Thursday, December 30, 2021

38. Read Hard: The Believer Anthology

Ed Park and Heidi Julavits eds. (389 pp) This is an anthology of non-fiction pieces from The Beliver Magazine 2003-2009. I have had it on my shelf forever and promised myself I would finish it this month. First, I will emphasize the writing is tremendous. Some of the pieces are timeless, some of the pieces are already incredibly dated, some of the pieces had me scratching my head, asking why does this exist? One piece reminded me of that moment in Licorice Pizza when Alaina is talking to William Holden and dreamily asks, "Are these lines or is this real?" I didn't do an exhaustive deconstruction of the table of contents but it is light on gender/bipoc/lgbtq+ diversity in a way that they could never get away with today. My favorite piece by Tom Bissell is about writing instruction books and includes this line about a book that was very helpful to me when I was a new and fearful writer, " one who ever read Writing Down the Bones became a writer by anything but sheer accident."

Friday, December 24, 2021

37. Anything is Possible

By Elizabeth Strout (254 pp) I'm almost 40 books for the year so I keep picking short ones to see if I can make it. I love Elizabeth Strout. These are stories about people from the Lucy Barton book but Lucy herself only makes a brief appearance. The writing is great but wow, these are damaged people. It's set in a rural town a couple of hours from Chicago and everyone has secrets and/or trauma. Still recommend.

Monday, December 20, 2021

36. The Nickel Boys

By Colson Whitehead (210 pp) This is a fictional story based on a real boys reform school in Florida and it is both brilliant and devastating. I read about the real reform school at some point, I guess when they discovered all the graves and the crimes that happened there became more well-known. The cruelty is hard to comprehend. But still, read the book. Whitehead is really good.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

35. Conversations with Wilder

By Cameron Crowe (358 pp) This is a book of Cameron Crowe interviewing Billy Wilder and it's fantastic. Crowe asks a lot of interesting questions and perfectly captures Wilder's cranky elder side while also getting some great stories out of him. As I read I made a list of all the Wilder movies I want to see but of course many aren't available or are on some platform that I don't have. I gave this book to Bob years ago and can't remember what prompted me to ask him to get it out for me. It's been on my nightstand for awhile. I would read a chapter or two and then let it sit. As I got to the end, I put off reading it because I assumed it would end with Billy Wilder's death and I didn't want to be sad that he died, you know, in 2002. That's not how it ends even though Wilder himself suggested that. Bob decided I needed the book of Francois Truffaut interviewing Alfred Hitchcock. Who knows how long that will be on the nightstand?

Monday, December 6, 2021

34. The Galaxy and the Ground Within (Book #4 Wayfarers)

By Becky Chambers (333 pp ebook) I loved the first two Wayfarers book and didn't read the third yet. I wasn't so hot on this one but the ending was so emotionally satisfying, I forgave it. In this one, a group of different alien species are all temporary grounded at this planet pit stop. At times it feels like an exercise for school about diversity and tolerance. But the characters argue and develop friendships. Recommend this series.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

33. Leviathan Falls (The Expanse Book #9 of 9)

By James S. A. Corey (529 pp ebook) This is the first time I have pre-ordered an ebook but I had to start it the minute it was out. The last in a 9 book plus a bunch of novellas series. It's was a satisfying ending to a series, but this book got a tad long in the middle. What I liked about this series was even with all the space battles and weird alien technology, we got so invested in this made family on the Rocinante.

Friday, November 26, 2021

32. Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children #5)

By Seanan McGuire (189 ebook) There's still one more Wayward Children I don't have and looks like a new one coming early next year. These are terrific books and I appreciate that they are short so I can have an easy feeling of accomplishment. This is another one where a whole group of Wayward Children need to go on a quest to save one of their classmates. This is Jack and Jill and we see more of the Moors from Book #2 in this one. They are all worth reading.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

31. In An Absent Dream (Wayward Children #4)

By Seanan McGuire (187 pp) This one and #2 are my favorite. In this one, Lundy finds herself in a world with strict rules and expectations and serious consequences for messing up. In these kind of stories you can kind-of guess where this is going. Really good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

30. Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children book #3)

