rhian_of_oz Reads in 2019

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rhian_of_oz Reads in 2019

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4rhian_of_oz
Dez 30, 2018, 1:49pm

Quarter 3

July

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

August
  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

September
  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019:
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books:

5rhian_of_oz
Dez 30, 2018, 1:50pm

Quarter 4

October

  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

November
  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

December
  1. Book One

  2. Book Two

Books owned pre-2019:
Books purchased in 2019:
Books gifted in 2019:
Borrowed books:

6Dilara86
Dez 31, 2018, 11:12am

Hello Rhian and welcome to Club Read!

7rhian_of_oz
Dez 31, 2018, 4:31pm

>6 Dilara86: Thanks Dilara. Having had a look through some of the 2018 threads it seems that the reading here is very diverse so I'm looking forward to being introduced to new authors. I'm also looking forward to reading more 'thoughtfully'.

8rhian_of_oz
Jan 3, 2019, 1:44pm

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

This is written as a memoir describing how young Isabella Hendemore started down the path to becoming the (now famous) Lady Trent. The title is not really a description of the book (i.e. it's not a natural history of dragons) - but rather is the title of a book within the story that was extremely influential on our narrator. The first third takes us through Isabella's early life and marriage, with the remainder describing her "first foreign expedition".

What I liked
  • Isabella is non-conventional in her interest in science and dragons. Her father comes up with a neat solution that allows her to maintain her interest while at the same time abiding by societal expectations for a woman of her age and class.

  • Lady Trent's "voice" is engaging, with that air of "I'm old enough and successful enough I'm not bothered by what people think of me". She's at times affectionately amused by or apologetic for her younger self.

  • The relationship between Isabella and Jacob.

What I didn't like
  • Ms Brennan has created a new world for this story but it reads quite simply like Victorian England and Eastern Europe. I thought the world-building was so weak I would have preferred it if the story had been set in an alternate-history Earth.

  • Isabella continually refers to herself as a scientist but actually behaves like an enthusiastic hobbyist.

  • Many instances of Isabella behaving recklessly, recognising such behaviour in the past had serious consequences, but continuing the behaviour anyway.

Summary
This book started off really well but didn't quite live up to it's promise. I still enjoyed reading it and am interested in reading the rest in the series but I'll borrow them from the library rather than buying them.

9dchaikin
Jan 3, 2019, 2:09pm

I was actually curious what this was about, even if I wasn’t planning to read it. Happy to read your review.

10SouthernKiwi
Jan 3, 2019, 12:41am

Skipping over your review of A Natural History for now as I still have 100 pages left, but will be back when I'm done.

11japaul22
Jan 4, 2019, 11:48am

I like the format of your review! Welcome to the group.

12rhian_of_oz
Jan 4, 2019, 12:23pm

>11 japaul22: Thanks for your feedback. I'm still finding my "voice" but I think this format will work for me.

13auntmarge64
Jan 4, 2019, 4:07pm

Hi Rhian, welcome to CR, and nice review. You've been starred!

14shadrach_anki
Jan 4, 2019, 4:34pm

>8 rhian_of_oz:

It has been nearly five years since I read this, so it will be interesting to see how it holds up. The third book is on my list of owned books I have not read, but a five year gap is enough that I think I will want to do a reread of the first two before I get to the third.

I absolutely love the covers for all the books in this series (Todd Lockwood is is a genius when it comes to dragon art). It was actually the cover art that drew me to them initially.

15rhian_of_oz
Jan 4, 2019, 12:15am

>13 auntmarge64: Thanks, thanks and thanks!

16rhian_of_oz
Jan 4, 2019, 12:20am

>14 shadrach_anki: I received this from SantaThing but I hadn't heard of or seen it before. I plan to read the second one (at some stage) and see how much I like it. I agree that the cover art is attractive which is why I'm a bit surprised to have missed them when they came out.

17rhian_of_oz
Jan 7, 2019, 3:05pm

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The story starts off like The Breakfast Club with five 'stereotypes' in detention and quickly detours sideways into a 'locked room' mystery.

What I liked
  • The 'traditional' whodunnit nature - multiple suspects with motive, red herrings, misdirections.

  • The multiple narrators.

  • The pace of the action and the 'reveals' was spot on.

  • I was surprised by the turn of events in a couple of instances.

What I didn't like
  • The fact that the 'stereotypes' are more than they appear is almost a cliche in itself. And we still had the mean girls, and the bullying jocks, and the nerds.

