



My only exposure to Mitchell has been Cloud Atlas and I was expecting a bit more from this book...something as original as that first experience where I grappled to understand until that "Aha!" moment occurred. Slade House is not that. It's simply a rather creepy haunted house story. There's a bit of novelty as to the "haunting" part but, still, a straightforward horror story.

I also thought that, despite being a rather fast read, it was just a little too easy to have your attention wander in the middle. The problem is that the book has an internal pattern to it, one that you want to (and suspect eventually will) break. However, the physical fact of the number of pages you can see remaining lets you know, "Not yet...not yet." Once you know that, there is a slight feeling of repetitiveness. I think it would actually work best read on an electronic reader with the progress meter turned off. That way, the sense of suspense would be heightened.

A readable book that you'll probably enjoy if you're a fan of horror but I wouldn't say much more than that.

197sibylline
des. 1, 2015, 5:45pm

I've never warmed up to Gaiman. One of those mysteries. Slade House is on my xmas list, but now I am thinking of taking it off. Hmmm.

198LizzieD
des. 1, 2015, 10:43pm

I think I rated Slade House too high since I agree with everything you said about it, Tad. I did read The Bone Clocks, which disappointed me mightily. Since I knew from that experience that I wasn't likely to get anything but story with this one and because it was short - the right length for what it is - I gave it four stars. (Lucy, I don't think you need either one of these.)

199TadAD
des. 4, 2015, 3:07pm

>197 sibylline: Unless you're desperate for books on your list, I'm not sure this one would be a top choice.

200sibylline
des. 4, 2015, 8:08pm

Not desperate, so it's being taken off! I think I'll put in the A.N. Wilson on Victoria instead!

201TadAD
Editat: des. 14, 2015, 5:27pm

Whew! Had our annual holiday party this weekend and just finished clearing the detritus. I haven't spent time to figure out how many people showed but probably about 60, maybe a few more.

Smoked salmon with crème fraiche, mushroom tartlets, spicy olivada, bacon-wrapped dates, gougères, Quiche Lorraine, parmesan spirals, chipotle black bean cakes with avocado, homemade hummus, a Virginia ham, mini-Reubens, hot & sour meatballs, Cajun-seasoned nuts. Not to mention 5 types of home-brewed beer. A lot of time in the kitchen! The torch passed from my middle daughter+friends to my youngest+friends for waitressing. Makes me feel old.

A lot of fun but exhausting. Fortunately, Christmas will be quiet this year. :-)

202LizzieD
des. 14, 2015, 5:47pm

Wow! What a party!!!!!
I hope that you can now rest with a good book.

203kidzdoc
des. 15, 2015, 5:10am

Wow, indeed!

204sibylline
des. 18, 2015, 10:53am

The food sounds incredible! Knowing you I am assuming you made or put together almost all of those dishes yourself . . . I loved the few years where my daughter and her friends liked waitressing at our (very rare) parties.

205avatiakh
des. 19, 2015, 4:25pm

Happy Holidays Tad - I haven't visited your thread as much this year but just caught up and of course got a few recommendations as well. I'm currently reading All the light we cannot see and now looking forward to the second half of the book.

206ronincats
des. 23, 2015, 3:43pm



For my Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/Holiday image this year (we are so diverse!), I've chosen this photograph by local photographer Mark Lenoce of the pier at Pacific Beach to express my holiday wishes to you: Peace on Earth and Good Will toward All!

207SandDune
des. 23, 2015, 4:19pm



Happy Christmas Tad!

208TadAD
des. 31, 2015, 5:15pm

Well, Shylock Is My Name finished today. The review will have to wait a bit as it will be challenging to write (I guess I'll put it in the 2016 thread) but this is one of my best reads of the year. Just in time.