Avaland and Dukedom_Enough's Reading 2020, PART I

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Avaland and Dukedom_Enough's Reading 2020, PART I

1avaland
Muokkaaja: joulukuu 30, 2019, 10:14am



Happy New Year to all. Amazing to think that this group is into its 12th year, and that we have been active on LT for 14 years now. A lot has happened and many books have been read in those 14 years.

We are Michael & Lois, retirees living in New Hampshire in a smallish home reasonably full of books (the grandsons have discovered the library ladder!)

According to his own description: HE reads mostly SF&F, nonfiction (mostly current events these days), poetry (favorites are Auden, Larkin, Millay, Jeffers, Houseman) and Twitter.

I read all manner of fiction (various genres and forms, a fair number in translation), a great variety of nonfiction in form and subject matter, poetry (too many favorites to name). I also dabble in many books I don't necessarily read cover to cover, especially for ancestry work, historical context...etc. I also read the Washington Post daily and a bit of World Literature Today.

*photo is from our early December snowstorm which dumped 26" of snow on us.

2avaland
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 9:26am

HIS READING....

NOW READING:



American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (fiction, e-book)

BOOKS GENERALLY DABBLED IN 2020:

The Year's Best Science Fiction:35th Annual Collection, edited by Gardner Dozois (2018)

HOLD-OVERS from 2019 but want to finish.

Vast by Linda Nagata (1998, ebook)

2020 BOOKS READ: √ denotes reviewed



Q1
Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley (2017, Fantasy)
Agency by William Gibson (2020, SF)
The Road to UnFreedom: Russia, Europe, America by Timothy Snyder
The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem (1974)

√ denotes reviewed

True Stories: and Other Essays by Francis Spufford (2017)
The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Icehenge by Kim Stanley Robinson
Lords of the Starship by Mark S. Geston

3avaland
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 14, 2020, 11:15am

HER READING....

NOW READING:



Phantom Limbs: Stories by Margo Lanagan (2018, says it's horror!)
Verge: Stories by Lidia Yuknavitch (2020, US)
Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer (2019, US, SF&F)
Laterality: Exploring the Enigma of Left-Handedness by Clare Porac, PhD
(on hold)The Memory Illusion: Remembering, Forgetting, and the Science of False Memory by Julia Shaw, PhD

2020 BOOKS READ: √ denotes reviewed
Q2:

Q1:

Walking Into the Night by Olaf Olafsson (2003, Icelandic-American)
The Resisters by Gish Jen (2020, US, dystopia)
Founding Mothers & Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society by Mary Beth Norton (1998, history)
The Memory Police by Yoko Ozawa (1994, Japan, 2019 in translation; dystopia)
The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson (2019, Iceland)
Pond by Claire-Louise Bennett (2015, Ireland)
Many Rivers to Cross by Peter Robinson (2019, Crime Novel)
Careless Love by Peter Robinson (2018, Crime Novel)
The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts (2015, SF...and philosophy)
Body Tourists by Jane Rogers (2019, UK)
Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah (2016, translated 2018)
Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright (nonfiction, in book & audio form, 2018) began in 2019
Blackwater by Kerstin Ekman (Swedish, 1993)

HOLD-OVERS read in 2019 but REVIEWED 2020 .

Girl by Edna O'Brien (2018)
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder (nonfiction, 2018
Leila by Prayaag Akbar (2019, dystopia, India)
Frankissstein by Jeannette Winterson (2019, UK)
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009, T 2019, Polish)
In the Shadow of Wolves by Alkyds Slepikas ( 2011, T 2019, Lithuanian)
Travelers: A Novel by Helon Habila (2019, Nigerian)

2020 BOOKS DABBLED IN or CONTINUOUS reading/reference (read some but not cover to cover):
The Pioneers of Maine and New Hampshire: 1625-1660 by Charles Henry Pope, 1908; 252 pgs (surely I have read this all by now!)
The Pioneers of Massachusetts by Charles Henry Pope, 1900; 550 pgs

2020 BOOKS ABANDONED:

Complicity by Iain Banks (1993, UK, crime. Torture porn, set in the early 90s, well, a typical "guy book" from the era)
Under the Snow by Kerstin Ekman (1961, translated 1996. northern Sweden) It mostly suffers for NOT being the stellar read the previous book was (also an Ekman crime novel).

4OscarWilde87
tammikuu 2, 2020, 4:19am

Happy New Year! Just letting you know I dropped a star and will be following your reading again this year. :)

5nohrt4me2
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 9:11am

Please let us know how you liked the Madeleine Albright book. My husband just finished The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt. Nice companion piece (if you can stomach lots of awfulness)?

6Dilara86
tammikuu 2, 2020, 10:34am

>5 nohrt4me2: I'm also interested in you opinion on Fascism : A Warning, as well as on In the Shadow of Wolves and Travelers: A Novel.

7ELiz_M
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 12:28pm

Happy New Year! I hope the Shirley Jackson was enjoyable and (to add to the other requests) I am interested in a review of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead. :)

8avaland
tammikuu 2, 2020, 2:12pm

>4 OscarWilde87: Welcome. Hope we will have something entertaining to post!

>5 nohrt4me2:, >6 Dilara86:, >7 ELiz_M: Oh, the pressure! (just kiddin'). I will try to get to come comments soon-est (if only to please you, and also so I can put them away)

9dukedom_enough
tammikuu 2, 2020, 2:18pm

>7 ELiz_M: It was good. Tough to review such a legendary book, though.

10mabith
tammikuu 2, 2020, 2:51pm

Hope it's a good reading year with no more giant snows.

11avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 4:36pm

>10 mabith: We live in New England, it's gonna happen (bitching about it is part of the culture, ha ha)

12avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 4:17pm



Girl by Edna O’Brien (2019) Read last year, part of the catch-up.

In preparation for O’Brien novel, I read the very short nonfiction book by Helon Habila: The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria. As I said in the review of the Habila nonfiction: I’m sure it is not necessary to read the nonfiction before reading the O’Brien book, but it serves as larger context and a refresher of a harrowing and tragic story that the media so quickly seemed to move on from.

There are things fiction can do, places it can go, or touch, that oftentimes nonfiction does not quite reach. And these are the places Edna O’Brien goes. She tells a succinct, yet thorough story of the fictional Maryam, one of the kidnapped girls: a story that riveting, heart-breaking and horrifying. As reader we are with Maryam; we can not turn away, and yet, despite the horror, injustice and indifference that we come to know through her, there is also, we discover, a persistence and courage that one might not imagine is possible.

13avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 2, 2020, 4:19pm

I have been fond of dystopias for decades. Was it the reading of Fahrenheit 451 in school in the early 70s Or was it the power of Handmaid’s Tale read first in the mid-80s that hooked me? Dystopias are never about the future, but the present. And it has been said that dystopias are really about ‘hope’ — chew on that. Today, it almost seems we are living in dystopian times…but I’m sure that has been said innumerable times in the past.



Leila by Prayaag Akbar (2018, India) Read 2019, part of catch-up on reviews.

Shalini, a 43 year old widow, tells the story of how she came to be living in The Towers, a crumbling residential complex, and how she, now pill dependent, has become a sad reflection of a vibrant, intelligent and feisty woman she once was. Fifteen years ago, the rules were changing, walls and gated communities were being built everywhere to enforce Purity—to segregate some from ‘others’ and guard resources. Vigilante groups were rising up to enforce a brutal kind of order. Shalini & her family lived in a mixed neighborhood and was in the middle of a lovely birthday party for her young daughter when they came for them. They were separated, her husband taken one way, she another, and her young daughter…. Shalini has survived these years living only to find her daughter, Leila….

Set in India in the near future, Leila is a riveting “awful warning” novel. It is always interesting to read dystopias from other countries, as we often share the concerns voiced. This novel is about a future controlled by money, power, sexism, tribalism and nationalism which, as we know, is not limited to the country of India.

PS: I think I read somewhere that this is now a series on Netflix...

14nohrt4me2
tammikuu 2, 2020, 4:37pm

>13 avaland: So many dystopian novels, so little time! Yes, I see it n Netflix. Looks like I will be extending my subscription just a bit longer ...

15valkyrdeath
tammikuu 2, 2020, 7:01pm

Looking forward to following your reading again this year, hope it's a good one for you both! And you've already got me interesting in Leila, in book and Netflix forms.

16dchaikin
tammikuu 2, 2020, 9:07pm

>12 avaland: been curious about this since I read your comments on the Habila.

Happy New Year, both. I'll be following what shows up here.

17rachbxl
tammikuu 3, 2020, 2:10am

>13 avaland: I've been looking forward to seeing what you made of this one. I keep thinking about it, months on. I still haven't watched it on Netflix; I watched the trailer, and got the impression that a lot had been added that's not in the book, which is a shame, since the book in itself, as you say, is 'a riveting "awful warning" novel'. I'll let my impressions of the novel fade a bit before watching it, if I ever do.

18avaland
tammikuu 3, 2020, 6:37am

>14 nohrt4me2: Wait! before you watch it as I plan to send it to you. It's a quick read. (we have Netflix currently suspended)

>15 valkyrdeath:, >16 dchaikin: We thank you for your kind attentions.

>17 rachbxl: Yes, I thought the book must be only a starting point, as it was her story, more or less. I imagine the show would profile & follow characters on all sides; the doctor who gave her the pills, the brother-in-law, the servant...etc.

19nohrt4me2
tammikuu 3, 2020, 1:04pm

>18 avaland: Too late! But it will still be fun to read.

20avaland
tammikuu 3, 2020, 1:09pm

>19 nohrt4me2: Was the show any good? Worth us re-upping Netflix for a while?

21nohrt4me2
tammikuu 3, 2020, 8:06pm

>20 avaland: I'm only two episodes in. It's engaging. If the book is fresh in your mind, it's probably worth a look.

22kidzdoc
tammikuu 4, 2020, 11:20am

Happy New Year, Lois! I purchased Travelers by Helon Habila last week, based on your recommendation, and I'll probably read it in the spring.

23avaland
tammikuu 5, 2020, 7:16am

Happy New Year, Darryl! Good to see you out and about. I saw on your thread that you were going to dig into some of the African books in your piles, and it made me think of the collection of African Lit TBRs I still have....

24avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 5, 2020, 7:20am

Still trying to catch-up, so this is another review of a book read a few months ago:



Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (2019, UK)

Jeanette Winterson’s latest novel is a science fiction roller coaster ride of a story; an unruly mix of thoughtful, clever, crude, and comic. Within this amusement park ride, is an amazingly adroit and intelligent conversation about the future of humankind.

The novel weaves together two storylines, one historical and, well, lovely, set in 1816 at Lake Geneva where young Mary Shelley, among friends, begins her story of re-animated life. The other more prominent storyline, is set in our time at a global convention on robotics in Memphis. Attending the convention is Ry Shelley, a transgendered surgeon; Victor Stein, a celebrated professor whose specialty is machine learning and human augmentation; and Ron Lord, enthusiastic creator of the latest sexbot tech. It sounds almost like a set-up for a three-men-walk-into-a-bar… kind of joke, but instead it becomes a vehicle for some of the most interesting discussion on life, humanity and what it means to be human. Bits like this:

“ Do you really think the brain can be brought back to functioning consciousness? I say.
Probably, he says…
…Of course, says Victor, what I would prefer is to be able to upload myself, that is, upload my consciousness, to a substrate not made of meat. At present, though, that is not an effective way to prolong life because the operation to scan and copy the contents of my brain will kill me.
Isn’t content also context? I ask him, Your experiences, your circumstances, the time you live in? Consciousness isn’t free-floating; it’s enmeshed.
That is true, he says, but you know, I believe that the modern diaspora — that so many of us find ourselves somewhere else, migrants of some kind – global, multicultural, less rooted, less dependent on our immediate history of family or country to shape ourselves — all of that is preparing us for a looser and freer understanding of ourselves as content whose context can change.
Nationalism is on the rise, I say,
He nods. That is a throwback. A fear. A refusal of the future. But the future cannot be refused.”


As noted earlier, the book is a wild ride; and very much intended to be. I enjoyed its serious thought-provoking discussions, and the oddness of delivery, but I admit that about three-quarters of the way through I was mentally tired and ready to get off the ride and stand on solid ground again.

25dudes22
tammikuu 5, 2020, 12:47pm

I have Olga Tokarczuk on my list to read this year so I'll be interested to see what you have to say about her book.

26nancyewhite
tammikuu 5, 2020, 1:15pm

I think ready to get off the ride is a perfect description of how I felt the further I progressed into Frankissstein.

