Saturday, November 04, 2017

the day after snow

I feel like I haven't gotten much done, although my list looks rather impressive.  I'm feeling unmotivated, partially because I haven't been super in-love with anything recently, and also I've got a touch of senioritis: I feel pressure to finish my reading goal in the next two months, and I've run out of steam in that regard.  I'm trying to keep in mind the reason I set myself this challenge: I felt like I read widely, but in reality I read a narrow range of authors and settings within a few typically-disparate genres. 

Hunger: A memoir of (my) body by Roxane Gay.  This is beautiful.  Everyone should read this: although (fortunately) most readers don't share the same exact traumatic life experiences, everyone has experienced similar types of events and feelings.  Put this in the hands of everyone you know. 

There was a part that I read too quickly, because it touched too closely to emotions and experiences that are too unresolved.  It was too powerful; I identified too strongly.  I hope to be able to read it again in a few years.  If anything, my experience with that section underscores that this is a raw, honest collection.

Mindhunter, season 1 with Jonathan Groff.  I ended up watching the whole season, but I won't continue with future seasons: this is too graphic for my personal preference (in language, sex, and violence/gore).  The characters seem real, though, and the topic is interesting, so I'm sure there will be plenty of takers.

The island of the day before by Umberto Eco.  In researching for one of my to-do reads still unfinished, I was delighted to find there is a subgenre called "Robinsonades."  I read Robinson Crusoe several times in high school and I adore survival stories.  So why am I having such a hard time finding a book that 1) fits the narrow definition, and 2) I enjoy?  I'd just read Robinson Crusoe again-- it's been nearly 20 years, after all [oh my god!]-- but it's pretty thick and I'm now feeling pressed for time.

I couldn't get in to this-- it's so overwritten.  I have a suspicion that people who claim to love this author just want to be seen as impressive or to feel pretentious.  I doubt many people could read this without diagramming each sentence.

The river at night by Erica Fernick.  I was really excited about this-- a survival story where the women rescue themselves!  But it's awful.  The main character is whiny and cowardly.  She's afraid of everything, which I'm guessing is supposed to make her sympathetic, or maybe to give her survival a greater feeling of accomplishment, but she's given no tangible reason for her crippling timidity.  She doesn't have anxiety, she doesn't relate a particularly traumatic past.  It makes it impossible to care.  I kept reading, anticipating that the story would pick up once the action really started, and the second half of the book is better.  It's hard to continue to care, though, because the whiny main character is out with a group of friends, all of whom act and react like high-schoolers.  Do not read.

The vengeance of mothers: The journals of Margaret Kelly and Molly McGill by Jim Fergus.  Although this is listed as a stand-alone novel, it would make much more sense if readers started with the author's earlier One thousand white women.  The story jumps in without much set-up or backstory-- atypical of historical fiction.  Did not finish.

And every morning they way home gets longer and longer by Fredrik Backman.  This is beautiful, but it's also terrifying.  I read half of it in the spring, and couldn't finish it-- I was too sad.  I'm glad I read it again. 

The 5 love languages of children by Gary Chapman and D. Ross Campbell.  There are some real problems with this book.  I finished it, because there were a few helpful nuggets I could take away, but in general, I have some serious objections.

First, maybe I live under a rock, but it's not immediately apparent from the front cover, back blurb, or early chapters that this book has religious undertones.  Religious nonfiction is great for some people and has an important place, but, as I've said with novels that try to sneak a message in in the last quarter, be upfront about it.  No mention of religion in the first four chapters, then one mention in chapter five, and three in chapter seven strikes me as dishonest.

Second, like many self-help books, this presents a one-perfect-solution sell.  If we only love our children hard enough, problems will miraculously vanish.  The "scenarios" presented are patently ridiculous: children are instantly repentant and apparently change their ways when presented with loving correction.

Third, the book fails to mention that there might be something wrong with your child.   Every parenting book should include, regularly throughout the book, that if your child doesn't respond within a few weeks, that you should request a referral or further observation. 

