Annie's 2023 reading diary - Part 2

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Annie's 2023 reading diary - Part 2

huhtikuu 10, 7:57 pm

I was playing with the idea of changing the title of my thread but then realized that the title does not preclude me from writing about things so I will keep it as is.

If you are interested in what I read in Q1, head to my old thread - the link for it is at the top of this thread. With April starting and the old thread getting long, it makes sense to start clean.

My threads are like an old variety show - you never know what comes next. I can stay in the same genre (or author) for awhile and then have 5 books in a row that no sane person will think of putting together (being sane is overrated anyway). I prefer genre stories (science fiction, fantasy and all their siblings; crime, mystery, spy, thriller and their siblings) but I am venturing outside of that a lot.

I also read and listen to plays. And that leads to why I was considering changing the title of the thread - I am back to going to live theater (and other things) after a very long time of not doing it (and I cannot even blame Covid for that - I stopped going to plays before I moved to the States 13 years ago...). So I will probably post about things I went to (as of the writing of this, I've managed to get to 2 plays and an opera) as well as things I had been reading. We shall see how long that lasts.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 6:17 pm


===== APRIL =====
66. Robert B. Parker's Revelation by Robert Knott -- Cole and Hitch (9)
67. Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk
68. The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon, translated from French by Linda Asher -- Maigret (6)
69. The Pride of Parnell Street by Sebastian Barry
70. The Adventurists by Richard Butner
71. State of the Union by Brad Thor -- Scot Harvath (3)
72. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly -- Mickey Haller (1), Harry Bosch Universe (15)
73. Echo Park by Michael Connelly -- Harry Bosch (12), Harry Bosch Universe (16), Rachel Walling (3)
74. The Overlook by Michael Connelly -- Harry Bosch (13), Harry Bosch Universe (17), Rachel Walling (4)
75. American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Šá
76. The Papers of Tony Veitch by William McIlvanney -- DI Jack Laidlaw (2)
77. Murder at the Jubilee Rally by Terry Shames -- Samuel Craddock Mysteries (9)
78. From Sea to Stormy Sea: 17 Stories Inspired by Great American Paintings, edited by Lawrence Block
79. The Strangers by Jon Bilbao, translated from Spanish by Katie Whittemore
80. Vicious Circle by C. J. Box -- Joe Pickett (17)
81. Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews -- Kate Daniels (2)
82. The History of the World in 100 Animals by Simon Barnes
83. Dead Lions by Mick Herron -- Slough House (2)
84. Scattershot by Bill Pronzini -- Nameless Detective (8)
85. Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić, translated from Croatian by S. D. Curtis and Celia Hawkesworth

===== MAY =====
86. Crime Hits Home, edited by S. J. Rozan
87. Outside by Ragnar Jónasson, translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb
88. Blood from a Stone by Donna Leon -- Commissario Brunetti (14)
89. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry -- McNulty Family (4)
90. Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation, edited by John Freeman
91. The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths -- Ruth Galloway (2)
92. Dead Collections by Isaac Fellman
93. What Next by Vauhini Vara (One Story 300)
94. Robert B. Parker's Buckskin by Robert Knott -- Cole and Hitch (10)
95. Old Man's War by John Scalzi -- Old Man's War (1)
96. The Book of Jakarta: A City in Short Fiction, edited by Maesy Ang and Teddy W. Kusuma
97. Asimov's Science Fiction, April/May 2016, edited by Sheila Williams
98. Encore in Death by J. D. Robb -- In Death (56)

===== JUNE =====
99. Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson -- The Fractured Europe Sequence (4)
100. OKPsyche by Anya Johanna Deniro
101. Cold Water by Dave Hutchinson -- The Fractured Europe Sequence (5)
102. Village in the Sky by Jack McDevitt -- Alex Benedict (9)
103. Greek Lessons by Kang Han, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith and Emily Yae Won
104. The Sky Above the Roof by Nathacha Appanah, translated from French by Geoffrey Strachan
105. So Shall You Reap by Donna Leon -- Commissario Brunetti (32)
106. Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2016, edited by Sheila Williams
107. Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
108. Real Tigers by Mick Herron -- Slough House (3)
109. Mystery Digest, September-October 1959 (Vol. 3, No. 8), edited by Jon A. Teta
110. Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield
111. London Review of Books, 18 May 2023 (Volume 45, Number 10)
112. The Fold by Peter Clines
113. Mystery Digest, September 1957 (Volume 1, Issue 3), edited by Joseph Commings
114. London Review of Books, 1 June 2023 (Volume 45, Number 11)

===== JULY =====
115. The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly -- Harry Bosch Universe (18), Mickey Haller (2)
116. Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews -- Kate Daniels (3)
117. London Review of Books, 15 June 2023 (Volume 45, Number 12)
118. Asimov's Science Fiction, June 2016, edited by Sheila Williams
119. Come On In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home, edited by Adi Alsaid
120. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews -- Kate Daniels (4)
121. Through a Glass, Darkly by Donna Leon -- Commissario Brunetti (15)
122. Suffer the Little Children by Donna Leon -- Commissario Brunetti (15)
123. The Girl of His Dreams by Donna Leon -- Commissario Brunetti (16)
124. The Mill House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated from Japanese by Ho-Ling Wong
125. I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories About Real Life, edited by Grace Kendall
126. Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews -- Kate Daniels (5)

===== AUGUST=====
127. Of Cattle and Men by Ana Paula Maia, translated from Portuguese by Zoë Perry
128. A Greek Love: A Novel of Cuba by Zoé Valdés, translated from Spanish by David Frye
129. Cold Nights of Childhood by Tezer Özlü, translated from Turkish by Maureen Freely
130. Beyond the Burn Line by Paul McAuley
131. Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849 by Christopher Clark
132. The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly -- Harry Bosch Universe (19), Jack McEvoy (2), Rachel Walling (5)
133. The New Voices of Science Fiction, edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman
134. Professor Schiff's Guilt by Agur Schiff, translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
135. The Disappeared by C. J. Box -- Joe Pickett (18)
136. Belgrade Noir, edited by Milorad Ivanović

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 5:31 pm

Stories and articles (not read as part of something listed up in >2 AnnieMod: - online, in books I do not plan to finish, in magazines and newspaper I do not plan to read completely and so on):

===== APRIL =====
1. "The Flight of Red Bird" by Ron Soodalter, Cowboys&Indians, April 2023, non-fiction

Muokkaaja: elokuu 21, 6:12 pm

Live performances:
1. The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown -- The Phoenix Theatre Company -- 1 April 2023, Hormel Theater (musical)
2. Pru Payne by Steven Drukman - Arizona Theatre Company - 8 April 2023, Herberger Theater Center, Center Stage (play)
3. The Magic Flute by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a German libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder - Arizona Opera - 9 April 2023 (opera)
4. A Chorus Line, directed by Jeff Whiting -- The Phoenix Theatre Company -- 22 April 2023, Mainstage Theatre (musical)
5. Anastasia, American Theatre Guild in the Orpheneum -- 6 May 2023 (musical)
6. The Phoenix Symphony Grand Finale -- 13 May 2023
7. Private Lives, Arizona Theatre Company -- 14 May 2023 (play)
8. A Soldier's Play, ASU Gammage -- 20 May 2023 (play)
9. The Rite of Spring, Arizona Ballet (at the Desert Botanical Garden) -- 20 May 2023
10. The Prom, The Phoenix Theatre Company, 2 July 2023
11. The Legend of Georgia McBride - Arizona Theatre Company, 8 July 2023
12. Dreamgirls, The Phoenix Theatre Company, 11 August 2023

(And this is all for the 2022/2023 season).

1. In Celebration of Women II – Making HERstory Exhibit: 38 local female artists, Herberger Theater Center, Main Gallery, - 8 April 2023
2. BIG Exhibit: 13 Arizona artists, Herberger Theater Center, Bob’s Spot Gallery, - 8 April 2023

Movies and TV series:
1. Luther: The Fallen Sun (2023) - 7 April 2023
2. The Batman (2022) - 29 April 2023
3. Perry Mason (HBO) - season 1 -June 2023

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 8:06 pm

Authors and series

Under construction. Please check again later.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 8:06 pm

Some sort of statistics

Under construction. Please check again later.

And this thread is officially open.

huhtikuu 10, 8:46 pm

1P. The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown

Type: Musical
Original Staging: May 23 – July 1 2001; Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Illinois before opening Off-Broadway in March 2002.
Where: The Phoenix Theatre Company, 2022/2023 season
Director: Dwayne Hartford
Cast: Alyssa Chiarello, Šime Košta
Length: 1 Hour and 25 Minutes, no intermissions
Date: 1 April 2023

Despite the date, me going to the theater for the first time in years was not a joke. I was actually looking for tickets for another play, saw that this one is about to close and decided that I may as well check it. I have these weird moments.

I love drama - although I usually read it or listen to it (BBC radio has a lot to answer for) or watch a recording of it. I don't think I had ever been to a play in English live before - between work and whatsnot, it just never happened. Until I felt too cooped up in the house and looked for anything to get me out and doing things different from walking to a coffee shop with a book and theater seemed like a good answer. So here we go (and I have a few more tickets in the next few weeks - as with most things, once I start doing something, I tend to do it a lot).

The Play
A rising novelist, Jamie (Šime Košta) falls in love with a struggling actress, Cathy (Alyssa Chiarello). They get married, his career takes off, hers... not so much (summers in Ohio are no actress's favorite place apparently). 5 years later the marriage ends. And that's where the play steps in. Cathy starts at the end of the story, Jamie at the start and they alternate telling us their stories - in reverse order to each other. The two actors meet (and sing together) only once on stage - in the middle of the play, during the wedding (there is technically a second time - at the very end but they are just alternating in their song - it is the start for Cathy and the bitter end for Jamie and the fact that them singing against each other in that works is... surprising). When Jamie meets her, we see Cathy mourning the end of the marriage; she she is happy and expects the best, we see Jamie cheating and getting tired of her. That continuous shift works unexpectedly well - there is nothing special in the story itself but the reverse order of one of the stories make it even clearer how easy it is to lose the love.

The play is based on real life apparently (read more online if you want to).

It is a sad story and not a very original one but I loved it - probably at least in part because of the two actors who made it believable. And it had just enough humor in it not to be a complete downer -- and those were delivered in a way that works.

The official page for the production: (it ran from March 15, 2023 to April 2, 2023).

huhtikuu 10, 9:00 pm

66. Robert B. Parker's Revelation by Robert Knott

Type: Novel, 75k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2017
Series: Cole and Hitch (9)
Genre: Western
Format: hardcover
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Reading dates: 29 March 2023 - 3 April 2023

Just like in the previous novels in the series, the weakest parts of this installment were the ones where Knott tries to sound like Parker instead of going with his own style. At this point, it does not even make sense - Knott had written more novels in the series than Parker did and I suspect that most people who are following the series because of Parker had long ago realized that Knott is a different author with a different style.

The territorial marshals Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch are trying to have a nice day in Appaloosa (despite the town growing way too fast for their taste) when the news of an escape from one of the worst prisons in the area reaches them. Meanwhile, in an alternating narrative, we meet the man who engineered the escape. Cole and Hitch go chasing after the escapees and then investigating the escape, the escaped criminal goes on implementing his own plans - in Appaloosa. Anyone reading the novel knows that two two lines need to meet somewhere and when they do, Knott manages to pull a rare surprise (despite the double narrative) that ties the whole book together.

