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Subject: What did you read in June 2017? rss

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I was wondering when this would get posted. I was a bit busy or else I would have done it myself.


Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
Good Agatha Christie. Even more so than most of her books, when you see the solution, it seems the only possible way that fits everything you know. She was often good at finding new gimmicks for her books; in this one, it's that the crime happened 16 years ago, so there is no crime scene to investigate, no solid evidence, and the memories of the witnesses are not completely reliable any more.


The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Creepy. Big brother mixed with super-patriarchal totalitarian Christian theocracy. The results are as horrible as they sound. With the new Hulu series and all this book is getting mentioned a lot, and I never read it before, so I figured I'd read it before I'm tempted to watch the TV show. I'm glad I did. Some parts of the transition from USA-to-Gilead are hard to believe, especially the speed and surprise of the transition, but I once knew an Iranian emigrant who was equally surprised when the Shah was replaced with Khomeini's regime, so perhaps it isn't so impossible. The storyline is compelling as Offred tries to survive in Gilead, and you get a better and better picture of what kind of place it is as the book continues.


One, Two, Buckle my Shoe by Agatha Christie
A good but not great Poirot. The mystery is puzzling enough, but in the end some of the character's actions just don't make sense. A lot of the red herrings require people to be helping the criminal, when it makes no sense for them to do so.
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wmshub wrote:



The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Creepy. Big brother mixed with super-patriarchal totalitarian Christian theocracy. The results are as horrible as they sound. With the new Hulu series and all this book is getting mentioned a lot, and I never read it before, so I figured I'd read it before I'm tempted to watch the TV show. I'm glad I did. Some parts of the transition from USA-to-Gilead are hard to believe, especially the speed and surprise of the transition, but I once knew an Iranian emigrant who was equally surprised when the Shah was replaced with Khomeini's regime, so perhaps it isn't so impossible. The storyline is compelling as Offred tries to survive in Gilead, and you get a better and better picture of what kind of place it is as the book continues.




It wasn't creepy when I first read it. When I first read it 30 some odd years ago, it was thought provoking, and an interesting mental exercise.

Today, however...it's a little creepy.
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Gregory Amstutz
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This is for May and June. I had a very good two months.

First, I read The Secret World Chronicles by Mercedes Lackey, et al. This is a shared world anthology narrative that is based on characters and storylines from a MMORPG called City of Heroes.
It's about a world where superheroes (called "metahumans") are real, and have been integrated into society. The story takes place in "current times." It opens when a German metahuman who fought for the Nazis during WWII (and thought long-dead) shows up at Echo HQ (the blanket US org. that governs/recruits/uses metahumans) with a dire warning. Unfortunately, in the time it takes to investigate the truth of who he is, it's too late. The world is invaded by soldiers in nearly invincible powered armor and floating "death spheres", both spouting devastating energy weapons- and they're all wearing the Swastika! This is an awesome book series. I had trouble putting it down. It's the kind of story that you want to read as fast as you can to find out what happened next, yet at the same time, you want to go slow so it won't end. The fight scenes are fantastic, and yet the characters have a depth beyond just their powers. The only horrible part is that it ends after book #4, and I can't find any evidence that any more are forthcoming. I want more!!

Anyway, the titles:
#1 Invasion
#2 World Divided
#3 Revolution
#4 Collision



Next I read A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. This is a real tear-jerker, but an excellent one. It makes you want to hug your dog, and at the same time makes you wish that you were the kind of person your dog thinks you are. It's a narrative from a dog's point of view as he seeks to discover - through multiple incarnations - just exactly what his purpose is, and how to fulfill it, and to truly be a "Good Dog." It's a very emotional read, and there are some difficult scenes, but it is well worth the time and emotional investment.

There's a sequel and I am compelled to find it and read it as well.
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NFPT Personal Fitness Trainer Manual


I'm a CrossFit coach with aspirations of running my own place one day. One of my fellow coaches lent me his NFPT manual though I have no plans on being a personal trainer. However, learning about other fitness methodologies is always a good thing.

The opening chapters that describe how we build strength and endurance on a molecular level are fascinating, particularly the three different kinds of muscle fibers (white fast, red fast, red slow), what they do, and how they operate. I've always known the basics of why CrossFit programs the way it does, but now I have a greater understanding of it.

It's when the guide starts focusing on the actual client assessment, training, and nutrition that it starts to lose me. With each new client, the guidebook recommends a whole slew of complicated equations that the general fitness client simply doesn't need. It seems designed to make the trainer seem indispensable to the client which, honestly, struck me as shady. (Kind of like how people who join Weight Watchers lose weight, but gain it back when they quit because WW is designed to not let the customers maintain weight loss without them.) These equations may help the competitive athlete, but that's just about it.

