Wednesday, February 22, 2017

More pre-pubs

I'm getting a little crazy with my NetGalley downloads.  Every time I go to leave a review, I find three or four new things to read.  And even though they clearly have their self-archiving dates, all really well in the future, I feel like I must get them read now-ish.  Although that probably has more to do with the fact that if I don't read them now, I never will, and that's why my completion rate is currently 48%.  I'm really trying to clean it up now.

The space between the stars by Anne Corlett.  This turned out to be a middling after-the-end-of-the-world story.  The main character is much older than she seems; the reader is reminded several times of her advancing age and her ticking biological clock, but she acts like a teenager.  It was hard to like her very much.  The disease that starts the story is rather contrived: it seems outside of scientific possibility for a human body to turn instantly to dust, no matter the virus.  It is a sad and convenient way for the character to not have to deal with decomposing bodies; dust is so much easier.
3 stars, would neither recommend nor purchase.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman.  Despite his incredible popularity, I haven't read any of this author's work, although I certainly ordered plenty of it.  I did read bits and snippets of A man called Ove before using it in a program, and I've also recommended it to some people.  So I was excited to get this galley.

This book is two parts; the first is a happy but honest discussion of people who don't always have it easy.  The second is an honest and less happy examination of real-world feminist topics.  Although the story flowed fairly smoothly, I would have slightly preferred a more integrated structure, but I can imagine why it's organized the way it is-- it allows the reader to get to know the town and most of the characters pretty well before bigger issues come up.

There were way more characters than I can usually manage, but they are all distinct personalities.  I have no idea how the author managed it.  There were only a couple I tended to trip over: two adults who were involved with the local sports team and had been coached by the same mentor, and two current players who both were the muscle and their names started with the same letter.

I was upselling this to all my coworkers today.  It is probably my favorite book of the year so far.  There are so many amazing things, sentences that can be interpreted so many different ways, writing that carries the reader along.  I alternated between reading as fast as I could, to eat it all up, and reading as slowly as possible, to savor it.
Highly recommended, maybe even 5 stars.

Monday, February 20, 2017

GNs and media

The night bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger.  Of course I have seen this title and cover before, but something about the description always put me off.  I picked it up because it is my turn to do the in-library display and I did graphic novels and something finally fell into place.

I read this, and when I got to the end, I went back to the front page and read it again.  The book goes in one direction, until a very abrupt turn towards the end.  Re-reading it, knowing what's coming, is a bit different from the first time around.

I wish the graphics were a little less cartoony, that the turn was less abrupt.  4 stars.

Age of reptiles: Ancient Egyptians by Ricardo Delgado.  I guess this won awards?  It was super-highly reviewed?  I don't see the appeal; like 1 and 1/2 stars.

This is a wordless graphic novel; it's very hard to follow the action because of the  very small pictures of various similar-looking dinosaurs.  In one of the introductions-- there are 2 by 2 different people-- the writer talks about anthropormophizing the animals and seeing emotion on their faces, making it such a deep story.  I looked really hard for that and couldn't find it.  I don't know if this isn't the book for me, or if I'm not right for this book.

Embrace with Taryn Brumfitt.  Our local movie theater never got this in-- and they never even replied to all the people who contacted them asking for it.  Poor form.  But this documentary is now on iTunes, so some friends had a little get-together for Girls' Night In.

Not very many of these ideas were really new to me; poking around online, having friends and family who are rockin' women, trying (and failing) to buy clothes in stores or online... no one should be surprised that our consumer culture, the fashion industry, and we ourselves have a very narrow definition of the ideal or even acceptable female body type, and that we should be consciously working to expand those definitions.  This film struck a really nice balance-- no, you don't need to meet these unrealistic measurements to be healthy and lovely, and no, you don't need to tell severely overweight people that they are healthy just how they are.  But however you are, why waste energy wishing you had other features?  Be heart-healthy and eat well, and ignore what the label in your jeans says.

(Don't ignore the washing instructions, though.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

spoiler: mosly not super impressed.

Y negative by Kelly Haworth.  The main problem with this title is that there isn't enough information.  The book's social structure is fairly well-explained and incorporated, but it doesn't make any sense; it isn't necessarily a logical extrapolation from our current society.  Although certainly possible, the deciding factor, the cataclysmic event, whatever happened between now and the book's now isn't shared, so the underlying reason for why the world is the way it is is missing.  That's a pretty major part of world-building.

Quite a few parts where the characters discussed or reacted to social issues were not quite preachy but certainly heavy-handed-- the literary equivalent of being slapped across the face instead of tapped on the shoulder.  Give your readers some credit.