That said, it's been about a month since I finished, and I think of it more than I'd expected. In particular, I keep wondering whether AI is the only remaining end-game for humans.

27dchaikin
tammikuu 5, 2020, 2:28pm

Frankissstein will be my next audiobook. But...goodness...will it work in that format? Sounds like I’ll need to open to quitting the audio and switching to text

28avaland
tammikuu 5, 2020, 3:11pm

>25 dudes22: I'll try to get to it; I think it might be the most difficult to write about (but it's not at all a difficult book).

>26 nancyewhite: I haven't really thought about it since finishing it. The historical storyline was my favorite, of course.

>27 dchaikin: Gee, good question, and I don't have a good answer for you. But it's a fairly quick read.

29kidzdoc
tammikuu 5, 2020, 5:22pm

>23 avaland: I hope that you get to at least some of those African works of literature on your TBR list, Lois, especially if they are books that I'm not familiar with.

>24 avaland: Nice review of Frankissstein. I'm looking at my copy of it now, and hopefully I'll get to it this year.

30nohrt4me2
tammikuu 5, 2020, 5:59pm

>24 avaland: Sounds interesting and exhausting. I have not found Winterson particularly engaging, but I always like the ideas she comes up with for stories.

31avaland
tammikuu 6, 2020, 2:55pm

>29 kidzdoc: Perhaps I will, they are leftover from an earlier era, and there are likely so many more "new" authors. I have kept up better with some of my favorites (and a few have passed away i.e. Djebar).

>30 nohrt4me2: Yes, one really must applaud her inventiveness. I do wonder a bit if it has been somewhat overrated.

32dukedom_enough
tammikuu 6, 2020, 3:00pm



Mysterium by Robert Charles Wilson

Wilson's novels generally foreground the concerns of ordinary people against some vast backdrop of space and time, a common SF move which Wilson does uncommonly well.

Two Rivers, a small town in Michigan, is zapped into a different timeline by experiments at a nearby government facility. Roads and power lines are cut off by trackless wilderness at the town's edge. Soon the town is occupied by the theocratic dictatorship that rules much of North America in the new timeline. The new world and ours seem to have diverged in the early Christian era; there, gnostic Christianity became the dominant religious strain. The town's new rulers, the Proctors of the Bureau de la Convenance Religieuse, find the ideas held by the residents of Two Rivers to be disturbingly heretical and in need of eradication. Their solution: books from the town's libraries have advanced the Bureau's nuclear-weapons program marvelously, and a test site for the new bomb will be needed. Meanwhile the timeline-jumping experiment is still active, covering the facility in a blue dome of deadly radiation.

Wilson's people include: Alan Stern, the genius physicist behind the experiment, who was on site and is presumed dead, Dexter Graham, a history teacher at the high school, Evelyn Woodward, a bed & breakfast operator, Howard Poole, the sole surviving scientist from the research facility, and Clifford Stockton, an inquisitive 12 year old. From the new world, Linneth Stone is a comparative ethnologist at Sethian College in Boston; she is drafted to help understand the very peculiar population that has turned up in the upper midwest. Lieutenant Demarch is the Proctor assigned the task of disposing of the town. The story brings out the interiority and complexity of each.

For the reader of alternate history, an obvious question arises. If the two worlds diverged in the second century CE, how can the Proctors speak versions of English and French comprehensible to the Two Rivers people? Wilson has an answer, relating to the process that led the town to this particular world.

A quick, thoughtful read.

Three and a half stars

33wandering_star
tammikuu 6, 2020, 3:56pm

>13 avaland: Leila sounds really interesting - and prescient, given the news out of India in the last few months.

As you say it's interesting to read dystopias written from outside our societies. Do you have others you'd recommend?

34karspeak
tammikuu 6, 2020, 8:12pm

>32 dukedom_enough: I read Spin a while ago and really enjoyed it. What else by him might you recommend?

35auntmarge64
tammikuu 6, 2020, 9:59pm

Looking forward to seeing what you both read so I can add to my TBR list again. You're starred!

36AlisonY
tammikuu 7, 2020, 3:32am

>12 avaland: On the O'Brien book (sorry - Happy New Year!), I'm interested to read that you found this worked well. I've not read it, but in The Little Red Chairs I found she was fantastic with the part set in Ireland but very poor when she moved her narrative to the Balkans. It came across as very inauthentic, and obviously written by someone who wasn't close enough to the situation to be able to convey it well.

For that reason I've been put off by Girl, but your review has made me reconsider.

37avaland
tammikuu 7, 2020, 10:16am

>33 wandering_star: Most of the dystopias I read are US or UK, because that is what is most available. And there seem to be more being written these days. I'm sometimes attracted to ones from places other, or different cultures...etc. Last year I picked up one set in North Dakota(who sets a dystopia in North Dakota?). And Louise Erdrich's dystopia Future Home of the Living God (2017) came from a different point of view. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist is Swedish and I thought that interesting considering their social policies.

I read one in 2017 set in China, in the near future when women can have as many as three husbands. More of a family story, I think, that a 'big ideas' one. An Excess Male written by Taiwanese-American Maggie Shen King (or would that be Chinese-American?). Your take on it would be interesting.

>35 auntmarge64: We are happy you will be stopping in from time to time. Hopefully, we will be reading something that will interest you!

>36 AlisonY: I loved The Little Red Chairs but hadn't read her earlier works, so I went to the new one without a lot of O'Brien baggage. I think her theme is lost childhood/girlhood which is a similar theme to what I am reading now. It's a tough book to read, and thankfully it's blessedly short. I have read quite a lot of African lit, so that plays into my choice also.

38dukedom_enough
tammikuu 7, 2020, 10:44am

>34 karspeak:

By me, his two best are Spin and Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America. All the rest of his novels are pretty uniformly 3.5 to 4 stars, for me. The Harvest maybe ranks above that general level. Note I haven't read everything. Darwinia was very well reviewed.

The sequels to Spin, Axis and Vortex, are well done, but I don't think his heart was quite in them. He seems to finish an idea in one novel and then move on. This probably hurts him commercially in an era where everyone wants trilogies.

I also love his novella "Divided by Infinity", because it captures how strange the world becomes as one ages.

39avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 7, 2020, 12:07pm



On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder (nonfiction, 2018) read in 2019 -- still catching up.

This is a physically tiny book but oh, it packs a punch. As the subtitle declares, it is twenty "lessons." Each begins with a statement; such as: #19 "Be a Patriot" or #10 "Believe in Truth." and these are followed by a few introductory, emboldened sentences which in turn lead you to a few pages on the subject. It may not be appropriate to have a favorite, but here is mine: #9 "Be Kind to Our Language: Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. Make an effort to separate yourself from the internet. Read books." (he then spends a few pages discussing use of language and books).

This riveting book is both a caution, and a call-to-actions (small and large). Most of these 'lessons' are obvious and easy to grasp; a few seemed written for people who perhaps wield more power in our society than most of us (but with some thought can be applied to all). Maybe you can't read the books that seek to tell us what is wrong but leaves us short when it comes to suggesting what we might do about it, this book is different (and blessedly short).

40karspeak
tammikuu 7, 2020, 12:18pm

41dukedom_enough
tammikuu 7, 2020, 12:50pm

>40 karspeak: You're welcome

42wandering_star
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 7, 2020, 9:07pm

>37 avaland: An Excess Male turns out to be on my wishlist (quite possibly based on your review, if you mentioned it on LT before)! Sadly my NY resolution not to buy any new *stuff* in 2020 means I can't get hold of it straight away but I will see if I can find a library copy.

>39 avaland: I really, really like the 'lesson' you've quoted. It amazes me how much people just parrot the phrases that they had heard other people use - including many people who are plenty smart enough to think for themselves. I guess it doesn't occur to them the way that a particular word or phrase affects the way we frame what's happening in the world.

43avaland
tammikuu 8, 2020, 6:19am

>42 wandering_star: I have vowed to buy less books now that I no longer have a discount at the bookstore but here it is January 8th and I've bought 4 already (although one was an exchange, so really, does that count?).

re: the favorite "lesson": I'm sure I'm guilty of repeating phrases, too. I wish I could have had the patience to transcribe the couple of pages that went with it. He listed some books, both fiction and non, as examples, and I will forgive him that all but one was male-authored—and that was Harry Potter (an " account of tyranny and resistance").

44dchaikin
tammikuu 8, 2020, 1:34pm

I’ve been interested in Snyder’s lessons. Even pulled an audio copy from my library once, but did not follow up. Appreciating lesson 9.

45BLBera
tammikuu 8, 2020, 3:21pm

>13 avaland: I also enjoy reading dystopias, and this sounds like a good one. I will look for it.

46avaland
tammikuu 9, 2020, 3:39pm

>45 BLBera: I ordered that book via Amazon (it was not published in the US, so it came from a dealer in the UK, I believe).

47baswood
tammikuu 9, 2020, 5:39pm

Frankissstein sounds fun and three s's together in the same word - science fiction indeed.

48rachbxl
tammikuu 10, 2020, 7:22am

>18 avaland: that’s not really what I meant when I said that the series seems to include much that’s not in the book. Filling out the backstory would be ok, but I was put off watching it by the synopses of each episode on Netflix, which I can’t quote here, but one review I just found speaks of how ‘Shalini manages multiple escapes, aligns herself with ... a sympathetic labour camp guard, and becomes a mole for a group of renegades who seek information on the Skydome’. But the story the novel tells is excellent, so why make it so sensational? (To be fair, the series might be great, but if ever I watch it, I want to wait a while, so it doesn’t cover my memories of a novel I enjoyed).

49LadyoftheLodge
tammikuu 10, 2020, 8:09pm

>1 avaland: BTW, thanks for The Bookworm graphic on the landing page. That is one of my faves!

50avaland
tammikuu 11, 2020, 10:12am

>48 rachbxl: I tend to think that is something that Netflix looks for. That's sad treatment of the book. I've sent the book off to Jean (nohrt4me2) and will look forward to her review. (Eventually, we'll turn Netflix back on and we will see if we can watch it. The last few shows we tried to watch there were abysmal but I heard there is a new season of "Occupied" --a Norwegian show about a near future where Russia pulls off a "soft" occupation of Norway).

51avaland
tammikuu 11, 2020, 10:12am

>49 LadyoftheLodge: You're welcome!

52SassyLassy
tammikuu 11, 2020, 3:39pm

>50 avaland: Just finished the new season of Occupied, one of my favourite series, with its interactions between Norway, the EU and Russia. It seems Netflix may have pulled it from US distribution, for no apparent reason, so it seems you should look for it soon, just in case it pops back again. Last night it was still available in Canada.
I can say no more without spoilers!

53avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 13, 2020, 8:40am

>52 SassyLassy: Oh, intrigue! I actually heard about season 3 from Netflix itself, as they email regularly trying to lure us back. Just checked, it certainly looks like it's available. We may have to refresh ourselves some....

I found a site that discusses the so-called pull: https://www.distractify.com/p/occupied-netflix

54dukedom_enough
tammikuu 13, 2020, 5:04pm



Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand

Thrillers are not my usual fare, but when it's Elizabeth Hand writing a historical thriller, I take notice.

It's the terribly hot summer of 1915 in Chicago. Large crowds of people seek entertainment at the popular Riverview Amusement Park, gawking at the Infant Incubators or the She-Male, riding the Velvet Coaster's swoops or the Hell Gate boats taking couples cosily through a dark tunnel. Downtown, Essanay Studios is still competitive with Hollywood in the early film industry, making features starring Wallace Beery, among others; Charlie Chaplin is dropping by and grabbing the bodies of twelve year old actresses. Francis Bacon works for the Park's security - a former Chicago police officer, he was kicked off the force after trying to expose corrupt links between the police brass and the Black Hand gangs. When the city learns that someone is killing young girls, Bacon must try to keep the Park safe. Reporter Bennie Hecht, on the other hand, wants to sell newspapers using the most lurid stories possible, and the police just want to lock up the nearest Black man. I'm not a mystery fan either, but I think the novel is formally a mystery, where the reader has clues enough to detect the killer before his identity is explicitly shown.

"Pin" Maffucci, fourteen years old but looking twelve, lives in severe poverty with her fortune-teller mother. Pin has much more freedom of movement than most girls, because she has dropped her real first name and disguised herself as a boy. She can run hashish to the screenwriters at Essanay and move along the Park's midway, unbothered but for the usual scrapes boys get into. She values the relative security of her fake boyhood: her sister Abriana disappeared several years ago, never to be found after being lured away by a strange man. Beyond security, being a boy feels right to Pin in a way thar girlhood did not.

Then, from a distance, Pin sees a man take a much younger girl into the Hell Gate ride, and exit alone; the girl's body is later found inside the tunnel.

