June reading

I was traveling for half the month and did way less reading than I usually do when I am on the road. Not sure what happened.  Oh well…

I read one book from the 100 best non-fiction books, Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. Although it was a long, slow read, I enjoyed it.  Having lived near the Mississippi in southern Illinois, that area is familiar to me. I enjoyed reading about the river and the towns as Twain experienced them. I don’t know if the book would be of interest to someone unfamiliar with the area. My guess is that it might be too long and too detailed.

Most of my novel list book, The History of Mr. Polly by HG Wells , was read in May. It was an odd book and for a long time I was confused as to why it would be on the list. It was chosen, apparently, ” because it is, in many ways, so un-Wellsian.” Personally, I would have chosen one of his science fiction novels, but they didn’t ask me! The story was fun to read and, now that I have read it, probably deserving of inclusion on the list. It is definitely a book I never would have read if I weren’t trying to read books from the list this year.

The mystery I read last month was another old one, The Curved Blades by Carolyn Wells. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t read as easily as other books by this author that I have read. Her detective, Fleming Stone, is interesting. This time he has some personal entanglements that may be complicating his search for the murderer, but he will go to the ends of the earth to solve the case if need be. I enjoyed this book and recommend it if you like old mysteries.

I read one other piece of fiction last month, Stand to Horse by Andre Norton. I knew I liked her science fiction and was interested to see how she would handle historical fiction. The answer was, “Extremely well.” Of course! Set in New Mexico before the Civil War, it is a fascinating look at the times. I highly recommend it if you are at all interested in that period of US history.

I also read Eat, Walk, Write by Boyd Lemon. It is the story of the time he spent living in Paris. I have never had any interest in living in Paris (and his belief that a couple could live there on $100,000 a year makes me very glad of that!), but it did make me nostalgic for all the countries my family and I have lived in over the years. There is something special about living in another country, getting to know its people and culture much more intimately than you ever could by just vacationing there.I enjoyed it.

So it wasn’t a great month for reading.  I am starting to worry that this is my new normal. We’ll see if July continues at the same pace.

 

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May reading

May was kind of a bad month for reading. Not sure why.

I read one book from the 100 best non-fiction list, On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. I thought it was one of the best and most interesting books I have ever read.  It was written over 150 years ago, but it seemed to address many of the issues in the news today. I cannot recommend it enough.

I only read on mystery, Sanctuary by Celina Grace. It is the eighth book in the series, and it was quite good.  Dead bodies keep turning up, and Kate Redman and her team have to work with cops from another jurisdiction to solve the case. I enjoyed the mystery, but I also enjoyed the characters and watching them grow as the story progressed. I recommend this one if you like British detective stories.

I red two pieces of speculative fiction:

 

  • Clay’s Ark by Octavia Butler is the third book in the Patternist series. This one, the story of a father and two daughters who are hijacked as they are driving down the road. They are infected with an alien virus that could take over the world, and they are the ones who may be able to stop it from taking over the world. It was another excellent book from Butler. Please read it!
  • The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi was last month’s ebook selection from Tor.com. It was a hard book to read, but in the end, I was glad that I had. It opens in a prison, where the main character, Jean le Flambeur, is being held captive. He is rescued and then must do the bidding of his rescuer. It was often confusing, but it seemed worth the time and effort it took to read it. As one review on Amazon says, it was “Confusingly and shockingly brilliant!!!”  I am not sure I can really recommend it, but it was a good book in many ways.

And that was it.  I finished my 100 best novel entrant on June 1st, so there is nothing else to report.  Let’s see how June goes.  I am visiting family so it will probably be another slow month, but I might surprise myself!

 

Tor ebook club selection for May

Go to TOR’s ebook club site to download this month’s selection, Kills Death Itself by Hannu Rajaniemi. According to the book club site,

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy.

It sounds like a great read.  Get it soon, though, because this offer is only good through 11:59 PM ET  on May 18th, 2018.

April Reading

I had a hard time getting a lot of reading done last month, and I am having trouble writing about it now.  Part of the trouble reading was trying to get my selections from the 100 lists. The problem with writing, I’m afraid, is just laziness!

My entry from The Guardian’s 100 best non-fiction list was The American Language: A Preliminary Inquiry into the Development of English in the United States by H. L. Mencken.  I absolutely loved the book but it was hard reading.  I am fascinated by languages and  enjoy reading about them. As a teacher of English to speakers of other languages, I think I need to know as much as I can about the language I teach. This book taught me a lot — even though it was published 99 years ago!  I am not sure what made it hard to read — maybe its age or the fact that Amazon says it is 394 pages long.

The novel from The Gueardian’s 100 best novels list was easier to read. I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I had never read it before, but I knew the basic story, of course. It was pretty easy to read, once I got over my confusion about starting out with letters from a sailor to his sister. This was a good read and relatively easy.