The existing social structure as described reminded me of an old sci-fi series, but I needed help to figure out the series title.  Fortunately, a coworker took my ramblng rememberings and turned up the Suzy McKee Charnas series, The Holdfast Chronicles.  Two of the reviews previously appeared in transcribed-from-the-print posts, but I'll include them here for convenience.

The Holdfast Chronicles by Suzy McKee Charnas:
Walk to the end of the world:  Although this book is good in that it makes the reader think, many of the images it presents are fairly disturbing.  It presents a post-apocolyptic dystopia in which socity has gone beyond mere regression.  Rather [militantly] feminist in both its view of man and possibly in its representation of women.  Even so, it is not all that well-written: the sentences are of a uniform length and fail to add flavor to the reading.
Motherlines: A sequel, bleh.  Includes none of the thought-provoking scenes of the first book, but conitnues the simple sentences.  Primarily plot-driven.
The furies:  Similar to the fourth book, this one picks up with a character it abandoned in the first book, 15 years ago.  I didn't like how that was handled wither.
The story is rather gory in places, and rather graphic a good deal as well.  For those reasons, partially, I didn't enjoy it, and partly because it was entirely plot driven.  The first and maybe the second books made statements.  This was more a reiteration.  I only read it because it's a compulsion.  I won't be reading it again.
(I've forgotten not only this book, but this entire series.)
The conqueror's child:  Plot driven and graphic like the others [in the series], it has the potential to raise social questions, but, due to its quick-read-ableness, those questions don't have a real chance to be grasped by the reader, and they certainly aren't dwelt on by the author.  It's not worth the time.

Sorcery and Cecelia: Or, the enchanted chocolate pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer.  This has been on my list for so very, very long.  I think I've seen it on various lists through the years, as I had this nearly guilty feeling that I'd never gotten around to it plus extremely high expectations.  A la this post's title, those expectations were not met.

Again, the lack of focus in this book comes down largely to world-building.  The notes at the back that explain how the book was initailly structured to much to explain why the book is the way it is, but that doesn't really excuse it.  The main characters jumpto conclusions or discuss matters in a way that would only make sense if they were hving outside discussions not shared with the reader-- which is not at all the structure of the book.  The book may have started as a writiing exercise, but the authors certainly had time to go back and add the relevant details in places that made sense.

I decided slightly over half-way through that I wanted to put it down and not finish, but then decided I would, because it was a YA book and easy read, even if not particularly brilliant, and it would allow me to check off one of my 2017 to-do boxes, and one I had thought I would have difficulty with.  So I finished, but I can't recommend it.

The book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor.  This is pretty all over the place.  Many sections are very clear and well-written and logically follow each other, but smaller parts or concepts sprinkled throughout aren't as great.  But the whole book is so big and almost overwhelmingly different than most post-apocalyptic fiction that an editor would be hard-pressed to help clean sections up without them becoming pale.

Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina.  Did not finish, despite my Kinde informing me that I'm 54% complete.

I downloaded this ages ago from NetGalley but didn't remember enough of the desciption so was lost.  The spiritualism is portrayed iin such detail that I thought this was a historical-fantasy, sort of alternate history, a la Naomi Novik or steampunk.  But nearly half-way through, I couldn't figure out where we were going-- there had to be more to the alternate history story, and there's no way it would be buried in the last quarter of the book-- what sense does that make?  So then I reread the description and got the straight historical fiction scoop.  But I couldn't wrap what I had already read into the new story structure.  Would not purchase for my library.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

hot stuff

Someone to hold by Mary Balough.  I must have been mightily impressed by the first book I read by this author, because I persist in reading new books year after year, despit the fact that the majority of the books leave me extremely underwhelmed.  Although, looking at that first review, I didn't think it superb even then.  The second and third books I read I seem to have enjoyed, but every book since then has been a let down and no mistake, and this title is no different.

There is nothing unique about this book.  There is no reason to purchase or read this and it contributes nothing to the genre.  The characters are slightly more likeable than the first book in this series, and are a bit more in focus, as the series has already been set up.  Events central to the plot strain credulity-- and manage to be repetitive simultaneously.  The erotic content is poorly balanced: too blatant to offer people who prefer such events to take place off-screen, and too vague and bland for readers who do want it.  You can't please everyone, and with romance novels, you really shouldn't try.

Note to self: no more Mary Balogh.