  • The 'happily ever after' ending(s).

Summary
I must admit not much thoughtful reading went into this one, I gobbled it down like lollies (candies/sweets for the not-Aussies). I really enjoyed it, it was an easy-to-read YA that didn't include my most hated YA trope - the angsty love triangle.

18BLBera
Jan 9, 2019, 2:16pm

Happy New Year, Rhian.

I see The Bus on Thursday and Becoming are on your list of possible reads. I loved the Obama memoir, and would LOVE to discuss The Bus on Thursday, which I found a bit confusing at the end.

19rhian_of_oz
Jan 9, 2019, 3:29pm

>18 BLBera: Thanks Beth, happy new year to you too.

I added Becoming because so many people here had it on their 'best of' lists, and then my sister-in-law mentioned she was reading it and will give it to me when she's done. I had To Obama on my RL Christmas list (I must have been naughty because Santa didn't bring it) so I might buy that and read the two together.

I've requested The Bus on Thursday from my local library and will happily discuss it with you.

20rhian_of_oz
Jan 10, 2019, 1:41pm

Personal Injuries by Scott Turow

The story is about Robbie Feaver, a lawyer discovered to have an undeclared slush fund, who turns 'confidential informant' as part of a larger investigation of corrupt judges.

I'm pretty sure I received this as a gift or won it at a quiz night, I know I didn't choose it myself. It has been languishing on my shelf for many years and I chose to read it for January TBRCat.

I'd describe this book as a slow burn. Early on I was disinterested, reading it so I could finish it, but bit by bit it engaged my attention. There were twists and turns (though not in the contrived manner of some more recent works) which weren't necessarily foreshadowed but somehow also weren't surprising in the context of the story. Similarly while I wasn't expecting the ending, it was also somehow inevitable.

This was an okay book. I don't wish I had the time back, but it's also not particularly clever or thought-provoking or (I suspect) memorable. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, nor does it make me want to read any more books by the author.

21dchaikin
Jan 10, 2019, 5:52pm

>20 rhian_of_oz: Wonder if Mueller has read it?

22rhian_of_oz
Jan 11, 2019, 1:13pm

>21 dchaikin: (I had to look up who Mueller was) I'm not sure he'd be happy if he had given that in the story the investigation doesn't nab the biggest bad guy.

23dchaikin
Jan 11, 2019, 6:10pm

>22 rhian_of_oz: American insanity. Could be a lesson in there still. : )

24auntmarge64
Jan 11, 2019, 1:24am

>22 rhian_of_oz: I had to read that several times - that you didn't know who Mueller is. Then I realized you're a loooong way away. haha

You may hear a lot more about him in the next few months, and now you can appreciate those news reports.

25rhian_of_oz
Jan 11, 2019, 1:37am

>24 auntmarge64: Hehe. So you don't think I'm completely ignorant of world affairs (:-)), I knew his name and that there was some involvement in US politics but not the details.

26rhian_of_oz
Jan 12, 2019, 1:05pm

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen

After reading the first couple of pages in the library I thought what I was taking home was going to be a quirky book about the solving of various lost letter mysteries. While the book does have a couple of these, it's primarily about 'letter detective' William, his wife Clare and their strained marriage.

I'll get the slightly irksome bit out of the way first. This novel needed to be set prior to the internet from a plot perspective but it didn't 'read' like it was from 1989. This wouldn't have been a problem except whenever there was an 'historical' reference (e.g. Walkmans, Berlin Wall) it gave me a jolt and took me out of the story.

I liked this I think for a number of reasons. I like stories about relationships that are more complex than 'they lived happily ever after'. I also think I related to William and Clare in the sense that at some point you come to the realisation that your life isn't going to turn out the way you dreamed when you were young. And that a life lived 'quietly' is not necessarily a life squandered. And the allure of the potential 'grass is greener' of other people. (Personal note: I'm happy with my life and my relationship with my partner is fine.)

I'm a romantic so my hope throughout the book was that William and Clare would have their 'happily ever after' together, but I was also preparing for their resolution to be different, and either was equally likely throughout the book. I won't spoil it by saying whether my wish came true.

Now I'm going to see if there still exists a Dead Letter Office because being a letter detective sounds like an awesome job.