By Seanan McGuire (157 pp ebook) This one wasn't as good as #2 but still super fun. The newest arrival to the home for Wayward Children is having trouble fitting in and then gets sucked into an adventure when a traveler from another land arrives needing help. (Super vague to avoid spoilers.) As a kid I would have loved the descriptions of this world made of sugar but the current me wanted some vegetables with my sugar sky. Book 4 is loaded on my ereader.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

29. Tiamet's Wrath

By James S.A. Corey (531 pp ebook) Finished Book #8 and ready for the series finale. This book is fabulous and really hard to put down. The rebels are doing their best against an empire that can out-power them, but not out-smart them. Meanwhile, the aliens are out there and mysterious. November 30 the last book will be here.

Friday, November 12, 2021

27. 28. Auberon, Strange Dogs

By James S.A. Corey (63/65 pp ebook) These are 2 novellas that take place in the Expanse universe and give some insight to part of the greater story. Auberon is about another leader the Empire sends to a developing world. These leaders are never prepared for what they have to deal with when they get there. Strange Dogs is set on Laconia at the very beginning of the Empire and features some unusual fauna. Both are excellent.

Friday, November 5, 2021

26. Persepolis Rising (Expanse #7)

By James S.A. Corey (549 pp)

Somehow I stopped keeping track of when I finish books but also my reading has been dismal due to writing more and taking a class and reprioritizing.

The final Expanse Book #9 comes out at the end of the month. I am re-reading 7 and 8 to get ready. This is the one that takes place about 30 years after the events of book 6 when Laconia invades and ruins everything that the characters have worked for. It's really good. I highly recommend the books and the TV show.

Monday, September 27, 2021

25. Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children 2)

By Seanan McGuire (109 pp)(ebook)

I LOVED this book. It's about 2 sisters who end up in a portal story that is twisted -- well their life in the real world is twisted, too. The story is more about the two sisters and their decisions and betrayal. I'm doing a poor job of describing it. It's really good.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

24. Solutions and Other Problems

By Allie Brosh (514 pp) Allie Brosh wrote an amazing blog that became a book called Hyperbole and A Half that came out in 2013. Then she more or less disappeared. I checked every now and then for updates and last time I checked, I learned that her second book came out last year and I totally missed it. Allie has written about dealing with depression and her stories are honest and sometimes hit that spot between really sad and really funny. This book is darker than the first and some of the stories don't work for me but still worth tracking down if you liked the first book.

Friday, September 3, 2021

22. 23. Twilight | Midnight Sun

By Stephenie Meyer (498 / 671 pp) I read The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer last month. I was having a bad day and needed something fun and easy to read so I decided to pick-up Twilight which I last read, and loved, in 2007. I figured I'd read a few chapters and put it back on the shelf. I was wrong. I have been meaning to read Midnight Sun which is the same story from Edward's point of view that came out last year. I read Midnight Sun on my phone while concurrently reading the paperback on my nightstand. It is ridiculous how much I enjoyed these books. Midnight Sun is long and feels long but there are some fun parts to see from Edward's perspective. Teen vampire romance = a million heart emojis. Edited to add: HAHA. I found my review of Breaking Dawn from 2008 where I say the book is "mostly dreadful" and claim I would not read another book in the series! I was wrong. And at this point, I would read another book in the series.

20. 21. How the King of Elfhame / The Lost Sisters

By Holly Black (125 / 47 pp ebooks) I listed to Folk of the Air trilogy as audiobooks. (The Cruel Prince, The Wicked King, The Queen of Nothing). I don't remember what led me to the first book but I enjoyed it but wasn't sure I'd continue the series. Then I had audiobook credits to use so I got the second one and the minute I finished it, I had to get the third. The story is about a mortal young woman named Jude getting involved with the High Court of Faeire. It's dark but really good. Recommend for fantasy fans. These are two novellas that I discovered after I finished the audiobooks. How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is Cardan’s back story and in the The Lost Sisters, Jude’s sister Taryn explains some things that happened from her POV. Worth reading for fans of the series.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

