Saturday, December 26, 2020

42. Trinity Sight

By Jennifer Givhan (292 pp ebook)

I can't remember how I first heard about this book but I think this quote sold it for me: "Rooted in indigenous oral-history traditions and contemporary apocalypse fiction..." The main character is a very pregnant anthropologist who "comes to" with the world in chaos and her family missing. She ends up with various others on Zuni rez and the story begins to feel like an indigenous teachings lesson. I really wanted to love this book. It started out fun and page-turny but then it got bogged down in the middle and never quite recovered. As I was reading I thought the author was indigenous but from reading her bio, this appears not to be the case. I find that problematic given the story material.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

41. The Accidentals

By Sarina Bowen (316 ebook)

After the heaviness of Barkskins, I needed something light and fun and this YA fit the bill. A teenaged girl's mom dies and her estranged rock star dad swoops in to help and try to repair the damaged relationship.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

40. Barkskins

By Annie Proulx (714 pp) ebook

I am a huge fan of Annie Proulx and this is an amazing book but also very long. I was goofing off reading 20 pages here and there. I had to commit or I would be reading this until next June. She creates one vivid character after the other, some only lasting a few pages. This is a story about two families in the timber working business beginning in the 1600s in what was called New France and goes all the way up until the 2000s. (I just searched online for a map and found one that refers to certain lands west of New France as "unsettled" and "unclaimed." Stay adorable colonizers!) It's super interesting and well-researched and shows how harsh that time was but also the story demonstrates just how devastating the greed for natural resources has been to the environment and to indigenous people particularly the Mi'kmaq. The book was really good and I enjoyed it but it was also a bummer after awhile watching these terrible people scheming to amass more for themselves at any cost. Still big recommend from me.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

39. The Dry

By Jane Harper (410 pp) This was recommended for fans of Tana French. The author is Australian and the story is mystery set in a fictional small town north of Melbourne. The detective Aaron Falk goes back to the place he was raised to look at the murder-suicide of his childhood friend's family. Of course Aaron left some secrets behind when he moved away. The rural setting is like a character in the story which I loved. Page turner. Recommend.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

38. When No One Is Watching

By Alyssa Cole (352 pp) This is a thought-provoking thriller about gentrification. Seriously. It's a fun page turner but with serious story matter based in things that really happen. The MC Sydney finds her Brooklyn neighborhood changing overnight. Historical research for a walking tour reveals more unsettling information. Things get weird and dangerous. Recommend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

37. Assassin's Quest

By Robin Hobb (757 pp) I was trying to hurry up and finish this trilogy to hand it off to another reader while I was visiting my mom. I failed my goal by about 250 pages. But I finished when I got home. These books are complicated and sad and happy and aggravating and completely wonderful. The Internet informed of the reading order -- I've got another trilogy for my Christmas wish list.

Friday, October 9, 2020

36. Royal Assassin

By Robin Hobb (675 pp) I love a big fat mass market paperback. More books should be published like this. Book 2 in the Farseer Trilogy. The bad guys are winning. Our poor hero Fitz makes a lot of sacrifices for his king. Things are looking grim but a small loyal circle keep the hope alive. Book 3 is up next.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

35. Assassin's Apprentice

By Robin Hobb (435 pp) I'm not sure how I picked it but I got an audiobook that features this main character much later in his life. I felt like I needed to know what came first so I tracked down this early trilogy. It's about the bastard son of a prince in a troubled kingdom. There is a little magical element but mostly the story is about the people and all their flaws and misunderstandings. Great book. Thrilled that there are so many books by this author.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

34. The Stone Sky

By N.K. Jemisin (398 pp) This is the final book in the trilogy. I struggled a teeny bit with this one but I was reading in the middle of the wildfires and hazardous air quality (strangely appropriate to the story) so my concentration was impaired. Amazing world building, complicated characters who don't do what you want them to do and a big build-up to the end. Recomend the series.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

33. The Obelisk Gate

By N.K. Jemisin (391 pp) Book 2 in the Broken Earth Trilogy. Glad I didn't start them until they were all finished. Already into Book 3. It's tough to sum up in a couple of sentences. The world has been broken by giant seismic event. Things do not look good. Our hero hasn't found her daughter, makes some friends-ish, and learns all kinds of stuff. Huge recommend on this series.