27dchaikin
Jan 12, 2019, 7:01pm

Just as a fun side note, in the recently memoir I read by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he talks about stumbling across on office in Bogota, Colombia dedicated to finding where lost letters should go. He wrote an article on it (he was a columnist at the time) and even talks about following up one letter addressed to a woman by first name who always attended a certain church.

28qebo
Jan 12, 2019, 7:08pm

>8 rhian_of_oz:, >17 rhian_of_oz: I like the format of your reviews.
>22 rhian_of_oz: (I had to look up who Mueller was)
Ha. Our hope that sanity will prevail.

29auntmarge64
Jan 12, 2019, 1:58am

>25 rhian_of_oz: You know, even in the U.S. we don't know much about what Mueller's doing. That's the joy, really. This fellow is running such a tight investigation we really have little idea what's coming in his report. He seems to be a by-the-book sort of prosecutor and an excellent choice for this kind of thing because he's so straight about it.

30rhian_of_oz
Jan 13, 2019, 5:19am

Dear Santa edited by Samuel Johnson

This is a collection of letters to Santa from a variety of publically known Australians compiled for the charity Love Your Sister (LYS).

There is nothing particularly unexpected about the letters, with the tone covering a wide range: quirky, wistful, satirical, political, amusing, poignant, cynical, topical, nostalgic. The format allows for quick dips in and out.

I'm glad to have bought it to support LYS, and I don't regret the time I spent reading it, but it's not a book that's had any impact on my worldview.

31rhian_of_oz
Jan 17, 2019, 2:40pm

Last Seen in Lhasa by Claire Scobie

Ms Scobie is an author who travels to Tibet in search of a rare flower and also 'something else' and meets a Buddhist nun named Ani. She returns to Tibet many times over the next few years to explore her spirituality and her connection/friendship with Ani.

What I liked
  • The insight into the lives of Tibetans under Chinese rule.

  • The interactions between Claire and Ani.

  • The pilgrimage to Mount Lailash.

What I didn't like
  • The numerous quotes and literature references. It feels like she's trying to include all the research she did but it often interrupts the flow.

  • It doesn't seem like the author knew what kind of book she was writing.

  • Somehow her spiritual awakening didn't feel genuine.

Why I read this
My MIL passed this on to me. I can't remember what she said, but I don't recall her being overly effusive about it.

Summary
I can best describe my reaction to this book as vaguely dissatisfied. On the front cover it's described as "The story of an extraordinary friendship" but I don't feel that that's what was conveyed. It doesn't feel cohesive - it's part travel book, part book on Buddhism, and part memoir - and not really good examples of any of them.

32dchaikin
Jan 17, 2019, 6:40pm

Sometimes the only way we know it’s an extraordinary friendship is because the author tells us (or the blurb does). : )

33rhian_of_oz
Jan 18, 2019, 3:01pm

>32 dchaikin: Hah yes! To be fair to the author at one point in the book she does question whether there is a real connection or whether she has been reading more into it than there is. And to continue being fair (sort of) I think the friendship is genuine but the book is not written well enough to convey it's extraordinariness (I'm not sure that's a word). Unless the only thing that makes it so is because it involves an English journalist and a Tibetan nun. Or it might be an issue of perception - what the author regards as 'extraordinary' is what I regard as 'friendship'.

34shadrach_anki
Jan 18, 2019, 3:23pm

Superlatives like "extraordinary" and "incredible" tend to get thrown around a lot on jacket copy, presumably to make potential readers more excited about the book. I mean, if people would be interested in reading about a friendship, then they have to be even more interested in reading about an extraordinary friendship, right? Even if it's really just maybe a little different than a normal one would be, due to a few circumstances.

35rhian_of_oz
Jan 18, 2019, 4:14pm

It must be an interesting balance - you want the blurb to be attractive enough to entice someone to purchase the book, but accurate enough that they're not disappointed once they read the book.

36valkyrdeath
Jan 20, 2019, 10:54pm

I'm still very slowly working my way through everyone's thread. I've enjoyed catching up on your reviews so far and have starred your thread to keep track of it now. You seem to have some interesting books in your current and potential reads.

37rhian_of_oz
Jan 21, 2019, 12:42pm

>36 valkyrdeath: Welcome to my thread! I hope I can continue to be interesting :-).
I'm still at the newbie stage of READ ALL THE THREADS which I suspect may not be sustainable. On the other hand it seems like the frequency of posting might taper off as the year goes by. There is such a variety of readers here, and I'm enjoying reading the reviews even for books that I'm not interested in reading.