Hand moves the chase along excitingly. Brief interludes give us the killer's twisted viewpoint without quite revealing him. Bacon faces resistance from his former colleagues as he tries to solve the case. Meanwhile Pin conducts her own investigation, eventually coming to the sickening moment when she surrenders the shield of her boyishness, becoming again a vulnerable little girl to be a decoy for the murderer.

One of the pleasures of a historical story is seeing which of the characters turn out later to be people we know from history - Ben Hecht, for one. And Pin gains an ally in a strange, short, unreliable young man prone to obsessive rhyming and odd fantasies, whom we learn is the outsider artist and writer Henry Darger. The Darger appearance is my other reason for reading this novel: I've long been fascinated by him, and knowing how he'll live out his sad, lonely life adds a lot to Pin's story.

Hand saves the reveals for a couple of other characters for the end of the book, and one was, for me, very moving. After the story ends, Hand provides a short nonfiction piece on Darger and a bibliography on her sources for Darger, Chicago 1915, Riverview Park and the early film industry. I'm still not a thriller fan, but I'm glad I read Curious Toys.

Four and a half stars.

55kidzdoc
tammikuu 13, 2020, 7:39pm

Great review of Curious Toys, Michael. It reminds me of a similar historical mystery that I just mentioned to arubabookwoman, The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin, in which a young man, his girlfriend and a young Louis Armstrong attempt to capture the Axeman of New Orleans, a serial killer who murdered at least six people in the city from 1918 to 1919 but was never identified or caught. I'm not a fan of mystery novels, but I loved that book.

56dchaikin
tammikuu 13, 2020, 11:44pm

Great review and you make this book appeal.

57AnnieMod
tammikuu 14, 2020, 12:38am

>54 dukedom_enough: Nice review :) Seems you liked it as much as I did.

58LadyoftheLodge
tammikuu 14, 2020, 2:23pm

>54 dukedom_enough: My family and I used to go to Riverview when I was growing up! It was always a special and slightly scary treat for us four girls. This book sounds intriguing, although I do not usually read thrillers.

59AnnieMod
tammikuu 14, 2020, 2:36pm

>58 LadyoftheLodge: It is more of a historical novel than a thriller :)

60dukedom_enough
tammikuu 14, 2020, 7:36pm

>55 kidzdoc: Sounds cool. Jazz novels are the best.

>56 dchaikin: Thanks.

>57 AnnieMod: You wrote a better plot summary than I did.

>58 LadyoftheLodge: I didn't know Riverview was open so recently; how interesting.

61lisapeet
tammikuu 15, 2020, 7:26am

Also not a big thriller reader, but I put Curious Toys on hold at the library because it sounds really interesting from your (and other folks here's) reviews.

62dukedom_enough
tammikuu 15, 2020, 11:04am

>61 lisapeet: Hope you like it.

63avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 15, 2020, 3:38pm



Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright (2018)

Fascism: A Warning is a relatively short book, a mere 250 pages. In it Madeline Albright delivers a thoughtful and succinct examination of the distastefully fascinating subject of fascism. The book is also laced with Albright’s broad, personal experiences and observations, whether originating as a European immigrant of the 1940s, her extensive foreign policy experience as UN Ambassador or Secretary of State, or from more recent gigs, such as a professor of grad students (where she teaches this stuff) and her participation in think tank projects. All of this comes together in a book that is readily accessible.

Fascism, she notes early on, is “less than a political ideology and more a means for seizing and holding power.” From there we take a tour of European despots of the 20th century, through profiles of Hilter, Mussolini, Franco, and other players like Perón, even touching on Sir Oswald Mosely (Britain’s contribution). This is not a dense political science or history book; Albright is adept at giving us just the right amount of detail, and she keeps her prose loose and readable. Here’s a short paragraph as an example from pg 44:

“Hitler and Mussolini met more than a dozen times. Each had a lofty vision of his personal destiny and each harbored an unquenchable rage towards a world that, when he was young, had failed to recognize his talents. Both resented their more educated and socially correct contemporaries and both were Fascists, though only Hitler was a Nazi. During his political ascent, Hitler considered the older man to be a trailblazer worthy of emulation. Il Duce paid little heed to Hitler at first, then, when he came to know him, thought him a potentially useful maniac.”

The book continues with a contrast between fascism and communism, a discussion of the Cold War, and then the post Cold War “discontent” with democracies. Towards the end she brings us into the “now” with thoughtful discussion of immigration/migration issues and policies:“the complexity of immigration as an issue begins with a basic human trait: we are reluctant to share.” (185)

There is more in this book than I can report here, and sure enough Albright brings her narrative around to serve her purpose; this is a warning, she wants us awake and paying attention for we are susceptible and “of two minds”: we desire liberty and yet that desire “often competes with the longing to be told what to do.” This book: succinct, accessible and thorough, teaches a longer and deeper view than the daily news can provide, and it reaches places within us that might help us avoid the temptation to close our eyes.

---------------------------------------

** Because I so enjoyed the audio of Madeline Albright’s earlier book, a memoir, Madame Secretary, in 2003; I wanted to also listen to this new book. She has a wonderful voice and is a fab reader of her own work. Perhaps I also thought the content would be easier to hear coming from a familiar voice. I listened to the first 2/3rd of this book on audio, somewhat piecemeal , often replaying parts, because I was partially distracted by the other things I was doing. I finally went out and picked up the paperback and read the last third. I would very much recommend the audio if you have minimal distractions, but otherwise, read the book.


64valkyrdeath
tammikuu 16, 2020, 4:57pm

>54 dukedom_enough: I've only just added this to my list and here it is again. I'm also not a thriller fan but the historical aspect really appeals with that one.

65arubabookwoman
tammikuu 16, 2020, 8:03pm

>12 avaland: I read another fictional treatment of the Boko Haram kidnappings last year for an online book group, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree. It was okay, but seemed rather YA’ish to me (not a fan), and I wanted something with more depth. I bought Girl recently, but haven’t read it yet.
>37 avaland: I read Excess Male last year too, and really liked it.
I guess that’s why our LT libraries are so similar!

66kidzdoc
tammikuu 17, 2020, 5:44am

Great review of Fascism: A Warning, Lois. I have a copy of it on my Kindle (thanks for the reminder), so I'll read it later this year.

67avaland
tammikuu 17, 2020, 5:25pm

>65 arubabookwoman: Interesting about the other Boko Haram book. Perhaps it was YA? The last YA I read was over 10 years ago, I think. I have checked out some of my regular authors who take a dip in YA from time to time but the only exclusively YA writer I followed/follow is the Australian Margo Lanagan. Superior short stories, and her YA novel Tender Morsels is excellent (fairy tale retold). But I digress....

Re: An Excess Male (I think I sent that to nohrt4me2). Imagine having THREE husbands. I can't even handle the one....ha hahaha.

>66 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. I'm not terribly comfortable writing reviews of nonfiction as I always feel a bit inadequate for the task.

68OscarWilde87
tammikuu 18, 2020, 6:03am

Interesting books and great reviews, both Albright and Curious Toys.

69dukedom_enough
tammikuu 18, 2020, 6:39am

70nohrt4me2
tammikuu 18, 2020, 12:51pm

>63 avaland: Will get a copy of Fascism for my husband. Sounds like something we might want to read aloud together, a pasttime from our younger years that fell away. Thanks for the review.

71dchaikin
tammikuu 19, 2020, 11:06pm

>63 avaland: I’m interested in Albright’s perspective. I’ll keep this in mind for audio.

72avaland
tammikuu 20, 2020, 11:28am

>71 dchaikin: If you do CDs I'll send it to you?

73avaland
tammikuu 20, 2020, 11:43am



Body Tourists by Jane Rogers (2019, UK)

It is 2045 and science has arrived at a place where it can take advantage of "new developments in digital memory transfer from cryogenically frozen subjects' (via a cloning technique) into host bodies. The first transfers were done using "synths," but there was much debate over the legal status of the creature. One talented scientist, Luke Butler, with private funding from an his ultra-rich aunt, embarks on secret transfers of the digital material from the old to the bodies of young, healthy volunteers. Paid £10,000, the volunteers lose two weeks of their conscious life, while the downloaded people get to live once again, but for only those two weeks (meant to be spent on a secluded, tropical island, which happens to be where the wealthy aunt lives).

If one starts to think about this basic idea, all manner of fascinating questions arise and Rogers takes that trip with us: how are the people involved chosen? what are the moral implications of the process? what is the role of money in the process? what about the mind/body connection? and so on. The people paying for their deceased relative to be downloaded do not get a say in whose body their loved one is downloaded to, which opens up interesting conundrums: an old white man is downloaded into a young black man’s body or a woman into a man’s body. Then we can swing around and take interesting look at the people who are requesting this service, many of whomhave unresolved issues with the dead person, and let’s just say that their hopes and expectations aren’t always gratified.

This is a deceptively easy book to read, and it’s short, just a little over two hundred pages, and Rogers does more showing than telling, leaving her questions open. Any one of these questions could be a book in themselves, and probably has been somewhere in science fiction history (and I’ve probably read some of them), but more than anything, this author, like most of us, has observed both benefits and detriments to our advancements, is reminding us it's about the people.

-----
note: As far as I can tell, this book is not or not yet available in the US. I had to order from the UK (usually from the UK but this time through Amazon) I have been reading Jane Rogers since her Mr Wroe's Virgins in the early 90s, although I have not read all of her books, maybe 3 others? There is probably a TBR or two on the shelf).

74dchaikin
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 20, 2020, 1:11pm

>72 avaland: I do CDs, and appreciate the offer, but don’t send. Issue is time, not access. I can get it on audible anytime.

>73 avaland: interesting especially in light of Frankissstein - or that’s what came to mind for me. Ultimately, maybe, about how we really don’t want what we think we want. I enjoyed your review.

75avaland
tammikuu 20, 2020, 2:19pm

>74 dchaikin: Gotcha re: time.

I wondered maybe if a few years ago Jane Rogers & Jeannette Winterson got together over drinks and had a conversation about the future. The result is two very different books!

I attached a recommendation for the Winterson book to this book and this is what I said: "Some of the same questions contained in both. The Winterson is perhaps more wild and clever, has more intellectual bits, but the Rogers is less messy, simpler, and more people-oriented."

76avaland
tammikuu 20, 2020, 2:25pm



Blackwater by Kirsten Ekman (1993, translated from the Swedish, 1996)

It is the 1970s, Annie Raft and her very young daughter have traveled to northern Sweden to join her lover at the remote Starhill commune. When the lover doesn’t show to pick them up, Annie decides to hike to the mountainous site. On the deep wooded path, she sees a distraught young man running breathlessly through the woods, although he does not see her. So, when a gruesome murder is discovered in the area, the young man, now missing, becomes a likely suspect, but then there are other possibilities. Fast forward eighteen years: the murder has never been solved, and Annie again sees the young man, now much older, and kissing her grown daughter….

Not many crime novels are over 400 pages and begin with a list of principle characters, but then this is no ordinary crime novel. After a brief 1990s set-up, the story begins back in the ‘70s with Annie’s arrival in the area. From here Ekman follows Annie forward, introducing the reader to a whole host of characters (yes, one does refer back to that list from time to time) as she also slips us into this fascinating remote world. Her prose is lovely at times:

That evening the rain came. To begin with, the wind brought clouds of thin, chilly vapor, which settled like a membrane on the grass and across their faces. It turned dark and the wind blew up. By the time they were all inside with Petrous and Brita, it was raining hard.” (219)

The reader is best to leave the expectations of conventional crime novel plot points behind to guard against disappointment. If able to do that, one will be richly rewarded. Ekman writes a fine, immersive, low-key novel with a wonderful sense of place including the people that inhabit it.

The book has been likened to Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow and I would agree they both share a sense of place, but that is probably where the similarities end.

--------------

Note: following this book I tried to read Ekman's Under the Snow which is another somewhat unconventional murder mystery set in the northernmost parts of Sweden (and much, much shorter than Blackwater), but the narrative is kind of amusing, which did nothing for me. I abandoned it halfway through.

77nohrt4me2
tammikuu 21, 2020, 11:31am

>73 avaland: Sounds like a cross between the movie "Get Out" and Joss Whedon's series, "Doll House."

>76 avaland: Scandinavians seem to be doing interesting things with crime genre fiction. Another whole year's worth of reading, probably!

78dchaikin
tammikuu 21, 2020, 1:20pm

>75 avaland: maybe Jane Rogers is a good way for me to step into a scifi a bit.

>76 avaland: i like the quote - and the membrane imagery.

79avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 21, 2020, 3:04pm

>77 nohrt4me2: Interesting. I don''t think I've seen either of those.

This book would have been one of the earliest Swedish crime novels to be translated and available here in the US (1996). Although it's possible there were translations of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö's work in the 70s when the movie, "The Laughing Policeman" came out. So, not current issues, so much.

>78 dchaikin: Hmm. Have you read much SF? Most would not call Jane Rogers a SF writer generally but the book is indeed that. It was published by Sceptre, a UK imprint that likes to publish thought-provoking or stimulating stuff. She has only one other that might qualify, a dystopia that was nominated for the Booker. I would happy to send you the Rogers if you would like :-) It would be interesting to see how you respond to it (or not).

80dchaikin
tammikuu 21, 2020, 4:26pm

>79 avaland: no. I don’t do scifi, generally. I’m interested in the Rogers, and would be grateful if you sent it.

81arubabookwoman
tammikuu 21, 2020, 7:58pm

>76 avaland: Blackwater sounded intriguing, but when I clicked on it LT tells me I read it in 1998. I have no memory of it.🤪

82avaland
tammikuu 21, 2020, 8:49pm

>80 dchaikin: It will be enroute shortly.

>81 arubabookwoman: But how wonderful you had noted it down at some point! I did not start doing that until I went to work at the bookstore in '97 and even then I wasn't terribly consistent when I began.

83lisapeet
tammikuu 21, 2020, 9:07pm

That Rogers sounds very interesting. I'm going to keep my eye out for when it washes up on these shores. (But picture me in the mailroom of my workplace, not on the beach.)

84arubabookwoman
tammikuu 21, 2020, 9:30pm

>I began keeping track of what I read in 1977, and I have my handwritten list of books read from 1977 to 2009, when I joined LT. I didn’t enter all the books from the handwritten list into my LT library, but I think I listed back through the 90’s, especially if it was a book I still owned.

85avaland
tammikuu 22, 2020, 5:56am

>83 lisapeet: It would certainly be nice for the author for US publishers to pick it up, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

>84 arubabookwoman: I kept mine in a journal and did enter them all in LT, but tagged many of them "read no longer own" as I did at one time own them, just didn't keep them (not quite the same things as LT's collection "read not owned" which I think of as library or borrowed books).

86nohrt4me2
tammikuu 22, 2020, 11:48am

>76 avaland: I see that Ekman has written a novella, The Dog, which I now have in my TBR. I hope it is not a weepy animal story.

87avaland
tammikuu 22, 2020, 12:43pm

>86 nohrt4me2: Interesting. I have one more of her books to read (The Forest of Hours, not sure when I'll get to it (the main character is apparently a "troll" (not the internet kind...)

88avaland
tammikuu 23, 2020, 11:24am

Still catching up on that cache of vacation reading...



In the Shadow of Wolves by Alkyds Slepikas (2011, translated from the Lithuanian 2019)

It is 1946, WWII has ended and in East Prussia, German families are being forcibly removed from their homes to make way for the victorious Russian military and their families. Eva, her children and her aunt, having managed to salvage a bit of bedding and other material, have been sheltering in a woodshed on the corner of the’r former property. She doesn’’t know the fate of her husband, who had gone off to fight in the German army years before. They are starving and forced to forage, beg, even steal. A few of her older children will make a perilous journey across the border into Lithuanian to find food.

Based on the true story of the “Wolf Children” or Wolfskinder,Slepikas’s novel has a lingering sense of fairy or folktale. Perhaps it is the snowy, frigid landscape, or the mention of little Hansel early on, or the portrayal of children on a dangerous journey. Perhaps it’s all of these things, but the story is not a fairy tale; it’s the story of war and it’s aftermath—of winners and losers, and those caught somewhere in-between. It’s about cruelty and callousness, empathy and kindness. This is a harrowing and riveting short tale, which still haunts even now, four months after I read it.

89avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 2020, 1:53pm



Travelers: A Novel by Helon Habila (2019)

I write this review four months after my reading of the book; and it is difficult because so many books have been read since, but I persevere because it deserves a broader readership.

Told in the 1st person by a young Nigerian grad student, whose name we do not learn, Travelers tells a story of one man’s story of both rootlessness and connection. Our narrator, when the story begins, is a grad student in the United States and is invited to Berlin by his wife, who has received a prestigious art fellowship that includes a year in Germany. He agrees to go, but soon finds himself a bit aimless in her shadow. When a migrant answers an ad to sit for a portrait for his wife, our narrator, “sensing something intriguing about him,” offers to walk the man to the bus stop. Mark, the migrant, will introduce our narrator to others, who will introduce him to still more migrants and it’s clear our narrator feels a deep connection with them. At one point in the story, when he is traveling between cities, he gets off the train accidentally leaving his bag behind, this rendering him, at least in the eyes of the authorities, just another undocumented migrant. He is taken into custody and too quickly deported to a camp in Italy. That’s not the end of his story or the book, but it seems a good place to leave you :-)

Quiet and absorbing, Travelers is a tale of one man’s inner journey in exploration of, as Lisa Ko notes on the back cover, “the meanings of freedom, diaspora, and home.”

(one more 2019 read left to review! Saved the hardest for last....

90LolaWalser
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 23, 2020, 3:06pm

Hi, Lois, this is to say very belatedly "you're welcome" to your comment in thorold's thread, I've fallen far behind even in my lurking.

I'm sure you're aware of this information but regarding voter turnout in the US, this just published Robert Reich video is too perfect a final comment to skip:

The Biggest Political Party in America You've Never Heard Of with Robert Reich

Happy new year to you, Michael, the offspring and offspringing families. :)

91Caroline_McElwee
tammikuu 23, 2020, 3:14pm

>89 avaland: I agree, this was the first of his books I read Lois, and I've added two more to the tbr mountain since I read it.

92avaland
tammikuu 23, 2020, 3:53pm

>90 LolaWalser: Happy New Year to you also! I sometimes wish I was as articulate as you are. Thank's for link, I'll take a look (Not sure how the reading will go, what with the Impeachment hearings currently running in the background...).

>91 Caroline_McElwee: Hi Caro, there is something quiet and compelling in his books....

93avaland
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 2020, 1:37pm

A thank you goes out to rachbxl for making me aware of this book, which hadn’t been published in the US at the time of our discussion. I chased the book down from the UK but I believe it has now been published by Graywolf Press, who also published her previous books. Her novels I read are The Last Brother and Waiting for Tomorrow.



Tropic of Violence by Nathacha Appanah (2016, translation from the French, 2018)

Set on the French Island of Mayotte or Mahoré, a tiny dot off the coast of Africa, a desperate illegal immigrant thrusts her newborn baby into the arms of a French nurse. The baby suffers from a genetic anomaly, his eyes are different colors and the superstitious mother, at first available opportunity, abandons him in the hospital. Marie (the nurse) who is childless, adopts him and names him Moise. Life moves forward, Moise is having issues (his adopted mother is white, and he is not ). Marie dies suddenly and he reacts by running off and soon gets involved with a local gang.

Tropic of Violence is a beautifully written tragedy, a story of lost youth. The book is narrated by a number of people: Marie the white French nurse and adopted mother of Moise, Moise himself as a young man, Bruce the gang leader, and others. What makes the story so unusual is that it is told in hindsight by characters who are all dead.

Marie opens the book:
You must believe me. In the place where I’m speaking to you from, lies and presence are pointless. When I look into the depths of the sea, I can see men and women swimming there with dugongs and coelacanths, I can see dreams caught up in the weeds and babies asleep there, cradled in giant clam shells. In the place where I’m speaking to you from, this country looks like a handful of incandescent dust and I know it will only take some little thing for it all to go up in flames. I can’t remember everything about my life for all that subsists here is the edge of things an the echo of what no longer exists.
Here’s what I remember.
I’m twenty-three and the train’s coming, blue and dirty. I’m leaving the valley where I grew up, where I was a frail, lost little thing, overwhelmed by the mountains….


A mere 153 pages, the story is sad and oftentimes dark, but empathetic and absorbing. There is something about Appanah’s prose, a pervasive sadness, yes, but there is also a kind of rhythm that picks us up and carries us to the end.

94arubabookwoman
tammikuu 24, 2020, 5:05pm

>85 avaland: I put mine in the "read but not owned" collection, but then I also tag them as either "gave away" or "library book." I really need to update my library since I've culled so many books over the past several years, especially last year when we moved to the apartment.

95auntmarge64
Muokkaaja: tammikuu 24, 2020, 5:18pm

Damn, I knew reading this thread would get me in wishlist trouble! And so soon.....

I hadn't planned on reading Albright's book but now I think I will, and Blackwater looks really appealing. And all the talk of Charles Stross reminds me I have a bunch of his on the shelf. I agree with the thought that the first in the Spin trilogy was the best, but I'll admit I often feel that way about series.

You guys are on a roll!

96avaland
tammikuu 24, 2020, 6:11pm

>94 arubabookwoman: I hear you re: culled books. I'm also in the habit these day of passing on probably half or two thirds of what I read, and I don't always remember to go make a note of that.

>95 auntmarge64: I'll send you the Ekman (I'm sure I had your address at some point, but I can't find it, so if you would kindly leave it on my profile page...). I know the number of reviews look impressive but it's a lot of catch-up from last fall and then also trying to stay current. I have one more book from last Sept to review (she won the Nobel after I read it...geeesshh....) but I'm current for 2020 as of today! (it seems that I can write reviews while watching the Impeachment hearings...)

97markon
tammikuu 24, 2020, 6:29pm

>99 I can't watch the impeachment hearings. I remember my mother watching Watergate coverage in 1973, and remember watching Nixon's resignation in our livingroom, but somehow can't make myself watch our current hearings.

98dukedom_enough
tammikuu 25, 2020, 7:18am

>97 markon: I sympathize. It's OK to take breaks from keeping up; no one can absorb it all.

99dchaikin
tammikuu 27, 2020, 3:50pm

>93 avaland: this quote leads me straight to Dante’s Francesca. He wouldn’t buy her implication of honesty, however elegant she puts it. 🙂

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesca_da_Rimini

100avaland
tammikuu 28, 2020, 2:47pm

101dchaikin
helmikuu 1, 2020, 11:18am

>82 avaland: Body Tourists has arrived. Thank you!!

102kidzdoc
helmikuu 9, 2020, 10:08am

Nice review of Travelers, Lois. I did purchase it after you recommended it to me last year, so I'll read it soon.

Dang; another book bullet?! I loved Nathacha Appanah's novel The Last Brother, so I'll look for Tropic of Violence.

103AlisonY
helmikuu 9, 2020, 10:50am

Ouch - too many BBs there! The Ekman novel sounds fantastic. I don't normally go in for the thriller / crime genre, but every now and again I do when the setting appeals. It's hard to go past a bit of Scandi noir.

104avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 10, 2020, 9:06am

>102 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl, yes, you might like this one. She has another in English called Waiting for Tomorrow. There's a couple of reviews on the book page. Both books are Graywolf Press here in the states. I would probably read anything she writes because of the way she writes, a sensuous language and a deep empathy for the characters in her books.

>103 AlisonY: Thanks, Alison, perhaps we are even now, since you put me on to that earlier Julia Davis book. The Ekman might work for you, as it's not a typical genre crime novel. I have one more of hers to read perhaps before the winter is out.

105tungsten_peerts
Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 8, 2020, 1:19pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

106avaland
helmikuu 16, 2020, 4:25pm

>105 tungsten_peerts: It's Michael who is reading the Crowley currently. I'll have him pop in and comment. I tried to read Little, Big in the very late 90s or early otts, and just couldn't get past the character's name of Smokey Barnible (it made me giggle and think of the 70s. Of course, it was a very 70s book, I'm told by friends who have deemed it sacred)

107dukedom_enough
helmikuu 16, 2020, 4:26pm

>105 tungsten_peerts: Will be a while before I review Ka. I suggest trying Engine Summer as your next Crowley; a better bet if you like Little, Big.

108sallypursell
helmikuu 16, 2020, 5:47pm

I loved Little, Big, the more so since it seemed to be that Oberon and Titania were on sabbatical or something. My husband uses the name "Oberon" on a number of servers.

109avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 17, 2020, 1:49pm



Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (2009, T from the Polish 2018)

OK, I can’t review this properly because I read it last September while on vacation (that’s six months now) and it seems I would need to re-read it. To make it more daunting, since that vacation reading, the author has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Thus, I’m just going to say that I really enjoyed this story about a 60-something-year-old, eccentric woman named Janina, who lives in a remote area (at least during the winter) in Poland. She has comic names for some of her neighbors and seems more comfortable with astrology and the wild animals than most other humans. A murder occurs nearby and Janina attempts to insert herself into the investigation.