At this point I read these mostly as candy - they are not great (or sometimes even good) but they are familiar and short of the quality going down rapidly, they are a nice palate cleaner. Although this one was a lot more violent than any of the previous ones - and the series is violent to start with. Not a good place to start the series but if you are reading the series, it is actually not the worst of them (which is not exactly a ringing endorsement I know).

huhtikuu 10, 9:36 pm

67. Even Though I Knew the End by C. L. Polk

Type: Novella, 34k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2022-11-08
Series: N/A
Genre: Fantasy, Noir, Romance
Format: hardcover
Reading dates: 4 April 2023 - 4 April 2023

Helen has 3 days to live - she made a deal with a devil 10 years ago and her 10 years are up. She may be a warlock and a detective but even she cannot wiggle out of that one. And she really wants to - because she finally found the love of her life, Edith, and she is not ready to give all up. So when a wealthy client called Marlowe offers her soul back, she is ready to do anything.

Choosing to set the story in the late 1920s in Chicago and to call he employer Marlowe sends a message about the tone of the story. The story mostly lives up. There is a moment towards the end when there is something that feels like a plot hole on first reading - when a character was kidnapped in the end game, it made no sense to do it in the place and time where it happened - the only reason seemed to be to ensure that everyone gets to the same place when they need to be there. Either that or Polk was emulating the noir novels of the era where bad guys do stupid things thus allowing the hero to save the day. I am still not sure what is the case but considering the rest of the tale, I suspect the latter.

The ending was unexpected but logical. And at the end I was more upset with the fact that there is no logical way to create a sequel (well, technically there may be a way) than with anything which I may have disliked in the story. It is a fascinating alternative Chicago where most things look like just in ours - but there are enough differences to keep you on your toes - and not all of them are related to magic. Plus some of the rules of the Brotherhood of the Compass (the premier organization of the magic users) made me feel even more in the 1920s.

It already got a Nebula nomination and I suspect that it may get some more nods before the year is over. It is a funny romp, mashing together fantasy and noir, with a sprinkling of mystery, history and romance.

huhtikuu 10, 10:11 pm

68. The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon, translated from French by Linda Asher

Type: Novel, 37k words in this edition
Original Language: French
Original Publication: 1931 in French as Le chien jaune; this translation published first in 1987 (an earlier one by Geoffrey Sainsbury had been published in 1939 as A Face for a Clue and reprinted since under different titles).
Series: Maigret (6) -- #5 in the Penguin sequence
Genre: Crime, detective, police procedural
Format: paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Reading dates: 5 April 2023 - 5 April 2023

Apparently Penguin did not commission all new translations - here they are using Linda Asher's from 1987. It makes sense - it is modern enough to work but it is the first of the series I am seeing reusing a translation.

Having been temporarily seconded to Rennes, Maigret finds himself the closest person to the town of Concarneau when someone is shot. The fact that the shot man does not die does not stop the detective and his temporary helper from investigating - especially when more attempts are made at the lives of the prominent figures of the community. Meanwhile a dog seems to always appear when something bad is happening - and then disappear.

It is a small town and as in all small towns (literary ones anyway), everyone has a secret or two. Suspicion falls on pretty much everyone in the vicinity especially when people seem to start dying for real. And Maigret shows himself to be a good reader of people - there is a difference between appearance and reality and there is no good in ignoring people just because they happen to be women or servants.

It is a good early novel in the series and its setting in the countryside makes it somewhat different from the Parisian novels (but it is not the first novel not to happen in Paris - or the last). But Maigret is who you expect him to be (maybe a bit grumpier - it is raining (again) and he is away from home) and he patiently gets to the bottom of the mystery. And then he proves he is a human and not a mystery solving machine by an act which came as a surprise.

huhtikuu 11, 7:10 am

Enjoyed revisiting Maigret through your fab review. Back when that early '90s TV series with Michael Gambon, I tried chasing down the books*, and managed only about four (which I later gave to MaggieO here on LT for her collection).

huhtikuu 11, 10:46 am

>11 avaland: Yeah, Penguin's reissues (and new translations for most) had been long overdue I think. Plus they were pretty easy to pick up while they were coming out every month (and I finally started reading them). So a lot more Maigret to follow.

huhtikuu 11, 12:25 pm

69. The Pride of Parnell Street by Sebastian Barry

First Performance: Tricycle Theatre (not called Kiln Theatre), London on 5 September 2007; produced by Fishamble: The New Play Company, directed by Jim Culleton
Length: 100 minutes, no interval; 51 pages
Publisher: Faber and Faber; FF Plays
Format: Paperback
Read: 6 April 2023

In a somewhat familiar format for Barry, we get a play of two monologues about the past - in this case a very personal past of a failed marriage.

Joe and Janet had been reasonably happy on Parnell Street - poor but in love, with 3 boys to show for it and even if Joe was a petty criminal, he was never violent - not on the streets and not at home. Then tragedy struck and one of their boys was killed by a truck. Then, at a night of disappointment for Ireland being defeated in the World Cup, Joe gets violent at home and Janet leaves with the kids. Her story barely changes - she stays with her parents and take care of the children. Joe's get worse - drugs, fights, prison and the death sentence that was the HIV virus in those days.

The play is set in September 1999 - 9 years after the night Joe screwed up and started his downwards spiral. We get the story from both Joe and Janet - each picking up where the other left but without either of them hearing or seeing each other. Janet's story is heartfelt and sincere; Joe is still trying to find a way not to be blamed for his own actions. The play is especially good at showing that - even if the initial act of violence comes as a surprise, the following actions, even the way Joe is talking about all of it now, shows a man who knows he made mistakes but who really does not think he is a bad man (or that he needs to be held responsible). It becomes clear early in the play that Joe is an unreliable narrator - so we often wait to hear Janet's version of events (or even Joe finally admitting the truth).

The story is about a failing marriage but it is also about the people who do not make the news unless they do something really bad - Joe may have been dreaming of a real job but he never had a chance at it so he survived and took care of his family with petty thieving. Was the turn to violence inevitable? Probably (and Janet telling us that when she went to the shelter that night, a lot of other beaten wives were there shows just that part of reality that stays hidden under the surface until it escalates). The loss in Italy was just a reason for the inevitable to happen.

As with most of Barry's work, he inserts real Irish history in the play - and not just with the dashed hopes of the football fans in Italy: both the title and part of the reason why Janet succeeds in leaving when so many wives do not is traced to the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974 when one of the bombs exploded on Parnell Street - the attack is considered the deadliest one during the Troubles. Her memories of that day and the woman who was there helping the wounded (invented as a far as I know) left a deep impression in the young girl - and her parents' happy marriage did the rest.

For all its serious topics, the play feels almost light. Part of it is the structure - the monologues that just pick up from each other with no interaction almost to the end sound almost staged. It is not the first play in monologues by Barry but unlike earlier one, this one sounds almost artificial. On the other hand, the play is written in the local dialects and in a way the poor barely educated Joe and Janet would speak and I suspect that listening to it (as opposed to reading it) is a lot more powerful - it plays on emotions and they fall a bit short on the page.

In a curious turn of events, I saw another play about a failed marriage the weekend before I read this one: The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. They are very different plays but I still cannot stop drawing comparisons between them - the similar topic invites it. Both are portraits of failed marriages, both have the two participants in the said images telling us their own version of what happened. Which leads me back to Tolstoy: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". Different times, different countries and the sentiment still stands.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 3:47 pm

And believe or not, that makes my reading and reviews current - I am in the middle of 3 different books at the moment and for some reason my reading is not going very well (it is not the books, it is me - I cannot concentrate). Plus I had been doing other things - like a movie, 2 exhibits, a play and an opera for example

I don't watch movies often (or better to say - I usually do not even look at movies for months, then watch a few, then go back to not watching for awhile and so on). The last time I watched a movie was probably last summer. But Luther: The Fallen Sun: sneaked up on me while not watching and 2 hours of Idris Elba is always a good thing. Plus my Friday evening was not very productive reading-wise so I figured a movie will help. Luther is one of the better series out there (violent so not for everyone I suspect). When they wrapped up the fourth series in 2015, I was pretty sure that that will be it. Then we get extra 4 episodes in 2019 (wrapping up the series at 20 episodes) and then this movies showed up this year. The only people still here from the main cast of the series are Luther (Idris Elba) and DSU Martin Schenk (Dermot Crowley) who is now retired. In a way that makes the movie newbie friendly but I do not think it is strong enough to stand on it own - it is a decent crime movie but it is nowhere near the strength of the series.

The plot is pretty standard: after catching an investigation, Luther becomes inconvenient (he tends to just go after the truth regardless of who stands in the path and their money) so his many unorthodox methods finally catch up with him and he lands in prison. The murderer decides to play a game with him and Luther decides that it is time to escape prison and go find him and bring him to justice. So Luther chases the criminal, the police chases Luther and the criminal and things go exactly as one would imagine they would go in a 2 hours movie. If you are a fan of the series, the movie has a lot of small things connecting it back. And then there is Elba - a little older, playing a Luther who is true to form if a bit more jaded. The ending opens the door for a sequel (or 7) so we shall see. I hope they find a different person to play against him though - Cynthia Erivo (playing DCI Odette Raine) may be a fine actress but she just did not click for me with Elba.

Which takes me to the play and the two exhibits. Herberger Theater Center in Downtown Phoenix has an art gallery on its second floor - so if you are in the area or going to the theater for a performance, there is something to look at. They rotate their exhibits and for some reason they extended their outgoing one for another month so at the moment, there are two separate exhibits:

The outgoing one: In Celebration of Women II – Making HERstory Exhibit: art from 38 local female artists. All of the art can be seen online here: My favorite of the bunch was Navajo Weaver by Lorraine Sanders. While you are there, the page also links to a poem specifically created for the exhibit by Rosemarie Dombrowski, the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix:

The new one: BIG Exhibit featuring 13 Arizona artists: all the art can be seen here: It contained my favorite piece of art in both exhibits: Across the Arenal Lagoon by Diego Vallejos.

The play (in a much bigger Herberger Center Stage compared to the one last week I should note) was Pru Payne by Steven Drukman, directed by Sean Daniels, (Cast: Mimi Kennedy, Gordon Clapp, Tristan Turner, Veronika Duerr and Greg Maraio; 90 minutes with no intermissions; Arizona Theatre Company).

This is actually the reason for my suddenly rekindled interest in live theater this spring - it had been heavily advertised locally and it sounded interesting so I figured I may as well go and see some actors I know from TV series live (Mimi Kennedy and Gordon Clapp).

Prudence Payne (knows as Pru Payne for most of her life) had spent her life fighting for her space as a critic, scholar and intellectual. And at the night of her triumph, at the reception for an award she had always wanted, she slips and says things she should not have. Her brilliant mind had started deteriorating so we see her in a memory clinic - being checked in by her son so the doctors can try to figure out what is going wrong and what can be done for it. That's what Gus Cudahy is doing in the clinic as well - he may have driven a bus of children to a place he should not have gone to so his employer sends him to the expensive clinic for evaluation. The two of them connect despite their differences - a socialite from New York and a custodial engineer (who drives the bus only occasionally). Meanwhile, her son and his son reconnect - they had known each other years earlier. There is a parallel in the stories of the parents and the sons - and some of them make the main story even sadder - and leaves you wondering what if?