38dchaikin
Jan 21, 2019, 6:52pm

>37 rhian_of_oz: nice to hear. : ) We do taper off as the year moves along.

39valkyrdeath
Jan 21, 2019, 12:11am

>37 rhian_of_oz: I think it definitely gets quieter at the year goes on, though there are some times when I'm better at keeping up with threads than others and if I start to fall behind I can find it a bit overwhelming to try and catch up again. I also often find it interesting to read about the books that I don't intend to read.

40rhian_of_oz
Jan 24, 2019, 2:03pm

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

On 24 January 1943, 230 French women resisters were transported by train to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. By the time of liberation over two years later there were 49 still alive.

This was never going to be an easy read given the subject matter, but it was a very accessible read in its style of writing. The book is separated into two parts - the first introducing the women and describing their activities as well as detailing their capture and imprisonment at Romainville, with the second covering their time in the camp, their liberation and the aftermath. There is an appendix that lists the names of all 230 women along with a little information about them and the aftermath (for those that survived) or the manner of their death (for those that didn't).

I read some reviews that complained about the number of women written about in the first part and how hard it was to either keep track of them, or feel any connection to them. I can see their point but it didn't bother me that I couldn't necessarily identify that this woman came from here and did this, or that woman came from there and did that. What this section did is humanise the numbers (the overall totals of deaths for WW2 are so overwhelming) and remind us that they were people. And despite knowing the outcome I kept hoping that they would evade their hunters, so I obviously felt some connection to them. I felt that all their stories together painted a picture of these women as essentially 'ordinary' women who weren't prepared (for a variety of reasons) to stand by and do nothing.

I think no matter how much you read or hear about the Nazi's treatment of prisoners, the second part of this book is always going to be confronting. I alternated between grief and rage while reading about their imprisonment and what they had to endure. The fact that they managed to retain their humanity is incredible, and their resilience is inspiring. I really appreciated the author's restraint, almost dispassion, in relating what took place. There was no overdramatisation or artificial creation of tension, the story was allowed to stand on its own.

In some ways the aftermath is also heartbreaking. One assumes that once they are liberated that is the end and they all "live happily ever after" but the reality is not so simple. Broken lives are not so easily mended.

I'm really glad I read this.

41dchaikin
Jan 24, 2019, 7:46pm

Terrific review. Not much for me to comment on, although I’m now thinking about many different aspects of the book, but it’s kind of nice to know books like this are getting read.

42thorold
Editado: Jan 24, 2019, 9:14pm

>26 rhian_of_oz: (Catching up...) Do you remember that lovely little Aussie film about a dead letter office about 20 years ago?

Googled it: “Dead letter office”, 1998, directed by John Ruane.

43japaul22
Jan 24, 2019, 10:15pm

I read A Train in Winter last year and was also very moved by it. I liked that the author took the time to finish the story by talking about their lives after the concentration camps. I found that appendix very memorable.

44rhian_of_oz
Jan 25, 2019, 12:03pm

>42 thorold: I didn't see it, which is not too surprising as movies aren't my favourite entertainment medium.

My local library doesn't have it but the state library has it on VHS :-D. We still have a video player - I'm almost tempted to request it.

45thorold
Jan 25, 2019, 12:24pm

>44 rhian_of_oz: Fun! I think you should (unless they charge you a ridiculous fee). Reviving obsolete media is always a good thing - I still regret throwing out most of the floppy disks, microfiches and VHS tapes I found in the backs of cupboards when I stopped work.

46BLBera
Jan 25, 2019, 3:56pm

>40 rhian_of_oz: This has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years. It sounds like I should pick it up.

The lost letters book also sounds interesting. I do get bugged by historical inaccuracies, though.

47rhian_of_oz
Jan 26, 2019, 1:06pm

The Subjugate by Amanda Bridgeman

Set in the near future after 'The Crash' a murder occurs in Bountiful, a religious 'tech-pullaway' community with a symbiotic relationship with the experimental Solme Complex where violent criminals are neurally reconditioned into placid Serenes. Detectives Salvi Brentt and Mitch Grenville, each with their personal demons, are brought in from San Francisco to investigate.

What I liked
  • The premise.

What I didn't like
So many things. The following list is not exhaustive.
  • The writing style seemed quite clunky, it didn't flow. I kept finding myself pulled up without entirely realising why.