There is a scattering of "odd" characters in the story, but there is something terribly recognizable in them all. And like the recent Šlepikas novel which I read immediately following this book (in the same Adirondack chair also facing the lake), there is some sense of fairy tale in this book; perhaps it is the snowy landscape, the focus on animals, or Janina herself. The book is read easily, comfortably, and yet there is depth amid the humor, the ordinary, and the uncommon, that can give the reader pause. I was pleased to discover that I had on my shelves a copy of Tokarczuk’s first book to be translated into English, so that’s now on my TBR pile. Remember, this is not a review :-)

........

This is the last of the 2019 reads to be reviewed (or not officially reviewed). I feel I can now move on. And, btw, my book cover does NOT have a Nobel Prize sticker on it.

110avaland
helmikuu 17, 2020, 12:23pm



Careless Love by Peter Robinson (2019, paperback 2018)

This is the 25th DCI Banks novel. Seems I swore off the series because I thought Banks was getting too "old," spending a lot time looking backwards sentimentally (I have enough in my own life, I don't need to live that through him, thanks). BUT, I had a weak moment when ordering the Jane Rogers book from the UK and slipped it onto the order.

Two murders begin the book. One, a beautiful, young woman, a Uni. student, is found dead in a car, victim of a suspected suicide. The second is an older man, dressed expensively, who is found dead in a deep gully; is it a horrible accident or murder? There is a brief re-introduction in the story of a former nemesis of Banks' who will surely reappear in a future volume/s. Banks, when not working or keeping up with family, is still in his thoughts pining about being older and alone...etc, and consequently drowning all those thoughts in his music (with the appropriate alcohol). However, I found it very interesting that Banks is now working with three women colleagues. Peter Robinson can be relied on to write a complex police procedural (or I wouldn't have read 20+ of his books), but this one seemed too easy to generally speculate correctly (oh, not the details, of course; but the basics). Still, the story was good and it worked nicely as a diversion, which is why I bought it.

111avaland
helmikuu 17, 2020, 3:21pm



The Thing Itself by Adam Roberts.

It is the 1980s and two scientists in the Antarctic are monitoring the equipment religiously and getting on each others’ nerves. (As a matter of interest to readers, it happens that Charles, known as Chaz, is reading the Dune science fiction series, and Roy is reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason so you can imagine the conversations). One day during their routine, something terrible happens, something terrible is seen (here a nod to the 1980s horror film, “The Thing”).

Fast-forward to the present.’ Chaz, our protagonist and narrator, has been physically injured permanently and is haunted mentally by his Antartica experience (which he now thinks was a probably hallucination) All this and his excessive drinking has cost him his career and he is manning the Bracknell Recycling Center these days. Roy, on the other hand, is under extremely tight security at an ‘insane asylum. Chaz is approached by an attractive woman and eventually brought to a place only referred to as “The Institute.” These people are VERY interested in Chaz’s experiences in Antarctic….

Adam Roberts never seems to write the same book twice. This book is a rollicking science fiction, much of the book one long chase scene, oftentimes quite funny. It is also relentlessly brain-busting, laced with its Kantian philosophy. There are a few odd chapters interspersed throughout the book which seem to chronicle other mysterious events/sightings in history (not sure what they add to the story). It’s highly addictive and enjoyable, even if you aren’t up to the Kant (and admittedly, I wasn’t always, but damn, I could not put the book down).

Note: Between the two of us we have read most of Roberts' SF.

112labfs39
helmikuu 18, 2020, 10:44pm

Read through your thread tonight, Lois, and was intrigued by your reviews, as always. I am glad to see that In the Shadow of Wolves impressed you as well. I received a copy from Early Reviewers and hoped that it would find a larger audience than it did. Although there were some hiccups with the editing and the transition from a screenplay to a novel, I still thought it worked well both as a story and as a depiction of a piece of forgotten history.

113avaland
helmikuu 19, 2020, 11:44am

>112 labfs39: Thank you. I'm also surprised the Šlepikas had not been more read. It still haunts me a bit. I suspect we both could name readers in this very group who would very much enjoy it. But, so many reading choices, so little time!

114avaland
helmikuu 19, 2020, 12:11pm



Many Rivers to Cross, DCI Banks #26 by Peter Robinson (2019 UK, 2020 US)

A young teen, male, possibly of Middle Eastern origin, is found dead, stabbed and stuffed in an elderly woman’s curb-side trash bin. Not far away in some decaying housing a 60-something year old heroin addict is found dead, a possible suicide or overdose. A young woman, another teen, is attacked while heading home, walking back through her neighborhood park at night. Could they all be connected? Could something far more complex be going on? DCI Banks and his team/s are under pressure to investigate and produce results quickly. In a secondary story line, a beautiful 30 year old woman, Zelda, an immigrant and the love interest of Annie Cabot’s 70-year old father, takes the law into her own hands to redress things done to her in her past….

While I was a bit frustrated and somewhat disappointed with the previous Banks installment, this one is back up to snuff, so to speak. Banks is kept very busy, so there is far less time for him to pine for his lost youth and fret about being alone (during that last book I was ready to sit him down and force him to write an OK Cupid profile). The cases are delightfully complex, the resolution/s satisfying. My one beef is that the Zelda storyline is now set to bleed over (no pun intended) into yet another book. This is annoying. I’m reading Banks #26, if I’ve come this far during all these books years, shouldn’t the author have some faith in his readers so as to not have to dangle a teaser to get us to read the next one? Sigh.

115baswood
helmikuu 19, 2020, 2:01pm

>111 avaland: Are you sure it wasn't your other half that read this.

116dukedom_enough
helmikuu 19, 2020, 5:36pm

>115 baswood: Wasn't me, though I have ideas about getting around to it. Want to learn more about Kant first.

117avaland
helmikuu 20, 2020, 9:36am

>115 baswood: I can see where one might think that, but there are many authors we both have read (although sometimes different titles). I don't read as much SF as I used to—a slow trend that began probably about the time I came on LT. This likely coincides with the ever-growing number of translations that was becoming available and I became much more interested in exploring planet Earth. With regards though to SF, these days I gravitate more to dystopias or the weird (i.e. VanderMeer, Mieville)...etc, but I'll still read an occasional McAuley, Roberts or Gwyneth Jones, and whatever catches my attention. (it was SF that brought us together, as it happens)

118dukedom_enough
helmikuu 20, 2020, 10:10am



Agency by William Gibson

Has it really been just five years since The Peripheral, the first book in Gibson's current trilogy, was published? It says 2014 on the book, my review was written then, but it seems much longer ago. Decades. Eras. Too much history in these past five years.

History was the stuff of that first book. Some people in the London, England of the 22nd century have learned to contact "stubs", alternate histories branching off of their own timeline's past. Access is entirely online, their internet to that of the 21st century. The story followed the interventions of the Londoners, especially the extraordinarily effective Detective Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer, into an America of the 2020s (or thereabouts), the history of which began to diverge as soon as contact was made. Lowbeer's hope: to soften the impact of that stub's version of the "jackpot", the many horrific disasters due to reduce the world's population by four-fifths over the century in between.

In Agency, the Londoners have found the earliest stub yet, a 21st century for which contact began in 2015. It's now 2017 there, and Hillary Clinton is President of the US - which was not the case in the Londoners' timeline. Verity is a woman, recently between jobs, who has found a new gig, evaluating some sort of digital assistant for a shadowy corporation. The assistant wants to be called Eunice, and turns out to be an extremely advanced artificial intelligence. Verity soon finds herself on the run, pursued by the powers who created Eunice, and who want the assistant shut down. The 22nd-century Londoners help as they can, but are hampered by having to work with the crude technology of 2017. In the background, a crisis in the Middle East seems to be escalating towards nuclear war.

In London in 2136, Lowbeer must manage a threat from the kleptocrats who rule most of the world. Netherton has settled into married life and new parenthood, while he assists with both helping Verity and Eunice, and running errands for Lowbeer. We don't learn much more about the jackpot. We don't need to; everything about it is perfectly forseeable for the informed reader of today, even if stub inhabitants tend to start screaming after their (our) future has been outlined for them. The Londoners do sorely miss all the animal species that have gone extinct, tigers especially.

Agency supplies again the pleasures of the first book, and that's the problem. The ideas that were fresh in 2014 feel less so as, once more, a resourceful woman faces impossible odds, but succeeds because of a wild card - here, the ability of Eunice to keep ahead of the opposition. Again, the worst of the jackpot might possibly be averted with help from the future century. Great fun, presented in a fast-paced series of short chapters alternating between the two eras, but much less novelty. And Verity is less well realized than the first book's Flynne Fisher.

My main caveat about the story may contain a clue to why it feels like a repeat. Eunice is explained as a cutting-edge bit of 2017 technology, but is way too sophisticated for that to be the case, or so it seems to me. The Londoners, in both books so far, have no real clue how their contact with the stubs is maintained; they just access a server computer, which they think is somewhere in China. So, maybe there's another entity at work, to be revealed in the trilogy's third volume?

In any event, Agency is rewarding on its own terms, but read The Peripheral first.

Three and a Half Stars

119sallypursell
helmikuu 20, 2020, 11:00pm

>117 avaland: How did SF bring you two together? It was also a commonality for my husband and me.

120avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 4:58pm

>119 sallypursell: It was all due to chance, of course. On a whim I went down to Readercon, a literary SF convention held in Massachusetts every July, to scout for authors to host at the bookstore. That year the convention was honoring Bruce Sterling & Lisa Goldstein as Guests of Honor and other program guests included John Crowley, Samuel Delany, William Gibson... and another 80 or so authors, editors, critics...etc. I also knew that an acquaintance who frequented the bookstore was going so that made it a bit easier to decide to go (not fond of crowds, so at least I would know someone). The first morning I went down early to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. They weren't quite open yet and there was another attendee waiting also. When the hostess opened the restaurant she assumed the man and I were together, and of course we were both embarrassed by her mistake, but since we were both there for the same convention we agreed to sit together. He was a 46 year old bachelor with a PhD who was volunteering at the convention, and I was a 42 year divorcee with three teenagers who had the year before changed careers to the bookstore (only meant to be temporary!). We had a nice, if not slightly awkward chat and went our separate ways. 11 days after the convention he called the bookstore and asked me out. We lived 50 miles from each other, and it was 3 weeks before we could find a date that we were both free (remember, I had three teens). The rest, as they say, is history!

btw, I was pulled into volunteering at the convention and did so until about 6 years ago. Michael still volunteers helping with the sound system and in other areas. Of course, in between volunteering we went to panel discussions, readings, kaffeeklatsches, the ballroom full of book dealers.... The convention, which now has about 800 attendees is now in Quincy, MA; the guests for this year are listed here.

121RidgewayGirl
helmikuu 21, 2020, 4:42pm

>120 avaland: That is a lovely story!

122avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 4:57pm

Thanks. I like to tell it as it makes me laugh thinking back to it. Apparently, the "three teenagers" didn't scare him or he didn't really think that part though before he called.

123RidgewayGirl
helmikuu 21, 2020, 4:59pm

I like that it took him eleven days to call. Probably reconciling himself to the teenagers (I currently have two of them. They are A LOT.)

124avaland
Muokkaaja: helmikuu 21, 2020, 5:09pm

>123 RidgewayGirl: He probably thought: Available. Bookish. Woman. Has discount at bookstore. What's the catch? (ahem, the three teenagers). And yet he persisted.

125lisapeet
helmikuu 21, 2020, 7:14pm

>120 avaland: That's great. I love a good bookish meetup story.

126sallypursell
helmikuu 21, 2020, 8:38pm

>120 avaland: That was a better story than I expected. Thanks! And Readercon sounds great, with wonderful guests this year.

127BLBera
helmikuu 22, 2020, 9:18am

>129 That is a wonderful story. Books bring people together!

I haven't been commenting, but I have enjoyed reading your comments and have found a few books to add to my TBR list.

128labfs39
helmikuu 22, 2020, 10:07am

>120 avaland: What a great story! I'm guessing he had no idea what he was getting into with the teens!

129dukedom_enough
helmikuu 22, 2020, 12:46pm

>123 RidgewayGirl: >128 labfs39:

I had no idea at all. Fortunately, Lois's kids were and are wonderful people and we have managed to get along well.

130nohrt4me2
helmikuu 22, 2020, 1:44pm

>128 labfs39: I highly recommend going into your kid's teenage years clueless. They're not going to do what the books say or what your friends' kids did or what you did at that age or even what their siblings did. They're going to spin your head around and scare the sh*t out of you in their very own special way, bless them. If you don't arm yourself ahead of time with expectations, it probably goes better.