Jeeves: Joy in the morning by P.G. Wodehouse; a BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation, with Michael Hordern and Richard Briers.  Our tiny, most-rural branches finally got hit with the flu that's been going around.  Whereas we have enough staff that, even with two or three people out, we can keep the doors open, the West End only has two or three people scheduled for the day, so it's a little bit different.  So I went out on day last week and comprised 50% of the branch's staff for the day.  It was super fun, I caught up on my ordering, and the drive was beautiful if longer than I'd want to make every day.

I hadn't heard these stories before, so it was enjoyable.  There were several aspects of the recording, however, that made it less enjoyable.  Primarily, there was way too much variation in volume.  Characters spoke quietly or shouted, and everywhere in between.  It was very difficult to hear in the car; I can't imagine it would be any easier to hear in other audiobook-convenient situations (walking, housework, gym, etc.); in fact, other than sitting perfectly still in a room with no machines, people, or other sources of noise, I'm not sure how one could expect to actually hear everything.

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon.  This seems so thrown-together.  There was so much in here that could have been explored-- loyalty, empathy, family structure, cultural topics... and they were all just glossed over.  The story was rushed when it needed twice as much space to be told properly.  And leave it to Vaughan to inject as much gore as possible into a story despite-- or perhaps because of-- the fact that it does not add to or help tell the story.

Note to self: lay off Brian K. Vaughan for a while.

Nation by Terry Pratchett; read by Stephen Briggs.  Here is something I liked.  This was a repeat for me, obviously (1, 2), but I thought the family would like it.  We've been doing a very good job of not watching TV (DVDs, Netflex, whatever) in the evenings when we're stuck inside, so once we finished Woods runner, we needed something new.  The boy didn't get into this, but my husband really liked it, so we frequently stayed up later than we meant to, to listen after the boy had gone to bed.

I had always thought of this as very different from Pratchett's other work, particularly all the Discworld novels, because it isn't funny, it isn't satirical, and it isn't happy.  But, perhaps now that I have a little more distance since it's been a while since the last time I read a Discworld novel, I heard more of the little turns of phrase, the off-hand observations and comments that make his work funny, even when it's also sad.

The spouse said that Stephen Briggs' voice for Daphne sounds like C3PO.
"I enjoyed the structe and the writing style.  The story was great... right up until the point where Mao killed Cox, at which point the book should have come to a very, very quick end.  But I really like the idea of the two cultures merging and the way he wrote about the language barrier, some of the things Daphne gave up of her own culture so she could fit in with the Island, some of the things the Islanders took on from the European culture.  "Nation" is a great title becasue they had a nation, they created a new nation by merging nations, but each of them more or less retained their own identity.  I really like Mao's comment at the end about would he have rather have preferred it this way or that way.  He said it just is, there is no matter of making a choice.  That seemed to fit with the title and the concept of the story being what it is."


Wednesday, February 01, 2017

audios and sadness

Woods runner by Gary Paulsen; read by Danny Campbell.  I checked out this audiobook so we would have something to listen to on the drive to and from the airport earlier this month.  The boy ended up sleeping in the car more than anticipated, and my husband and I were equally interested in the story, so it took us a while to find enough family time with all three of us present to finish the book.

Opinion from the boy:  "Great, really great.  I liked the amount of detail.  I liked the adventure.  That's about it."

Opinion from the spouse: "I enjoyed the historical snippets that got put in there.  They're at [reading] level and a lot of times the content does prepare you for what's coming next in the actual story."

My opinion: The reader was pretty good, until later in the book when there got to be more characters and he trotted out a variety of poorly-done accents, a different one for each character.  That was annoying.

The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons: The history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery by Sam Kean; read by Henry Leyva.  New San Kean?  Yes, please.  This was a fun, informative book.  The only problem is with the audio download: the narration directs the reader, repeatedly, to "the PDF" for puzzles, charts, diagrams, etc.  It is my working assumption that the Book on CD version has a disc with this treasure trove.  The downloadable audiobook, courtesy of OverDrive, does not appear to have any such thing.  It isn't listed in the file's table of contents and I can't find it anywhere else.  I heard a rumor about "enhanced content" recently made availale through OverDrive-- audiobooks with accompanying eBook-formatted content-- but I've yet to actually come across one, and it isn't the case with this title.

The lost book of the grail by Charlie Lovett.  I could have enjoyed this more than I did.  There were a few parts in particular where I felt the story sweeping me along, but I resisted, so I could stay outside the story and observe critically.  The hang-ups I found, which are minor, would have been less apparent had I immersed myself completely.