  • The personal scenes were melodramatic. One scene where the detectives are sharing their secrets reads like a soap opera.

  • The female detective finds herself isolated with the murderer when she realises he's the murderer. Does she play it cool until she can retreat and call for back up like a sensible person? Of course not. Grr.

  • The resolution was unsatisfactory. There was no indication whatsoever that he was involved except for the fact he was a named character.

Why I read this
One of my favourite bookshops hosted a launch for this book. Plus I was happy to support a local author.

Summary
I really wanted to like this book. In theory it covered two genres I enjoy - science fiction(ish) and crime - but the delivery was quite poor. I kept reading it because I wanted to know who was responsible but even that was disappointing. I'm glad I didn't end up buying her other books at the launch.

48dchaikin
Jan 26, 2019, 11:18pm

I like the contrast between the what I liked/didn't like for this kind of book. You didn't mention the publisher, so I don't know the circumstance, but it feeds my thinking about what should and shouldn't get published.

49rhian_of_oz
Jan 26, 2019, 1:28am

>48 dchaikin: I looked at a number of reviews on Goodreads and only one reflected the way I felt, the rest were effusive in their praise. She has a best selling series and therefore presumably a loyal audience which could explain the decision to publish by Angry Robot. To be fair I have read worse - Camino Island and The Seventh Miss Hatfield to name two from recent memory.

50rhian_of_oz
Jan 28, 2019, 8:29am

The Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape

Scott Pape AKA The Barefoot Investor is an investment advisor with an almost cult following here in Australia. He has a no-nonsense approach to financial advice - there are no get-rich-quick schemes with him.

I read his weekly column and follow him on Facebook and have always enjoyed what I've read. My partner and I are fairly financially aware but I thought it wouldn't hurt to have a look through this book and make sure we were on the right track, so I got it out from the library. (Sidenote: there was a huge waitlist for the original release of this book but none for the updated 2017 version. People are weird.)

The first thing you notice about this book is how readable it is - Pape uses a conversational tone and no jargon. There is no baffling with bulls**t. The structure and organisation of the book is also spot on, he starts off with the basics and then moves on to the next stage, and then the next.

There are interesting real-life testimonials spread throughout the book, and Pape also shares personal anecdotes, both of which contribute to the 'friendliness' of this book.

While there is a lot of content that is specific to Australia (e.g. tax and superannuation) I believe the basics are probably more widespread in their applicability.

I'm really glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in achieving a sense of financial control.

51rhian_of_oz
Jan 31, 2019, 4:18pm

The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Eleanor's life is thrown into turmoil after she is diagnosed with breast cancer, so she takes a job as a teacher in a small country town to try and get things back on track. And then it got weird.

What I liked
  • The start of the book. What I thought I was getting was a book about a feisty, foul-mouthed woman who wasn't about bravely enduring her cancer journey.

What I didn't like
  • Eleanor. Initially I liked the tone but when we discover that she is at least 31 I thought that she read much younger. The further we get into the story the less likeable I found her.

  • The rest of the story once Eleanor moves to the country. I kept reading it because I was thinking we might have an 'unreliable narrator' at play.

  • The ending. The book is presented as Eleanor's unpublished blog but the way it ends is completely inconsistent with that premise.

Why I read this
Beth (BLBera) mentioned it as a book she thought she would want to discuss, LT thought I would like it, and I liked what I read in a preview of it.

Summary
Partway through the book I read on the back cover (which I normally avoid) a description of it as "Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist in Twin Peaks". I hated Bridget Jones' Diary with the heat of a thousand suns and the characteristics of Bridget Jones that annoyed me so much were the same things I didn't like about Eleanor.

As far as the Twin Peaks comparison goes, while TP was definitely quirky it was 'atmospheric', whereas this book reads like a slapstick/comedy of errors/farce - none of which I love.

There seems to be lots of love for this book out in the world so I sort of feel like I missed the point somehow. I won't be rushing out to read other works by this author.

52rhian_of_oz
Fev 1, 2019, 3:37pm

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan

In March 1940 the vicar announces that the village choir is closing due to the lack of men. The women of Chilbury disagree with this decision and the Chilbury Ladies' Choir is born against the backdrop of the early months of World War Two.

What I liked
  • The story is told as a series of journal/diary entries and letters. I'm quite a fan of the epistolary form.

  • We have four main narrators and a few minor ones which provides multiple viewpoints of the same events. It also gives us a glimpse of our narrators as perceived by others.