131labfs39
helmikuu 22, 2020, 5:24pm

>129 dukedom_enough: That's great. My "dad" became my dad when I was seven, and it was kind of fun that he was clueless. I still remember him trying to make friends by admiring my alphabet belt, and my withering response that of course I knew my ABCs, I had been reading forever. I always told him that while other dads don't know who they are getting when their children are born, stepdads know ahead of time, but join the family anyway.

>130 nohrt4me2: Ha! True. And not only is each one different, but they themselves change fairly frequently, causing more mayhem.

132baswood
helmikuu 22, 2020, 7:36pm

Romance at the book convention - good title for new novel

133avaland
helmikuu 23, 2020, 8:07am



The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson (2019, Icelandic)

Now retired and tending roses at a rural convent in France, Sister Joanna Marie receives a request from her superiors that she go to Iceland and speak to a young man there who has specifically requested to speak to her. More than twenty years before, the church had received an anonymous letter from someone in the same parish which alleged abuse in the parish school, and Sister Joanna Marie, who speaks Icelandic, was sent there to quietly investigate the charges and report back. During that time she was there, a parish priest, the overseer of the school, fell to his death from a bell tower. The young man now in the present requesting to speak to her was a child she met during that delicate investigation.

In the present storyline the Sister is making her way to the airport and while in Paris she takes a walk around the Sorbonne indulging herself in mixed memories of her college years there in the late 1960s. It was her beloved roommate, who was Icelandic, who had taught her the language. A second storyline in the 1980s chronicles her trip to Iceland to investigate the allegations.

Iceland interests me and I was there in 2010 to satisfy my curiosity (reading about it turned out not to be enough). Tthe inner life of a nun is not something I would expect to be particularly interested in, but the idea of the Catholics in Iceland (and why not?) and the hint of mystery fascinated me. Narrated in the first person by Sister Joanna, the book is her story, her viewpoint, not only of a sensitive and difficult investigation, but of her life generally; the regrets, the choices made, the idea of redemption. The story, a strangely affecting mix of this personal reflection and mystery pulled me in from the first pages and very unexpectedly kept me in its grip until that last page was turned.

Note: The dog is named George Harrison, the car was named Jesus.

134dchaikin
helmikuu 23, 2020, 3:30pm

>120 avaland: awe. Great story, kudos to that hostess.

Enjoyed all the reviews showing up here. >109 avaland: I do want to read Tokarczuk. I might try this one on audio.

135sallypursell
helmikuu 24, 2020, 9:21pm

>132 baswood: One of those "Second Chance" romances!

136sallypursell
helmikuu 24, 2020, 9:34pm

>133 avaland: That sounds fantastic! When I was 11 or 12 I was contemplating being a nun (I had an aunt who was one, and she was very beloved.) I spent a period in the summer visiting in one. I sang all over--the acoustics were great! What convinced me to go a different way was love, okay, sex. Both, really. I met my husband very early, we were married when I was 21, and engaged before my 20th birthday. But I still remember the impulse, and the reasons. Hers was a nursing/hospital administration order, and they sent my aunt to a master's degree, as well as the bacculaureate. She graduated Summa Cum Laude, and was the administrator of an inner-city hospital when the Kansas City race riots happened there. She opened the ER to the rioters for food and showers, and I admired her tremendously for it. She was pretty conservative, but human rights meant something to her.

137LadyoftheLodge
helmikuu 25, 2020, 9:08am

>133 avaland: That does sound like an interesting book. As a child, I also had ideas of becoming a nun. I attended Catholic school and was taught by and influenced by the nuns. My parents made me wait until after high school to decide. By that time, I had a boyfriend and was going to college. When I was widowed a few years ago, I checked into the convent idea again, and researched two orders of nuns who allow women of any age to enter. Then I met my (now) husband, and again the idea went out the window. I continue to be fascinated by nuns and the religious life, and I have read quite a bit about it.

138avaland
helmikuu 26, 2020, 9:03am

>134 dchaikin: Thanks, Dan. I hope to get to the other Tokarczuk novel I have sometime this year.

>136 sallypursell:, >137 LadyoftheLodge: Interesting stories. The real reading expert on nuns is nohrt4me2 (aka nohrt4me) who has been reading on the topic since I have known her (since 2007, I think). She has the thread here in Club Read about reading novellas.

139avaland
helmikuu 29, 2020, 11:16am



Pond by Clare-Louise Bennett (fiction, 2015)

Pond chronicles the thoughts and musings of a unnamed young woman as she lives a season or so in a small, thatched cottage in Ireland. It is a delightful, imaginative, unusual and quirky fiction. Don't expect a standard novel. It's something like a cross between stream-of-consciousness and poetry... There doesn't seem to be a plot but we do seem move forward in time; and we are taken on a quite a trip. Yes, perhaps that's a good analogy—we are on a trip BUT we're riding inside this woman's head (who might be a touch fey) as she goes on narrating her life (or perhaps she is the drug in our head....) Here's an example:
------

"Hard to tell this time of year how long anything is going on for and for that reason I took it upon myself to intervene now and then, such as when, just two days after Christmas, I avouched enough was enough and promptly took down the decorations. I didn't have a tree, just some things arranged along the mantel, holly and so on, but since it's a large mantel it is something of a feature and therefore very noticeable and I'd made it particularly resplendent and was first of all very pleased with how it all turned out. Even so, it quickly became oppressive actually and the holly itself almost sort of evil, poking at the room like that with its creepy way of making contact with the air, no I didn't like it one bit so a week went by and then it was all got rid of in a flash. The holly I flung directly into the fire beneath, and it was a young fire because this happened even before breakfast and as such the impatient stripling flames went crazy with the holly, consuming it so well, so pleasingly—I was enormously pleased in fact and shoved in branch after branch even though the flames were becoming really tall and very bright and the holly gasped and crackled so loudly. That's right, suffer, I though, damn you to hell—and the flames sprouted upwards even taller and brighter and made the most splendid gleeful racket. Burn to death and drum you to hell and let every twisted noxious thing you pervaded the room with go along with you, and in fact as it went off burning I could feel the atmosphere brightening. I won't do it again, I thought, I won't have it in the house again. And I recalled the sluggish misgivings I'd felt when the took the money out of my hand and held up a tethered bundle of muricated sprigs for me to somehow take hold of in return. Standing there, with this dreadful trident, while his young son maneuvered a small hand around a grim bag of change. The whole thing was sullied and I remember at the time feeling faintly that I should just leave it but then I located the cause of the regrettably irresolute sensation to an area in me where snobbery and superstition overlap most abominably and I chided myself for being so affected and fey—what are you some sort of overstrung contessa, I though—certainly not, then wish them well and get going. And off down the street I bogged, yet anachronistic feelings of pity and repulsion not withstanding, I had a very clear sense of having to succumbed to something I was not entirely at ease with and...."
-------

I choose to read this short book a bit like I would poetry: slowly and in small doses, others may choose to do otherwise. The quirky musings in her heightened and deliciously descriptive language are addictive and the reader can not help but fall a little in love with her (and here, let us all salute the quirky characters of literature) and just possibly the reader may start to look at their own everyday goings ons a bit differently....

140Caroline_McElwee
helmikuu 29, 2020, 4:21pm

>139 avaland: Adding to my list Lois.

141avaland
helmikuu 29, 2020, 4:27pm

>140 Caroline_McElwee: I think you'd like it, Caro.

142dchaikin
helmikuu 29, 2020, 9:40pm

>139 avaland: quite a quote.

143LadyoftheLodge
maaliskuu 1, 2020, 11:03am

>139 avaland: The quote you posted reminded me of how my mind often goes off on tangents of its own, so I am not a nut case after all, but if you find my mind wandering, then please send it home, thanks very much.

144avaland
maaliskuu 2, 2020, 4:17pm

>142 dchaikin: ha!

>143 LadyoftheLodge: Mine, also. You. Are. Not. Alone. :-)

145LadyoftheLodge
maaliskuu 3, 2020, 10:37am

>144 avaland: Unfortunately, it seems to get worse with age. I seem to get distracted so much more easily. :-\

146avaland
maaliskuu 6, 2020, 6:08pm



The Memory Police by Yoko Ozawa (1994, translated 2019)

On a nameless island, things have been disappearing for years. A new day arrives and the populace seems to understand that something had disappeared and there is a kind of automated acceptance of it. Sometimes items must be taken to gathering or disposal area—all under the watchful eye of the Memory Police. But, there are rare people existing on this island who do not forget things that have been disappeared, and they are in constant peril of being found out and taken by the Memory Police. Our narrator is a young woman who lives in a tiny house and makes her living as a novelist. Her mother, a sculptor, was one of these people who did not forget. She was found out, taken and likely killed by the authorities.

The book tells the story of this young woman as she befriends an old man living nearby on a landed boat; and as she helps hide one of her mother’s old friends from the police. Later she and the old men conspire to hide her editor long-term by building a secret room in her small house all the while cautious of the Memory Police, and while trying to survive in a world that is disappearing a piece at a time.

As the explained years ago by the mother to her then young daughter (our narrator): "Things go on disappearing, one by one. It won’t be long now," she added. "You'll see for yourself. Something will disappear from your life… …It doesn't hurt, and you won’t even be particularly sad. One morning you’ll simply wake up and it will be over, before you’ve even realized. Lying still, eyes closed, ears pricked, trying to sense the flow of the morning air, you’ll feel that something has changed from the night before, and you’ll know that you've lost something, that something has been disappeared from the island…"

This is a beautifully written story of kindness and compassion, remembering and forgetting. There is something mesmerizing about it, and something a bit disturbing about a populace willing to forget. It doesn’t offer easy answers and its resolution is…well, less resolute and thus the story lingers... or perhaps continues to haunt long after you've turned that last page.

*this would make a fab book club choice as it would encourage some great discussion, I think.

147avaland
maaliskuu 7, 2020, 10:31am



Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society by Mary Beth Norton (1996, American history)

Margaret Atwood has noted that one of her inspirations for the Handmaid’s Tale was her study of 17th-century Puritan New England. That note in itself might be a reason to dip into this book, and a reader would find some satisfying parallels. But this was not why I read it. I’ve had a long-time interest in the lives and experiences of women (woman studies, as you will) ; I’ve read Mary Beth Norton’s work before (her book on the Salem Witch Trials is one of the best I’ve read, if not the best). and because my family roots almost entirely pass through this period in 17th century New England (literally many hundreds of them) so I read out of interest and curiosity, and because it provides context to my ancestry pursuits. I felt compelled to take copious notes while reading this book, likely one of the reason it took me so long to get through it, and I find these notes of little use in my effort to write a review of this book, nor did notes really enhance my reading (note to self: skip the notes).
.
Founding Mothers and Fathers is a balanced study of gendered power in the early 17th century colonies of America (roughly 1620-1670), it notes English political and societal precedents (Filmer and Locke’s formulations of political power and the nature of government authority) and how the precedents were applied in the development of the early colonies of America. Because of the availability of records, Norton focuses mostly on two New England colonies (Massachusetts Bay and New Haven) and two in the Chesapeake (Maryland & Virginia). She discusses gendered power within the family, the community and in the state, and how similar these institutions were to each other. She also discusses how differently New England and the Chesapeake develop according to the differing makeup of their populations and their priorities.

One of the strengths of this book is Norton’s inclusion of the voices of real people presented as articulated through court documents or personal writings. And her illustrative examples are both very welcome and wonderfully effective elucidating the practical functioning of the societies. Much more could be included in this review, and if needed, one can search for the copiously more detailed and erudite reviews for this book online. Otherwise, here is a very modest, off-the-top-of-my-head list of some of the many fascinating and interesting bits of content:

*The importance of good relations with neighbors.
*The authority and investigative powers of the midwife.
*The complications or limitations of a widow becoming a head of household.
*How very little men of the time knew about pregnancy & childbirth and that women were known to be ‘especially knowledgable of sexual matters
*The importance of guarding one’s reputation.
*The power and societal functions of gossip.
*In 1648 the New England colony adopted a death penalty for rebellious children over 16 who cursed or struck either parent (very few were prosecuted).
*The most common insults between men (rogue, knave) and between women (whore, jade, thief, toad, slut).
*How in New England the family was the considered the lowest court in the court system.
*The existence of divorce as a legally voided civil contract.
*To sue a wife you had to sue the husband.
*The exceptions to many of the rules and norms.
*That men had many ways to express their anger and thus possibilities of a vengeful attack was endless.
*The standard punishment in Plymouth for adultery was for the woman to wear a badge on their sleeve with the letters “AD” on it for a period of time, and if found without it, she would be branded on her face.
*A misbehaving colonist was more likely to be tried & convicted in NE than in the Chesapeake and differences in law enforcement.
*Whipping was the 2nd most popular punishment in both regions.
*How in a very gendered world, a Chesapeake court handled the case of an ambiguously gendered person.