I found the underlying plot difficult to believe.  The main character isn't religious but he has invested his life in searching for the Holy Grail.  Without the one, you really can't have the other.  This made the whole story less plausible.

While the main character was likeable, he's kind of shallowly-drawn.  I mean, the crochety small-town university lecturer who prefers silent archives and enjoys his bachelorhood is... almost too easy.  I feel like the author relied on tropes and stereotypes a bit too much, didn't challenge himself to create a unique, vibrant character.  It is incredible, unbelievable, that a not-too-old man in a story set in 2016 doesn't have an email account or know how to send an attachment.  I think the character is probably drawn this way *in order to* appeal to likely interested readers-- people who bemoan the very exisence of eBooks and accuse the library of throwing away hardcovers so that we can buy DVDs.

Finally, the story set-up matches almost exactly The bookman's tale: a long-time-ago story which jumps forward in time, giving snippets but not the whole story; a modern-day story about a guy who is a little lost but finds love; the two stories told in alternating chapters.  My objection is that the story structure matched his work too closely.  It felt so exact, it's like the author used book one as a tempalte and just substituted the new story's details.

I really enjoyed it; it's definitely a 4-star book at least.  I just expected so much more from the author.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

filler: h

These entries are from ye olde days, when I kept records by hand.  I typed them up last year, when I was trying to reach a minimum number of blog posts every month.  It seems a shame to waste them, and this makes them more searchable for me.  These were read between 2001 and 2006.

The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket.  The children start to go off on their own in this one-- it reminds me of the later Harry Potter books and makes me worry a little bit.

The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea.  One thing that confused me about this book was that it was written with a 10-year-old and a 5-year-old as the main characters, but no child of or between those ages would be able to read it.  Possibly if it was read to them, that would do, or if the characters were made 14 or there abouts, it would work.

Other than that bit of confusion, I have only positive comments about the book.  It was well-written, with great descriptions and an interesting plot as well as characters easy to love.  Way to go, book.

The House of Sight and Shadow by Nicholas Griffin.  This book brings up wonderful thoughts about the power of the mind, "evil," and the immoral use of another.  Also, it has an interesting, though not quite gripping, plot.

Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones.  I very much enjoyed this author's imagination, as well as her writing.  What a refreshing relief not to have to battle through fragments and misplaced commas.

I will say that she could use a little help on content [I can't read my own handwriting here] and plot development.  It wasn't too bad in the book, just a few instances when I felt a little lost, but the final resolution and the happily-ever-after bit at the end were totally unexpected, or unwarranted, based on everything previous.  The last few pages felt like a thrown-together, tacked-on ending just to be done with it.  Of that, I heartily disapprove.

Humans by Robert J. Sawyer.  The plot of this book was not appreciably different from the first but added little flashbacks/retellings from the main male character's point of view were interspersed; I didn't like it-- it didn't allow the reader to focus on other aspects of the story continuously but pointed them to try to figure out the plot before it happened.  This is not a figure-it-out-first book.

Hybrids by Robert J. Sawyer.  This book was like a compromise of the first two: at the beginning of each chapter, there were a few lines from a (fictional) speech.  There weren't any more experts anywhere else in the chapters, so the reader is able to focus more, with fewer interruptions.  The speech bits did make me inclined to be suspicious when the plot had not yet indicated a need to be.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Seven boxes checked off the list.

Skinnytaste: Fast and slow by Gina Homolka.  This cookbook is not useful for my family.  Despite the author's attestations in the introduction, too many of the recipes rely on canned ingredients or are slow-cooker recipes with too many steps.  Every slow-cooker recipe I read included pre-cooking some ingredients on the stove, or   stirring or otherwise fiddling with the food half-way through cooking... you know, right in the middle of the workday.  Several recipes-- more than just a handful-- also rely on specialized equipment I certainly don't have, including spiralizers, pressure cookers, and more.  In general, not realistic.

South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby.  Every time I thought of putting this down, the author wiggled out just enough bait to draw me back in.  

The first section, focusing on the main-main character, felt inexpertly done-- it didn't have the right balance of what to share and what to keep secret.  But the info dole evened out, and I was surprised at how much I liked the secondary characters who got to speak in first person for a bit.  Their voices were surprisingly unique and had enough depth to not be charicatures.  

There are a few characters who are called only by their descriptors throughout the book.  They have the same or more on-page time, and the same or more lines than other characters who got names.  I don't know if this is supposed to be some kind of subtle message-- the two are artists while everyone else is a scientist or a technician or a blue-collar staffer-- or if this is some weird oversight, or something else.  Although they have plenty of lines, the two are probably the thinnest, most-charicature-like characters.