19. Acceptance

By Jeff VanderMeer (338 pp) This is book 3 in the Southern Reach Trilogy. I zoomed through this so I could give the trilogy to my cousin to read. I feel like this series is a love it or hate it kind of thing. The story is so rich in details and connections but also strange and alienating. I don't think I completely "got it" but I enjoyed immensely. In Book 3 the entity that's been investigating Area X implodes and a bunch of different threads are somewhat tied together.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

18. Authority

By Jeff VanderMeer (340 pp) Book 2 in the Southern Reach Trilogy. These books are really wierd and convoluted because what is happening in the story is weird and unexplainable. Annihilation (I have to look up the spelling of that word every time) is about an expedition into Area X. This book is about Control, a new director of the entity overseeing Area X trying to figure out what's going on. Everybody is suspicious and seems to be hiding something. I love the descriptions of the environment.

Monday, July 19, 2021

17. Where the Past Begins: A Writer's Memoir

By Amy Tan (368 pp ebook) I am a huge Amy Tan fan but this book was only medium for me. It reminds me of back in the day when a band had to fulfill a contract and would put out an album of "outtakes" and live versions that didn't add up to much. The sections about her family history were super interesting but some of it is journal entries and free-form ruminating that didn't work for me.

Friday, July 16, 2021

16. Writers & Lovers

By Lily King (324 pp) How great is it to get a book you know nothing about as a gift and end up loving it? I never would have discovered this on my own and now I have added this author to my list. This is set in the 90s and is about a 30 year old woman, who is also a writer, trying to get her life together with varying degress of success. The writing is beautiful. Great characters. The protagonist sometimes makes maddening decisions but is very relatable. Looking forward to sharing this with Mom.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

15. The Trespasser

By Tana French (455 pp) I dragged my feet on this one because it's the only Dublin Murder Squad (6 of 6) I had left and now it's done. I love Tana French but also the books always seem a tad longer than they need to be and there's often a whiff of implausibility to the murder part of story. In this one a young woman is found murdered and at first everyone assumes it's a slam dunk domestic violence. It's more complicated than that. But the story is also about the detective Antoinette Conway, getting her dream job as a murder detective and dealing with sexism and a crappy work environment that makes her second guess herself. Recommend all of Tana French's books.

Friday, June 25, 2021

14. Murther and Walking Spirits

By Robertson Davies (357 pp) Robertson Davies is such a great writer. I've had this book sitting around forever and I'm sad that I waited this long. He's funny. Amazing, detailed, and wonderfully flawed characters, one after the other. And I learned a lot about history (N. America). It's about a guy who is murdered (not a spoiler, happens in the first sentence of the book). He follows his murderer to a film festival where our protagist sees movies about his ancestors. If you've never read Davies, a good place to start is The Deptford Trilogy (I should probably read it again.) In this article Kelly Link tells you why you should read the Deptford Trilogy.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

13. Annihilation

By Jeff Vandermeer (195 pp) Wow! I got this book at the local little book library and became glued to it quickly. It's a creepy story about an expedition into an area taken over by a trippy creepy alien presence. The setting is so vivid and detailed and like another character. Really good. Now must run out and get other two books.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

12. Fugitive Telemetry (Murderbot)

By Martha Wells (168 pp) I ordered this so I could have it the day it came out and then there was a snafu and I had to query the bookstore so I could go pick it up. Then it was just a novella. I've been dragging my feet because I can read it in a couple of hours and then no more Murderbot. In this one, Murderbot helps solve a mystery.

Friday, May 21, 2021

11. The Girl on the Train

By Paula Hawkins (326 pp ebook) I remember when this book was everywhere and I never read it so I grabbed it when the ebook was on sale. A woman scorned has a view into her previous life every day when the train passed her former home. A woman goes missing. Everyone acts terribly. It was fun and page-turny but following a deep-into-it alcoholic make terrible decisions isn't my favorite.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

10. Every Heart A Doorway (Wayward Children #1)

By Seanan McGuire (174 pp ebook) After reading those Robin Hobb books I'm reaching for short and fast read stuff. This is a novella with a really cool premise which is what happens to the kids who go one these adventures through the portal when they get back to their regular mundane life? They are kinda messed up and they end up at this boarding school trying to sort it out. This one's pretty dark with some murders.

