The Lesson

I just finished The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull, and I wanted to tell you about it now, rather than waiting for the end of the month.

I loved this book.  It is the story of an alien invasion in the US Virgin Islands.  Or that is how it’s billed, at least.  It is really more about people, about invasions in general, and – of course – the VI.  I really enjoyed the characters. They were unpredictable but yet like many people I’ve known. They were real people, and I loved them for that.  As to invasions — by aliens or not — I don’t have any personal experience except that I have lived a lot of places that have been invaded over and over and over again. The biggest draw for me initially with this book, though, was that it is set on St. Thomas. I lived there for 7 years back in the 80s, and it was what my family and I thought of as home for a long time after we left. It holds a special place in my heart. It was great to read about places and things I remembered well.

The book is thoughtful. It seems like an easy read, but it it is so much more than that. I cannot recommend it enough.

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May reading, part 2

OK, I’m back – this time with the mysteries and thrillers I read last month.

 

  • Stray Cat Blues by Robert Bucchianeri was a good read. The mystery — the disappear of a young woman — involved lots of twists and turns, but our hero was able to solve it in the end. Most of the characters were interesting, I don’t know that I would make a real effort to read more in this series, but I enjoyed this book.
  • Girl with a Gun by Kari Bovee gave me pause — not about reading it or whether or not I liked it but rather because I couldn’t decide how to classify it.  It it about Annie Oakley, at least to some degree, so I was thinking historical fiction. But it was billed as a mystery, so I finally decided to go with that — even though the mystery didn’t seem to be the main focus of the book. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t overly challenging. The history part of it seemed pretty accurate – at least from what I read later on Wikipedia.
  • Maisie Dobbsis the first book in this series by Jacqueline Winspear. I read the 9th book a while back, and I really enjoyed it.  Reading them so out of order was not a problem. The story was a good one. This book explains how Maisie came to be an investigator. She also must deal with the trauma of having served as a nurse in World War I. Compared to the 9th book, this one wasn’t all that great, but I enjoyed it anyway!
  • I read  The Body Market by D.V. Berkom in a collection of the first three books in the series.  It was a good story.  While it may seem strange to have a former female assassin as the “hero,” Leine Basso is an interesting character. The story demonstrates how quickly a “good idea” can turn bad for young people who are out exploring the world on their own, but it is not preachy at all.  I recommend all of Berkhom’s books, including this one.

I also finally finished a non-fiction book I had been reading for a while: How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. I read hos book The Language Instinct when I was in grad school.  I had found it fascinating, and I expected this to be a similar experience — and it was, once I remembered what it is like to read serious non-fiction. Once I started reading it as if it were a textbook — highlighting and taking notes — I began to really enjoy the book. The problem was definitely me and not the book itself.  I don’t know how many people will want to read 673 pages about the mind, but if it sounds even remotely interesting, I highly recommend this.

I read two Baha’i books, both by Baha’u’llah: The Kitab-i-Iqan and The Call of the Divine Beloved. Both are available for free from https://www.bahai.org/library/.

And that finishes up my reading for May.  June is off to a slower start, but we’ll see how it ends up.  Stay tuned!

 

 

May reading, part 1

I got a lot of reading done last month largely because my semester ended and then I was traveling by myself.  I know I won’t post all the books today, so here is a start.

I read three pieces of speculative fiction:

  • Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand by Samuel R. Delaney was a challenging book on lots of levels.  Linguistically, it was challenging. The story itself was sometimes confusing, but it was worth the effort. There was the linguistic element I was expecting (very complicated pronouns!), and that kept me going through some of the more difficult parts. I would not recommend this as an entry point into Delaney’s works, but once you are hooked on his writing, I think you would like this one
  • The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi was wonderful.  The Flow has allowed people to travel vast distances easily and fairly quickly. It has allowed them to settle in places that would otherwise be unreachable.  The Interdependency, the empire that connects all these places, is only sustainable because of the Flow. And now its course seems to be changing. With the change of the Flow, some worlds are going to be cut off, changing the political dynamics. Some criticisms of the book on Amazon indicated that people felt this was an introduction and not a real story –  although at 336 pages, I would hate to see the book this is the introduction to! As I said, I thought it was a great book and hope to read the next book in the series soon.
  • The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang grabbed my interest right away. The setting, while vaguely Asian, was unique. Twins born to the Protector  were “given” to the Grand Monastery to repay a debt. Each twin has a talent that, when discovered, causes the Protector to reclaim them. They come to see that their mother’s plots are not in the best interests of anyone but herself, so they begin to forge their own paths. I really enjoyed this book.  As with Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, there is a lot of gender fluidity, which might be off-putting to some people, but I thought it added another dimension to an already excellent story. I will be reading more of this series.

Well, with interruptions, this took a lot longer than I had planned, so I will be back later to do another installment.

April reading

I read two long speculative fiction novels:

  • Not Alone by Craig A. Falconer was a really good book about an alien cover-up. Dan finds a folder that contains a lot of information, and he leaks it on the Internet. He is quickly discovered as the leaker, and the whole world is after him — some to support him, some to discredit him, some to make money off him, and some for  — who knows why?  The book lists on Amazon as being 758 pages. It is a very intense story and could easily have been chopped up into smaller bites, but I think it was better as one complete book. I recommend it if you like alien / political cover-ups.
  • Walkaway by Cory Doctorow was the Tor ebook club free book last month.  I have read a lot of Doctorow’s work and have enjoyed it.  This was almost an exception.  In the end I have to say I enjoyed it and am glad I read it, but the beginning was difficult for me to follow.  I know I am not the intended demographic for any of his works and I expect to struggle at times with subject matter or whatever, but in the end I am always glad I stuck with it to the end. This is a book about the future. Will it be a utopia or a distopia? Part of the answer, at least lies in our hands. Here we follow a group of strangers who become friends and family as they attempt to build the future they want to live in. These people are ones I would like to know, so I kept reading even at points when I wasn’t sure why.

And there were three mysteries:

  • Cargo: A Leine Basso Thriller by D.V. Berkom is the fifth book in the series.  It is a good one — as I think they all are. Basso uses some old contacts to track down a young woman, the daughter of a friend, who was last seen in Bangkok. Unfortunately, she gets captured in the process and ends up on a ship headed to Africa.  All in all it was a good story, and I really enjoyed it.
  • Lady Rample Steps Out by Shea MacLeod is the first book in what is at the moment a 7-book series. Lady Rample is a young widow who doesn’t really care what others think of her.  That seems to get her into some predicaments and leads to her solving mysteries.  This was a quick, easy read, and I will probably try to read more of them if I get them cheap.
  • Mandarin Yellow by Steven M. Roth is a rather convoluted story involving the theft of a historic fountain pen. As a lover of fountain pens, I was sold immediately. The book has all kinds of twists and turns and a very unexpected ending. this is the first in a 3-book series, and I would like to read the other two. This book was quite good, and I recommend it highly if you are interested in pens or Chinese history.

I finished one Baha’i book last month: Some Answered Questions by Abdu’l-Baha.  This book discusses the Baha’i perspective on a lot of fairly basic topics.

So that was my reading for April.  Not bad but not great, either!