Beyond the wild river by Sarah Maine.  I can't slog any farther into this-- and I admit I'm not terribly far in anyway.  The writing tortures me; each sentence has been organized, every word chosen to wring the most possible melodrama out of each syllable.  *hand to forehead* I simply can't go on.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

home again (x2)

Travelers with Eric McCormack, season one.  A Netflix original series.  Another series Netflix spent a while suggesting to me, which made it a real toss-up-- Netflix's track record on suggestions is pretty spotty.  But I needed something else that could be downloaded for the return flight, so I grabbed episodes one and two.  If Netflix doesn't immediately announce a second season, I will be irate.

There are a few whole-season over-arching plot similarities between this and Jodi Taylor's series (or, at least, the portion I've read), but the storyline is interesting and imaginative.  After watching episodes one and two late Saturday on the airplane, I binged the rest of the season Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.  Several coworkers have also finished it and the consensus is a five-star viewing experience.

Right behind you by Lisa Gardner.  I grabbed this eARC from NetGalley-- I have so much great stuff I want to read from my regular orders that I tend to forget about NetGalley and it only comes to mind when I've maxed out my OverDrive checkouts.

This is an author name I recognized immediately and I frequently order her titles.  Based on the sheer number of titles she has published, I was expecting so much more.  The characters were so thin that it telegraphed what was really going on.  The "bad guy" was so one-dimensional that the reader can tell, way in advance, that something else, something more, has to be going on.  Even in recovering-from-vacation mode I ran through all the possible scenarios and figured out the real bad guy pages before the law enforcement characters did.  It wasn't hard, it didn't keep me on my toes.  Not impressed with the mystery-writing-element at all.

Additionally, the only two characters who spoke from first person were both teens of different ages, and that writing also fell completely flat.  No teen is that self-aware.  They both came off as canned, unrealistic.

Apparently, this is actually the most recent of a series, but it felt like a stand-alone.  It certainly doesn't inspire me to follow-up with the series characters.

note to self: when submitting review to NetGalley, include file text problems.

Heat: Adventures in the world's fiery places by Bill Streever.  I have no idea where I got this print ARC, but it's old.  I mostly read this on the island, and several people commented on the appropriateness of the title as I read and basked in the 80-degree sunshine.  I'm always cold.

This is not a must-read, but it is fairly interesting, combining a fair amount of well-explained, well-incorporated science along with history and travel information.  

Apollo's angels: A history of ballet by Jennifer Homans.  This is not a book I can read and retain much from.  It is not for introductory-level ballet historians: readers are required to already know a fair amount about the subject.  In the introduction, the author mentions ballets, music, composers, and the like, in an off-handed manner without describing or explaining them.  If the reader is unfamiliar with the listed item, it means nothing.  White noise.  In the beginning paragraphs, she does the same with historical people.  There is a little more information given, but not enough to make the details memorable.  I must conclude that there is a very specific, very narrow audience for this book.

Touched by an alien by Gini Koch.  Every time this book series comes up on a list-- patron request, damage to replace, other-- I'm kind of morbidly fascinated.  It sounds so crazy, so out-there.

It is.

It's actually a pretty fun read, along the lines of Katie MacAlister's dragon series, just on the sci-fi side.  The prose style is nothing fancy, your typical mass-market romance genre writing.  There is a ton of informtion to convey, since the author was obviously setting up a series, and most of that is given in "bring the new girl up to speed" dialogue; not great but it gets it all out there.  There are several aspects to the aliens that don't really make sense and seem mostly like lazy writing-- there's no real reason for the universe to be that way, but it makes it easier to write the story, and they're aliens so why not?

The only one of these books I mostly read while on vacation was Heat, bringing my week of vacation reading total to about two.  We must have been busier this year; I feel like I got through more last time.  The rest of these I can attribute to my quasi-resolution.  I don't make non-reading-related New Year's Resolutions, but coincidentally around the end of December two things happened:
1.  I accidnetally saw how many hours I had spent on the games on my phone.  I purposefully never look at that number, because it's out of context and seems really big.  (It was really big.)  Fifteen minutes on a work break, half an hour in the car and such really add up.  So I deleted all the games off my phone and have been better about bringing a book or my knitting with me all the time.
2.  I read something online that directed, don't say "I don't have time."  We have time.  We can make time.  Say, "it's not a priority."  I haven't graduated to doing this out loud, but I'm doing it in my head.  It makes a big difference.
I guess only my end-of-the-year count will determine if either of these things has an actual impact on the number of books I read this year, but I sure feel like I'm on a roll.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

By the sea shore

The corpse with the diamond hand by Cathy Ace.  Murder mystery by a British-born Canadian author, good for a box on the list.  One down, 69 to go.