The bulk of the play is set in 1988, with the end set 20 years later to close the story. It is not a love story even though it very easily could have been. Despite being about memory loss and losing your mind to a cruel disease, it is not really about what you lose - it is about what you may gain - friendships (and even love) blooming where you do not expect, finding a way to cope with being robbed of what you think you are and somewhere in there, finding who you really are. In such plays the chemistry between the characters is as important as the play itself and that works here - the play is sad and hopeful and ends way too soon. And it is full of funny moments - I was not sure about the beginning as they use some canned laughter while showing some of Pru's memories but it makes sense considering that it is her memory after all but later in the play, there are enough places for everyone to laugh (and everyone did). It also has some heart-breaking moments - especially later in the play when one realizes which of the scenes are real and which are in someone's mind.

This is the first year of the play: it opened in Tuscon on March 4, 2023, played there until March 25 and then transferred to Phoenix for a March 30 - April 16 run - that seems to be the usual pattern for ATC productions.

I expected it to be a heavy play and it was - but it was also a lot more fun than I expected. A nice way to spend an afternoon (I'd much rather see a matinee than an evening play - easier to get home after that as well...)

And then I was off to the Opera on Sunday. While looking at plays, I realized that the Arizona Opera is closing the season in Phoenix with one of my favorite operas - Mozart's The Magic Flute. I've never seen opera live and I tend to listen to operas more often than watch recordings of them

"The Magic Flute" is a Singspiel - it has a lot of arias and singing but part of the dialog is spoken. As such, it is actually a good opera for a first live opera experience. In this performance, the dialog was translated into English, the singing was in German (the original libretto), with a screen high above the stage showing translations in English and Spanish of all the singing (and transcriptions in English and translation in Spanish for all the dialog). The production was steampunk inspired (which was fun): for example when the 3 spirits showed up, they were riding luggage which could have come straight out from a steampunk novel.

I've forgotten just how funny this opera really is. I tend to fall into listening just to the big ares and the music itself and forget that there is really a story in there as well - and the story is hilarious (if you do not know the story, a synopsis can be found here: ). It is a love story of course, with the requisite second male role for comic relief, a villain, a quest, a reversal of fortunes and whatsnot and between the costumes and the delivery of the lines, the audience was laughing a lot. It is a 2 acts opera, running 2 hours and 46 minutes, with one 30-min intermission and the time just flew by. Listening to some of the areas (recordings of which I've heard probably hundreds of time before) live was... interesting - the Symphony Hall is designed for performances so the acoustics was a lot better than anything I can do at home.

And then I went home to continue reading Brad Thor's State of the Union. Don't get me wrong - international intrigue, terrorists and a lot of shooting and betrayals is something I enjoy (which is why I read Thor) but when I opened the book in the evening, I did chuckle - it is very different from the rest of my weekend. But then I did tell you this thread will be like a variety show...

PS: I seem to have been gradating in the size of the venue for the performances I had been attending: Hormel Theater (for "The Last Five Years" the previous week) has 250 seats (they are renovating after this season to make it a 500 seats one); Herberger Center Stage has 800 seats and Symphony Hall has 2,312.

huhtikuu 11, 4:21 pm

Love the way you describe your threads like an old variety show - you never know what comes next. Like an old variety show too, they're always entertaining.

>14 AnnieMod: And believe or not, that makes my reading and reviews current If only I could say that!

huhtikuu 11, 4:50 pm

I like the variety show aspect of your thread, Annie!

huhtikuu 11, 5:08 pm

>15 SassyLassy: :) Thanks! Entertaining is not a word that usually describes me so I will take it.

Well, I am uptodate because I just spent awhile catching up - I was 2 months behind when I started catching up. Just wait a bit - I will probably fall behind again sooner or later.

>16 lisapeet: If nothing else, it gives me a place to talk about the things I see/read/whatever. People liking some of it is a bonus. :)

huhtikuu 12, 10:33 am

Hi Annie. I'm a visitor from the 75 books group, looking for more serious comments and less Wordle declarations. Nice to have online friends but I'm looking for more.

Your reviews and comments are very nice to read, very thoughtful. I'll be back. Thanks.

ffortsa (Judy)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 9:54 pm

>18 ffortsa: The more the merrier! Welcome to Variety Central, Judy :)

I am not sure how thoughtful they are but they are wordy, I will give you that :) Thanks for the nice words. :)

huhtikuu 12, 5:41 pm

70. The Adventurists by Richard Butner

Type: Collection, 93k words, 16 stories
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2022 for the collection; 1996-2022 for the stories
Series: N/A
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, speculative
Format: paperback
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Reading dates: 6 April 2023 - 11 April 2023

An extremely tardy review of a LibraryThing Early Reviewer book (won in October 2021, received and properly shelved somewhere - and then it had been playing hide and seek with me - I was almost at the point where I was planning on finding another copy when it finally showed up - on the shelf I thought I had checked a few times before). It is almost amusing that this whimsical behavior of the book fits the stories (well, it also probably means that I need new glasses or I need to stop putting books I should read shortly somewhere just because they fit there).

Butner's first proper collection (Small Beer Press published a shorter one in 2004 as part of their chapbook series) collects 16 stories - the oldest one published in 1996 and the newest ones being published here for the first time). Most of them appear to be mainstream stories for most of their text until they finally cross the line into the fantastical - often showing that even the mundane was not really mundane. Butner has a very similar style in all of the stories - he starts in the present, then jumps back to the past to catch up the reader on how we got to the point we started at and then finishes the story itself. That works better in some stories than in others - in some places it felt as if he had no idea how to get us the background information we needed so a flashback it is. The few stories where that is seemingly not the case engage with the past in different ways - from time travel to ghosts (and even there, the flashbacks are there, less prominent but there. Which also means that reading the collection without a break mutes the later stories - it feels like you reading the same over and over - while you are not, not really. So if you plan to read the collection, do yourself a favor and read only a few stories at a time.

Taken as a collection, the stories span the whole speculative space - from horror and fantasy to science fiction, from near future to the past. Most of them live in the corners - in those borderline genres which literary authors want to pretend are not genre and genre authors like exploring.

Adventure opens the collection with a tale that seems to be about a dying friend - if you ignore the cat that may or may not be immortal and a jester.

Holderhaven is set in an old mansion - once a home of a family, now a museum. There are rumors about ghosts (which old house does not have one of those) but as Rudy starts exploring, he will learn about a past everyone wants to forget - with a little help of a ghost. It is an unsettling story about forgotten people - and how abusers can get away with anything - as long as they are rich.

Scenes from the Renaissance is probably the least enjoyable story in the collection for me. A man comes to what seems like a thematic part to try to talk to an old friend and it seems like the park is really a door to a past - with forces keeping people there and almost amnesiac. While the idea is not bad, something just did not click - it feels more like a sketch than as a story.

Ash City Stomp has the Devil hitch-hiking and that ends up less scary than most hitchhiker stories out there.

Horses Blow Up Dog City starts with a suicide and ends up being an exploration of fame and its influence on the psyche of everyone some time in the future.

The Master Key and Circa both deal with returns - one to an old school, the other to an old house that is about to be demolished. And when the returning friends go exploring, they find something they never expected - something that really cannot be. Everyone makes it alive in both stories so neither is that kind of story.

At the Fair is similar in tone to Scenes from the Renaissance - except that it is a fair and not a theme park - with some magic mixed in. It is short and that saves it - it makes even less sense than the other one.

Pete and Earl is set in the future - where class divisions had not really disappeared and grudges are held for a long time. The choice of narrator and the pacing make it a lot better story than it seems to be.

The Ornithopter is another story set in a future - a future that stays undefined and seems to be heading to apocalyptic - while our protagonist is trying to figure his job.

Stronghold's setting is unclear. Is it a future? Is it a parallel world? In either case, a murder intrudes into the ordered life of a rich man and changes his life.

Delta Function is the one story where time travel is not just hinted it - it is the the core of the narrative. 30 years after leaving the small town where he went to college, Gray comes back on a work assignment - and ends up back in 1979. Literally.

Give Up looks at another future - one in which you can do anything in your own back yard - including climbing Mount Everest. But at what price? The final sales pitch made me laugh - it may be the future but Sales is Sales.

Chemistry Set starts like another story of returning back home and just like The Master Key and Circa ends up in an unexpected place.

Under Green mixes the person returning home and a murder mystery and salts the narrative liberally with nature, including a talking tree. I am not sure what the point of the ending was - lose a friend to find another? Whatever it was, it ran a bit too long - the only story that felt too long in the collection.

In Sunnyside, a virtual wake for an artist takes a bit of a sinister turn - without any monsters. Despite that, it is actually one of the more nostalgic stories in the collection - it is all about memories and what we chose to remember and about what friendship means when you make it in the world.

Overall an enjoyable way to pass a few hours even if it was not perfect and even though some stories seem very similar to each other when you look back at them. But that is inevitable - writers don't discard ideas just because they already used them and exploring the same idea in different ways make sense.

I will be curious to see what Butner does next (plus his dedication of the book to John Kessel did not harm him - he is one of my favorite SF authors).

==== - the official page for the book that has links for some of the stories available online

PS: The cover of my book is the pre-publication one but this one is fun and colorful so I am using that! :)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 9:44 pm

In the non-book related realm (feel free to skip this post if you do not care about classical music or my musings about it).

I was working on formatting in a power point presentation yesterday (if someone tells you that you will get better when you do more of these, they are lying), and decided to check what BBC Radio 3 had been airing the last few days. If you like classical music, there is always something in there - not the least their 3 daily concerts (recordings of live performances). The lineup of the BBC Radio 3 in Concert caught my eye.

If you are not familiar with the "BBC Radio 3 in Concert" series, they take a recording of a real concert - often a British orchestra but they do venture outside as well, insert related music for the intermission (you are in front of your radio - you do not need a 20-30 minutes break), add an introduction of each piece and an occasional interview with someone related to the concert and then pad the end with additional music so it runs for 150 minutes (usually the music at the end is by the composers who will be featured in the next day's concert. Studio albums are great (and so are edited for publication live recordings) but live performance is live performance - even when it is recorded.

Yesterday (April 11), they took a concert of the BBC Philharmonic (conducted by Nicholas Collon) from 1 April 2023 in the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester ( for the original performance page) with 3 pieces on the program:
- "Three pieces that disappear" by Tom Coult (a world premiere of a new composition) - not bad but a bit too modern for my taste I think.
- Alban Berg's "Seven Early Songs" (sang in German (as they were written) by the soprano Francesca Chiejina), accompanied by the orchestra) - I actually pulled the libretto of these to see what she was singing about. I am not sure I had ever listened to the whole piece before and it is some gorgeous music.
- "An Alpine Symphony" by Richard Strauss (which is what caught my eye in the program). Always good. With a good orchestra like this one? Great.

BBC then added 4 of the Debussy Preludes (Le Vent dans la plaine; Des pas sur la neige; Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest; Brouillards) - all thematically connected to Nature - which is what connects the whole program, performance by Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, during the interlude before the symphony (I've listened to this specific recording before and Bavouzet's interpretation is good) and wrapped up the concert with part of Steve Reich's Sextet (by the London Symphony Orchestra) (not my thing at all) and a complete recording of Anna Clyne's Cello Concerto "Dance", performed by Inbal Segev, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Marin Alsop). Considering that Anna Clyne wrote the concerto for Inbal Segev, this is probably the best recording of that particular concerto (it is a newish composition from 2019). Technically it does not conform specifically to the form of the concerto so it is called officially "Dance for cello and orchestra" but it is close enough to call it one.