For example: "The mishandling of anger is related to every present and future problem your child may have-- from poor grades to damaged relationships to possible suicide... Most of life's problems will be averted and your child will be more able to use anger to his advantage, rather than have it work against him" (p. 160).  It is my uneducated opinion as his parent that my child's problems are almost exclusively related to his anxiety, his ADHD, his hearing deficiency, and his vision problems.  All of these affect his schooling to a much greater degree.

If this book is to be of any value, it would be to first-time parents of very young children who are expected to be neurotypical. 

Dark matter, seasons 1 and 2, with Melissa O'Neil.  I'm only watching this because I'm too lazy to find something else.  I seem to have trouble finding things on Netflix that I'll like; how do normal people find TV shows to watch?  Netflix suggested this as a good match for me, but I think it just automatically suggests all sci-fi without regard for quality.  These characters are predictable, the plots are slow, and every line of dialogue can be clearly anticipated.  The characters have become more likable in season 2, but they haven't gained much depth.  I'll quit after I finish the last 2 episodes of season 2, probably in the next day or so.

The edge or normal by Carla Norton.    I read this in preparation for an upcoming program, and I wouldn't have chosen it for myself but it wasn't too bad.  The writing was rather uninspired.  The author was going for punchy with short sentences and cliff-hanger chapter endings, to add tension, but the tone wasn't quite right-- rather than being enveloped in the story, the reader was kept on the outside, unable to sink in.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

nothing too impressive

Sex criminals, vol. 4 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.  This seems like a good stopping point for me.  I've become less-than-thrilled with this series for two similar but distinct reasons: as the story goes on, the people get darker and darker and the world gets weirder and weirder.  Read the first one or two, then stop.

The West Wing, seasons 5 through 7, with Martin Sheen.  It took me quite a few season to put my finger on what it was about this series that leaves me dissatisfied: it purposefully skips-- but makes tantalizing references to-- the daily life details.  The way someone butters their toast is relevant; it was annoying that we got so little of the characters' backgrounds and off-hours, and that the seasons skipped such big chunks of time-- weeks and months sometimes.  If these were just ignored or cut for time, I could have lived with that, but the little references, which I'm sure were designed to hint at character depth, were more frustrating.

Recommended.  I will barely know what to do with myself now.

Pirates of the Thunder by Jack L. Chalker.  For a four-book series, this book still felt like more set-up than questing.  I have ordered the two remaining books used online, so I can read them at my convenience, rather than requesting them via ILL.

The invoice by Jonas Karlsson.  This is a reread in order to make trivia questions for a quickly-approaching program.  Still a great book.

The land of naked people: Encounters with Stone Age islanders by Madhusree Mukerjee.  This is poorly organized.  The author intersperses historical information with modern-day information, based around her research trips to the island.  However, neither the historical nor contemporary events unfolded in order.  There are several tribal groups spread over the islands, which are distinct from each other; how, exactly, isn't well-shown.  She repeatedly mentions a number of people she encounters on her repeated visits to the island, but doesn't give enough information for them to be distinct individuals.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

curses; missed again

Since I started this blog originally for myself (and, as far as I know, I'm the only person who accesses it regularly for any reason), I never really paid attention to the numbers.  I didn't notice that I successfully posted 5 years to the day after my original post.  I likewise missed my 10-year-ish post.  I noticed a few weeks ago that I was coming up on my 500th post... and I missed it.  (Granted, I was a little busy at the time, and limited to my phone-- not the best format for this site.)  I was going to have a little celebration for myself, but this, the 502nd post, just doesn't seem as exciting.

I finished A kiss at midnight a few hours after posting about it.  Nothing substantial to add to my earlier comments.

I read Wrinkles by Paco Roca again (again-again), in preparation for an upcoming book trivia program.  It makes me sad.

Cruel numbers by Christopher Beats.  This was an early NetGalley find that kept bubbling up on my to-read list but I never quite managed to crack the cover... for 5 years.  I'm very happy to be able to check it off my list!

It's actually not a great book.  The world is pretty well-drawn and the author seems to have thought quite a bit about even minor details.  There could have been a little more explanation of the social/governmental structure, but otherwise pretty fair world-building.  The plot was pretty messed up in two fairly major ways, and this obviously brought down the whole reading experience.