This is an ARC I picked up last time I was at PNBA.  Looking for things I could take on vacation and ditch when I was done (obviating the need to pack it home), I rediscovered this on my shelf.  The setting is an inter-island Hawaiian cruise, so appropriate for Maui beach-side reading.

This story was too incredible, as in "impossible to believe."  The main character is a criminal psychologist with a photographic memory who is married to a retired police detective.  Among the possible suspects, every single one had both motive and opportunity.  In order to finally ferret out the guilty party, the main character gathers everyone together to explain all the known facts and watch the bad guy overreact.  This is a series installment, but easy to jump in to: it's obvious that the other books all follow a similar story arch, so if this is your preferred type of book candy, good news.

I met the author at PNBA and she was lovely and personable.  She was keen to talk with book groups, if yours likes this kind of novel.

Bonus review: we are currently waiting to fly out of Kahului on Hawiian Airlines.  Today's check-in and airline service experience has been truly abysmal.  We had to walk back and forth across the airport twice because of inadequate signage.  The self-check-in machine would not let us pay for our checked bag.  A staff member eventually deigned to help us check out bag, but would not help us with our seat selection.  Skipping over the difficulty and unpleasantness of TSA in OGG (no space, poor signage, etc.), we walked directly to our gate.  I went to ask a question about our seating assignment.  After waiting in line for 10 minutes, I was informed there had been a(n unannounced) gate change.  The staff at the first gate could not help me.  After finding our new gate and again waiting an excessive amount of time considering the number of staff standing around, I was tersely informed that the airline has no guarantee to actually reserve the seats I booked online.  Hawaiian Airlines: not recommended under any circumstances.  The next 5 and a half hours should be fun.

in transit

Black mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, 2/3rds of season 1.  Netflix has suggested this to me before.  I looked at it and thought it was too weird. More recently, a coworker suggested it to me, so I looked again. Parts where available for Netflix's new (?) download-to-device feature, so I saved them to my device for the airplane ride.

This is too weird for me.  It's pretty out there. There are some interesting ideas; it might be more enjoyable when watched with someone else, for purposes of discussion, but alone I found them... haunting.  Not recommended. 

Law and disorder by Heather Graham.  There are some serious flaws here.  Within the first few dozen pages, the author can't decide what to focus on: the main character's history, the location's history, the location's description, and, oh yeah, the plot all get fairly equal page time. The dialogue is clunky and wooden, a better example of how not to write engaging prose.

The pre-pub ebook's formatting isn't doing any favors.  The text is in several different sizes within each page, which is difficult on the reader. The lines are in no paragraph form-- they run a full line across the page, a half line across, a full line across and so on. It makes it hard to sort out the dialogue.  There isn't anything in the story that makes it worth it to fight through the formatting.

Bound with love by Megan Mulry.  I saw this title mentioned quite a few times, in different places; it was positively commented on.

As a work of fiction, it wasn't great.  There were some jarring, out-of-place (more modern) phrases that clashed with the time period.  The main characters were supposed to be older women, but they acted like teenagers.  The story felt truncated, more like a novella in length-- we finished up with a minor problem and I thought we were ready to get into the meaty part of the novel, but, oh, it's the also-by-the-author page.  

The last chapter set up the next book, so readers who enjoyed the fluffy nature can look forward to more. 

As a work of not-mainstream romance, it was tasteful.  The romantic pair were portrayed without stereotypes--just the lack of dimension necessitated by a book of this length.  There were few specific, detailed scenes, none lurid.  The second book promises to take on a different type of relationship.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Unmentionable not mentioned

How could I have forgotten Unmentionable!  I added it to a post a few weeks ago, but it failed to save, and I said to myself, "that's ok, I'll remember to add it on the next post."  But I forgot!  I have updated the table to reflect one additional nonfiction-print-by-female-author.

Unmentionable: The Victorian lady's guide to sex, marriage, and manners by Therese Oneill.  I was going to link to the original review I read, which I cannot now seem to locate.  The reviewer referred to the narrator as something like a barmaid-type personage familiar with all levels of Victoria society.  The narrator character's omniscience was actually a down point for me: she knew everything about both this historical and present day periods, becoming instantly not believable.  The narration was also rather repetitive in places, at the expense of exploring more topics with more depth. 