  • All of the events that take place feel realistic and not contrived, though admittedly a lot happens in this little village in a short span of time. There was a noticeable absence of eye-rolling on my behalf.

  • I thought the balance of 'small village concerns' and the events of the war was spot on.

What I didn't like
  • I can't really think of anything. Maybe that there were a lot of characters that were stereotypes.

Why I read this
Penny's (pmarshall) review made it sound appealing.

Summary
I thought this was absolutely delightful. I feel it gives an authentic insight into what life would have been like in small villages during the war, though obviously in real life the 'dramas' experienced in the book would be spread across more villages over a longer time span.

It's a fairly simple, straightforward book. There's not a lot of subtlety to the villains, though they're not terribly evil either. Similarly our 'good guys' are almost quiet in their heroism. At its heart it's about community and sisterhood and how ordinary people deal with extraordinary circumstances. It finishes with a lot of happy endings - except when you remember that by the end of the book they still have five more years of war to endure.

53shadrach_anki
Fev 1, 2019, 4:37pm

>52 rhian_of_oz: This is a book that I remembering being interested in when it was on the Early Reviewers list in 2017, but it managed to drop off my radar in the interim. Thanks for bringing it back to my attention! I'll have to see if my library has a copy available.

54dchaikin
Fev 1, 2019, 6:42pm

>49 rhian_of_oz: interesting. I had assumed an unknown author without success, not a bestseller. Hard to criticize a publisher for a bestseller.

Enjoyed your latest posts.

55SouthernKiwi
Fev 5, 2019, 9:29am

>52 rhian_of_oz: I was given Chilbury Ladies Choir last year and completely agree with your review Rhian, I found it a really lovely slow burner.

56rhian_of_oz
Fev 7, 2019, 1:54pm

Occupy Me by Tricia Sullivan

I'm really struggling to describe this book so the following is how the organiser of our bookclub pitched it.

"This is a quirky mix of supernatural and science fiction ideas with the basic plot of a thriller and told in a peculiar style. It's about an angel, a killer, a mysterious briefcase and the fate of everything."

What I liked
  • The way the story unfolds at the beginning. The reader is observing what's going on without fully understanding it, and as you read on and learn more, the previous parts start to make sense. Well done, not-obvious reveals.

  • The mind-stretching ideas (up to a point). It's one of the things I really enjoy about speculative fiction.

  • Our main characters. One of them is an 'ordinary' person who readily takes all the weirdness is her stride. Some at our bookclub found that unrealistic, but I could see how the character could get caught up in the moment and then carried along.

  • The pace of most of the book. Besides the 'thought experiments' there's lots of action that ticks along without feeling rushed (except towards the end).

What I didn't like
  • Towards the end there is a 'concept' (I'm trying not to spoil it) that is practically incomprehensible. The individual words I understood but the way the author had put them together made little sense.

  • The unfulfilled promise. The way I thought the story was going to turn out and the way it actually did were quite different and not in a good way.

Why I read this
For my RL bookclub.

Summary
The general consensus at bookclub was that the first two thirds of the book was good but the last third felt rushed and lacked cohesion. I mostly enjoyed this book and I feel like my disappointment/confusion around some of the conclusion is having a disproportionate influence on my overall opinion. Having said that we had quite a bit of fun discussing it.

57rhian_of_oz
Fev 8, 2019, 3:36am

The Waiter by Matias Faldbakken

'The Hills' was once Oslo's most esteemed restaurant that is now clinging to the faded grandeur of old Europe. The staff uphold the old traditions for patrons that include a number of regulars with their allocated tables. One day a new guest arrives that disturbs the delicate balance of the dining room.

What I liked
  • The cover and the premise.

What I didn't like
  • The narrator. Our waiter is described as neurotic but I think I was expecting amusing neurotic (e.g. David Sedaris). His behaviour disintegrates over time for no apparent reason, which I suppose is the definition of neurotic. I'm not like this at all and so I struggled to empathise. I also read him as misogynistic and racist.

  • The story. The arrival of an attractive young woman is apparently the catalyst for the story but then she doesn't really do anything - drinks coffee, eats meals, talks to people. There are also a number of brief musings that are just weird.

  • The ending. The book ends with a number of story arcs hanging in midair. I could accept this if the story had been like 'a day in the life' because in that case you know you are getting a brief glimpse into their world before passing on by. But this book literally finished in the middle of a scene.