First, the character's romantic backstory was shoe-horned in.  It wasn't well-drawn, it was handled crassly, and it added nothing to the mystery plot or the alternate world; it may be setting up character development in future series installments, but even that could have been handled in better ways.  Second, the pacing was way off.  I read a downloadable copy of this, so didn't have the physical/visual cue of where my bookmark was to help me anticipate how much story was left.  When I got to the end, it felt like a shock.  Nothing was fixed, personally or professionally, just passed along.

The goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle.  I cannot force myself to finish this.  The characters are not particularly unique: they aren't exactly dislikeable, but they don't stand out from random 20-year-olds on the street.  The paranormal element isn't strongly tied in: there is not history presented in the town, no references to established outside folklore.  The writing is choppy: the narration is a little melodramatic, and the boy-girl scenes are, I think, trying to be frank but come off as crude.

I heard quite a bit of chatter about this because it's set in a local-ish made-up place; the descriptions and incorporation of the scenery is the smoothest and most accurate part of the writing, but cannot stand by itself as a reason to read a whole book.

A borrowed man by Gene Wolfe.  Oo, I was so, so very mad that this is a bad book.  The reviews were good, I had skimmed it and then used it in programs, and I suggested it to several people who came back and said they liked it.  But it has problems!  It's not readable!  In both the main character's narration and in the dialogue, they jump from idea to idea, jerkily.  I know people who talk like that; we don't talk much.  Not acceptable.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Re(ad)treat wrap up

To wrap up, first, stats and such

I called my final count 8 books:
GN: 2
Audio: 2
novel: 2
partial novel: 1
novella: 1

I think I can call this 8 as well:
GN: 2
Partial audio: 2
novel: 3
partial novel: 1

Kitsap Memorial State Park:  I've never reserved a State Park cabin before; it was more spacious than anticipated and the heater kept it nice and warm.  However, for how much it cost, I can't recommend it.  A mid-week off-season hotel in Ocean Shores can be found for a similar price (and even less!) and would include a number of nice things the cabin lacks: running water, adjacent bathroom, cleaning.  The cabin was not cleaned between users, the bathrooms had obviously not been cleaned in days, and they were not cleaned all weekend. There wasn't a view of the water, nor the mountains, or anything except the playfield (see photo below), which you'd have a decent chance of getting on the coast.  It's nice to have a firepit, but I was barely able to use it for the rain.

The rest of the campground was nice enough.  The tent camping spaces all seemed small, but there were long and narrow with actual forest between spots, so there would be a nice amount of privacy.  Unfortunately, they are all back off the water, so they probably get muggy.

I've gone back through my phone-posted ...posts... and fixed errors, added photos, and tacked on tags.

Re(ad)treat: Finals and partials

On the way over to the state park on Friday, I finished the last little bit of The witch's vacuum cleaner and other stories by Terry Pratchett; read by Julian Rhind-Tutt.  This was a fun collection of stories that don't really go with anything else; they don't really match up with what appears in Pratchett's novels, and (*cough*note, publisher*cough*) I'd be even more interested in reading this, or other short story compilations, with an introduction for each story with information and commentary-- the dates the writer worked on it, what else he was working on at the time, if he ever pointed out anything in the story that he thought was interesting or noteworthy, etc.  This was one of the last Sync downloads I grabbed and I've been chipping away at it since July.

Excellent narrator, easy to listen to.

A slip of the keyboard: Collected nonfiction by Terry Pratchett; read by Michael Fenton Stevens.  I listened to this while packing up and driving home today and am only about half-way through.

Everything included here is an essay or article or speech given by the author, so people who compulsively read and have consciously sought out absolutely everything this author has ever written may have already encountered these bits in their original settings.  They are all new to me, though, and I love them.  There are several in a row here towards the middle in which the author talks thoughtfully about genre fiction; I'm bookmarking heavily so I can listen to the segments again when I get back to work and incorporate some into an upcoming Readers' Advisory training.  Meta-readers, readers who think and care about the kinds of things they read, will have much to be interested in.