Friday, August 21, 2020

32. The Secret Place

By Tana French (518 pp ebook) I like Tana French books but they always get to a point where they feel long. But also I can't stop until I finish. In this one the murder takes place in a girls' school. I liked the detectives, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

31. The Fifth Season

By N.K. Jemisin (449 pp) This book is amazing! I could hardly put it down. I had insomnia and I was glad because I could get up and read some more. I don't even know how to describe it in a sentence or two. It's a fantasy set in a far future earth where the earth is unstable. Leaders rely on orogenes--people with power to control earth surface(ish) to calm earthquakes and volcanos. This is a severely lacking description. Better if you don't know what you're in for when you start. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

30. The Headless Cupid

By Zilpha Keatley Snyder (203 pp)

We've been making a loop of the free little libraries in our area mostly to drop off books but picking them up if we can't resist. I LOVED ZKS in middle school and haven't read this book since then so I was curious to see how it held up. It seems like all the old stuff has problematic racist and sexist stuff and this book is no different. The story concerns a newly blended family. The girl would rather live with her father but she can't because he doesn't have a wife to take care of her. There's a scene where the kids play a game of master and slave to get the kids to get some work done. GULP. But those issues aside, it's still a fun story. The family has just moved into an old house that may or may not be haunted. Creepy things keep happening.

Monday, August 10, 2020

29. Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

 By Lois McMaster Bujold (573 pp)

I enjoyed this book but I expected to love it. The Vorkosigan series gets so many good reviews and I loved Bujold's Chalion books. (Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.) I think part of the problem is that this book is something like 15th in the series and even though it's about a side character, there's a lot of history. I got bogged down with all the characters and world-building backstory stuff. This book is about Ivan who gets mixed up with a overthrown family and accidentally gets a wife. I'm going to go back and start at the beginning of the series. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

28. Searching for John Hughes

By Jason Diamond (281 pp)

The subtitle is: Or Everything I Thought I Needed to Know about Life I Learned from Watching '80s Movies.

I came very close to DNF-ing this book. The title doesn't really reflect the pages within. It's really a memoir by a guy who had a troubled upbringing but also makes some terrible decisions. He is a huge John Hughes fan and gets this idea he is going to write a JH biography which other people encourage and/or go along with for some reason. He fails and this memoir results instead.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

27. Juliet, Naked

By  Nick Hornby (406 pp)

I wasn't sure about this book at first. It starts with an obsessive music fan dragging his girlfriend on a U.S. tour to visit sights associated with his favorite artist who dropped out of music under mysterious circumstances. But as the characters were introduced and the story developed I loved it. But then the ending went on too long and kinda fizzled. Overall I recommend for Nick Hornby fans. It was made into a movie that I am hoping to check out tonight. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

26. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf

By Ambelin Kwaymullina (369 pp)

I am disappointed I didn't like this book more than I did. It's a YA set in a post-environmental disaster world. The author is Palyku people (Aboriginal Australia) and the story is influenced by that culture. A group of young people with abilities "illegals" are hiding in the forest and trying to stir up revolt against an evil government. It stared out amazing with the kickass leader captured by the government but about halfway through the timeline started jumping around and the story lost steam. Still worth a look for YA fans of this genre.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

25. Network Effect

By Martha Wells (350 pp)

MURDERBOT! It's one thing to like reading and another thing to have fun reading. These books are so much fun to read. I keep going back and re-reading bits that make me laugh. The books are set in a future world where corporations control exploration. The MC is a security robot who has disconnected its governing module and has actiony adventures while trying to sort out unfamiliar feelings now that it's free. It is one of my favorite characters in a long time.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

24. The Buried Giant

By Kazuo Ishiguro (317 pp)

I love this author. Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go are both phenomenal. I remember when this came out and the reviews talked about him writing a fantasy, I was intrigued. Sadly, I found this a long, hard slog. It's set in King Arthur times England and is about an elderly couple who set off on a journey to visit their son. There's a weird fog in the land that makes people have hazy memories so you're never quite sure what's going on. When I was done and looked back at the story, I could appreciate the things it had to say about memory, but overall, not one of my favorites.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

23. The Raven Prince

By Elizabeth Hoyt (400 ebook)

Another romance I found in my ebook collection. My ebook collection is even more out of control than my actual bookshelf. Super-competent heroine, cranky male lead, interesting developments involving a brothel. Fun read.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

19, 20, 21, 22 Murderbot Novellas

By Martha Wells (May 5 - May 13)

All Systems Red (227 ebook)
Artificial Condition (158 ebook)
Rogue Protocol (170 ebook)
Exit Strategy (179 ebook)

MURDERBOT! I don't understand why everyone isn't talking about these books. Maybe they are. It's not like I'm so well connected.

