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Subject: What did you read in September 2016 rss

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Michael Howden
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”There is no sin left now, there is only the blood and the water and the ice; there is only life and death and the grey-green spaces in between."

Part Moby-Dick, part classic polar adventure, and part alienist crime thriller. Violent and smart. Tight and suspenseful. A great read. Convincing 19th century dialog kept me in the setting. Big themes explored, good vs. evil, man vs. himself, man vs nature, is redemption possible? The last one being the through-line of the story.

I liked this book immensely and I only gave it 4 out of 5 because I wanted a bit more in each act, I think.







“There is no peace and no rest in the development of material interests. They have their law, and their justice. But it is founded on expediency, and is inhuman; it is without rectitude, without the continuity and the force that can be found only in a moral principle.”


Such rich and fully realized characters inhabit this tale of good & evil. Conrad takes a great deal of time introducing and establishing the backstory of all the key players. It is time well spent that lead to high drama at the climax of the main story. The book reads like a much younger novel, hardly ever betraying its century-plus since first publication. A thrilling and detailed exploration of the hearts of mankind. I recommend it enthusiastically.




Burnet has crafted so much more than a mere thriller. It made me giddy when I noticed one of the breadcrumbs sprinkled through The Account of Roderick Macrae that seem to hint at the truth. Some hints are left to the reader to interpret which suits me just fine. The book is a compact and fascinating exploration of the nature of truth and whether it can exist outside of an individual consciousness. A well researched setting drew me in, and filled the world of the novel with color and clarity. The story is told from a few Perspectives, each as reliable as the character telling it, the effect leaves the reader constantly questioning what is real. A worthy Man Booker Prize candidate




Julian Barnes tells a fine story, and takes the opportunity to comment on a variety of things along the way. This is a true story packaged as historical fiction, filled with historical transcripts of letters and a trial (I presume the trial scene is true to court records). The theme of 'Truth vs. Fiction' is on display throughout, and he draws several conclusions depending on where he applies it. This is a detailed and quiet novel that sometimes sacrifices impact for a restrained and even tone. But overall a satisfying read that strikes a balance between a good story about a wrong that is righted, and some social commentary on racism. He uses the voice of George to speak rather directly to the problems of endemic racism in England. He uses the voice of Arthur to speak of the unobtainable ideals of chivalry and some Victorian ideals. Symbolism of locks and keys are used in surprising ways, which I enjoyed. I had trouble deciding if I personally feel the book had earned a fourth star, so I went with the 1/2 star here.




Going up river to kill Kurtz. A classic bite sized adventure that needs no more said about it.
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Billy McBoatface
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As promised last month, I'll read man booker prize books! The short list was announced midway through the month, but I got one non-short list book in (The North Water) before they narrowed my choices. Several of the books aren't available in the US yet, which limits the choices further. All three are good books, definitely worth recommending, but none were complete knock-my-socks-off type greatness. Out of the three, I'd probably give the prize to Eileen, but I'd hope for a better one somewhere else in the list.


Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen is a wonderful character, a completely messed up loser who is 24, lives at home taking care of her terminally alcoholic father, and works a desk job at a local boys' prison. She is desperate for attention, repressed, ashamed of everything related to her own body, but also has frequent lecherous thoughts about the hunky prison guard who probably doesn't even know her name (and less lecherous but equally needy thoughts about various other people who she runs into). It would be too depressing but as the elderly Eileen narrates, she constantly reminds us that soon after the events of the novel, she changed her life, and that things ended up all right for her. The events cover about a week, and provide the force to get her out of her old life and on the way to becoming the more together person who is narrating.

I'm bordering on giving this five stars, except that Rebecca, a friend who shows up and is a big part of getting her out, isn't nearly so well drawn. Rebecca does things that I can't cover here, but that don't make much sense and don't seem to match what we (through Eileen) know about her. Otherwise this book is just about perfect.


The North Water by Ian McGuire
So much poop! And piss and blood and vomit and pus. And don't forget the buggery. There's that, too.

Seriously, this thriller set on a whaling voyage to Greenland is crazily obsessed with bodily fluids, so if that bothers you, don't start reading. But it's an exciting book with some good characters. The main antagonist is a monster of a person whose entire existence is the following steps: 1) What do I want RIGHT NOW? 2) What action will get me that AS SOON AS POSSIBLE? 3) Repeat. Despite the simplicity of the character's inner life, he's spectacular to watch in action. The protagonist, meanwhile, it not quite so interesting but much more complex; a surgeon who got a dishonorable discharge from the army and goes on the voyage mostly to find a way to get away from his mess of a life. This conflict between the two characters, and the others on the boat, makes for a memorable book.


Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
Well, this book is a little bit hard to review. Partly because I think there's a lot of symbolism there that I just didn't get. What does the dog represent? Or the jellyfish? Or the hand-stitched clothing? Etc.

But aside from that, it's a very dreamlike book where conversations sort of make sense and sort of don't. People do things that seem like they should be important but are treated as no big deal by everybody else. Etc. It's on the surface about a young woman whose life is going nowhere as she takes her mother to a clinic for treatment of what starts out seeming like a serious condition but soon begins to look more like either an epic case of hypochondria or else feigning to get attention. There's multiple love interests, an attempted reunion with her estranged father, and in the end a pretty solid resolution. That all sounds really vague but that's about how the book is. Even the sex scenes are frustratingly vague - there's a big lead up to one, but when it finally comes it's described so briefly that I can only call it "insufficiently pornographic."

Did I enjoy reading it? Yes, for the most part. Did I like the characters? Yes, for the most part. Do I think I really knew what the book was about? Not so much.
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Tim Denney
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Ah the Heart of Darkness! I may need to re-read that. I read it as a teen; I am going to guess I missed a good deal that was hidden away inside it.

I was able to read:


The Justified Series lead me to read Elmore Leonard's books about the character Raylan Givens. This book moves swiftly and many of the lines in the series can be found in this book.





This book series is a great deal of fun to read, IMO. Taking place just after the Great Plague. The series centered around a physician at Michaelhouse in Cambridge. It is fictional, just for clarity.
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Boaty McBoatface
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If you mean finished.

The cold cash war.


Without a trace (factual about missing ships)

Terror zones ("factual" about a right load of old tosh).
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Ultrathin book about a female cat, who lives together with Glasses and Skirt. She describes her trips to the vet and her yearly voyage to the Land of the French, where she spends her time with eating lizzards and toads.

At home she hangs around with other cats who - apart from her - all have ultraposh names. They are all afraid of bogeycat Red Harry. When she was too far away from home, the terrorcat blocked her way and did things to her, that were not quite unpleasant. The book ends with her noticing something inside her belly.

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Wendell
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I decided to re-read some books that I haven't read in a long time. One I read in September was Frank Herbert's classic SF novel, Dune. Partly inspired by having watched the excellent documentary, Jodorowsky's Dune, about a could-have-been movie version of Dune in the 1970s, starring (among many others) David Carradine, Salvador Dali, and Orson Welles and featuring a Pink Floyd soundtrack.

Anyway, I pulled my ancient paperback version of Dune off the shelf and read it. It was very good. I broadly remembered the story, though some details were foggy so there was still some sense of discovery, as well as a lot of "oh, yeah"s. I'd forgotten how YOUNG Paul Atreides/Muad Dib was!

It was very good.

One of the advantages of having read them all once is THIS time, I know better than to read any of the sequels. I don't re-read much because there is TOO MUCH to read already. So I don't need to revisit the ultimately disappointing follow-ups to Dune. Stop while I'm ahead.

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Justin Case
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I've been derailed and distracted by loads of other stuff (the otherlode?), so I got very little serious reading done this month, but I did get in a little fun reading.

Purely by thrifting happenstance, I continued my foray into post-apocalyptic and zombie lit, with I Am Legend being my first find.


This one has long been in the back of my mind to read someday, and a little more so since again seeing the "it-has-its-moments" Will Smith movie on TV, so it was an autograb when I spotted it in a thrift shop. I found it to be a great deal more interesting than that recent film, and hard to put down; now I'm curious about the earlier film versions too.


Next up, I thrifted these two Walking Dead novels at the same time -- TWD: Rise of the Governor and TWD: The Road to Woodbury.