Another excellent reader, understandable, and, as a change at a constant volume-- it can be difficult to listen to audiobooks while driving because the speaking volume varies too much: if you turn it up loud enough to understand the whispered bits, the shouty bits deafen you; if you turn it down so the loud bits are only minorly uncomfortable, you could miss huge swathes of the story.

I cam home earlier than expected, as posted check-out time for the cabin campers was 11:30.  I thought about getting everything together and then sort of hanging out until I was booted, but if I had done that, then of course the Park Ranger would have shown up (I didn't see him the whole weekend, nor any other park personnel, but Murphy's Law).  I thought to walk along the beach and listen to my audiobook, the weather being actually nice, but the only available beach was directly in front of the park; the rest was cut off by "private property" signs, which I'm not sure is legal.  (My great uncle owned beach-front property farther down the canal when I was younger, and I'm pretty sure the beach itself is public, but I'm the type to follow posted instructions.)  The benches were all wet from overnight rain.  I could have gotten out the camping chair and enjoyed the sunshine, but crowds of people were setting up for a wedding in the park, so it was noisy and there were bunches of unsupervised children and the adults were giving me funny looks since I wasn't with the party.  (Not like it's a public park or anything...)  Having not much else to do, I came home and took a shower and sat on the couch.  Am most of the way through...

A kiss at midnight by Eloisa James.  This is another one of those authors that, for some reason, I tell myself I like alot more than I actually do.  If I were going to truly enjoy a romance novel, it would probably be this author.  Her characters aren't silly-stupid, just willful or short-sighted.  This title, obviously, is a Cinderella retelling and not bad.  I like that from this author I can usually expect full sentences, not too many dropped plot elements, and a reasonable number of characters.

final time: 50 hours, 13 minutes.

Re(ad)treat: Hour 41

I read these yesterday afternoon, after the rain left off and I got the fire going.

R.I.P.D. by Peter M. Lenovo, Lucas Marangon, and Randy Emberlin.  The illustrations are too cartoony for me taste.  My guess is they are like that on purpose to lighten the dark, gory subject.  The balance is off.  Interesting but not great, the world building is a bit clunky.

Bayou, vol. 1, by Jeremy Love.  Much darker and creepier than I was expecting from whatever review I scanned.  The coloring in the illustrations is very beautiful and I like how many textless cells there are, letting the illustrations carry more of the story.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I had hoped to finish it last night but didn't quite make it.  This is an interesting utopia and social commentary.

While many people think there would be less of it, an all-female society would surely have some crime and infighting.  To paint women as naturally flawless does just as much disservice as do the "popular" views represented by one of the characters.

The book would be considered dry by many readers-- not much action, mostly social commentary-- but is an interesting thought experiment.  Highly recommended for fans of classical literature and early books that inspired science fiction.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Re(ad)treat: Hour 25

Lords of the middle dark by Jack L. Chalker.  This is the series I was thinking of when I read the Well World series last year.

Although still clunky in several ways, the writing in this book is smoother than the earlier series.  It can still be choppy-- dialogue is either curt and modern or overly romanticized.  There is an insane amount of information to set up the universe and it's often clumsily handled, one character lecturing another.  But for a series launch, there is quite a bit of action.

I'm pretty sure I discovered this author on the Friends book sale self at the Silverdale branch of the Kitsap Regional Library.  I tended to pick up romances and sci-fi/fantasy because mass-market paperback's were half the price of hard covers. Many of the things I brought home, certainly including the autjor, are not wonderful examples of literature. The author tends to include scenes or opinions of his female characters that are not at all flattering.  I'm never sure if they represent a personal fantasy, simply the thinking at the time, or evidence something a little broken about him.

In camping adventures, my planned morning walk was thwarted by rain, which has also made my afternoon fire done nothing but sputter.  Two books in 24 hours doesn't seem very impressive; in addition to sleeping longer than originally planned, this book had tiny print.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Re(ad)treat: Hour 6

St. Lucy's home for girls raised by wolves by Karen Russell.  First book down!  Hurrah!