There's also too much reliance on junk science, such as BMI and a low-fat, high grain diet. The latter is using the recommendations of the Department of Agriculture, whose guidelines are more tied into the health of the farming industry than that of the consumers. As for BMI, that's basically the phrenology of weight management.



Pearls Hogs the Road - Stephan Pastis


The latest treasury of probably the last funny newspaper strip. What makes this collection notable is it includes the 3 strips guest drawn by Bill Watterson. The foreword describes how Pastis managed to get Watterson out of retirement--interestingly, he never met Watterson in person until months after the strips published.
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I'm still slogging through The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson.
I started it in late May and I'm not done yet. I'm not giving up, either, although I'm not particularly engaged with most of the story so far.

So, in June, I switched off, every other evening, with this:



Fast-paced and funny, in general, and an interesting look at the poorer part of India; the city of Mumbai.

Parts of it stretched the bounds of believability, but it was just fine otherwise.
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I read Shaolin Cowboy: Shemp Buffet by Geof Darrow.
Darrow is the artist who worked with Frank Miller on the three-issue Hard Boiled comic series and was a conceptual artist on The Matrix films.

Not sure what to make of the bare-minimum narrative.
The Hero takes on an army of naked and shriveled undead with an extended bo-staff bookended with Buzz-Cut® chainsaws.

The majority of the narrative is a sequence of double paneled (with one, smaller panel informing the reader of the ever-dwindling supply of gas on the fuel gauge) slaughterfest double-paged spread, repeated in various slaughter methods twenty-two times.

On the first read, I just couldn't get over how long the sequence lasted.
It's nutso. The second hardbound edition, Shaolin Cowboy: Who'll Stop the Reign? is to be released in November, so I'm looking to see how it plays out, though I'm not much expecting a lot of story to be delivered. Just more hyper-intricate, surreal Darrow artwork



An example of the carnage. Repeat this nineteen more times.
On top of this there is another sequence of Shaoline Cowboy bopping, crowd surfer-style, onto and exploding the heads of the remaining animated dead.
NSFW
Spoiler (click to reveal)



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The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville

If you're like me, then you spent yesterday opium pipe in hand, floral-print silken robe open to the dangly bits, gazing longingly at something like this:


while thinking, Man, I wish somebody would write a book about the Nazi occupation of Paris as seen through the trifurcated eyes of Surrealist art. Well, you're in luck. This thing gave me a massive and painful writer boner—out of five stars I would give it a teapot, a foot of used pot roast twine, a pomegranate salaciously presented, and three earaches. Now you, unless you're me, might find it to be more of an exasperating almanac of Wikipedia searches than a novel, but goddamn if this wasn't the book I've been preparing my entire life for. Which probably means you should avoid it.


Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith

An inhospitable world that produces the galaxy's only source of stroon, an immortality drug; a young heir beset by enemies goes on a fantastic journey; telepathy and ornithropters... Yeah, this was Dune before Dune. Check out Cordwainer Smith on Wikipedia to get the labyrinthine skinny on the man; the super-short version: expert in psychological warfare, heavily influenced by classical Chinese literature. And does it ever show. I was only about halfway through this wonderfully weird book when I went ahead and ordered his collected stories, the bulk of which were written in the same universe. While I had only heard his funky name previously, it turns out he's understood to be central to modern science fiction—so, heavily influential if otherwise forgotten. We may not remember his name, but his ideas still reverberate in the ether. To compare his work to something you might already know, I found it evocative of Stanisław Lem's Cyberiad, another book I cannot recommend highly enough.


Spent by Antonia Crane

A memoir in a genre I find myself strangely attracted to: the sex worker's jeremaid. I encountered her shorter pieces here and there on the internet—sharp, brief recollections of pain, reaction, longing, emotional disarray coupled with cold self-awareness—and found myself smitten. Giving greasy handjobs to scabrous men to pay your way through your next meal, your next couch flop, and maybe an MFA program is the essential problem we all live every day. Sure, we're a couple steps removed from her unadorned truth—we wrap an "honest" paycheck around our hands and look the other way—but if you're not a pimp you are a ho.

If you go in purely for the titillating details I suspect her mom's cancer will make you lose your chub. Unless, you know, you're into that...
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HiveGod wrote:


Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith

An inhospitable world that produces the galaxy's only source of stroon, an immortality drug; a young heir beset by enemies goes on a fantastic journey; telepathy and ornithropters... Yeah, this was Dune before Dune.



Man, way to sell it. *added*...All good except Dune came first.
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Chris Tannhauser
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MWChapel wrote:
All good except Dune came first.

Looks like they were both serialized in magazines in 1964. Talk about reverberations in the ether...

EDIT: Herbert's serial started in December of '63, with Smith's following in April of '64. Clearly a hack.

You should still read it—I think you'd dig it.
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HiveGod wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
All good except Dune came first.

Looks like they were both serialized in magazines in 1964. Talk about reverberations in the ether...