I had fun reading these, but my honest evaluation is that they are probably only of interest to folks who are already fans. They're okay as stories go, and it's interesting to learn some history and back story to characters we know, but I don't think that either of these books are well written enough, or have story enough, to win fans to The Walking Dead show/comics in particular or to zombie literature in general.


cool

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Chris Tannhauser
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Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Quick, what's worse: a shoggoth or Jim Crow? A haunted house or the reaction of racist neighbors when a black family moves in? A brilliant and well-drawn portrait of race in America in the 1950s, bait-'n-switched with a promise of Mythos shenanigans. As you might imagine, the Mythos stuff takes a back seat to the what the book is really about, but both are instructive and thought-provoking in equal measure. The Mythos elements, as background radiation, are made more interesting by not being prominent—you get to see those elements as the protagonists do, as weird stuff white men are obsessed with that just fucks everything up. Each chapter takes a common Mythos trope and turns it on its head; for example, the chapter titled "The Necronomicon" is actually about a family's slave book, the ledger kept by their slave ancestor where she noted all the work done for free, and a total of the cost of that labor—essentially a bill for her enslavement. And while the fantasy Necronomicon can't actually shift the foundations of your sanity, just thinking of the other book should. Recommended.


The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

Subtitle: and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

A Grand Tour of the periodic table treated as a map of weird places, which it is. This the best kind of science writing, where dumb facts are brought to life by the stories of the weirdos who discovered them. This is the nickel that gets you into a circus sideshow featuring the cosmos itself, all the various arrangements of matter, and what the monkeys who started playing in that dirt did with it. Favorite fact: In the 19th Century, a common nostrum for constipation was a slug of antimony, a metal pill that once taken would induce your body to furiously shit it out, where it was then dug out of the poop to be used by the next sufferer. (And given the standard 18XX diet, it was probably in constant rotation.) These slugs were often passed down (heh) through generations.*


*God, I loves me some 19th Century!
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Boaty McBoatface
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Drew1365 wrote:
I remember years ago coming into the office where I worked and one of my co-workers asking "Are you all right? You seem a little depressed."

I said, "Oh, I've been reading Heart of Darkness."

She nodded knowingly and said no more.
Never made me depressed, now 1984, that made me depressed.
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Brian Bankler
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The Stories of Your Life (and Others)



The titular story is coming out as a movie later this year and looked interesting, and I'd heard good things about Chiang. He does not disappoint. Thinky Science Fiction with a hearty dose of theology and well written throughout.

Presto



Look, this is Penn Jillette talking about losing 80 lbs in 90 days and being immensely proud of the fact that he said that Donald Trump's hair looks like cotton candy made of piss.

I mean -- that's a good line and all -- but he's a touch too proud of it.

As Penn points out, don't take medical advice from a guy who went to clown college, but its a fast interesting read.
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Michael Howden
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HiveGod wrote:
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean


Well, that is on pile now. Sounds fun.
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Goo
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Galstaff wrote:
The North Water

thumbsup


Galstaff wrote:
His Bloody Project

This is going to be a TV show. Still waiting for my copy.
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wmshub wrote:

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

I almost gave up on this book. She was such a walking wounded sad sack and I just didn't care. But it cleaned up. I wondered if there is a possible Fight Club reading of it where Rebecca doesn't actually exist.


wmshub wrote:
The North Water by Ian McGuire

I loved it but at times wondered if it has any more literary merit than a Tarantino movie. Like, is it just a bunch of bad ass dudes being all bad ass to each other? A friend of mine called it "Mean Girls on a boat." But in the end, I think there's something under the hood. I can see the bear as a symbol for Sumner and the dog as foreshadow (or misdirection). I don't care that it didn't make the short list or if it actually isn't much more than a tale of harrowing adventure, I dug it and am glad I read it.

wmshub wrote:
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy

I wasn't blown away by this while reading it, but warmed up a bit by the end. I totally agree that there's some sore of allusion stuff and symbolism going on (Medusa jelly fish and all the Greek mythology references and imagery), but couldn't piece it all together. It's like a parts list of a machine but no idea how to put it all together. At parts I felt the mythological imagery was meant for irony being applied to her kinda sorry life, but when it became (yet another) awakening story I wondered that maybe the Olympian comparisons were sincere. I was very ho hum while reading it but after I finished wondered if I wasn't giving it a fair enough shake. I don't know if other people really get that, but sometimes I finish a book and think, it might be good but I think I was distracted while zipping through.
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Goo
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Regarding the Man Booker, I'm just finishing 4 of the 6 short list. I have All That Man Is on deck and am waiting on His Bloody Project. I think only half of them are available here in the US, but they are totally affordable and available from bookdepository.com (sometimes cheaper than amazon with free international shipping).