Why I read this
I picked it off the shelf in the shop because it looked attractive. I bought it because the description on the inside cover sounded interesting, and the first few pages were easy to read.

Summary
I thought I was going to get witty observations by the waiter about the goings on of the patrons. I saw a couple of favourable reviews online that suggested this was satire which is not at all the way I read it. I'm not sure whether the problem was cultural (Norwegian versus Australian) or simply mismatched expectations.

58rhian_of_oz
Fev 13, 2019, 3:17pm

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is the story of two women brought together under trying circumstances, against the backdrop of 40+ years of conflict and war in Afghanistan.

What I liked
  • Mariam and Laila, both individually and together.

  • The view of life in Afghanistan from inside.

  • The insight into life in a war zone. The 'horrors of war' are often described from the point of view of active combatants, but this story describes it from the perspective of civilians. Imagine having to choose between a quick death by poison or a slow one by starvation.

What I didn't like
  • The ending. It felt a bit fairytale (and they all lived happily ever after), except it feels a bit churlish of me to think so given all the hardship our characters had to endure to make it to the end.

Why I read this
I was a relative latecomer to The Kite Runner but once I'd read it I was keen to read other work by the author.

Summary
I liked this a lot. Despite this being written by a man I never perceived the voices of our narrators Mariam and Laila as unauthentic. I thought the pacing was spot on. I enjoyed receiving a history lesson that didn't feel like a lecture, or a checklist of important historical events. And the Mountains Echoed has been added to the wishlist.

59AlisonY
Fev 14, 2019, 1:39pm

>58 rhian_of_oz: despite your misgivings this sounds like the kind of book I might enjoy.

>59 AlisonY: it's a while since I read this, but I seem to remember feeling the same as you did. Enjoyed it, but felt that perhaps it was all a bit too nicely sewn up at the end as you point out.

60rhian_of_oz
Fev 14, 2019, 2:06pm

>59 AlisonY: If you do end up reading it I would be interested in seeing what you think.

61rhian_of_oz
Editado: Fev 17, 2019, 1:48pm

Connections in Death by J. D. Robb

Absolutely zero critical thinking occurred during the reading of this book. I thoroughly enjoy this series and I usually gobble them down in one sitting. This probably wasn't the best in the series but it was still an easy and fun read.

62rhian_of_oz
Fev 17, 2019, 1:47pm

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount
This is an illustrated book about books and other book-related things written by an illustrator/designer.

What I liked
  • It's about my favourite things.

  • The categories of booklists also includes anecdotes about authors and/or books within each category.

  • There are also sections on bookstores and libraries, there are a couple of quizzes, it includes some book reviews/recommendations, as well as other bits and pieces.

What I didn't like
  • Some of the pages on coloured paper were a bit hard to read, particularly the white on orange or red.

  • It's fairly US-centric.

Why I read this
I read about it in an email from a local bookstore and it looked appealing.

Summary
I liked this, it was fun. I didn't spend any time judging the books the author chose to include/exclude in the various categories, I was happy simply to see which of the books I had read were included. I did pick up some new additions to the wishlist but not as many as I could have - there are a lot of lists!

63rhian_of_oz
Editado: Fev 24, 2019, 1:52pm

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison
Humanity is decimated by an epidemic that kills over 98% of men and over 99% of women. This book is one woman's story of surviving the aftermath.

Summary
I quite liked this on first reading, even though it's not particularly ground-breaking as far as post-apocalyptic stories go. However I read a very negative review that made some good points, so I'm going to cogitate on it a bit more and come back to this review.

I will say that as much as I liked it I was a bit surprised to see that it had won the Philip K Dick Award for 2014. I haven't read any of the other books on the shortlist but I know I read much better science fiction novels published in that year.

The sequel is already gracing my TBR pile and I suspect I will be reading that one with a more critical eye.

Additional Thoughts
The prologue takes place "in the future" with a group of scribes assigned to copy the 'Book of the Unnamed Midwife' which implies that the main part of the novel will be the unnamed midwife's journals. While there are snippets of journal entries, most of the story is told in the third person. I didn't mind this when it came to the events that the midwife experienced (in fact I probably preferred it), however there was the odd insertion here and there of stories of people and places that the unnamed midwife could have no knowledge of. I liked it when we found out what happened to some of the people the midwife encountered along the way, while also finding it jarring and out of place.