Friday, May 14, 2021

9. Network Effect (Murderbot!!)

By Martha Wells (350 pp) This is a re-read. I ordered the new Murderbot from the bookstore so I could get it the day it came out but there was a snafu and I after a week I sent a plaintive note customer service because I really wanted my new Murderbot. Then I picked it up and it's only a skinny little novella. So I re-read the previous book so I could drag out the moment before I zoom through the new book in an hour. Murderbot is a dangerous security robot that has hacked its governor module so it doesn't have to follow orders. They are hilarious.

Monday, May 10, 2021

8. My Name Is Lucy Barton

By Elizabeth Strout (181 pp ebook) I love Elizabeth Strout - she's so good. This is the story of a woman recovering from what was supposed to be a simple procedure. She is mostly estranged from her family but her mom comes to sit with her and the story explores her family and past and present. I was sucked in instantly. Recommend.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

7. A Closed and Common Orbit

By Becky Chambers (364 pp ebbok) I read the first book in this series several years ago and enjoyed it but didn't make it a point to continue in the series. What a mistake. This book is tremendous! These books are set in space with different species and planets but it's really about the characters and this one is hard to put down and a real heart twister - in a good way. I recently recommended it to someone and said, "It's kind-of Expanse meets Ted Lasso." Tough to sum up - it's about trying to find your place in the world. Very highly recommend.

Friday, April 23, 2021

6. Children and Fire

By Ursula Hegi (272 pp) Hegi wrote a book called Stones from the River that was published in 1994 and later became an Oprah book so it was everywhere. I read it a long time ago but as I recall it was set in a fictional German village during the time leading to, during, and after WWII. This book takes place in the same village on a single day in 1934 with flashbacks and concerns a young school teacher dealing with her students and learning of her troubled history. Hegi is an incredible writer and this story is easy to read and completely devastating. Recommend.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

5. The Queen's Gambit

By Walter Tevis (244 pp ebook) I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this book as much if I hadn't just watched the TV series. I had such a strong visual as I read. It's about a girl who is orphaned and learns to play chess from a janitor at the orphanage. She busts ass to compete at the highest level. Thoroughly enjoyed both. Recommend.

Friday, April 9, 2021

4. Ship of Destiny

By Robin Hobb (789 pp) I thoroughly enjoyed these books but also when I got to the last 300 pp of this one I was ready to be done with the series. I made a joke about taking a day off work just to finish. But now that I'm done I've learned all kinds of details that I missed. I can't imagine reading them again now, but perhaps someday. All the threads of the story manage to converge in a thrilling series of events. Most of the characters get what they want but not in the way they expected. Great series.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

3. The Duke Who Didn't

By Courtney Milan (285 pp ebook) I read this on my phone on the bus -- I usually love Milan's books, especially the contemporaries, but this one, set in 1890 England, was soso for me. It was weird b/c I loved the setting and the characters but the story didn't click for me. It's about Chloe Fong who has a huge unrequited (or so she thinks) crush on Jeremy Wentworth who is the secret duke of the village where she lives. The best part of the book was the afterword where Milan talks about her family history and how it inspired the story.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2. Mad Ship

By Robin Hobb (850 pp) I am loving these books but also feel they could easily be 200 pp shorter which after 3 books would be 600 pp, another huge book. Especially since after wandering about for 700 pages about 15 ginormous events happened within 20 pages. As the story continues, nothing is going as planned. Characters that seemed terrible at first are now stepping up or else, being terrible in different ways. Characters that seemed great at first are doing things you wish they wouldn't do. The security of the world is breaking down. Really good.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

1. Ship of Magic

By Robin Hobb (809 pp) I intended to read way more books in the pile before starting back into big fat Robin Hobb books. But I tried and could not get into anything. Like many people I found I kept getting stuck in these doom spirals of clicking around the Internet and my concentration was shot and nothing could hold my interest. Most of my giant backlog of books is electronic. So I went back to my pile of dead tree books and had to pick this one. Same world as Assassin's Apprentice but different geographical area. In this world families go into great debt to purchase a liveship -- which, like it sounds, is a ship that is alive. Complicated politics and economic turmoil shapes what people do and care about (but aren't boring). Everybody does things you don't want them to do. Really good. Already started the next 800+ tome.