I think so far my pick is still The Sellout by Paul Beatty. I'm not quite sure how serious of a book it is though. But there's some really provocative stuff going on in there. I could see the winner being Do Not Say We Have Nothing. It's good. It's about a topic I find very interesting (Mao's Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square massacre (spoiler alert: when it's April of 1989 and they are in Tiananmen Square, shit's about to go down)), but overall it's kinda boring. I'm not connecting to her style or something. An important book that's a slog to read.

Overall, I agree with wmshub. All good books. Solid list. But none are really blowing my skirt up that much. None really feel like they're going to stick with me. I'm ready to move on from this list. There's so much coming out I want to read: new Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Nell Zink, Michael Chabon, and George Saunders' first novel just around the corner. I already have the Colson Whitehead (super skeptical about it) and the Jonathon Saffron Foer (the reviews are so bad, I'm not sure I'll actually read it) and I've been aching for some classics (I need a Charlotte Bronte fix about once a year). I can't keep up!
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Bankler wrote:
The Stories of Your Life (and Others)



The titular story is coming out as a movie later this year and looked interesting, and I'd heard good things about Chiang. He does not disappoint. Thinky Science Fiction with a hearty dose of theology and well written throughout.



One of my favorite short story collections ever.
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Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky




Well this was surprising...
I've been aware of Tchaikovsky for a few years. He has a 10-book fantasy series called Shadows of the Apt, where people in his world have characteristics of bugs. I have the first few books, but every time I tried reading the first book, I gave up because it wasn't holding my attention. So my expectations weren't high--especially since not every author can cross genres between science fiction and fantasy. But it won an Arthur C. Clarke award, so I took a chance...

Earth is on the brink of destruction, so in a last-ditch effort to save humanity, they launch ark ships into space. One ark ship is nearing a planet that had been terraformed long ago. The original plan for the planet was to send down primates and then infect them with a nanovirus that would Uplift them. But the primates didn't make it, so the nanovirus made do with what it had. And it's awesome.

I won't spoil it, but let's just say that Tchaikovsky's research into bugs for his fantasy series doesn't go to waste...

The book is told from alternating viewpoints of the Uplifted species on the planet, and the ark ship whose inhabitants are occasionally woken up for various reasons. The book takes place over many, many generations, and it constantly feels fresh. While it's 600 pages long, it doesn't feel like there's any filler. Everything moves the plot forward, and it's mostly action or important pieces that set up action later.

While there was a little bit of hand-waving pseudo-science at the end, I liked where he landed things. I thought I knew how he would end it, and I was okay with it. But what he actually did was even better.

Writer Peter F. Hamilton described Children of Time as "smart," and that's really a perfect description. It's one of the best books I've read this year.


The Two-Bear Mambo, by Joe R. Lansdale




Hap and Leonard are back, this time looking for one of Hap's ex-girlfriends, who's disappeared after heading to an extremely racist town to investigate a death. It's mostly made up of run-ins with the town's backward citizens, while Hap and Leonard prove they suck at detective work. Once again, I had the baddie sussed out early on, so it was mostly a matter of just seeing this through to the end. But it's an enjoyable ride, because few people write dialogue as well as Lansdale, and there were chuckle-out-loud moments interspersed with the darkness.


The Fifth Elephant
, by Terry Pratchett




Another book about my beloved City Watch. Vimes is sent to Ubervald as an ambassador--to attend the crowning of the low king of the dwarves. He and the other members of the Watch get caught up in an adventure involving vampires, werewolves, and the murder of a prophylactic magnate. And the stolen Scone of Destiny.

While it's not a laugh-a-page book like previous ones in the series, it's still a solid adventure, and a darn good mystery. But he still brought the funny:
“He sagged to his knees. He ached all over. It wasn't just that his brain was writing cheques that his body couldn't cash. It had gone beyond that. Now his feet were borrowing money that his legs hadn't got, and his back muscles were looking for loose change under the sofa cushions.”
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Michael Howden
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Perhaps some spoilers, so beware, I think I hid the things that one wouldn't find in a review.