I have enjoyed several of this author's works, but she also makes me wonder a bit.  Her stories are so hopefully dark.  It makes me worry a little about her mental health and her childhood.  I usually find myself wishing the stories were longer so we could better explore the world but the shortness of the stories is what makes them as creepy as they are.  The author gives just enough information to make the reader uncomfortable; more would be more satisfying in both a good way and a bad way.

Already had a few camping snafus: it was pretty breezy but I managed to get my campfire started.  But then it was too windy to stay out and enjoy it for as long as I'd like, or to roast marshmallows: the ash kept getting kicked up.  Then, I went to trade my quarters for shower tokens, and the machine only takes bills.  I'm pretty sure the machine at Dosewalips takes quarters.  So I had a bit of a wash out of a bucket.

On to book two.

Re(ad)treat start

The 48 hours start now.

(In retrospect, I was rather overambitious.)

Thursday, October 05, 2017

camping prep

The West Wing, season 4, with Martin Sheen.  I like watching these; I don't have new observations to add, except that Toby is maybe my favorite.

The secret river by Kate Grenville.  This book has been wandering on and off my TBR list for at least a few years.  I would think about how much I loved The Lieutenant and be excited to read something else by the same author; then I'd worry that nothing could quite match it.

This was so good.  I'd like to come back to this author in a few years and reread the books-- the language is super beautiful, but in an unobtrusive way; it would lull me and at points I'd recognize that I'd read a few paragraphs in almost a trance.  It's the closest I can get to meditating, and it take a special way with sentences to get me there.

The main characters are flawed but relatable (some secondary characters seem a bit thin) and seem historically accurate.  It's a long story-- many years in a character's life-- and some years are passed over in brief, a few years in just a paragraph or two, but it gives a good, full story.  Highly recommended to all historical fiction readers.

Good as Lily by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm.  This is a really sweet graphic novel for readers reflecting on life choices, not just for YAs.  After I started reading it, I read some reviews that panned it for the romance storyline, but that was a very small part of the story.  There is more to the story than "pick the friend-zoned guy early and you'll be happy later;" each of the character's separate selves is addressed by a different hurdle in the 18-year-old's life.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Q-3 recount, or,

A less productive quarter; time to up my game.

Boxes completed this quarter:

Religion: The lost book of the Grail [not a reread, just a move: I originally had this book as "Based on mythology," but I think it's a better fit for this category.  Plus then I can count another book under that heading.]
Based on mythology: The Sword of Summer
Recommended by an author you love: Farmer in they sky  [Andy Weir created a list for a Goodreads blog post and included this, along with other space colonization titles.  The fan-girl moment was glorious.]
From a nonhuman perspective: Flashmob [I was debating whether to include this, but one of the characters says "you've never felt like one of us because, deep down, where it counts, you're nothing close to human" (p.144).  So I'm counting it.]
Collection of comics: Love and capes, vol. 2  [I was troubled that I'd need to pick a compilation of comic strips a la Garfield or something, but if I rely on Wikipedia's definition that it's a sequence of panels and can be a comic book, comic strip, or graphic novel (among others), this fits.  If you prefer, I can call volumes 2-4 collectively a "collection of comics."]
Audiobook: Stiff upper lip, Jeeves [I had NPR laughter therapy in this spot, but that's not really an audiobook-- it's an audio file, but it's radio interviews, not an adaptation of a print publication, so I booted it.  This audio was listened to back in March.]
Science fiction book written by a man: Artemis
Auto/biography of a woman, written by a woman: Trials of the earth
Reread your favorite book from your childhood: The island stallion

The end of the world running club
Noble intentions
Noble destiny
Deja who
In Farleigh Field
Uncommon type
The hollow men
Rocket science for babies
General relativity for babies
Newtonian physics for babies
The hammer of Thor
The Paris spy
Bitchplanet, vol. 2
Turtle Island
Surviving the Angel of Death
Children of time
Love and capes, vol. 3
Love and capes, vol. 4
The library at the edge of the world
Sheet pan suppers
Promise not to tell
Caesar's last breath

Only 7 new boxes checked (and a few shuffled around): 47 complete, 23 to go, or 67% done.  I only progressed 10% during the third quarter!  I need some motivation, stat!