Want to listen to it: for 29 days after it airs. Debussy starts ~45:00, Anna Clyne starts ~2:03:00. If you like string music, listen to Dance. Review from the Guardian of the concerto when the recording BBC used here first came out: - they are much better than me explaining the details; I can only say I loved it and I don't often care about string music - I much prefer piano compositions. But then this is partially why I listen to these concerts - they occasionally surprise me. When that concerto was published it was paired with Edgar Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor, performed by Inbal Segev, accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Marin Alsop) again so I suspect I am going to listen to more Cello music shortly - I am curious to see how the two compare.

huhtikuu 13, 1:46 pm

71. State of the Union by Brad Thor

Type: Novel, 121k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2004
Series: Scot Harvath (3)
Genre: thriller
Format: paperback
Publisher: Emily Bestler's Books / Atria
Reading dates: 6 April 2023 - 12 April 2023

After two books about the expected terrorists of the time (the series started shortly after 9/11 and in these years, terrorist meant only one thing for most Americans), the third novel in the series goes back to the familiar enemy - the Russians.

Nuclear suitcases placed in a few American cities, a defense system over Russia which makes them invulnerable to attack and an old US program which was designed to deal with such situations being compromised end up being just the opening salvo of what may easily become the prelude to WWIII. When the president of the United States receives a letter asking him to announce the withdrawal of USA from international politics and economy during his State of the Union address (or the bombs will be detonated), it is time for some more unorthodox methods in trying to solve the problem. Meanwhile the Russians are denying any official involvement and Gary Lawlor, the newly appointed head of the counter-terrorism organization Scot Harvath ended up at the end of the last book, is missing. As it turns out, Gary was the head of that now compromised defense operation as well so his disappearing, in the wake of most of the old operatives being killed, raises more than one question.

Of course the reader knows a bit more about the situation than most of the players as we get to see the plotting of the Russian generals and at least some of what happens to Gary. Scot is asked to not just figure out what happened but also to prevent things from escalating even more so he is off to Berlin (and later to Russia with some stops along the way to pick a nuke and a few other essentials). As it turns out there is a brilliant and very beautiful woman involved (last time that happened Scot picked up a new girlfriend - and as of the start of the novel they were still together), a few trips around the frozen parts of Russia and a lot of guns, fires and other calamities including a few ships getting down to the bottom of a sea.

Thor tends to be overly wordy and detailed when talking about technology and guns: it is not just a gun or a Beretta, it is a "Beretta .40-caliber 96 Stock pistol" unless we had seen that specific weapon before; every time a new technology or tool shows up, you get a catalog level specification of it, complete with a one sentence history of its development sometimes - it almost feels like he is so proud of having done his research that he must show off (or set the record straight where it differs from the real world I guess) and he peppers the story with all kinds of acronyms of agencies, processes, tools and what's not (explained at regular intervals but half of the time, they feel unnecessary). Thankfully these do not slow down the action too much so they do not become a problem but they are noticeable (and I suspect for some readers, these may be a reason to like the style even more).

It is a decent thriller. While the plot may be a little out there, that's not unusual in the genre and the story works. The writing may be a bit clunky in places and I really hope Thor will outgrow his penchant of having a beautiful woman in every novel (it works in action B-movies, not as much in the written thriller counterpart) but at least for now, I plan to continue with the series.

huhtikuu 16, 9:16 am

I too love your ruminations on theatre as much as your reviews of books, Annie. I have not been to the theatre since I left Seattle several years ago and reading your thread makes me miss going. Both of the plays you attended sound interesting, but I doubt they will ever reach Maine (little does!). I used to attend the opera fairly regularly in the 1990s when I was in grad school. I don't think I've been since. I have never enjoyed reading plays. When required to, I would try to find an audio production with multiple voices to listen to as I read. The Pride of Parnell Street might work for me in print, however, since it's monologues.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 17, 1:32 pm

>23 labfs39: I felt like that about reading plays for a long time, then tried a few and it worked for me... But it is not for everyone I think - it is supposed to be played after all.

I am lucky enough to live in one of the biggest cities in the country so there are a lot of things to go to if you are so inclined (this week's list is not out yet but this is the one for last week for example: and they have a running calendar for each day as well ). I just never looked really - I am usually happy enough to just stay home and if I decide to see something out of the house, there is a movie theater across the street from me (literally).

I am trying to curb my natural inclination to just go and see everything NOW. So despite a few things I was thinking about this weekend, I stayed home, read a book or 3, watched a movie at home and did my taxes (yeah, yeah I should do them earlier - but it was not even on the last possible day :) ).

What was/is your favorite opera?

huhtikuu 17, 6:07 pm

>24 AnnieMod: What was/is your favorite opera?

It's been a long time, but Orfeo stands out in my mind. I also love Mozart, so I've seen and enjoyed several of his, such as Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and Marriage of Figaro. Other operas I remember include La Traviata, Carmen, Aida, and La bohème. My favorite ballet is Giselle, but I haven't seen as many as I have operas.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 20, 4:52 pm

>21 AnnieMod: Thanks for posting about the BBC 3 programs - I'll have to check them out when I'm trying to clean house. (I'll tell myself I'm not cleaning but listening to music.)

toukokuu 31, 4:48 pm

>25 labfs39: I don't think I had ever seen a production of Orfeo. I had listened to some of the music though.

>26 markon: Have fun. Look at the rest of their lineup as well - they have some other cultural stuff but they mostly do music. I like them when I cannot decide what to listen to.

In case someone is wondering where I disappeared to again (and just when I was fully caught up) - I am fine, no health surprises (knock on wood) - I just needed a mental break from the world and did not feel like talking to people or talking about what I was reading. So I just... mostly ignored LT (and most of internet) for the last month and a half. I've poked my head in a thread or 3 but it was mostly spotty. Should be back with reviews (at least I kept track of what I was reading) and more musings about theaters and other entertainment in the next days.

toukokuu 31, 7:25 pm

Good to see you back, Annie.

kesäkuu 1, 2:36 am

>27 AnnieMod: A break from internet can be good sometimes. LT is meant to be fun, not a core.
Great to have you back though!

kesäkuu 1, 5:23 am

Welcome back! Hope you’re feeling refreshed after a break.

kesäkuu 1, 8:12 am

>27 AnnieMod: I'm just coming back from an LT break myself. Welcome back!

kesäkuu 3, 4:28 pm

Hope to see you posting again soon

kesäkuu 5, 8:56 am

Mental breaks are good.

kesäkuu 6, 9:43 am

Hi! Glad you took a break when you needed one, but like the others I'm happy to see you back. I enjoyed this morning's catch up on your thread. Cheers!

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 1:59 pm

>28 kidzdoc: Hi Darryl. Thanks for stopping by :)

>29 raton-liseur: Yep - I wish it was a complete one but the job kinda does not allow it. But it was getting a bit of a chore to keep track of LT so... off I went. It was not even planned - it was more of a "nope, maybe tomorrow" that took a bit to resolve.

>30 FlorenceArt: Kinda. I wish I could have just taken a real break from everything but that will need to wait until my Bulgarian trip in August/September.

>31 Julie_in_the_Library: Welcome back to you as well then! :)

>32 baswood: Unless something weird happens, first reviews should be up in the next few hours. Knock on wood.

>33 markon: Yep.

>34 rocketjk: Just on time then for you thing to be added.

So... >2 AnnieMod: is uptodate if someone wants to see what is coming (book-wise), the rest of the lists will be updated as I am going through. I did go to a few more plays and related things.

kesäkuu 6, 12:57 pm

Thirty-six titles if I counted correctly, and that when you were exceptionally busy ! respeeeect

kesäkuu 6, 2:48 pm

>36 LolaWalser: Well, I managed to review the first 6 in April before dropping off again so I am only 30 behind (on reviews).

When I am in one of these moods and/or busy, I tend to either read a lot or watch a lot of series and movies. Not that I do not read a lot at all times but things kinda escalate when I am in a "hide from people" mood. :)

kesäkuu 6, 4:06 pm

72. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

Type: Novel, 127k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2005
Series: Mickey Haller (1), Harry Bosch Universe (15)
Genre: thriller
Format: paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Reading dates: 12 April 2023 - 14 April 2023

There are two ways to look at this novel - as part of the long running Harry Bosch Universe or as a separate independent novel. Neither of these will be wrong - while some characters from the main sequence show up, the novel stands on its own - just like the earlier "Blood Work" or "The Poet" did. In some ways, these first novels in the peripheral series are actually more enjoyable than the police procedurals in the main one.

Mickey Haller is a lawyer in Los Angeles - jaded, not very well paid and ready to cross almost any line if it will help him (and peripherally his client - although that is almost never his priority). And out of the blue he gets his hands on a case which may be his meal ticket for awhile. Except that that meal ticket, Louis Roulet, seems to be a thoroughly unpleasant man. Which usually would not be an issue for Mickey - except that he had advised a previous client to plead guilty -- for a crime which now Louis looks good for.

At the start of the novel, Mickey looks almost the opposite of Bosch (and if you had read the earlier novels, that is very obvious - none of them perfect but Mickey seems to be too self-centered). But as the novel progresses, it turns out that there is a morality under all that jadedness - he has his own moral compass and even he has a breaking point. It is not a tale of redeeming a fallen lawyer or of a lawyer finding again why he went into the profession. While the Mickey of the end of the novel is different from the one at the start, the change is more of a normal human reconsideration of his choices than a full blown discovery of a new path.

Add to that a pretty decent thriller around the whole red herrings and more crime coming into it and the novel is a mix of a courtroom drama and a thriller that manages to find the correct ratio of the mix to keep it entertaining.

If you had never read Connelly before, this is not a bad novel to start with -- but it may give you a bad idea of what you usually get from one of his novels. There is a lot that is recognizable but the character arc of Mickey is very different from any others in his oeuvre up to this point.

Reading the novel almost 20 years after it came out means that I knew some things about it - including who Mickey Haller's half brother is. It is irrelevant to this novel and it will come into play in later novels but it was fun to see some elements from the older novels showing up in the periphery.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 6, 4:27 pm

73. Echo Park by Michael Connelly

Type: Novel, 117k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2006
Series: Harry Bosch (12), Harry Bosch Universe (16), Rachel Walling (3)
Genre: thriller, police procedural
Format: mass market paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Reading dates: 14 April 2023 - 15 April 2023

Harry is back in LA and back in the police - which makes the stories work a lot better. Not that I did not enjoy the Las Vegas and PI novels but something was missing in them - Harry, even when being his usual surly loner self, works better inside of the system than outside of it.

At the end of a previous novel, Kiz Rider not only convinced him to come back to the force (in the Open-Unsolved Unit - the LA police name for the usual Cold Cases department) but also transferred to become his partner as well. At the start of this novel, they get handed what looks like a present - a man confessing to multiple murders, including one which had been on Harry's mind since it happened more than a decade earlier.

Early in his return to the force, the chef of police warns Harry that his biggest obstacle will not be time but the police itself. That turns out to be almost prophetic - because the more he digs, the more he starts finding things which sound as if the original investigation was tainted and Harry and his then partner Edgar had missed a major clue. The investigation becomes not just a crusade to find the truth about a dead girl but also a rethinking of Harry's idea of himself as an investigator. It does not help that the case starts hinting at a racial angle and at least one member of the police having had reasons to hide some of the evidence.