Gelatinous Goo wrote:


wmshub wrote:
The North Water by Ian McGuire

I loved it but at times wondered if it has any more literary merit than a Tarantino movie. Like, is it just a bunch of bad ass dudes being all bad ass to each other? A friend of mine called it "Mean Girls on a boat." But in the end, I think there's something under the hood. I can see the bear as a symbol for Sumner and the dog as foreshadow (or misdirection). I don't care that it didn't make the short list or if it actually isn't much more than a tale of harrowing adventure, I dug it and am glad I read it.


It is a very violent novel resulting in some difficult scenes. I agree with wmshub, the author is kind of obsessed with bodily fluids.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The emergency surgery on the the Vicar's abscess. Ick.
The gore, as a literary mechanism keeps the novel from tipping into one of the genres it flirts with, while serving as a setting for the story.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Just when I thought I might be reading a survival story on the polar ice more people are violently murdered by a monster and I'm reminded that this world is disgusting.
The journey toward redemption in a world awash with blood and puss was what drove it along for me.
Patrick Sumner fascinated me far more than Drax. An opium addict fleeing to a ship in the hopes of redemption strikes me as a most desperate act. Sumner is a very Joeseph Conrad-esque character, and this book inspired me to read Nostromo, a Tale of the Seaboard. There is enough under the hood here that makes this far more than a slasher-film, even though it plays like one.
I was not really surprised it didn't make the short-list, but so far I've only read the one other candidate.
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Gregory Amstutz
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OK, this is a longer list than normal, because I forgot to post for August. Here goes...

Shadowheart by Tad Williams
The fourth and final book in the Shadowmarch series.
This series is considered fantasy, but I think it is more rightly called fantasy opera (as in space opera). This is fantasy writ large. Huge. There is just so much going on in this book, it's hard to describe. Plots within plots. Gods warring against each other, and against men. Competing love interests. Tad Williams creates an intricate, believable world to explore. Very Tolkien-esque in some ways, but still almost completely unlike Tolkien. The wraps up the ending nicely, yet still leaves some unanswered questions - kind of like real life. It's a dark story, not a lot of happy endings, but very much worth the time.

The War of the Flowers by Tad Williams
Another heavy fantasy offering from Mr Williams, although at least it is complete in one volume, rather than 4. A mortal is drawn into a faerie world he never knew existed. A typical fantasy trope, but Williams puts a very unique spin on it. I particularly like how he will present an unusual characteristic of the faerie world (or more likely, several at once), but doesn't spend too much time trying to explain everything to the reader. This leaves you feeling very much out of place, just like the main character, and able to identify with him. Another excellent offering.

Scents and Sensibility by Spencer Quinn
The latest installment of the Chet and Bernie mysteries. For the uninitiated, Chet and Bernie are private detectives. Bernie's the P.I., and Chet is his dog/partner. The hook is that the books are narrated by Chet, which gives them a unique (and sometimes chaotic) flavor. There have been some criticisms by others that the books all seem to rehash the same plot. While I admit that there is some validity to this, I must confess that I really don't care - I 'm a hardcore fan. However, this volume does vary in the plot a little, and that ending is quite emotional in a very unexpected way. An excellent book, and I can't wait for the next one.

The Kill Switch and War Hawk by James Rollins
Well, I love dogs, and I love books with dogs in them, so I was overjoyed when I stumbled on two gems from James Rollins. Now, Rollins is known for his novels featuring Sigma Force, a small branch of DARPA, which is responsible for seeking out and pursuing new or rediscovered technology to ensure that the USA always has a tech advantage over the rest of the world. His books read very similar to Clive Cussler, and although I can't exactly put my finger on why, I like Rollins a lot better. That being said, I discovered two novels that, while connected to his other novels, follow a minor character. In this case, Tucker Wayne, a former US Army Ranger/dog handler and his canine partner, Kane. What makes these books so attractive to me is that they really explore the depth of the connection between man and dog. Another great thing about Rollins is that, while some of the plot devices he uses may seem fanciful, or even outright ludicrous, he always includes an afterword where he provides references that provide a solid background to his science. I'm now embarking on a quest to go back and read all the Sigma Force novels in order. If you like Cussler, you'll like these. If you don't like Cussler, give these a try, you might find them different enough to enjoy.
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shumyum
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Just Kids - Patti Smith
Two starving artist tales for the the price of one. Made even better if listened to on audiobook by Smith herself in her quirky accent. Loved it.