Still to read:
Non-Western history
An Indigenous culture
Japenese philosophy
Current events
Your favorite hobby
Before you see the movie
That's mentioned in another book
From a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
Memoir by someone who identifies as LGBTQIA
Book by a modernist woman writer
Classic you have always wanted to read
Woman under 25
Author born in Australia/Oceania
Author born in South America
Author born in the Caribbean
Classic literature written by a woman
Classic literature written by a man
Book written over a century ago, then read a retelling of the book
Graphic novel that's a retelling of a classic book
Book that was adapted to film.  Watch the film, then compare and contrast it with the book
Auto/biography of a man
Bestseller from 2016.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton.  I read one really great review of this title.  I read a few chapters and I could sort of see where the story was going, although there wasn't enough information early enough.  It seems many authors have a difficult time striking the right balance between hinting that there's more to the world but not flooding the reader with backstory.  I would have given the author a few more chapters to sort it out, but there were serious problems with the prepub file that made it impossible to read.   The punctuation was sprinkled sparingly around, mostly missing, and nearly all the quotation marks were MIA.  I spent far more time trying to parse sentences than trying to figure out the world.

The West Wing, season 3, with Martin Sheen.  A couple annoying things at the end of two and into three:  1) I'm beginning to notice a number of side characters have just disappeared.  No explanation in the story; they just got dropped.  I like reasons.  2) Someone became infatuated with telling a dual-timeline story.  The first one was interesting and unique, but they're kind of beating it to death.  Fortunately, use of this tapers off again during season three.  And 3) they are constanty changing the hairstyle of the first lady, none of which have flattered her at all.  She has so little screen time that half the time I don't recognize her with her latest 'do.

Caesar's last breath: Decoding the secrets of the air around us by Sam Kean.  I personally enjoy how this author uses little stories to call out a particular point in the history of a topic.  Air molecules are so small and there are so many of them that, at the beginning of each chapter when he gives a diagram of a gas and says how many septillion of them we inhale with each breath, these figures don't mean anything to me.  I can't really conceive of the scale of that.  But scientists experimenting on themselves and getting high and things exploding; these are things I can understand.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

hello, fall

still mostly off the foot; watching more TV.

The cobbler with Adam Sandler.  Netflix suggested this to me.  This was not what I anticipated from the description, and I wish I had taken the rating seriously.  It was ok, although I can't think of anyone I would suggest it for.  My family enjoyed it more than me.

Innerspace with Martin Short.  Another family movie.  It was funny to see the ancient technology that was a Big Deal.

Sheet pan suppers: 120 Recipes for simple, surprising, hands-off meals straight from the oven by Molly Gilbert.  True to the subtitle, these seem very easy to make.  I didn't write down any of the recipes, though: most recipes feature an ingredient combination that's outside my family's normal repertoire.  We can each be a little adventurous; unfortunately, we're each adventurous in our own way.  Other recipes seemed like real possibilities, but the oven time was too long for a regular weeknight meal.

The book is well-organized, the photos are lovely, and the instructions seem clear.

Promise not to tell by Jayne Anne Krentz.  I very nearly put this down within the first few chapters: the writing was super monotonous. The author was trying to create suspense by writing short, punchy sentences, but she did so with no variation.  Once she got into less fight-or-flight scenes and was able to include more dialogue, it wasn't as much of a problem.  The whodunit kind of got out of hand-- the more people who know about a plan, the more someone's likely to talk.  The number of people who ended up being involved made it seem less plausible.

I always assume a prolific writer will also be a good writer-- they've have plenty of practice.  But at the rate these types churn titles out, they don't have time to be super careful.  Primarily good for readers of suspense who don't care much about character development.

City of lies by Victoria Thompson.  I think I read some good reviews so I was excited to see this on NetGalley.  I didn't finish this, though: half-way through, there's still no clear indication of where this is going.  A character was portrayed one way, then was reintroduced in a different light.  Supporting characters are not unique from each other.  The main character hasn't been given enough background to be sympathetic.