As is usual for the novels in the series, the truth comes out at the end - in more than one way. One of the better novels in the series - I enjoy most of them anyway but that one is better than most of the rest.

kesäkuu 6, 4:39 pm

74. The Overlook by Michael Connelly

Type: Novel, 59k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2007
Series: Harry Bosch (13), Harry Bosch Universe (17), Rachel Walling (4)
Genre: thriller, police procedural
Format: mass market paperback
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Reading dates: 15 April 2023 - 16 April 2023

My first thought when I saw this book was that Connelly must have phoned it in - it is half the size of a usual book in the series. As it turns out, a very helpful author note explains that the book was serialized in 16 installments of 3K words each and even though it was somewhat rewritten for its book publication, it is still tied to the restrictions of a serialization.

At the end of the last novel, Kiz got finally fed up with Harry's antics and went back to the Chief of Police office while Harry actually got a promotion - he is now in the Homicide division, partnered with a young detective (Ignacio Ferras). It is the first novel of the series that really deals with terrorism in any way or form - this time dirty bombs seem to be hidden somewhere after the police finds the body of a doctor who worked with radioactive materials. That brings FBI and Rachel back into the mix as well - giving Bosch a chance to try to get his own personal life in order (as much as possible anyway).

Meanwhile Bosch is being Bosch and does not treat his new partner any better than he did the previous ones - he is a lone wolf and he is even more reckless than he usually is. The pacing of the novel is different because of the serialization, with more turns and twists which come faster than usual and with less development between them thus leaving Harry looking almost illogically reckless in places.

I enjoyed the novel in the same way I had always enjoyed B-list action movies - it is fast paced and a lot of things happen. But because of its length and pace, it is different from the series as a whole - it almost serves the same function as e-novellas serve these days - tell a shorter story in the big universe. Except that this was built as a novel - and that left it a bit lacking. Still fun if you are reading the series but don't start with it.

kesäkuu 6, 5:30 pm

75. American Indian Stories by Zitkála-Šá

Type: Collection, memoir, ~32k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 1921
Series: N/A
Genre: memoir, myths
Format: paperback
Publisher: Mint Editions
Reading dates: 16 April 2023 - 17 April 2023

And another long overdue LTER book which had been hiding from me and then when I finally found it and read it, it got caught up into my "I do not feel like writing and talking about books" mood. :)

A mix of autobiographical sketches, traditional myths, no so traditional myths and an essay about the place of the Indians in the country make this book a bit weird. I enjoy all of those topics but the book does not differentiate between them - you do not know what exactly you are reading until you had started the essays/story.

It starts as expected - Zitkála-Šá recalls her early years and education - an almost common story of Native American children being carried away to be "civilized" in boarding schools. Or at least it is a pretty common one for this reader, more than 100 years after this book was first published. Despite its almost banality, it is still heartbreaking - writing later in life and after having taught in the schools herself, Zitkála-Šá manages to add a perspective while still keeping some of the innocence of the childhood memories and her early days as a teacher.

And then this memoir abruptly stops and she switches to tales and myths. These are all told from different perspectives and in different styles, drawing on the long oral traditions. In some ways they make the first part of the collection even more stark - for all the children like Zitkála-Šá who managed to preserve their own history and mythology, a lot of the kids who went to the boarding schools (and survived) ended up assimilated into the white culture - after all, that was what the education was all about.

The collection ends with a short essay about the interactions between the native population and the Spanish and English settlers which ends in an appeal for everyone to educate themselves about the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a report about it (which was not included - my guess is that it was widely available at the time - or foundable anyway).

Mint Editions had added a very short note about the author - I wish that they had commissioned a proper one. It helps understanding who Zitkála-Šá was and her work to appreciate some of what she has to say. So I looked elsewhere - the Wikipedia article is actually decent ( )


But then in one of those weird serendipity moments, I was browsing the magazines list in my library and her name jumped at me from the cover of the April issue of Cowboys & Indians: Ron Soodalter's article "The Flight Of Red Bird" about her life and work is a lot livelier than Wikipedia and very readable.

The full article is available online: (and it is also in the magazine if your library carries it).

kesäkuu 6, 6:37 pm

76. The Papers of Tony Veitch by William McIlvanney

Type: Novel, 73k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 1983
Series: DI Jack Laidlaw (2)
Genre: police procedural
Format: ebook
Publisher: Canongate
Reading dates: 16 April 2023 - 18 April 2023

6 years after the first novel, McIlvanney returns to Glasgow and his DI Jack Laidlaw. Less than a year had passed in the story though - and I suspect that this was a deliberate choice.

An old wino dies but in his last moments he calls for Laidlaw - and the policeman decide to go and listen to what the old man has to say. As it turns out, the death is not natural, despite all appearance and the DI needs to get back into the underbelly of Glasgow to find the truth. Meanwhile, one of the crime families has their own investigation going on - about another death, seemingly unrelated and about a missing student.

As with the first novel, we know more than the police or anyone else involved does as we see the action from both sides. Which makes some of the actions of some of the characters appear almost idiotic and yet realistic. Keeping track of who knows what when is important in some parts of the novel - and sorting out some of the dialogue makes that even harder. Not because it is bad - but McIlvanney continues the usage of the local dialect for most of it and sometimes you need to sound it out to actually understand it (or at least that is what worked for me). It slows down the novel and one's reading - but it adds to the grittiness and does not sound as if it is a clutch.

Overall not as enjoyable as the first novel but a good read anyway. And I can see why the current crop of Scottish noir authors like him so much.

kesäkuu 6, 7:48 pm

77. Murder at the Jubilee Rally by Terry Shames

Type: Novel, 92k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2022
Series: Samuel Craddock Mysteries (9)
Genre: police procedural, mystery
Format: hardcover
Publisher: Severn House
Reading dates: 18 April 2023 - 20 April 2023

And we are back to (fictional) Jarrett Creek, Texas for the 9th installment (8 in the current timeline, one in the past...) of the very enjoyable mystery series.

The annual Jubilee Motorcycle Rally had been a tradition in town but a lot of the locals dislike the noise and all the bikes which overrun the town while the Rally is going on. The local business owners on the other hand love the event. Which causes another spat in the small town - with our favorite police chief Samuel Craddock in the middle of it. One side wants to cancel the Rally, the other one insists that it is needed for them to survive. So a compromise is finally found - close all local businesses early on the days of the Rally unless they have a special permission by the police to stay open later. And then a woman is found dead on the rally and it becomes clear that she is actually a local business owner.

In the meantime, Hailey, Craddock's great-niece gets sent to him for a while as her parents cannot deal with her teenage antics. Between the girl (who really does not want to be there), the dead woman and the divided town, it is a very busy weekend. And with the Rally and all the people who traveled for it leaving shortly, the death may remain unexplained unless everyone moves fast. Hailey does not help matters much by getting involved in ways she really should have not - but then she is not visiting because she is a beacon of clear thoughts and good decisions.

As much as I enjoy the mysteries in the series, I also enjoy the story of life in the small town. These are similar to the English countryside novels which take a lot of room in the genre - just transposed a bit west. This one worried me a bit - the rally changes the focus but in reality, it actually accentuated it - the bike riders are a community as well and the mix between them and the town itself added something to the whole novel.

The novels in the series work on their own but they work a lot better as a whole - the later ones (including this one) reference earlier events and often mentions people expecting that you know who they are (or with very little introduction). I like visiting the small town every year... and now it is time to wait for the next novel to be published.

And that is one more series I am uptodate on :) I need to get my index going...

kesäkuu 6, 8:13 pm

And before I finished the next book, I went to another play: "A Chorus Line", directed by Jeff Whiting with the The Phoenix Theatre Company again - this time on their big stage (it is a lot bigger production than the first one I saw by them).

The play about an audition for a play had won its shelf-full of awards since its first run in 1975 including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1976 and a bucketful of Tony awards. I haven't gone that far back in my chasing of the Pulitzer plays so seeing it on stage here was my introduction to the musical. And I am happy that I watched it instead of reading it. Don't get me wrong - there are wonderful lines and the story is engaging but the actors make the story shine and the music and dance add to the story quite a lot.

It was staged with an intermission (which apparently is unusual for this musical) - while I really like going to plays and what's not lately, sitting for 2 hours or more without the ability to get up and move a bit is not my favorite thing.

More information about the play: (this run) (general)

That was the last of the live performances I went to in April - and it rounded up an interesting month with 3 plays and an opera.


And that will be it for tonight I think - I will go read some more instead of writing about reading. 6 reviews down, 24 to go (unless I finish more books in the meantime...).

kesäkuu 7, 4:43 pm

78. From Sea to Stormy Sea: 17 Stories Inspired by Great American Paintings, edited by Lawrence Block

Type: Anthology, 17 stories, 82k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2019
Series: N/A
Genre: crime, mystery
Format: hardcover
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Reading dates: 19 April 2023 - 22 April 2023

My library shelves all anthologies based on their Dewey number and not with the rest of the fiction books so I often raid the 808.83 shelf to see if there is something I had not read yet. Back in April I came home with a stack of them and this was the first of them that I finished.

The introduction (safe to read before the stories) makes it clear that this is the third in a series of anthologies of stories based on art and that it is somewhat different from the previous two - different authors, less restrictive choice of art. There are also some technical details about the process of assembling such an anthology - the author who bailed out in the last moment, the art piece that could not be reprinted so the author had to pivot (and in the process find an art piece that matches their story even better). The stories use the art differently - some imagine the story of the art (the good old "a story based on a picture"), some put the picture inside of the story and others just use the art as an inspiration, sometimes a very vague one. While I did not love all the stories, they all were at least competent which is usually enough for me to enjoy an anthology. It also sent me into looking up the art of some artists I had never heard of and some authors who had flown under my radar. Which is why I like anthologies in general.

Most of the stories are either crime or mystery stories or related to the genres. That's not surprising considering who Lawrence Block is. Onto the stories:

The Prairie Is My Garden by Patricia Abbott
Painting: The Prairie Is My Garden by Harvey Dunn
In 1884, a young family looks at their land in De Smet, South Dakota and considers their life. Then the story rolls back to show us how they ended up there - and there are a few surprises in there. It is a calm story which serves as a nice opening of the anthology, using the painting's imagery and giving it words.

Mother of Pearl by Charles Ardai
Painting: Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian
A girls goes looking for her father - and in the process finds someone else. I am not entirely sure what the connection to the paining is besides both of them being connected to New York - but the story works and even manages to pull off a somewhat surprising ending.

Superficial Injuries by Jan Burke
Painting:Detail from Thirteen Most Wanted Men by Andy Warhol
An old woman, a big inheritance, a man expecting to get it all and a surprising woman - that can never end well, can it? Burke ties the paining/artwork into the story, making it a part of the story itself and it allows for the story to go to unexpected places. As almost cliche as the premise may be, the execution helps lift the story a bit.

The Man from Hard Rock Mountain by Jerome Charyn
Painting: Twilight of Man by Rockwell Kent
A dystopian tale of a man living alone after an unnamed disaster which knocked off civilization - and a woman and a child showing up out of nowhere. I did not see the end coming - although I probably should have. The story feels more like a sketch than as a complete story but combined with the art, it actually works a lot better - they share the atmosphere of the impeding end.

Adrift Off the Diamond Shoals by Brendan DuBois
Painting: Reefing Sails Around Diamond Shoals, Cape Hatteras by Winslow Homer
It is never a good idea to meet people in secluded places just before the area is closed off after full evacuation. Especially when you are not a good person. It was clear from the start that something was bound to happen so the story played a bit predictably but it still worked out. Setting the story in the place which the paining illustrates makes it perfect for the anthology.