Still, a good, informative, funny book, certainly 4 out of 5 stars.

Now, for 2017:

Red Dwarf, series XI, with Chris Barrie and Craig Charles.  We watched this all the way through on New Year's Day, and we will continue to watch it one or two episodes at a time until, like all the other series, we can recite it forwards, backwards, and sideways.  We're mostly done with a second run-through by now, and are picking up on asides and such which were missed the first time through.

The consensus among the household is that series XI is very good, funny, witty, but not quite as good as series X.  All of the episodes include one or more outside characters.  While characters beyond the core four aren't bad as such, the story lines and writing are at their best when it's four people trying to survive in space, trying to devise more ingenious ways of wasting time and maybe trying to get home sometimes.  Episodes-- and seasons-- that are carried by the characters and their personalities are stronger.  Looking forward to XII.

NPR laughter therapy: A comedy collection for the chronically serious by NPR.  (NF, but a duplicate number.)  I guess NPR just isn't really my thing.  I've listened a few times on the radio.  Does this mean I'm not cerebral, or just not pretentious? 

Some of the comedians interviewed were funny, but none of them are people I seek out.  Just something to listen to at the Y, I guess.

Sunday, January 01, 2017


oo, look: I made a table:

The Books Started number does not include books flipped through at work for program purposes.  I'm pretty impressed with my finishing percentage.  Good job to me; gold star.

My 2015 reading challenge was to complete a 48-hour book challenge.  I later added the additional goal of  making greater strides in my nonfiction survey. At some point, I also determined I wanted clean up the messy, non-standardized capitalization when entering titles. 

I get another gold star for these.  I organized my 48-hour reading challenge in July, and loved it, despite the rain.  I was hoping to squeeze in another one in early December-- the spouse and I tentatively planned a cabin-camping weekend, but both boys were horribly sick the day before and day of and it didn't materialize.  The 48-hour reading challenge is not to be missed.  A 2017 edition is not going down as an actual resolution, per se, but it will certainly stay as a personal goal.

Before counting this year's reads, I felt I did really poorly on the nonfiction front.  I didn't realize how many I'd read.  Many turned out to duplicate numbers I've already covered, but I was able to add a small handful of new numbers.  

Finally, I embraced the APA and only capitalized first words, first words after colons, and proper nouns when reporting book titles.  It matches up with some of the special cataloging stuff I do at work, so the conformity makes me calm and happy.
I spent a few weeks letting 2017's challenge percolate.  It seems like many readers like to-do-type lists.  These from Popsugar, Bustle, and this Read the World Challenge all had elements that appealed to me.  Removing the duplicates and the self-help entries, I have a very nice list of 70 suggestions.

This is a good list for me: much of what I'm likely to read without any prompting will check off many of the boxes.  The rest of the to-dos will be a nice stretch, to make me remember there's more out there than my five fave genres/authors/story formats.  Rules for myself: one book can only count for one box.

Happy 2017.  Now get reading.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Yule Book Flood!

Vampires in the lemon grove by Karen Russell.  I was describing last year's Yule Book Flood fun, in which I received A land more kind than home, to a coworker, and she suggested we do it at work.  So we set up a Secret-Santa-esque round among a dozen interested coworkers.  This is what I received from my Yule Book Elf-- along with a bar of Gingerbread Spice Theo Chocolate, which I cannot recommend highly enough.  It sounds maybe odd, but is divine.

This book was from the same coworker who previously suggested Sleep donation, which I liked.  This book is even better!  I know this was popular after its release a few years ago; every time I had to reorder it, I read the descriptions or reviews and tried to figure out what the heck it was about.  I added it to my TBR list and took it off more than a handful of times.

The author's literary awards are impressive, so it's interesting to read sci-fi- and fantasy-tinged fiction in this style.  There aren't any of the usual tropes common to the genre.  Most of the stories are intriguing because no other author has approached quite that topic in quite that way.  (For a few of the stories, there's a good reason no one has taken quite that tactic.  They're a little too far out there, but still interesting as a collection of exploratory literary science fiction.)

Everyone should celebrate Yule Book Flood.  Here are the rules we use:
1.  Organize book givers and receivers.  For small families/groups, straight exchanges work.  For larger groups, a giving-in-the-round (person A gives to B who gives to C, around until the last person gives to A) is good.  It doesn't have to be a secret-- a conversation to make sure the recipient has not yet read the book, likes the genre, etc., will ensure a better gift. For a party group, a white elephant set up (but with desirable titles) could also be fun.
2.  Deliver a new or gently-used book, along with a chocolate bar or other treat of choice, to your Yule Book recipient by 12/23.
3.  Save your book and treat until December 24th-- no peeking!
4.  Take your treat and book and go to bed early on 12/24.  The best way to start the holidays!