West wing, seasons 1 and 2, with a whole bunch of people, including Rob Lowe, who I always think is the same person as Eric McCormack, but it turns out they are different people.  This was suggested by a few friends when I was soliciting suggestions for what to watch.  The first episode wasn't handled very well; I couldn't track the ridiculous number of people and I wasn't particularly interested in continuing, but I figured I should give it at least a few episodes.  I am surprised by how much I'm enjoying it.

It wasn't really on my radar at the time, but I keep thinking that it was probably pretty edgy for the time.  But I notice the ancient, gigantic computers and baggy power clothes an equal number of times.

Night at the museum: Battle of the Smithsonian with Ben Stiller.  Ugh, my kid likes the monkey.  This didn't seem as focused as the first movie.

The island stallion by Walter Farley.  I didn't have access to very many books when I was younger, so checking off the to-do to "Reread your favorite book from your childhood" was a bit of a stumper.  I don't know how old I was when I first read this, but I clearly recalled some parts.  It turns out, I recalled them wrong.  I found bits in this book that fascinated me and I retold them through imagination until I didn't remember the original anymore.  Coincidentally, I was reading about Readers' Advisory and the article spoke to me: in describing the "reader as poacher," readers "seize upon whatever speaks directly to their immediate lives, they forget or simply skip over the parts they don't find meaningful, and they sometimes rewrite unsatisfying endings."*  That's pretty much me.

I can see why I liked this; the writing, particularly the dialogue, is clunky, but the emotion comes through strongly.

*Ross, C. S. (2009). Reader on top: Public libraries, pleasure reading, and models of reading. Library Trends, 57(4), 632-656. Retrieved from

Friday, September 08, 2017

autumn has arrived.

Rain two days in a row: fall comes once again to the North Olympic Peninsula.  Dust off your wellies.

Love and capes: Wake up where you are and Love and capes: What to expect by Thomas Zahler.  I'd like more like these, please.

The library at the edge of the world by Felicity Hayes-McCoy.  I nearly put this down multiple times.  I cannot say it is a good book.  The main character is not exactly likable for the majority of the book, nor is she particularly sympathetic.  Several of the other important characters are difficult to like; the author may have been going for "realistically flawed" but missed the mark-- we get all their snark and sass and not enough of their vulnerability, which makes the difficult bits understandable and relatable.  There were far more errors than I expect in an ARC, which makes me dubious about the final product.

Victoria and Abdul by Shrabani Basu.  This is more interesting than I anticipated, but I have a lot on my plate right now and this is the least compelling.

The author does a good job of making all the detail understandable, but I did do a bit of skimming, especially in sections listing all the Indian provinces or government ministers-- names tend to be included with little to no introductory information.  Terms are dropped in with no explanations.  Best for readers already somewhat familiar with both English government history and Indian geography.

Monday, September 04, 2017

sci-fi and TV

The Martian with Matt Damon.  I've read this book before (once for myself, and once to refresh before leading a book club discussion) any my husband finally read it this summer.  We really enjoyed the experience of watching the movie and comparing it to the book's story.  I'm glad we watched it at home instead of in the theater; we paused it constantly to discuss.  With that said, however,  I'm not sure why anyone would think this is a good movie.

What was really lacking were all the disasters that show who Watney is.  There's only so much disaster you can cram into a movie, but all those times when Mark found something new to kill him, that's when we learned about his personality, through his reactions and planning, and his abilities and fortitude, as he figured each thing out.  Without having to face all those problems, the viewer didn't get to really know Watney.  And if you don't know the character, you can't care about him.  Also without all those disasters everywhere, it made it seem like he wasn't really in that much danger.  Yeah, a couple bad things happened, but he remained in contact with NASA-- who seem a lot better able to effect change on his behalf-- and he didn't seem as likely to die.  Yeah, he got hungry, but his main enemy was loneliness.  The audience completely missed seeing him as a death-defying, intrepid problem solver.