These books are set in the future where corporations dominate space exploration. Murderbot is a security robot, SecUnit, that has disabled its governing module and can act freely. SecUnit also has a lot of complex feelings about itself and its relationship to humans.

There is lots of action and intrigue. SecUnit is hilarious. My very highest recommendation. I'm reading the novel right now and trying to take my time because once it's gone I have to wait for the next one.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

18. The Hearts of Horses

By Molly Gloss (289 pp)

This book needs a new title and a new cover. I was already a huge Molly Gloss fan and would give anything she wrote a chance and this book is fantastic. It's set in 1917 in easter Oregon and is a quiet and beautiful story of a young woman who comes into the community to break horses. It reminds me of Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Very highly recommend.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

17. Dark Matter

By Blake Crouch (320 pp ebook)

I was searching for books to give to my cousin and this author came up more than once. I ended up grabbing this for myself. It was not for me. The MC is a guy who is happy with his life, his family, his career. He's walking home from meeting a friend for a drink and he's kidnapped but the kidnappers think he is someone else from a completely different life. It's page turning but the characters were thin and it didn't work for me.

Monday, April 20, 2020

16. Eva

By Peter Dickinson (219 pp)

This book was written in 1988 when my mom was still a school librarian. She wanted me to read it and I thought it was fantastic. It's about a teenaged girl who is in a terrible accident and her consciousness is transplanted into a chimpanzee. All these years later I still think about this book and I wondered if it would hold up. I bought a cheap paperback and, yes. It holds up. There is so much going on in this book with corporations, the environment, rebellious teenagers, animal welfare. Very highly recommend.

Article on the book The Wisdom of the Apes.

Friday, April 10, 2020

15. Eleanor Rigby

By Douglas Coupland (249 pp)

This is another book that's been on the shelf forever. While I have been stuck at home I've been trying to get to stuff that's been sitting here awhile. (Also choosing books that look short and easy to read. Not a lot of mental juice for big reading right now.) I used to read every single thing that Coupland wrote but have missed the last few. This book is about a lonely woman and the son she gave up for adoption. It starts out pretty good but then it falls into a series of strange plot twists and loses it for me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

14. The Dreamers

By Karen Thompson Walker (299 pp)

My sister-in-law gave me this book for Xmas because she wanted to give me a book but I complained already have too much to read. She picked this because it was short. It's also about a pandemic. A college student falls asleep and doesn't wake up and then others in her dorm fall sick. There is a quarantine. The town is cut off. The book follows a number of characters trying to navigate the disorder.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

13. U is For Untertow

By Sue Grafton (483 ebook)

I loved the early Kinsey Millhone books and then lost interest around N or O. Since the author died I have been going and reading the ones I missed. I only have Y left.  I love the character but I got a little impatient with some of the long-winded meandering in the narrative.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

12. Slumdog Millionaire (Original Title Q&A)

By Vikas Swarup (318 pp)

I bought this after I saw the movie (2008) and it's been sitting on the shelf ever since. It's the story of a kid born into poverty in India who wins big money on a game show and is arrested for cheating. It's a little different than the movie but an intense story.

Monday, March 23, 2020

11. Audiobooks

I can't remember what I decided about listing audiobooks here. I just started listening to audiobooks the last couple of years. I didn't realize how much I would enjoy being read to.

A friend recommended a bunch of celebrity memoirs so since the beginning of the year I have listened to:

Trevor Noah, Born a Crime -- this is a fantastic book. I kept getting recommendations but I'm not that familiar with Noah and didn't think I was interested. I was extremely wrong. He's a great story teller and funny but also, wow, what a life. He grew up in South Africa under apartheid and as the country was changing. I learned a lot. Very highly recommend.