The Swerve - Stephen Greenblatt
Disappointing due to my expectations. I thought it would predominantly be about how renewed interest by medieval scholars of ancient writings (Arab, Greek, Roman, etc.) enabled European culture to change paradigms in thinking and usher in the renaissance. The book turned out to have only a small superficial bit about that...it was mostly an account of one bookhunter and what it meant to be a bookhunter back then. It was interesting, but not what I wanted.

These two books ended a streak of reading three nonfiction books in a row (I read "H is for Hawk" last month). I had never done this before and I don't plan to do it again. I much prefer fiction.

slatersteven wrote:
Drew1365 wrote:
I remember years ago coming into the office where I worked and one of my co-workers asking "Are you all right? You seem a little depressed."

I said, "Oh, I've been reading Heart of Darkness."

She nodded knowingly and said no more.
Never made me depressed, now 1984, that made me depressed.

For me it was McCarthy's The Road. Ugh. I refuse to see the movie.
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Matt Brown
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Technically finished it tonight, but Locke and Key by Joe Hill. My inability to read through something got the best of me so I would like to read through it again later at some point with more of a clean read, but really enjoyed it. I'm over halfway through The Fireman as well.
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Michael Howden
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shumyum wrote:
Just Kids - Patti Smith



Check out M Train, she reads on the audiobook as well!
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The City of Mirrors - Justin Cronin


The third entry of The Passage trilogy, and I found it problematic. For starters, what the author did with Alicia is a travesty. In the first two books, she was a total badass in the best ways possible (think Ripley or T2-era Sarah Conner). In this book, she's completely tamed in the lamest and uncharacteristic way possible. She doesn't even serve any real purpose.

The best parts of the book, like the entire series, are the scenes that take place in the past (aka our present day). This time, we look back into the life of Fanning, aka Zero, and how he came to be who he is. It starts off strong as a look into a debauched Harvard life. It's not much different than Quentin, Eliot, et al in The Magicians trilogy, just without the magic. I don't quite buy the end of his story in this section, however, and beyond the backstory, he's not very compelling. Worst yet is his final fate:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
His eternal punishment is... true love? Seriously?!


The book, and for that matter, the series, has as many endings as the film version of Return of the King, but like RotK (in my opinion at least), it works. The epilogue is strangely highly reminiscent of Seveneves, but it's a nice send-off.

Final ranking of the trilogy:

The Passage


Great pulpy apocalyptic thriller that bounces between past and present while deconstructing the vampire myth. It's basically Station Eleven with monsters subbing in for the superflu.

The Twelve

Feels a bit too repetitive of the first. The scenes from the past end in a shockingly harrowing fashion. Probably the most memorable scene in the series.

The City of Mirrors

Problematic and underwhelming. Has some great moments, but characters seem half-baked or wasted.
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There were other books last month, but first let's discuss two of the three Man Booker Longlisters I wanted to look at, both of which turned up on the Shortlist, too.

His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet

Possibly unreliable narrators in a fascinating time and place telling the story of a sensational murder and trial. This was a strangely easy read despite being told as non-fiction. The tale is quite straightforward, it is just the details that are left up to the reader. And of course the overt classism, racism, capital punishment debates are all ripped from today's headlines, if couched in different terms here. Good read, well worth a look.

All That Man Is - David Szalay

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. This is a collection of 9 essentially unconnected short stories. So why is it nominated for a major novel award? In my opinion, the interconnectedness of theme and the intentional progression (in age) of each protagonist make this a complete tale. And it is one that grows the more you ruminate on it. Tiny details - of fact, of thought, of place, of pop culture, and in one case of family - tie the book together and days later are still triggering connections in my brain.

Individually, each short story is probably underwhelming. In context they each enhance the others. This is a feat bordering on genius. I recognized the younger characters, those in their teens and 20s, I still relate with those in their 30s and 40s, and if I squint I can just about see what the older men in their 60s and 70s are all about.

Wonderful reading.