You're a Walking Time Bomb by Janice Eidus
Painting: Number 14 by Mark Rothko
Can I just mention that I really do not understand the appeal in Rothko's work? Or most of Mondrian's (see above) but at least with him you may squint and see things based on the title of the painting. With Rothko I just do not get it... at all. Unlike the narrator of this story who after surviving an aneurysm becomes a life coach while getting almost obsessed with Rothko's work and we get to follow a day in her life. I found the story as pointless as Rothko's painting - but then I suspect that it may make a lot more sense to someone who also appreciates the art.

Garnets by Christa Faust
Painting: Adirondacks by Helen Frankenthaler
Picking up a hitchhiker is never a safe thing to do - for either party. The driver being the narrator gives away where the story is going to lean into - and it goes there - and its length does not allow for a lot of depth.

He Came in Through the Bathroom Window by Scott Frank
Painting: Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney by Robert Henri
An island, a set of burglars and a painting (the one the story is connected to) which appears to be more than a painting. It's never quite clear if the story is speculative or if we are dealing with hallucinations but it does not matter really.

On Little Terry Road by Tom Franklin
Painting: This Much I Know by John Hull
Being awaken by the phone at 4 am is never fun. Being awaken so you can deal with some dead bodies is even less fun. As the protagonist of the story will tell you - bad days begin with phone calls.

Someday, a Revolution by Jane Hamilton
Painting: Daughters of Revolution by Grant Wood
Three women, members of the local chapter of DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) have a bit of a conversation in 1947 about what is important and what is decent. Enlightened is the last thing either of them is.

Riverfront by Barry N. Malzberg
Painting: River Front by George Bellows
A very short story about Bellows and one of the women in his painting. A vignette on history and consequences. Too short to really have an impact but readable.

Silver at Lakeside by Warren Moore
Painting: Homage to "Les Fauves" by Warren S. Moore, Jr.
In case one wonders, this is the story that was written about another painting, the one that the anthology could not get permissions for and once that happened, Moore realized that one of his father's paintings actually fits it even better. And just in case you think this was a lucky break, the story was a replacement to start with - due an author who failed to deliver their story. Both the author and the original painting remain unnamed.
The story itself is about acceptance and about choosing to be what you need to be - and being accepted for it. It is almost a counterpoint of "Someday, a Revolution" earlier in the book.

Get Him by Micah Nathan
Painting: Light at the Crossing by Daniel Morper
A hired assassin with a conscience goes around America to do his job. For a trope that every mystery/crime writer out there had tried at least once, the story still managed to sound fresh.

Baptism in Kansas by Sara Paretsky
Painting: Baptism in Kansas by John Steuart Curry
A Revival Tent, a young woman being shipped to a farm in the middle of nowhere as a punishment (or to be kept out of trouble), a small town and the rumor mill of such places. None of that is a recipe for a happy ending. And you won't get one - although it is a surprising one.

A Matter of Options by Gary Phillips
Painting: Why Not Use the "L" by Reginald Marsh
A modern day Robin Hood plays games with the wealthy. The backstory becomes the bones of a story that would have read as a caper otherwise.

Girl with an Ax by John Sandford
Painting: Hollywood by Thomas Hart Benton
A struggling musician lived next door to an aged one-time Hollywood starlet - the one who posed for Benton's painting in fact - and is being friendly enough for the old woman to decide to leave her something in her will. Sandford indulges in some word-play as well - an ax/axe is a used as a word for a guitar (one I had never heard of but once I figured that out, finding the reason for it was interesting).

The Way We See the World by Lawrence Block
Painting: Office Girls by Raphael Soyer
Two strangers meet in front of a painting (not the one the story is based on) and end up meeting again and discussing art (some of the paintings in this anthology included) while trying to think of another painting (the one the story is connected to). It is a love story - written a bit weirdly but a love story indeed. It is also the second replacement story in the volume (or the first if you want to count which one was produced and decided on first) - but not in the same way - it was always supposed to be by Block, it was just a different story initially - one that did not work out.

At the end, none of the stories were really memorable. Some worked better, some less so but none of them was unreadable. Which is more than can be said about a lot of anthologies. But if you like art and have some free time, it is a nice enough anthology.

All of the paintings are available online if someone wants to look them up. Depending on your preferences, I suspect different people will like different ones. My personal favorite? Rockwell Kent's "Twilight of man" had been a long time favorite but I also quite liked Harvey Dunn's "The Prairie Is My Garden".

kesäkuu 7, 6:31 pm

79. The Strangers by Jon Bilbao, translated from Spanish by Katie Whittemore

Type: Novella, 27k words
Original Language: Spanish
Original Publication: 2021 in Spanish as Los extraños, 2023 in English (this translation)
Series: N/A
Genre: ?
Format: paperback
Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press
Reading dates: 23 April 2023 - 23 April 2023

Jon and Katharina had left the big city for the winter and moved to Jon's childhood home, high on the rocks above a small village on the Cantabrian coast. They both can work remotely and as the winter progresses, they settle into their own worlds - living together but living almost separately, working on separate floors and drifting away from each other. Then one night curious lights show up over the village and all the Ufologists in the area converge on the village, disturbing the peace and the couple's attempt at calm life. That would have been bad enough. But then Markel and Virginia show up - with Markel claiming to be a distant cousin who had grown up in Chile and before long the two of them move into the house as well.

The two couples (even though Markel keeps claiming that Virginia works for him actually) don't really have much in common and the newcomers seem to be making themselves at home in ways that Jon and Katharina find troubling. The fact that Jon cannot remember Markel at all while Markel claims they had made does not help either. Neither do the ufologists camping outside of their doors.

The novella has a very gothic feeling - from the house and its position, through the descriptions and to the almost weird happenings. I've seen it reviewed as science fiction and I can see how that can be read that way (Markel and Virginia show up when the lights did and disappear after they come again) but the author never gives a definitive answer - were they who they claimed to be or were they swindlers who had done their homework or were they alien. The reader is left to decide for themselves - and depending on how one is inclined, it may be any of those. In all cases, they were the strangers - the ones who did not belong - even if noone really finds out why.

I liked the style and the language but I found the whole thing a bit incomplete. It feels like a part of something bigger more than a standalone tale - and not just because of the lack of resolution. It does make one feel unsettled (as all good gothic tales do) so it works for that but I wish we either got a resolution (even a hint of one). I can see what the author attempted to do though even if it did not work for me completely.

kesäkuu 7, 7:01 pm

80. Vicious Circle by C. J. Box

Type: Novel, 93k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2017
Series: Joe Pickett (17)
Genre: modern western, thriller
Format: hardcover
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Reading dates: 21 April 2023 - 24 April 2023

Back to Wyoming to check on the Pickett family in the 17th installment of the series. Dallas Cates seems to be back - and really ready to make trouble for Joe and his family. Joe does everything he could to protect them - including sending them to Marybeth's mother (who reappears again) and chasing after Dallas in any way he can.

The novel mostly ties up old stories - the background is there so it can be read as a standalone but it is an unusual book in more than one way. Everyone we know and like is around and gets to play their role (except for the old governor - now out of office and the new one does not seem to be as enamored with our game warden as the old one was) but the story veers into the straight thriller territory, leaving behind much of the western vibe that the series usually has.

It is a good thriller and probably one of the better books in the series as a whole but I've grown to like the calmness in these books (often shattered by Joe doing something he just must do) and I missed it here. Still a good installment in a long running series - tying up some old threads, opening some new options and setting up the series for the future. Onto the next one.

kesäkuu 7, 7:33 pm

81. Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews

Type: Novel, 88k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2008
Series: Kate Daniels (2)
Genre: urban fantasy
Format: mass market paperback
Publisher: Ace
Reading dates: 24 April 2023 - 26 April 2023

And from rural Wyoming, off to future Atlanta, Georgia :)

The series is starting to hit its stride (or a stride anyway). The big flare hits the city (and I assumed the world but as Kate knows about the city, that is what we know) and that makes things even weirder than before. As if having magic and technology alternate working and not working was not weird enough, the flare not only supercharges the magical side but also allows doors to be opened to other places and for gods and other mythical creatures to bleed into our world - usually with some help of someone on this side.

Kate has two separate issues on her hands - she is looking for Julie's mother and the Pack asks her to figure out who stole the city maps from them and to recover them. To noone's surprise it turns out that the two cases are actually two sides of the same one - the Mom had been part of a coven which seems to have done something stupid and the thief is tied to that in more than one way. Then a stranger, Bran, who cannot decide if he wants to seduce or kill Kate shows up and things get even more interesting. Curran is not amused (it seems like he never is anyway).

If the first book hinted at some of the mythologies which will play a role in the series, this one just throws them at you - hard. We get to hear some more about what/who Kate is and some of her powers (I just hope she does not get super-powered before this series is over) and the long game of the series starts coming into focus (or one of them anyway). It will be interesting to see where this goes next.

kesäkuu 7, 7:54 pm

82. The History of the World in 100 Animals by Simon Barnes

Type: Non-fiction, 164k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2020
Series: N/A
Genre: history, zoology and other biological sciences
Format: hardcover
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Reading dates: 14 February 2023 - 27 April 2023

Simon Barnes picks 100 animals which had been important in our history - and then writes an essay about each of them. They have served different roles, some of them being important because of what they are and some because of what people had done to them (the poor dodo for example). Most of the animals in the book are still with us but quite a lot are gone or on the verge of being extinct. Most essays tell you something about the biology and sociology of the animal but the bulk of the text is about their influence on humanity (and ours on them). Some of the choices are very specific and then the text tell you that they stand for a whole group of animals (the singing birds for example); some appear to be more generic.

The book is international in some ways but the Britishness of the author comes through in places, especially when dealing with animals which are present on the islands. There is also a very strong conservation slant to most of the essays - but not the "we need to save all" variety - it is the more moderate approach which takes into consideration what will happen to the habitats that wins the day in the narrative.

And through all of the essays runs the big thread of habitat protection - no matter what ends up killing off an animal type, it always comes down to that - destroyed habitats make it impossible for them to survive. And if we keep on carrying on as before, we will keep losing them.

The publisher printed the book on heavy enough stock for the illustrations and photographs (most essays have at least 3 of them) to look wonderful. The author chose a mix of classical art, photography and modern art and that in a combination with the somewhat short essays (4 to 6 pages) makes that a wonderful book to just open at a random place and enjoy. There are some cross references - both forward and backwards but even if you do not follow them, the essays work on their own.

The book won't give you as much information for every animal as their respective Wikipedia articles or a proper book about them but it is a nice primer and a nice book to slowly work through.

I like the US cover (shown here) a lot more than the UK cover (see the work). There is also apparently a shortened(?) version geared towards children (this one can be a bit mature in places).

kesäkuu 7, 8:07 pm

>49 AnnieMod:

Obituaries, basically.

kesäkuu 7, 8:40 pm

>50 LolaWalser: In the long run? Yeah - probably even for the cockroaches. :)

kesäkuu 7, 8:48 pm

Time has run out on all the species we don't eat or cuddle.

But never fear. If we're spared the nuclear war, the billionaires will yet starve us all to death.

kesäkuu 7, 8:49 pm

Sorry to go Eeyore in your thread. :)

kesäkuu 7, 9:12 pm

>53 LolaWalser: Nah. The “for most people an animal is worth saving only if we can eat or cuddle it or at least it is cute” is pretty much Barnes’s stance as well. And he is not wrong…

kesäkuu 8, 1:01 pm

83. Dead Lions by Mick Herron

Type: Novel, 103k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2013
Series: Slough House (2)
Genre: espionage
Format: paperback
Publisher: Soho Crime
Reading dates: 27 April 2023 - 28 April 2023

What is the connection between a dead ex-spy (a minor one but still a spy) and a Russian oligarch talking to the Secret Service? None at the surface but as Herron opens the novel with both of these, you know they will connect (one of those days an author will actually be brave enough to leave some events unconnected... and probably get crucified by the reviewers for it).