Other complaints: (1)  Although they mention it a few times, the delay in radio contact seemed like nothing.  Being in constant contact completely changes the story.  (2)  In the book, it's very clear how Watney deals with the lesser gravity on Mars.  The movie completely ignored this.  (3)  I'm so angry about how Lewis was written.  I don't think the actress could have done anything better with what she was given.  Here's a space movie, set in the near future, with a culture we recognize, and we have a female captain.  And she turns out to be a whining, emotional disaster, constantly second-guessing and blaming herself.  We need new Janeway and we were given someone with the self-confidence of a depressed high-schooler.

I did really like the ending-- it fixed one of the main problems with the book.  All the visuals were also really great-- the detail in the space suits, the Martian landscapes.  It was very pretty.

2/5, would not recommend.

Children of time by Adrian Tchaikovsky.  I'm not sure what review I read to make me put a hold on this, as it turned out to be pretty different from my usual science-fiction fare.  I'm guessing the review leaned more heavily on the humanity's-survival part of the story, and less on the non-human, space-opera stuff.

The writing's a little space-opera genre-y but not over the top.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of, so many of them are a bit thin.  What the author did with the characters on the terraformed world, using the same names for characters down through time, following their maternal lines, was a good idea and really helped.  Not a book for every reader, or even for every sci-fi reader, but a pretty good example of a big space story-- generational ship transport, thousands of years of cryo-sleep, required questions about the status of humanity and "human" beings.

Shetland, seasons 1 and 2, with Douglas Henshall.  A friend recommended this for me to watch during my recovery (update: foot still broken).  I can see why some viewers may enjoy it, but it's not for me.  It's kind of dark and really slow.  If you like shows where each interpersonal scene is bookended by sweeping shots of forsaken coastline, this is the show for you; if you prefer shows where, ya know, stuff happens a bit more speedily, move along.  Another difficulty I had is that all the accents are so thick, I had to not only watch with subtitles on, but usually read them word for word.  I was therefore unable to knit while watching, which probably contributed to my feeling of how slow and boring the show is.  Also, all the story lines are two-parters-- two episodes per mystery.  If the format doesn't fit the content, why not do a miniseries or something? 

The islands are really beautiful; it was funny to watch my friend's face, though, as she reconsidered it as a travel destination when I pointed out that, in the middle of the afternoon in the episode set in late June, everyone was wandering around with double-layered jackets.  No wonder everyone is shown constantly drinking whiskey.

Farmer in the sky by Robert Heinlein.  When I first started stumbling around the public library, checking out random books with the sci-fi/fantasy genre stickers on their spines, there's a lot that I missed.  Although I've always been a fan, I never had anyone to introduce me to the genre in a formulaic way.  As I've come across authors who, I later learn, are founders in the genre, it's really interesting to look at what they wrote and when and see how they fit together.

The first half/two-thirds of this book is really great.  The writing's a little funny, both the not-quite-genuine-sounding speech and narration and also the physics lectures shoe-horned in, but not weird enough to stop anyone.  The main character waffles a lot on what he wants to do, which is a bit annoying but does make sense.  The situation on earth is not described hardly at all, but the trip, the colony, and the homestead are all very clear.

But then the book starts to get weird, really for no reason.  (Some spoilers, but the book's from 1950, so it's not like you haven't had time to read it.) The main character's step-sister dies, for no real reason except to move the plot along.  It's pretty out of the blue because, although she had been sick, it was downplayed and she was even getting better... until one day she died.  Then, on a survey mission, two teenager stumble across the *remains of an alien culture* which is cool, but completely out of the blue (oh, the author forgot to mention before, but shoves in here that there are also aliens who live near the human colonies on Mars AND Venus) and also, this discovery has no bearing on the remainder of the story.  It's weird, it doesn't fit, and it has no impact-- it should have been left out, or made into its own book.

Love and capes: Going to the chapel by Thomas F. Zahler.  This is volume 2 in the GN series.  I (still) like how this series is about Abby and Mark, and Mark just happens to have a secret identity as a super hero.  There are some super escapades involved in this volume's story line, but it's because that is part of Mark and Abby wants to understand it, not because it necessarily gets in the way of their relationship.  More "sci-fi" that's not really sci-fi at all.