I only read one mystery: The Grrr-eat Tiger Chase by Alannah Rogers. The story was OK. It was really short; that may be why I don’t feel too invested in it. Or maybe it’s because the detective has cats that help her solve cases.  I guess I’m just not a cat person! It was a quick, easy read, though, and you might like it.

I read two pieces of speculative fiction, both by authors I love.  First, I read Mind of My Mind by Octavia Bulter. I read the first book in the series a long time ago, so it took me a little bit to get back into the premise, but once I was there, the book was incredible. Butler’s work never ceases to enthrall me. She draws you into her world and keeps you there for hour after hour until the book ends. And then it leaves you wanting to pick up the next one and continue the story.  I actually think that was part of my reading problems last month.  I finished this book on the 1st and was disappointed that I couldn’t pick up the next one in the series because of my self-imposed reading requirements. I will definitely be reading Clay’s Ark this month.

I also  read Dragon Storm by Lindsay Buroker. This book is the first in a series that spun off from her Dragon Blood books. I have really enoyed everything that I have read by Buroker, and this was no exception. She really makes you care about her characters. I plan to read more of these, and I urge you to do the same.

My off-list non-fiction choice this month was Philosophy by Kevin Perry. I found it to be very readable. Perry takes 10 topics in philosophy and looks at them from the points of view of different influential philosophers. What I liked was that he included the old dead white guys but also many women and younger white guys, too. I was able to understand different takes on the subject of free-will, for instance, and see how the ideas developed. This is basically an introduction, a “tour” of sorts, but it would be a good reference and a place to look to see whose work you might want to read if you are interested in a particular topic.

So that was it for last month.  This month isn’t off to any better a start, but I hope things will pick up!

 

 

March Reading

Well, it was an interesting month for reading.  I read a variety of books.

From the 100 best non-fiction list, I read Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson. I thought it was an interesting book, but I am not quite sure why it is on that list.  Stevenson traveled on a donkey through that part of France, and the book recounts the highs and lows of that trip.  He had discussions with villagers about religion and other topics, but the main focus of the book is the difficulties traveling with the donkey. It is humorous in that regard. I enjoyed the book, but I guess I missed something.

The novel I read from the 100 best list was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym by Edgar Allan Poe. It was an interesting book.  A few years ago I read Verne’s An Antarctic Mystery, which is supposed to be like a sequel to Poe’s book, and I really enjoyed that.  This one was good, too, but I think having read Verne’s book first, it took away some of the value of this book.  I already knew something of the story and so it wasn’t as captivating as it might have been.  It was good, though, and I am glad I read it.

I read two mysteries:

  • Hollywood Crazy by MZ Kelly is the third book in this series. I had read the first two and the fourth one, and this filled in a few blanks for me.  The main character, Kate Sexton, is a good one. Her friends and roommates are a little too crazy for me and take away some from the story.  But the story is a good one, and I was able to read past those crazy characters.
  • Blue Baby by Carolyn Arnold is, I think, the third book in this series that I have read. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the others. Not sure why. Brandon Fisher seems whinier here, I think. But in general, the story was a fairly good one. I will keep reading this series.

I only read one piece of speculative fiction: Echo by Alicia Wright Brewster .  I remember liking it, but I have to admit I don’t remember much about the book.  Time gets rewound in an effort to avoid disaster. The characters were good ones, and that was probably more important to me than the story.  As I think more about it, I can remember that the main character was only born in the last rewind, so she is more powerful. That makes her both dangerous to and the salvation of the the existing power struggle. I know this isn’t a very good review of this book, but I hope you will read it anyway.

I read a book that didn’t fall into any of my categories, Above the Bridge by Deborah Garner. I guess I could have classified it as mystery or as speculative fiction, but it was too much a mix for me to feel comfortable with either of those labels. It was a fairly good book involving some time travel. The time travel was not explained well enough for me to really buy into it, though. Paige finds a key that takes her back in time. It shows up some times and not others. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. I think I would have liked it better without that element. Paige could have found the information some other way, I think, but it might have been just as tacked on as the time travel was.  There are three books in the series, and I might try to read at least one more of them before I make a final decision.

The non-fiction book I read was Hurting Your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to Describing Injuries and Pain from the Charater’s Point of View by Michael J. Carlson. It was an important book for me to read. It gives a broad overview of human anatomy and problems that can occur. It talks about how different injuries might hurt. While I have already injured my characters some, it reminded me of the long-term effects of those injuries. It helped me think about that and bring it into the books.  The author says it isn’t meant to be read straight through, but I did and it was readable.  It is, however, basically a reference book, though.  The author is a physician.

So that was it! April may not be as good as, in addition to the face-to-face class I am currently teaching, I will be starting an online class this coming week.  But I’ll give it my best shot!