The dead man appears to have died from natural causes but Lamb is not convinced (and neither is the reader as we see the old man chasing after a ghost from the past in the form of a Russian thug). Meanwhile Spider (aka James Webb) is so sure that he is the best thing since sliced bread that he throws all regulations out of the window and organizes a meeting with a Russian oligarch on its own, fully believing that he is controlling the situation. He even gets Louisa Guy and Min Harper to help - Slough House is a safe place these days with the audit going on in the big house at Regent's Park. Add to that the daily life of Slough House itself and the rest of the spies there (including River who gets to visit the old man again - and get some relevant stories from him) and an old story from the Cold War and the stage is set for the disaster to follow. Because that's British Intelligence - there will be a disaster, often of their own making.

I liked the first book well enough but I found this one to have a better pacing. Part of it is that it did not need as much introduction and backstory - there is some (inevitable) but with the first book there, it did not need to carry as much baggage. Just as with the first book, Herron is not afraid to kill characters who appear to be invulnerable (at this point, anyone but River and Lamb appear to be fair game although I suspect that a few more may actually be safe-ish). Some of the other side may also have a chance to make it through the whole series - Spider for example...

If you expect something like James Bond, look elsewhere. While there is some action in this book, it is a lot more about the craft and the tedious parts of the job than the chase and the explosions. And don't expect a linear story where everything is served on a platter to the reader - all the loose ends are tied by the end but the story is built like a puzzle in some places, with pieces of at least 20 other puzzles thrown in to misdirect and confuse. And then one of those seemingly wrong pieces snaps into place.

The series is going very strong in this early installment and I plan to get to the next one very soon.

kesäkuu 8, 1:35 pm

84. Scattershot by Bill Pronzini

Type: Novel, 50k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 1982
Series: Nameless Detective (8)
Genre: private detective
Format: e-book
Publisher: Speaking Volumes
Reading dates: 28 April 2023 - 29 April 2023

Our nameless detective juggles 3 easy cases and his relationship with Kerry in the 8th installment of the series. Well, cases that look easy anyway - serving some papers to a wealthy woman who ran from an accident with her car, babysitting a room of wedding presents and following a cheating husband. None of these was supposed to be really complicated and yet all of them went sour very quickly (not entirely unexpectedly all things considered). First a man dies while our detective is watching him and the wife who originally hired him decides to blame him - very publicly. Then he gets involved in another murder. And just to top off his crappy week, someone manages to steal the most expensive if the presents that he was guarding. None of these is a good advertisement for the private detectives of San Francisco and the license of our protagonist is hanging on a thread - a thinner one than usual anyway.

And then there is Kerry - the much younger girlfriend that wants to change him (to the tune of getting him to go jogging) and who he still cannot believe loves him. Which causes as many issues as one expects - adding to the funk in his week.

It is a decent installment in a long running series. I am not sure if works as a standalone - the Kerry subplot takes too much space in an already short novel. But as a part of the series, it works. I like that Pronzini does not center most of the installments on single cases (so far anyway) - while this can happen now and again, most working detectives will have more than one case going at the same time. With the end of the novel, it seems like we are up for new changes in the main character's life so let's see what happens next.

kesäkuu 8, 6:24 pm

85. Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić, translated from Croatian by S. D. Curtis and Celia Hawkesworth

Type: Novel, 45k words
Original Language: Croatian
Original Publication: 2002 in Croatian; 2018 in English (this translation; Istros Books, London)
Series: N/A
Genre: contemporary
Format: ebook
Publisher: New Directions
Reading dates: 30 April 2023 - 30 April 2023

In the same way how I raid the library's anthologies shelves, I occasionally raid the new e-books list for any translations or otherwise foreign sounding books that sound even remotely interesting. Not everything works for me and some got returned after a few pages when I decide I really do not like them (or I am not in the mood for them) but I occasionally find interesting things. Case in point: this cluster of books 2 years ago: (the thread is loading slowly because of covers so if you get lost, it is message 152 - which the link is a direct link to - but as the screen moves while loading, it may get a bit hard to get there. One trick: wait it out to load completely and then hit reload. As the images are in your cache, it will position you where you are trying to go. Unless you are clearing caches or the browser is "helping you". Then you are on your own). Thus book got to me via the same means: a new e-book in the library that sounded interesting.

The book proclaims itself a novel so I will call it that although I am not entirely sure that I would otherwise call it so. It contains 2 stories: "Artur and Isabella" and "Pupi" and the connection between them is almost irrelevant - there is one but the stories work without it and it is not strong enough to carry the novel as such (but then a lot of modern novels seem to be like that). In addition to all that, the English publishers (first Istros Books in UK and then New Dimensions in the States) ended up with different translators for both stories - Curtis for "Artur and Isabella" and Celia Hawkesworth for "Pupi" (or so the copyright credits say). The styles of the two stories are different - and I am not entirely sure how much of that different was an author choice and how much came from the different translators.

The first one (which is the shorter one and the better one) introduces us to two old people in their late 70s, meeting in the last day of 1999 by chance . They end up almost having an affair (or does it count as one?), sharing a few of the chocolates that she collects but they mostly talk. Their pasts cover most of the century and with Isabella having fled Germany ahead of the camps and Artur being obsessed with hats, they have a lot to remember. Except that we do not get all of their story from these conversations - because between the paragraphs of the story, it turns out that they both had been monitored and investigated by the police - for different reasons - and we learn the story they do not want to tell each other from these report. The end of the story is told via 2 newspaper articles and I'd admit I did not see it coming.

The second story, "Pupi" is told in a more traditional style. It is also longer but I think that is to its disadvantage - it gets rambling in places. An aging man decides to make amends for his family's criminal past by returning some articles to a Jewish family. While that is happening, he collects useless facts and makes lists (just as Artur did in the first part thus creating one more connection between the two parts), reminisces about his past and his choices in life and have a never explained fascination with the rhinos in the local zoo. I am sure I missed something in this second story - it got me almost glassy-eyed a few times.

At the end it is a book about history and connections and life itself. We meet people at their lowest time - and get to see them at the end of lives full of regrets (and some joy). It is a depressing book - in more than one way. It was also my introduction to the author. According to some reports online, that was her favorite of her novels. It will probably work better for someone who likes modern literature styles a bit more than I do though.

kesäkuu 8, 6:40 pm

And that was all for April reading wise. I did manage to watch a movie in the last days of the month - thus getting my total for movies for April to 2 (matching the total for the year...).

The 2022 The Batman was a movie I actively tried not to watch. Not because it is a superhero movie - I love the genre but Robert Pattinson as Batman sounded way too weird (the guy just does not have the chin for it). But any time I was checking HBO (yes, I still have cable...), it was running on one of their channels so I finally relented and decided to watch a bit of it while eating dinner. It surprised me - and Pattinson grew on me. They did not try to push him into playing out of character (like the disaster that was Val Kilmer's version for example) but instead reworked the mythos to fit his strengths without weakening it. The result is a very believable young Bruce Wayne and not so unbelievable Batman (and as it is set early in his career, some of what may be considered strange can also be looked on as being inexperience - even Batman had to learn).

I much prefer Christian Bale's version of the caped crusader but this ended up being one very entertaining evening.

Other things that happened in April: my account here turned 14. Where did all that time go? :)

Onto May next - where I had read a lot less books than in April :)

kesäkuu 8, 10:29 pm

>57 AnnieMod:

Huh, I wasn't aware of that title. My favourite of hers is something that I don't think has been translated into English, Marija Częstochowska još uvijek roni suze ili Umiranje u Torontu (Our Lady of Częstochowa still weeps; or, Dying in Toronto).

>58 AnnieMod:

Heh, coincidence: just over the past few days I discovered the joy of the 1966 Batman TV series with Adam West. Definitely my kind of take on the whole superhero concept. :)

kesäkuu 9, 4:46 pm

>59 LolaWalser: I don't think she was ever published in Bulgarian. Maybe they will translate this one into one of the two (or Russian...). :)

I like West's Batman. I should probably track it down and watch the complete series - I've seen an episode here and there only.

kesäkuu 9, 7:21 pm

86. Crime Hits Home, edited by S. J. Rozan

Type: Anthology, 20 stories, 109k words
Original Language: English
Original Publication: 2022
Series: Mystery Writers of America Presents
Genre: crime
Format: hardcover
Publisher: Hanover Square Press
Reading dates: 30 April 2023 - 4 May 2023

Twenty crime authors writing about these times when crime touches the most intimate and secure place for almost anyone - one's home. As with most anthologies, not all the stories shine but there were no stories that I decided not to finish. The interpretation of home is as varied as the authors in the anthology - and that keeps the stories from being repetitive. For some it is a place, for some it is a person and for some it is a feeling. The different styles also help.

Grand Garden by Naomi Hirahara opens the anthology with one of her signature tales of the Japanese American lives. When a family home is violated and you protect yourself, does it count as a self-defense if you are not white? The tale made me sad - both because I can believe it and because it shows an ugly side of the justice system which is probably still with us.

In The World's Oldest Living Detective by David Bart, an old detective proves that it does not matter what he calls a home today, he is still capable of taking care of himself - while looking for a missing pet. As the detective is also the narrator of the tale, we get to see him working out both issues at hand - which adds to the fun of the story (and of course possibly adds a dose of an unreliable narration to sort through) .

In Little House in the Big Woods by Sara Paretsky, old secrets and an old murder finally need to come to light - or so everyone assumes. I liked the pacing of this story more than the story itself - it was almost predictable but it was built in a way that made it somehow work.

Banana Island by Susan Breen introduces us to a woman whose job is to keep scammers on the line for as long as possible. Until she is in danger - and it turns out that nothing is as it seems. I did not see the twist coming - although once it was there it was obvious - which I always enjoy in stories.

Flip Top by Gary Phillips is another tale of an old murder coming back to haunt the living. It was clear where the story must go but it was fun following it there.

Oyster Creek by Neil S. Plakcy - a new love in the segregated South leads to a tragedy in an unexpected way.

In Stalking Adolf by Renee James a transgender woman will do anything to protect her daughter - even if the daughter is not very happy with her ex-Dad's life choices.

In Currents by Connie Johnson Hambley, a man uses an island as a sanctuary when not out doing his job, needs to decide if he wants to trust a woman or his knowledge about the ocean currents.

What They Knew by Gabino Iglesias - what would you do if you can ensure that your children have a future? Would you do the favor your boss asks you for even if you know you probably should not?

Hounted Home on the Range by A. P. Jamison - an 11 years old girl investigates a murder after a ghost talks to her.

Not Exit by Walter Mosley has a young man ending up in prison and needing help to break the cycle of abuse and imprisonment. The scary part is that the story reads as something that may happen - and all Tom Exit started with was an attempt to help someone else.

Missing on Kaua'i by Tori Eldridge - a family spat almost ends in a disaster - and even when it is all over, it takes awhile for people to stop blaming the ones they do not understand.

Calling Mr. Smith by Ellen Hart plays on the "Be careful what you wish for" cliche - in this case a grown up child coming back home talking too much in a dive bar about the abusive mother she grew up with. It pulls it off - even if it stayed within the story you expected it to be.