Started Seriously Sweet by A. L. Kennedy today.
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Thieves Fall Out - Gore Vidal
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM - Richard O'Brien
The Deceivers - Alfred Bester
Bone: Coda - Jeff Smith
Bat Out Of Hell - Francis Durbridge
Sinner Man - Lawrence Block
His Bloody Project - Graeme Macrae Burnet
The Nice Guys - Charles Ardai
The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes - Lawrence Block
Life Is But A Dream - Jennifer Provenza
All That Man Is - David Szalay

Thieves Fall Out - Gore Vidal

Another "lost work" of a big name by Hard Case Crime. My first look at Gore Vidal, and based on the stark clean writing I'll be looking for his more famous titles.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM - Richard O'Brien

I don't usually post the books I read to my daughter each night, but this one was different. First of all, it was an all time favorite of mine as a kid. Secondly, unlike most books for my 7-year-old, which my wife and I take it in turns to read a chapter before bed, this one I held on to throughout. My daughter was rapt. So were my wife and I. The book is exciting and thought provoking, varied and always holds attention. It has held up beautifully for my entire lifetime and I can imagine it holding up for my daughter's kids . . .

Just don't bother with the movie.

The Deceivers - Alfred Bester

Not as jaw droppingly astounding as his better known early classics, but still a fun read, sort of channeling Vonnegut and foreshadowing Tom Robbins filtered through Heinlein. Worth a look if you're already a fan of Bester or classic Sci Fi.

Bone: Coda - Jeff Smith

Slapdash and piecemeal "behind the scenes" articles about the making of the wonderful, long running all ages comic / graphic novel series. Repetitive and mostly already well known by anyone interested, the stories here feel like an exercise in name dropping. But the new short piece that gives the book its name was a welcome return to the world of the Bones and in the end worth the price of admission.

Bat Out Of Hell - Francis Durbridge

A 70s novelization of a 60s BBC mini-series, written by the original screenwriter. This was a reasonably enjoyable ride, a murder for profit somehow gone wrong, leaving the perpetrators with a series of phone calls from the deceased. Add a brilliant detective with a rough personal life, and all the parts are in place for a fun if formulaic romp.

Sinner Man - Lawrence Block

Block is so good he makes me furious. This is another lost HCC publication, this time the first novel Block sold which had never been released under his name and which he himself had never laid eyes on. Even his retelling (in the afterword) of how he came to rediscover the book is better than much of what I read in a typical month! It is almost not fair that he started off this strong.

Sorry Neil Gaiman and Greg Rucka. I think it is now certain the Lawrence Block is my favorite writer (although Ken Grimwood still owns my favorite novel . . .)

The Nice Guys - Charles Ardai

A novelization of a movie I didn't see and probably don't need to by a novelist / publisher I usually enjoy. Fun, throwaway fluff that was a good palette cleanser.

The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes - Lawrence Block

From Block's first novel to his most recent. The fruits of a month long retreat, this is a mix of the perfect noir sensibilities that have made him famous and the erotica which paid his bills as a young writer. As he ages, Block is embracing his inner dirty old man, and as such this will not be for everyone. For those who can get past the "butt stuff" in the first chapter there is a smart and surprising story here, laced with references to classic noir movies.

Life Is But A Dream - Jennifer Provenza

It is nerve wracking reading the first published work of a friend. The last time I did it I encountered probably the worst thing I read this year. Thankfully, that was not the case with Jen's first book, a Chick Lit / Sci Fi mashup in which a modern day woman living her life in New York has an equally real life in California which continues when she falls asleep. And vice versa. The story is well told and does not outstay its welcome as long as you don't question the premise of the mechanics of it. And there are a couple of scenes which moved me more than almost anything I have read recently - it is not often I find myself weeping openly on the subway at rush hour.
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Galstaff wrote:





Julian Barnes tells a fine story, and takes the opportunity to comment on a variety of things along the way. This is a true story packaged as historical fiction, filled with historical transcripts of letters and a trial (I presume the trial scene is true to court records). The theme of 'Truth vs. Fiction' is on display throughout, and he draws several conclusions depending on where he applies it. This is a detailed and quiet novel that sometimes sacrifices impact for a restrained and even tone. But overall a satisfying read that strikes a balance between a good story about a wrong that is righted, and some social commentary on racism. He uses the voice of George to speak rather directly to the problems of endemic racism in England. He uses the voice of Arthur to speak of the unobtainable ideals of chivalry and some Victorian ideals. Symbolism of locks and keys are used in surprising ways, which I enjoyed. I had trouble deciding if I personally feel the book had earned a fourth star, so I went with the 1/2 star here.



Julian Barnes doesn't get enough credit/attention this side of the Atlantic. "Talking It Over", a love triangle told by the participants to the narrator, as if they're one on one in a pub, is just utterly brilliant.
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