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.

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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!

I’m back at it!

Work, that is.  I started work on March 5, teaching English as a Second Language in the Adult Education Program here in town. I taught there the first year  was living full time here in Deming. It’s only part-time, but that’s plenty for me now. Frankly, I was tired of sitting at home and was more than ready to go back.

We had a week of registration and orientation for new students, follwed by a week of spring break, so yesterday was my first actual day of teaching. Of course, I had to change my plan for the day before class even started, and I had to change it again during class. We had new students come in and want to join the class, and they had to complete the registration process while I was trying to work with the others. In other words, it was a typical first day of classes in this program.

I am normally a control freak and a perfectionist. In that way, I am not a good person for this job or this program. I am trying to be much more laid back about it all this time, though. I know I have a good plan for the 8-week term, but I also know nothing will turn out quite the way I think it will.  I have theoretically trusted the process for a long time now, but in reality I still stressed about it a lot. This time feels different. Of course I have only had one day back, but it was a crazy day and I came out of it pretty happy.

Anyway, I am glad to be back working. I hope I can say the same in 8 weeks when the term ends.

 

February Reading

I am here again to report on my reading. It looks like I read eight books.

I started off the month reading my selection from the list of 100 best non-fiction books, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolff. I had ever thought about reading it before and really didn’t have much of an idea about it.  But I thought it was great.  The basic idea is that women, as a group, cannot succeed as writers unless and until they have a room of their own. Physical space (and the money to maintain it) are critical to writing. The freedom that room allows the writer to flourish. I realize that I am able to write because I have that freedom.  I do not take it lightly. But the text really goes beyond writing to talk about women in general and our need for that same freedom. It was a very interesting book.

This was followed by  The Sign of the Four by Sir ArthurConan Doyle. I had never read it before and decided I would now since it was on the list of the 100 best novels in English. It was a typical Sherlock Holmes story, and I enjoyed it a lot.  I am not 100% sure why it was on that list (#26), not because it wasn’t good but because I  am not sure what makes it better than other Sherlock Holmes stories. I love them all!

I read three mysteries, books 2-4 in a series I started some time back.  They were Two Bare Arms, Garden of the Damned, and Let Us Prey by Blake Banner. They are all part of the Dead Cold Mystery series, stories of two detectives assigned to work on cold cases, in part because no other cops want to work with them. I enjoyed these books, maybe more than the first one, An Ace and a Pair. The mysteries are good, and the characters have developed into interesting people.

I read two entries in a speculative fiction series I started a while ago, too. Darknight and Darkmoon by Christine Pope are the second and third books in  her Witches of Cleopatra Hill series. They were fun to read. Witch Angela has found her consort, Warlock Conner. The problem is that they are from families who are feuding more than the Capulets and the Montegues. Fortunately, they don’t have to kill themselves in the end, but no one makes it easy for them.  This is pure escapism, but I enjoyed escaping for a while.

I also read Waking up White: and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving. A frind had recommended it, so I bought it and read it. It was a very thought-provoking book.  My experience growin gup was not like Irvings, but I did benefit from white privilege. I have lived in many parts of the world and have been in the minority, so I have had some of the experiences she felt were invaluable to her awakening. I also majored in history in college, but at a time when Black Studies programs were becoming popular, so I learned a lot of things she talks about  In spite of all I knew, though, the book made me realize how much of being white I have taken for granted. And, of course, since reading the book, I see things all over than help to drive home the point that things ae really getting worse. For instance, Roads to Nowhere: how infrastructure built on American inequality was published in The Guardian late last month.  And, on a lighter but realted note, What is white culture was published just a few days ago. I think reading Irving’s book allowed me to see these related pieces of information, wich I might have overlooked before.

So it wasn’t a great month, but it wasn’t bad, either. I start back to work next week, though, so this time next month I may see this as having been a great month after all!