These are not official rules, and a little bit of research indicates that the image that started me off last year might be less than factual.  It doesn't matter, it's a wonderful thing to do, super fun, and worth becoming a tradition if it isn't already.

And now, things slightly less special, although still great.

World of trouble by Ben H. Winters.  The story took an unexpected turn: the plot did not fall out as one might anticipate.  It was a little jarring, although not inappropriate.
The ending is wonderful--strong and emotional, and maybe just a tiny bit hopeful.

Bitch planet: Book one: Extraordinary machine by Kelly Sue Deconnick, Valentine De Landro, and others.  Definitely not appropriate for all readers, but I love how information about the future society wasn't laid out; at the end of this book, there are still alot of things not explained.  Looking forward to book 2.  

The Santa Clause with Tim Allen.  Our family watched this before Christmas; I had seen it bunches of time ages ago, but not in the last 15 years.  It's cute and funny, but the sexist jokes and fat-shaming in family movies from the 1990s is surprising.  It's like watching Looney Tunes.

13 things that don't make sense: The most baffling scientific mysteries of our time, by Michael Brooks; read by James Adams.  (500)  I admit I didn't look closely at the description before checking this out; the first half is all about astrophysics and advanced space stuff, which was hard for me to follow.  That was probably exacerbated by conditions at the Y: TVs in every corner, cocky 20-year-olds cussing and throwing down heavy weights in the back of the room... I was able to follow the second part, mostly about biological processes, much better.  The reader was very easy to listen to.

Woodsong by Gary Paulsen; read by the author.  (796.5092)  The boy and I had a long drive for a wrestling tournament yesterday, so I grabbed a couple of things available on OverDrive.  I paused this after the first chapter, which was more graphic than I anticipated, but it didn't phase the 3rd grader in the backseat. He was enthralled, even stayed awake the whole way home to finish it. 

I was rather disappointed narration; the diction was sloppy and almost completely lacking in emotion.  A professional reader could have done a better job.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


I did a preliminary end-of-year count, so I'm feeling pretty motivated right now.  (Thus all the posts clustered together.)  My numbers won't be off the charts, but they are respectable.

I have a bunch of audios, because I've traded in my 35-minute runs for high-intensity half-hours on the elliptical machine at the Y (at least until it warms up outside!).  I don't need my music on the machine, so, hello audio time!

Thank you, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; performed by L.A. Theatre Works.  A repeat, somehow, in some combination, from other compilations or from the TV series, but still enjoyable.  I like the dramatic adaptions for a radio cast.

The code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse; performed by L.A. Theatre Works.  I've seen/heard this one before, too, but it's one I don't like as much.  Skipped.

My man, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; narrated by Simon Prebble.  Check.

Very good, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse; narrated by Jonathan Cecil. Check-check.

Also, have you seen OverDrive's new app, Libby?  It's in beta, but there's no restrictions on who can use it-- just search it in the app or play store.  In some ways, it is smooth, but there are a few things I couldn't find.  Send your feedback to them!

Impressions, follow-up (tardy)

I looked at dozens of books for the program I mentioned, which was on 12/3, but I was in such a rush I wasn't able to write them down.  I also ended up going a different direction than usual, matching coffees to books set in, or written by authors from, the same countries as the beans.  Here is the final list presented:

Circling the sun by Paula McLain.  I quick-read this one and presented it.  It was pretty good.  The landscapes were beautifully-described, and the main character was strong.  The secondary characters were a bit fuzzy, but I'll ascribe that to my hurried reading.  A few people present at the program had read the autobiography by the real-life individual the main character is based on; they unanimously said the autobiography was wonderful.

No one writes to the Colonel: And other stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn't retain much from my quick glance at this, except to remember that the Nobel-prize winning author considered this his own best work.
Say her name by Francisco Goldman.  I wish I could realistically put this on my TBR pile.  Autobiographical-novel; the volunteer reader was impressed by the powerful writing.
Saving the world by Julia Alvarez.  Frame story, one historical fiction.  Wish I could add to my TBR.
Prayers for the lost by Jennifer Clement and Mosquito coast by Paul Theroux.  Chosen to fit the theme and well-reviewed; I don't remember much at this point.