Forever Unconquered by G. Miki Hayden - if you are a criminal and you decide to take a woman as a hostage, maybe try to do some research on the woman first...

In Private Dancer by Jonathan Santlofer, a wealthy man falls in love (or lust maybe) with a dancer and is absolutely sure his wife does not know about it. Underestimating a woman is never a good idea...

The Relentless Flow of the Amazon by Jonathan Stone - what would you do if things start showing up at your house. It is early in the pandemic, you get everything delivered and then some not really legal things just show up. I really liked where this story went.

Live Pawns by Ovidia Yu - hating people is never good - even when you blame them for your son's imprisonment (the fact that your darling actually killed people is completely irrelevant as he did not mean THESE people - it was all a mistake). I was sure that I knew where the story went and then the author took a left turn into a very satisfying end of the story.

The Happy Birthday Song by Bonnie Hearn Hill starts as the story of a girl who lives in a "family" of thieves - and slowly turns into a story of finding your home. I hoped it will end the way it did.

Jack in the Box by Steve Liskow - a homeless veteran won't allow his companions to come to harm, even if they are cats. It takes awhile to sort out who is what in this story - he hears voices and the cats talk to him - and I almost did not finish it. It just went a bit too long, a bit to crazy.

Playing for Keeps by S. J. Rozan closes the anthology with a very short tale of a young Jewish girl who gets bullied but still persists in trying to win back her brother's marbles. Interspersed are her memories from escaping the Holocaust and the casual cruelty of the boys in the here and now gets highlighted by the horror of what she already survived.

Overall a decent anthology which will probably make you consider what you think when you hear the word 'home'.

kesäkuu 9, 8:14 pm

87. Outside by Ragnar Jónasson, translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb

Type: Novel, 59k words
Original Language: Icelandic
Original Publication: 2021 (in Icelandic as Úti); 2022 in English (this translation)
Series: N/A
Genre: crime
Format: hardcover
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Reading dates: 4 May 2023 - 7 May 2023

Just as with his other standalone novel (The Girl Who Died), Jónasson steps away from the style of his series books and goes for a new type of a crime story. Had I started reading it expecting something familiar, I'd probably never finished it - the switch of narrators and the piecemeal information we get about the story is designed to be unsettling - and it works.

Four friends go on a hike in the wilderness of Iceland and end up stranded by a storm, with a stranger with a gun sitting in the corner of the only place they can find shelter. The novel starts in the middle of the story and backtracks to show us how they ended up in this situation and through the novel we get glimpses to the past - a past that holds the key to understanding what is happening during that cold and dark night. The short chapters alternate the narrators, progressing the story gradually - we almost never see the same part of the story of that night from two different narrators - the story progresses as if there was a single one and the reader is left to fill in some of the details when we get back to the same narrator.

And then comes the end (after some deaths of course). Jónasson has a habit of ending his novels weirdly and that works in a series but here it feels almost incomplete. We get the whole story of what happened before and during this night so the novel is finished in that regard but when it ends, you feel like there should be more - the consequences for the ones who survive the night are left to one's imagination.

It is an interesting approach to telling the story but it felt a bit gimmicky in places - like an exercise in style more than an attempt to build a novel. The plot and the tension through it saves it a bit but it is probably the weakest of Jónasson's novels translated into English.

The edition I read ended with a short story: after the excerpt which follows the novel so some people, having been annoyed at the end of the novel, may have even missed it. I almost did - as I rarely if ever read excerpts, I sometimes just close the book when I reach them. The story is very short and has two people sitting for a dinner and discussing the past. It is about forgiveness and finding a way to live with the past - and that ties it to the novel. It also manages to pull off a surprising ending - probably the only thing that makes it stand out.

Overall - if you had never read Jónasson, don't start here. If you had read anything else by him and you are ready to give a different style a chance, try this novel. It has its clever moments and it presents a nice puzzle to solve but still remains unsatisfactory.

kesäkuu 15, 11:08 am

A very dangerous thread!

Somehow, I've now checked out of the library >62 AnnieMod: Outside and Crime Hits Home >61 AnnieMod:.

My library didn't have, so I've placed in my Amazon cart, but not yet clicked purchase, because they sound so enticing, but do I want to spend the money >45 AnnieMod: From Sea to Stormy Sea, >46 AnnieMod: The Strangers, and >47 AnnieMod: History of the World in 100 Animals.

I've already read all the Slow Horses books >55 AnnieMod:, (though anxiously awaiting the next installment), so no danger there. And I already own, but haven't read Doppelganger, >57 AnnieMod:.

kesäkuu 15, 5:37 pm

>63 arubabookwoman: I am not sure if I should say sorry or you are welcome :)

kesäkuu 19, 5:29 pm

Well, I was taking a bit of a break too, so I'm just now popping in to say welcome back. Lots of good reading.

>45 AnnieMod: This sounds cool, memorable or no.

kesäkuu 19, 6:07 pm

Wow, that was a lot for me to catch up on! Very interesting, thanks for all the reviews!

heinäkuu 13, 8:31 pm

>65 lisapeet: It was actually pretty good - despite the lack of really memorable stories. :)

>66 avaland: :) Thanks for stopping by.

Work got a bit crazy in the last month or so (thus me dropping off the face of Earth). Add a pretty bad summer cold late in June(only I can get a cold when it is 40 degrees (Celsius - 104F) outside).

Meanwhile, Phoenix is in the middle of a heath weave with our 13th day in a row of temperatures over 110F (43C). Not that the temperatures are unexpected for July - a bit higher than usual but kinda close enough to the normal - but we tend to get breaks and such streaks are uncommon. And the weather people are saying that it will get worse (apparently the current longest streak was 18 days... and we are heading towards beating that). And while you can hide from the heat during the day, the biggest challenge is that our mornings (the coldest time) are in the high 80s (with a few in the 90s) - that's 30+ in Celsius so it is just hot 24/7. Summer in Phoenix, I know - but it is excessive even for us. We are paying for the very nice June we had...

The only good news in the whole thing is that I am off on Sunday - going up to Winnipeg for a week and a half - away from work and the heat.

heinäkuu 14, 12:35 am

30° in the morning! O_O

Hope you enjoy your vacation, Winnipeg sounds much cooler!

heinäkuu 14, 12:08 pm

>67 AnnieMod: Wow, and I thought I lived in a hot place. Hoping you stay cool and hydrated.

heinäkuu 14, 12:31 pm

>69 rhian_of_oz: >68 FlorenceArt:

32 this morning at 5, before the Sun showed up. Then it started climbing again. 37 at the moment (9:30 am). It was 38 when I went out for my walk around 9:30 pm last night. Welcome to Phoenix. :)

Now, that only lasts about 8-10 weeks - with two extra months (one on each side) when it can get there for a day or 2 but it is usually a bit cooler (not that 25-27 is cool for a night/morning by most standards but it is cooler). But the other 8 months are awesome so there is that. :)

heinäkuu 15, 5:35 pm

>67 AnnieMod: There was an article yesterday in the Guardian about the heatwave in Phoenix it was entitled "Living Hell" This sounds a bit of an exaggeration as you seem to be coping reasonably well.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 16, 2:57 am

>71 baswood: I have the option to work from home, can afford to run my AC 24/7 and don't need to leave the house while the sun is up (and for a few hours after that). Which makes it barely bearable but still bearable. :)

Plus this is my 13th summer in Phoenix - even if the streak is uncommon, this is July in Phoenix so I am kinda used to it and had reorder my schedule to fit when possible. I am looking forward to spending the next 10 days up in Canada though :)

Meanwhile, we are on day 15 of 110F+ (43.3C+) days and apparently today we had the hottest ever July 15 on record with 118F (~47.8C) - the previous record was a degree lower. Yey for records (and for escaping to out of town for a bit) :)

elokuu 1, 6:33 pm

So I came back to Hell, Arizona (also known as Phoenix) after 10 wonderful days in Winnipeg. Although the streak finally broke after 31 days so yesterday and today it only got to ~40-41 (and we saw temperatures under 30C overnight - not by much but yey). Hottest July on record for Phoenix - and that says a lot. Don't get me wrong - I do not mind the heat per se but I need a day off now and again. :) Unfortunately the temps are going up again after today but oh well - it is the season.

If anyone is interested in what I had been up to reading and watching wise, >2 AnnieMod: and >4 AnnieMod: are updated up to the end of July.

I think I will draw a line here, backfill May, June and July reviews when and if I have a chance and then start talking about what I read in real time this month. So if someone is particularly interested in something from my list, let me know and I will push it up higher on the list for reviews :)

elokuu 21, 5:25 pm

Or maybe not -- between work and other engagements, I had been mostly missing again. All is fine - no nasty health surprises this summer (knock on wood) - just busy. And waiting for Friday evening when I am leaving for Bulgaria for 2 weeks :)

Meanwhile - I had been reading, listening to music (BBC3 had been airing the Proms live (with all the recordings available ) : the first one is here: if someone is interested) and trying not to get too crazy in the heat (which broke a bit this weekend so it is livable for a few days).

So I will be back talking about books in the second week of September. :)

elokuu 21, 7:23 pm

Hey! Have a great visit home! I'm just about to start on that Basara you read waaaay up.

If you visit any bookstores, how about some pictures? I'd love to see what is getting read in Bulgaria.

syyskuu 14, 1:23 pm

>75 LolaWalser: What did you think of the Basara?

No bookstore pictures because for the first time since they started doing them (this was the 11th time overall I think - there is a much bigger and older one in the winter in a covered space which I had been to before I moved), I happened to be in Sofia for a day during the Sofia Book Alley (news report on its opening this year: ) - a book festival which gets publishers on street stands essentially (140 of them this year) to promote and sell their books (with a lot of related events (readings, signings, discussions) thrown in). So instead of going to a bookstore, I did that. Stopped at 28 books (because they had to fly with me...) - all of them in Bulgarian, most of them Bulgarian ones, the rest translations from interesting languages (mainly stuff that does not make it into English for the most part). More about the books while I work through the haul in the next months.

As I was mostly ignoring the translations from English and other popular languages, I did not spend much time on these sides of the stands but from what I saw, they looked very similar to what you have here (although as they are split by publisher, they were having their own bestsellers and so on).

This week had been crazy so far - they are repainting the outside of my building (almost done I think - so I can put my external furniture out again and use by terrace again), a water pipe got clogged somewhere so I had plumbers in and out of my apartment and the 1 above me (4th floor) and 2 below me (1st and second floor) for 2 days trying to make sure all is fine - I did not get flooded but it was a close thing - water was coming out of my sink the wrong way - the 2nd and 4t floors got somewhat flooded; I got lucky except that the pipes under the sink managed to spring a local leak due to the pressure (or age?) while they were literally looking at it so they had to fix that as well. In addition to not getting flooded (this time), I live in a 2 bathrooms apartment so it was not a problem to just stay away from that one for the duration.

So catching up on work and internet in general (I mostly plugged out for 2 weeks - it was awesome) in this week. And reading - my Read in 2023 collection is updated if someone wants to see what - order by date Read. I will be back with more things and thoughts (or plan to)...

syyskuu 14, 6:44 pm

>76 AnnieMod: What a perfect way to find new books! I'm looking forward to finding out about fantastic books I can't read when you review them.

syyskuu 15, 7:24 am

Welcome back, Annie. I am finally caught up on your thread (and I thought our summer weather was unpleasant this summer) and ready to hear all about the books you've bought and read lately.