David Spade, Almost Interesting.  Spade had a tough journey to success. His story is also more interesting than I would have guessed. Loved all the behind the scenes at Saturday Night Live stuff.

Illeana Douglas, I Blame Dennis Hopper. Lots of amazing Hollywood stories. The things these people go through before they are successful -- broke ass, odd jobs, auditions. Loved the behind the scenes of making the movie: Alive.

Rob Lowe, Stories I Tell My Friends. Another amazing career with so many stories. I especially loved the story about making Outsiders. I'm ready for a rewatch of St. Elmo's Fire. I thought I owned it but couldn't find it in the DVD closet. I wonder how it holds up. I have never watched The West Wing -- might have to check out a couple of episodes.

Friday, March 20, 2020

10. Doomsday Book

By Connie Willis (578 pp)

What better book to read right now than one about time traveling academics who experience a pandemic in real time while trying to rescue a historian back in 1300s plaguey England? I've read this before and it was just as fun to read again. People seem to either really love or really hate Connie Willis. I understand the frustrations of the haters. Her books can get long on piddly misunderstands and repetitious setbacks. But I love the characters and find her books tough to put down.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

9. Secrets of Story

By Matt Bird (336 pp)

This is another writing book that I've been dipping in and out of for months. One of my favorite writing books in a long time. His website is here. Lots of great stuff about story and characters and revision.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

8. Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing

By Steve Rasnic Tem, Melanie Tem (242 pp ebook)

I've been dipping in and out of this on my rides to work and finally finished. Great writing book by a couple of great speculative fiction writers and workshop instructors. I highlighted dozens of bits I want to go back to.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

7. Understanding Comics

By Scott McCloud (215 pp)

I had the crud in January and spent several days in bed or lounging around the couch and trying to finish books that have been buried in my nightstand drawers for a long time. This is one of those books. It's about all about comics: history, how the medium tells a story visually, the panels, the lines. He talks about art and culture. The book was written in 1993 and his predictions about the rise of comics were on target.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

6. Syllabus

By Lynda Barry (200 pp)

Everything Lynda Barry does is fabulous. This is a book about her teaching university courses that involve art, drawing, story-telling, music -- everything. She sometimes shows and sometimes tells about her approach to teaching -- it's hard to explain. One of my main takeaways is she talks about being present, not just when doing the work, but in life -- observing, listening, being open to what's happening rather than chasing after things. If you're a Linda Barry fan, you'll like this. If I take a writing sabbatical I'm going to follow the lessons in this book.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

5. 10% Happier

By Dan Harris (237 pp)

This is a book about meditating written by a news anchor who goes into the subject with great skepticism. He interviews a number of popular spiritual guides and struggles with meditation and is completely honest about his experience. Ultimately, he finds meditation helpful and gives realistic guidelines for starting a meditation practice.

4. Olive, Again

By Elizabeth Strout (289 pp)

I love Olive Kitteridge and I loved revisiting her, especially since aging parents, not just mine but among my peers, is a  major theme right now. I thought there were a few weak bits in here but the stories where Olive was the main character were terrific. I love the setting in Maine and Olive's son (and family) is a great character. I particularly liked, Light. I thought Olive's brusque manner was exactly what the other woman needed. Recommend.

Friday, January 17, 2020

3. Yes, Please

By Amy Poehler (329 ebook)

I don't often go for celebrity memoir but I heard so many good things about this one I grabbed it when it was on sale. When you know how successful she is now, it's easy to gloss over how long and hard she worked before she got a break. Some good juicy stories and advice for people doing creative work.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

2. The Only Harmless Great Thing

By Brooke Bolander (p138 ebook)

This was on my phone and I had no idea what it was or where it came from but it was fabulous and made me want to go back and read more speculative fiction again. It's also to describe briefly but it's an alternate history with sentient elephants and radium girls.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

1. A Week to Be Wicked (Spindle Cove #2)

By Tessa Dare (354 pp ebook)

It's already February and I am just now posting my January books although I will back date them so it will be hard to tell. This is a romance that was on my phone and I needed something I could read on the bus. This one was super fun. The heroine is a science nerd being held back by her gender, the hero a handsome rake and they have to run off on an adventure where they encounter numerous setbacks.