EDIT: Herbert's serial started in December of '63, with Smith's following in April of '64. Clearly a hack.

You should still read it—I think you'd dig it.


Ahh, nice to know. Very intrigued now. From what I read the similarities are eerie, yet still different enough to not suspect derivation.

Apparently, the drugs, free love of the 60's New Age of science fiction made visions of grandeur, mix and match religions and great super drugs...And ornithopters.

Either way, I want to read this beast.
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Finished up "Unchained: If Jesus Has Set Us Free, Why Don't We Feel Free?", which my pastor wrote. I can hear his voice when reading, and I felt like the book had been covered in sermons before and after it came out. I liked it a lot, but well, duh. He's my pastor with some similarities in terms age, education, and background while being rather different.

"Saga" Books 5-7. I got caught up in my reading and still enjoy the heck out of it. I kind of accept there's an end point to it but that it is going to take 300+ comics to get there.

Started to read "Fool Moon" by Jim Butcher and "Chosen by God" by RC Sproul which already feels like it might drag this thread into RSP territory if I get rambling based on what I have read. "Fool Moon" got finished in July. I also grabbed a large volume graphic novel for X-23 and a smaller one for Nightwing. Ordered Foundation as I feel like I slowly want to work on my geek cred for books and I'm getting better at my books bought to books read ratio.
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I have been reading quite a lot of historical fiction lately, so I suppose it was a natural progression to move on to an historical document. A Woman in Berlin is the diary of a woman who lived in Berlin in 1945. It begins on 20 April, Hitler's birthday and the day on which Soviet artillery joined the Allied air bombardment. The final entry takes us to 22 June, with the war over for six weeks, Soviet control established and a degree of normality returning to the shattered city.

When first published in German in 1960 the diary was controversial for its frank descriptions of rape on a massive scale by Red Army soldiers. The anonymous diarist was herself a victim and then slept with a rising scale of officers for protection. At the time, her portrayal of rape and "sexual collaboration", as Antony Beevor describes it in his introduction, was accused of besmirching the honour of German women.

It comes as no surprise to learn that the author was a journalist as there is a detached and unsentimental quality to her recording of some terrifying and harrowing experiences. She also attempts to give varying degrees of anonymity in naming the people she shares a basement shelter and a ruined tenement with, but in doing so she can seem unkind, as in "the woman with weeping eczema". Despite that, I felt real sympathy for and interest in the author.

Beevor concludes his introduction by declaring this book "...one of the most important personal accounts ever written about the effects of war and defeat. It is also one of the most revealing pieces of social history imaginable." Indeed.
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HiveGod wrote:
To compare his work to something you might already know, I found it evocative of Stanisław Lem's Cyberiad

SOLD!
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HiveGod wrote:
Talk about reverberations in the ether...

Lest anyone think this an isolated example, check out the truly uncanny correspondences between James Joyce's Ulysses, Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, and Andrei Biely's Petersburg.
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aesthetocyst wrote:
Contact, finally.


Oh, and the He-Man Mini Comic Collection. How could I forget that?!? 1200+ pgs worth of He-Man (and She-Ra modest )

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aesthetocyst wrote:

Oh, and the He-Man Mini Comic Collection. How could I forget that?!? 1200+ pgs worth of He-Man (and She-Ra modest )
I know a somebody who would probably love to own that massive tome!
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It's quite cheap. $20 new at Amazon. Cover price was only $29.99.
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June was busy for us so I haven't had much time to read but I'm just about done with this:


Next up:
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Finished Life of Pi as it had been on the block a while. Unfortunately I had also seen the film before, but I give the film the edge, as the book drags a bit. I suppose that could be for atmosphere, but the wroter also has the penchant for verbose description, which is not my favorite thing. I prefer concision.
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I've started rereading The Lost Regiment series by William R. Forstchen, starting with Rally Cry. Basic concept is a boatload of Union soldiers from Maine end up in a vortex that sends them to another planet inhabited by medieval Russians, Mayans, Aztecs and others. The entire planet is nothing more than 'cattle' for the Turg, a giant nomadic people that circle the planet once every twenty years, consuming 1/5 of the population.

Quite interesting regarding the building of a society, the establishment of a democracy, and the escalating war between the people groups.
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I started our city's Big Summer Book - David Copperfield, and am on chapter 12. I've read it before, but as a child reading it (I think I was 12 when I read it) I glossed over the brutality. As an adult, it is horrifying.

I also started re-reading The Estate of the Beckoning Lady. It is one of my favorites of an author I adore, Margery Allingham. I am as charmed by this book as I was when I was half my age.

June, in other words, held nothing new for me, but much in the way of discovery.
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Celinashope wrote:
I started our city's Big Summer Book - David Copperfield, and am on chapter 12.

That's what I'm reading as well! On chapter 13.
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