Mary Beth Norton has a NEW book out 1774: The Long Year of Revolution. Link offers a synopsis and audio sample.
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/239495/1774-by-mary-beth-norton/

148LadyoftheLodge
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 9, 2020, 1:51pm

>147 avaland: Wow, that book sounds fascinating. I am taking a BB on this one.

149stretch
maaliskuu 7, 2020, 11:55am

>146 avaland: Great write up on The Memory Police. It's such a sticky book. And it could have so easily been turned into thriller but wasn't.

>147 avaland: Mary Beth Norton is on my list now. Both this and her Salem book i think you were talking to Dan about somewhere.

150avaland
maaliskuu 8, 2020, 2:03pm

>149 stretch: Thanks. You can probably find an inexpensive used copy easily.

>150 avaland: Thanks. The Ogawa was not easy to write about. Perhaps like trying to catch a butterfly with your hands...

I think I’d call the Norton a social history. If I didn’t note it, the Filmerian-based hierarchy the Puritans had only lasted about 100 years. I’m looking forward to the new book but there is some other nonfiction I’d like to read first (although 1774 will put me in another era)

151bragan
maaliskuu 9, 2020, 3:03pm

>147 avaland: Huh, I wouldn't have thought a book on that particular subject would be all that appealing to me, but you've made it sound very interesting. I sort of want to read it now if only just to find out "how in a very gendered world, a Chesapeake court handled the case of an ambiguously gendered person."

152avaland
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 11, 2020, 5:45am

>151 bragan: I know! That case fascinated me for the same reasons because they had lived both as a female and a man before they immigrated and arguably could be said to had the organs of both. Thing is, the courts could not let that be, there had to be declaration of being one or the other. (Maybe I'll send you that page or two). Geesh, I wonder how they would have fared in New England. Less well, me thinks.

It's probably fitting that I finished that book on gendered power and then watched the four-part documentary on Hillary Clinton, which stood as a measure of how far we've come...or not.

153lisapeet
maaliskuu 10, 2020, 6:22pm

>147 avaland: OK, that sounds really interesting. Reading that Jonathan Edwards historical novel earlier this year got me thinking about the New England Puritans.

154Caroline_McElwee
maaliskuu 12, 2020, 8:24am

>146 avaland: thumbed. I put my review on the book page now.

155avaland
maaliskuu 13, 2020, 7:28am

>154 Caroline_McElwee: Just read your review. I do agree that, considering how the book was titled, there was almost nothing on that subject. Perhaps they are meant to be a generic oppressors and much said about them may have distracted from what the author wanted to focus on? Perhaps we are our own memory police?

156BLBera
maaliskuu 18, 2020, 3:28pm

I loved Pond. I looked back on my comments and I equated it with reading someone's diary, someone who is a deep observer and who writes exquisitely.

157avaland
maaliskuu 18, 2020, 4:49pm

>156 BLBera: Yes, it certainly could be read that way, also. It's definitively captivating.

158avaland
maaliskuu 19, 2020, 12:06pm



The Resisters: A Novel by Gish Jen (2020, US)

Just the idea of Gish Jen writing a dystopia was enough to make this book irresistible even if I wasn’t already a big fan of dystopias.

THE RESISTERS imagines a world not so far into the future, where the landscape has changed due rising waters, and daily life is watched over by an artificial intelligence named "Aunt Nettie." Automation has directed and shaped the current society and the populace of America has been separated into the “Netted” and the “Surplus.” The former live on the high ground and are employed, the latter lives on swamp land or water and are not employed. The latter live on meager “basic income” payments. Immigrants have been shipped back to wherever they came from through a “Send’mBack” policy. The story is filled with the amusing and apt lingo of this future; people are noted as being “Angel-fair”or “Coppertoned,” for instance, and there is the AutoHouse, AutoLawn, SmartGlasses, AutoDogs, SkyCars, Housebots, and NettieSnacks and so on.

This is a family story, told by the father who had been an ESL teacher now deemed “unemployable” and thus “Surplus”. His wife is a lawyer still trying to do good and find justice in the courts under what’s left of the constitution. The Surplus are only allowed one try at having a child and the two have a daughter, Gwen, who turns out to have been gifted with an amazing throwing arm. As she grows up, the family and others cautiously start what becomes a very successful underground baseball league (despite “Unlawful Assembly”) with Gwen as one of its stars. Of course, even with all precautions taken, surveillance is everywhere and the “Netted” soon find out about Gwen and hope to recruit her by dangling the chance of college (only for the “Netted”, of course).

A delightful book: clever, suspenseful, and oftentimes funny; THE RESISTERS is awfully hard to put down. There is plenty of baseball content—perhaps the novel might not be recommended to the baseball averse, but one would certainly miss out on a great read. Gish Jen has written a throughly engaging dystopia using Gwen, her family, and friends to remind of us in a timely way of love, hope and resistance.

159dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 21, 2020, 2:52pm



Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr by John Crowley

I have a tendency, in my reading, to put off tackling the really great, difficult stories. No time now, life is busy, I wait for the opportunity. Obviously, this habit needs to be broken. And so, John Crowley's most recent novel, from 2017.

To start, this is a beautiful hardcover physically: a black illustration by jacket designer Sonia Chaghatzbanian, plus white lettering, on a lovely green background, with the "KA" in gold. There are some fine interior illustrations by Melody Newcomb.

Crowley's stories are fractal, in some sense, each part echoing every other part and the whole. His great theme is, not Story itself, but our human tendency to structure our lives as stories, pulling narrative out of the buzz of events. His novels are difficult to read, at least for me, requiring much paging back and forth to see the parts referenced by the passage I'm on now. Ka is less resistant in this sense, though, and perhaps a good first Crowley for anyone new to him.

The novel's unnamed narrator is an elderly man somewhere in the USA, ill and recently widowed, living in a decaying society and a wounded climate, not too far in our future. The narrator's own tale is briefly and vividly limned. The bulk of the book's story is that of Dar Oakley, who is a crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, an American crow, although he has been other sorts of crow in the distant past - for Dar does not age, and is reincarnated after each time he dies. The narrator nurses Dar back to health from an injury, and Dar tells the man his story after the two have learned to converse, as he has told it to other humans in eras past - or is our narrator simply imagining the relationship?

In earliest memory, Dar was an ordinary crow, without a name yet, maturing, eating, nesting, and reproducing. The arrival of stone-age humans was very good for his region's crows, because human wars produced lots of carrion for them. Dar befriended a human child, the girl called Fox Cap, who learned his speech and gave him his name. Fox Cap grew to be her tribe's shaman, and took Dar along on a trip to the land of Death. There, he stole that which made him immortal in his peculiar way. Through the centuries, Dar watched humans grow to dominate the planet. The crow's journey has the episodic nature of many a fairy tale. Dar lives with medieval monks, travels to the new world with the help of Brendan the Navigator, and befriends a US Civil War widow whom Crowley models on Emily Dickinson. Crowley's gorgeous language has a fairy tale character at times, too:

Dar Oakley didn't have that name then, or any name. It would be eons before Crows had each a name, as they do now; then, no, they had no need of them, they called those around them Father, Brother, Older Sister, Other Older Sister; those they didn't know as relations, or forgot in what degree, were spoken of as Those Ones, or Others, or All of Them There, and so on.

Many of the stations along Dar's path involve death. Humans associate crows with death; the birds feed on dead creatures. During his sojourn with the war widow, he communicates with the shades of some of the men killed in the Civil War. He travels to that part of the land of Death that belongs to humans, and that part that belongs to crows. He is present at the first contact of the Old World with North America, and witnesses the Great Dying as the Native Americans are killed by European diseases. As I write in late March 2020, with COVID-19 looming, this last part is uncomfortably resonant. The novel's narrator must eventually come to his own accommodation with death. Crows, imagines Crowley, have a bluntly materialistic view of the world. A dead thing is "dead as dead," and Dar and his fellows struggle to understand the human idea that something alive still attaches to the bits of fat and muscle crows eat. What do these stories mean for the narrator, here at the end of his life?

One content warning: one of Crowley's Civil War characters uses the N-word in a short passage. That's expected from someone of the era, but still jarring.

To describe a book by John Crowley in terms of its parts, or its plot, is like describing a quilt by naming the fabric patches that went into it, while leaving out the quality of the whole. There's no way to summarize Crowley; he must be read.

Five stars

160dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 21, 2020, 2:54pm



I mean, look at that cover.

161dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 21, 2020, 2:55pm

>159 dukedom_enough:
Quilt reference is a shout out to Lois, of course.

162RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 21, 2020, 3:56pm

>158 avaland: I've been curious about this one. I'll add it to the list of books to order* when the next urge to panic-buy books hits.

* https://bookshop.org lets us all order on-line and give the profit to your chosen independent bookstore.

163avaland
maaliskuu 21, 2020, 4:01pm

>162 RidgewayGirl: It's not often one gets an upbeat sort of dystopia without it drifting into satire.

"panic-buy books" (did you not notice there is a pandemic going on? Surely that is ringing some must.have.more.books chimes)

164nohrt4me2
maaliskuu 22, 2020, 1:00am

>160 dukedom_enough: I like that you are entranced by the cover art and the physical book itself. Many conversations here about the pleasures of physical books.

The story itself sounds alluring. I have a thing about crows and ravens. Bernd Heinrich's books about raven behavior are fun to read.

165Caroline_McElwee
maaliskuu 22, 2020, 7:02am

>160 dukedom_enough: That is a great cover Michael.

166avaland
maaliskuu 22, 2020, 5:30pm

>164 nohrt4me2: And I have an extra arc copy!

167baswood
maaliskuu 22, 2020, 6:44pm

I suppose with a name like Crowley it would be very tempting to have a crow as a central figure. Crowley is new to me and so I enjoyed reading your review.

168sallypursell
maaliskuu 22, 2020, 11:06pm

>159 dukedom_enough: This sounds reminiscent of my feelings about John Crowley'sLittle, Big, in which it was ambivalent whether the characters were humans living out a fantasy about Oberon, Titania, etc, or whether they were, in fact, the actual characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream. I leaned toward the latter explanation.

>164 nohrt4me2: I, too, am fascinated by the newer information about the behavior of the Corvidae, including decoration of their homes, tool-using, and simple tool manufacture.

Charles de Lint has an urban fantasy series featuring sentient Corvidae as Urban Fairies or demi-god-like characters. They live in his fictional city of Newford, on the North side of a lake. The city may be in lower Canada, or in the upper United States. To me there is a New England feeling about the city, or an Eastern part of the Midwest atmosphere, perhaps Ohio, New York State, or Pennsylvania.

Looking forward to this Crowley book.

169nohrt4me2
Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 23, 2020, 10:10am

>168 sallypursell: You might like The Ravenmaster by Christopher Skaife, who really is the master of the ravens at the Tower of London. It's a light enjoyable read about a man who loves his work.

A friend has crows who feed in her back yard. They frequently leave shiny bits at her door. I told her she should make a collage out of them.

>166 avaland: Won't say no to free stuff!

170dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 11:29am

>164 nohrt4me2: I've heard Crowley talk about the book, and he's fascinated by how smart crows are. I don't recall which books he was referencing, may well have been Heinrich's.

>165 Caroline_McElwee: The image doesn't do it justice. "KA" is in raised gold, not the green of the image.

>167 baswood: You might be interested in Crowley's previous book, published in 2016, a redaction of Johannes Valentinus Andreae's The Chemical Wedding from 1616. Not too far from your favorite period, although the wrong country (Germany). Crowley didn't produce a new translation, but built upon existing ones. Publisher page here; a discussion about the book here with publisher Kelly Link. I confess I'm not intending to read it.

Crowley's Engine Summer is a bit shorter than his other books, and is possibly the most perfect example of what he's about.

>168 sallypursell: Crowley never pins his point down. There's a passage early in Little, Big where Alice has just explained to Smokey what her family thinks is happening, and he and she talk a bit about it, but nowhere is that explanation provided directly.

171lisapeet
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 11:41am

>164 nohrt4me2: >168 sallypursell: Do you know John Marzluff and Tony Angell's In the Company of Crows and Ravens? Nice thick historical overview, and a very pretty book with lovely illustrations besides. (I'm also a fan of corvidae.)

172RidgewayGirl
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 11:47am

For an excellent book featuring the habits of crows, Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton is about the end of mankind from the point of view of a domestic crow. It's fabulous, if sweary.

173dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 12:00pm

174lisapeet
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 12:08pm

>172 RidgewayGirl: I just got a copy of that one—I've heard many interesting things about it, including a great panel that the author was on.

175sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:28pm

That sounds good. I read a young adult story recently which had a plot point revolving around the ravenmaster. I don't think I'm a very good reader, though I read a lot. I rarely remember the names of books, and rarely remember their authors. I read and move on. I do have memories of how I feel while reading them, and vague memories of a gestalt of the book.

176sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:34pm

I see that Marzluff has several books on the topic. That will be fun. I have a son who's interested in this topic, also. He teaches a human evolution class at St Louis University, and an anthropology class. I presume it is in thinking about the origin of consciousness in humans which got him interested in the topic, as he is not an animal behaviorist. His Ph. D. is in Archeology.

177markon
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:36pm

>159 dukedom_enough: Gonna have to move Ka: Dar Oakley in the ruin of the Ymr up on the TBR.

I read and enjoyed When Robot and Crow saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz, published in Future Tense Fiction last year, about a robot drone from the CDC who recruits some crows and a child to help provide data to humans during a disease outbreak.

178sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 3:59pm

>172 RidgewayGirl: I've made a note of it, and it sounds very intriguing. My TBR pile is now rich in corvid-lore.

179sallypursell
maaliskuu 23, 2020, 5:20pm

>170 dukedom_enough: I always assumed the lack of clarity about the nature of that reality was intentional, in Crowley's book. It is not my favorite approach, but how else would one feel if being an avatar happened in one's life? My mother was a narcissist, very charming, of course, and with many admirers, but she gave me rather the feeling that we are living out such a fantasy, all of us. Between my unusual and genius parents, I didn't have trouble believing it, and with 7 brilliant siblings and the two of them, it felt as if life was bigger than life, so to speak. I always assumed others also had a narrative of their lives with heroic stature, as I do, but either I can't ask that question accurately, or it isn't general.

180dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 29, 2020, 5:06pm

>179 sallypursell: Sounds like a tough way to grow up.

181dukedom_enough
maaliskuu 29, 2020, 5:08pm



The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

This is the fourth of Stross's Laundry Files novels, wherein Bob Howard works for that department of the British Government tasked with protecting the public against Lovecraftian threats from other dimensions. As a part of Her Majesty's civil service, the Laundry is forbidden from using any of its extremely powerful, arcane techniques against elected officials. But the Prime Minister has become much too friendly with an oily, evangelist minister from America. And Bob has the seniority and proven performance for a probe into Raymond Schiller of the Golden Promise Ministries, who will turn out to be the high priest of a much older and more dangerous religion than Christianity.

The first three novels in this series were patterned after the books of, respectively, Len Deighton, Ian Fleming, and Anthony Price; Codex takes a cue from the "Modesty Blaise" stories of Peter O'Donnell. Persephone Hazard, the independent contractor that Howard must manage, is a fine Modesty-analog, and Stross spares the reader the leering 1960s attitude toward women that O'Donnell's books had. Again there's an excellent balance between horror, action, and levity, a balance that I imagine must be tricky to carry off.

The Laundry books, after the first, don't show the full range of what Stross can do, but satisfy nonetheless.

Three stars

182sallypursell
huhtikuu 3, 2020, 7:37am

>180 dukedom_enough: It was wonderful! It just didn't fit me for life outside of fantasy. (It may be why I like to read fantasy so much, especially with women protagonists.) My father had his head stuck in the space race, literally, and everything he was thinking about was top secret. My mother had babies, and I remember playing with them under the mahogany Steinway baby grand, with composition going on above my head. I carried one baby on each hip as soon as I was old enough, and the littlest ones called me Mama when they were toddlers.

I was allowed to read anything I wanted. When I asked my mom about sex she drew me pictures. When I asked her about abnormal sex she handed me Havelock Ellis's Psychology of Abnormal Sex and said to come back with questions.

I didn't need other children, except my many brilliant siblings, and others were so puerile, anyway. It was wonderful. Too bad the outside world was such a disappointment, and I've never been able to fit in anywhere. I've never inspired indifference, you see.

My brothers and sisters and I have independently come to the conclusion that most of us are very high-function autists. My parents were, I think.

183dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 3, 2020, 9:33am

>182 sallypursell: So sorry you had to be parent to your younger sibs. How unfair. Have you considered writing a memoir?

184sallypursell
huhtikuu 3, 2020, 2:10pm

>183 dukedom_enough: I have guilt over the neglect the youngest ones suffered after I left home at 17. My parents, who were reasonably open-minded, and Democrats, suddenly had a crisis of conscience--in about 1968--because we older children were liberal, anti-war, anti-Nixon, and pro, umm, sex. They decided they had screwed up parenting the two oldest (boys), and that they had to control me strictly to prevent disaster. All I wanted was a good education, and I had great test scores and grades. There were sit-ins at the best 4-year schools, so they refused to fill out paperwork for a scholarship or financial aid, and I ended up leaving home so I could go to Junior College on my own nickel, which meant I fasted quite a bit, worked too much, wore myself out, and got sick. I didn't end up getting a degree until I was 43, and I had to do it part-time with a full-time job and four kids. My husband was supportive, but only until I finished my B.A.. I wanted to go on, but he wanted help with the kids and house.

I have thought of writing a memoir, but I don't seem able to concentrate for long. My ailments, I guess. Who knows? Maybe someday. I think the hauntings, etc. might take over the topic, too. Also, there are too many people who might be hurt. I'm not sure it would be a good idea. Also, I don't want to sound like I am complaining, and I think it would. I have so many "minor", but disabling, problems, and I think it always sounds as if I have more problems than others, when I know my problems really are mostly minor.

You see, I am always complaining.

185dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 9, 2020, 12:06pm

>184 sallypursell: Sounds tough, sorry.

186dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 9, 2020, 12:08pm



American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Wink, New Mexico. Lovely town, nestled between the mesa and the mountains. Hard to find - not on the maps. Grew up around the government lab on the mesa, but no one talks about that anymore. Definitely retro, a real 1950s vibe, but its people are fine with that, they say. Life goes along well, as long as they avoid the forests and canyons outside town. As long as they stay indoors at night.

To Wink comes Mona Bright, who has just inherited a house in the town. She inherited it from her mother, the mother she remembers as a quiet, fearful woman, who never mentioned an earlier life in New Mexico. Who committed suicide when Mona was just seven. The townspeople don't remember Laura Bright, but they are perturbed that Mona arrived during the funeral of the town's most prominent citizen, who was murdered. And that particular man should have been immune to murder.

I was in the room when the book won the Shirley Jackson Award for best novel in 2013. Reading it now, during the COVID-19 epidemic, seemed fitting somehow, although there's no plague in the story. There's a lot else, though, in this horror story, about power, community, and denial. It feels much more in the vein of Lovecraft than Jackson, putting humans in a small oasis in a vast, hostile universe. The Jackson connection comes from the small town with a big secret, I guess.

If you're looking for something even more horrifying than the evening news, this probably won't get you there, but it's a fat (almost 700 pages) and satisfying read.

Four stars

187rhian_of_oz
huhtikuu 9, 2020, 12:44pm

>186 dukedom_enough: I don't necessarily like horror but this sounds intriguing so thanks for the BB.

188dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 9:24am

>187 rhian_of_oz: I don't know contemporary horror well enough to have any idea of how typical the book is. There's a very high body count at the end, if that matters in your reading choice.

189stretch
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 9:51am

>186 dukedom_enough: I've been on the fence so long about this one for a long time. I got the Lovecraftian vibes and tend tto hate long horror so I've shied away. I firmly live in the Jaskon and Poe realm of horror which is tremendously hard to find. Still I might give this one a shot.

190dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 10:23am

>189 stretch: Have you looked at the Shirley Jackson Award site? I don't know how close to Jackson they actually stay, but they do try.

191stretch
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 11:43am

>190 dukedom_enough: Oh yeah I've been trying to find the shorter works on the awards list, I find they are closer to what I enjoy in horror/darker fiction. The couple of novels I've tried over the last couple of years have been lackluster. Then again I'm not big on novel length horror, I like the intensity and focus that a short story of novella brings to horror, but I keep searching for that long Tell Tale Heart.

192auntmarge64
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 3:01pm

>111 avaland:. Oh goodie, goodie! Antarctic fiction I haven't read. And it's on sale for Kindle for 3.99 so I picked it up.

193lisapeet
huhtikuu 10, 2020, 3:46pm

>111 avaland: Talk about a backlist (backthread) bump... I clicked! That sounds really out there and fun. I must be in the mood for cold, since this morning I also clicked in In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, which was on sale in ebook format. I should probably buy a few indie bookstore gift cards to give away, just to morally offset all that Amazon e-buying. I have friends; they have birthdays.

194avaland
huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:27pm

>192 auntmarge64: Warning: the story only begins in Antarctica.... Did you read Paul McAuley's Austral?

>193 lisapeet: I do tend to like cold places.

Good idea re the bookstore.

195auntmarge64
Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 13, 2020, 4:35pm

>194 avaland: Just finished The Thing Itself and discovered that. But what a wonderful story. Are all of his novels so philosophical and mind-bending?

Have not read Austral and will look at it. Thanks.

ETA: Austral is another 3.99 Kindle book. This is getting addicting.

196sallypursell
huhtikuu 14, 2020, 2:30am

>159 dukedom_enough:
"His great theme is, not Story itself, but our human tendency to structure our lives as stories, pulling narrative out of the buzz of events"


Exactly! This was just what I was trying to say earlier. What I got from my mother that I can't stop doing. In some ways I always think I am a Chosen One. I'm sure my mother felt the same. She ended up thinking she was a failure because she didn't turn into Beethoven. I just think I am an Impeccable Warrior for the Right. Such an awkward self-image, especially since I think I am a high-function autist. I don't communicate well at all. I certainly didn't say earlier what I feel nearly as well as you said it in the quotation above.

197avaland
huhtikuu 14, 2020, 6:50am

>195 auntmarge64: I would not say that all of his books are so "philosophical and mind-bending" but he doesn't write the same book twice. And because of that, he is one of the few SF authors I still follow; and an author both my husband and I "share" (usually, we end up reading different books). He also can be very funny.

His first book was called Salt and was about two groups who colonize a saline planet. One group referred to themselves as anarchists, the others were under a dictator. How do you think that went? I'm not much into political reading but this was so interesting. His 2nd novel was On, a coming of age novel about a young man who lived on a cliff-face called the wall. One day he falls off. Michael read the next couple of books, and between the two us we were hooked. He would say that Roberts' Yellow Blue Tibia (basically "I love you" in Russian as heard by English speakers) was his favorite book, and I would say Jack Glass has been my favorite (but both have us have not read the each other's favorite!) The 2nd link below should provide summaries of all his books (we may have missed reading a few, but we've bought all but the parodies)

Here is the SF Encyclopedia entry on him: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/roberts_adam (there is a wikipedia

And here is a list of most of his books with short summaries: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/adam-roberts/

Paul McAuley's Austral is essential one long chase story across the antarctic wilderness. He is another SF author I still occasionally read.

198dukedom_enough
huhtikuu 14, 2020, 8:41am

>196 sallypursell: I had a lot of help in coming up with that, from many Readercon panels over the years. I may have swiped it whole from somewhere. FYI.

199avaland
huhtikuu 14, 2020, 11:58am

Come visit us on the new thread!

200lisapeet
huhtikuu 14, 2020, 9:28pm

>197 avaland: Aha, that's where I know Roberts's name—I've had Jack Glass on my iPad for ages, and before that a friend used to rave about it but it wasn't available for Kindle or something because I remember having it on my wish list for a while. So now I have two by him; I'm all set.

And speaking of cold places, I must be on a roll because I picked up Stef Penney's Under a Pole Star the next day—not because I was looking for more cold settings, but because another friend asked if I had given it to her (she'd just read it and enjoyed it). And I hadn't, but when I checked out the description I could see why she might think that, since it's exactly the kind of book I'd like, and since it was on sale I clicked on it too. Plus another by Penney that I'd wanted, also on sale. I am eating too much and buying too many books in my captivity.

Anyway, yes, on to the next thread.

201avaland
huhtikuu 15, 2020, 6:11am

>200 lisapeet: Thanks for the heads up on the Penney. Doubt I'll get to it as I just ordered via email 7 older paperbacks from the bookstore.... (!)
Tämä viestiketju jatkuu täällä: Avaland and Dukedom_Enough's Reading 2020, PART II.