The prologue states that the unnamed midwife's journals have become "canon" but this idea isn't really supported in the story that follows in a couple of ways. One way is that we don't see enough of "the future" to be able to identify which bits of the midwife's journal becomes law/lore. Secondly, there's no particular wisdom in her tale - it's pretty much a survival story. Thirdly, I found the fact that she remained the "unnamed midwife" annoying given not only does she live out her life in the settlement, she's elected to council and has a name among them.

I liked the character of the unnamed midwife - not because she's always likeable but because I found her believable. The negative review I read didn't like her and the complaints (to me) seemed to boil down to the fact that she isn't "ladylike".

Final Thought
After further reflection I've come to the conclusion that despite it's slight flaws I still liked this book. I'm glad I read it and am looking forward to reading the next one.

64BLBera
Fev 21, 2019, 7:53pm

>51 rhian_of_oz: Rhian - I'm sorry you read The Bus on Thursday on my account. I was anxious to discuss it with others because, quite frankly, I had a lot of questions about the end. Was she dead for the last bit, after falling? I agree with you that the beginning promised a much different book from what it turned into.

>52 rhian_of_oz: I also enjoyed The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. I was a bit surprised because I thought it sounded a bit stereotypical, but Ryan somehow made it work for me.

>63 rhian_of_oz: I am interested in this one and will probably give it a try.

65rhian_of_oz
Fev 22, 2019, 3:39pm

>64 BLBera: Beth no apologies are necessary - it was still my choice to read it. I agree with you in what you think happened at the end. What particularly annoyed me is that the book was supposed to be her unpublished blog, but then it just ends in the middle of a sentence.

The Bus on Thursday is on the shortlist for Best Horror Novel for the Aurealis Awards. It's interesting to contemplate whether I would have read it differently if I'd known it was supposed to be horror. I am of the opinion that I shouldn't need to be told what a book is, but rather it should reveal itself as I'm reading it. It's one of the reasons I tend not to read book blurbs.

If you do end up reading The Book of the Unnamed Midwife I look forward to hearing what you think. I need to come back to my review and add some additional thoughts.

66BLBera
Fev 22, 2019, 7:24pm

I do get the feeling the book started as one thing and changed and ended up as not one thing or another. It seems to me if one is going the fantasy/horror route, that should be clear from the start. Unity and all that.

I'm very interested in dystopian fiction, so I will read The Book of the Unnamed Midwife eventually.

67rhian_of_oz
Editado: Fev 24, 2019, 2:47pm

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

The Fated Sky is the second book in the Lady Astronaut duology.

A meteorite strikes on the eastern seaboard of the United States in 1952 and the impending devastating environmental impacts accelerate the space program.

Elma (our narrator) is a mathematician and physicist and was a WASP in WW2. She's married to Nathaniel who is a rocket scientist and their relationship reads as quite modern.

I find Elma is mostly a likeable character. She has self-confessed flaws (perfect heroes are boring) but she also has blindspots, and is in a number of ways a product of her time and upbringing.

There's a strange juxtaposition between the space program in the book being more advanced than what we have now, while being set in an era that is less ... enlightened in the attitudes to not-white-males.

I'm not an astronaut (or even a pilot) but I felt that the representation of the astronauts is consistent with my understanding of them (which admittedly is mostly informed by the movie Apollo 11, Colonel Chris Hadfield's autobiography, and by Colonel Hadfield himself when he came to Australia a few years ago).

This moves along at a reasonable pace. It's not one disaster after another (a la The Martian) but there are obviously obstacles along the way (big and small) that need to be overcome as humans race to establish a colony off-Earth.

I enjoyed both books in the duology and think they would appeal to anyone who liked Hidden Figures (the movie, I haven't read the book).

68SouthernKiwi
Fev 26, 2019, 7:51am

Nice review of The Fated Sky, I'm hoping to get to The Calculating Stars very shortly and didn't realise it had a sequel. I see you're reading Henrietta Lacks at the moment - that's one I really liked when I read it.

69rhian_of_oz
Fev 26, 2019, 2:46pm

>68 SouthernKiwi: I had heard of Henrietta Lacks previously but I can't remember the context. Then I read a reference to the book and off to the library I went! I thought it was someone on CR but I haven't been able to find the reference. I am really enjoying it.

70valkyrdeath
Fev 28, 2019, 1:48am

>62 rhian_of_oz: I was looking at this one a while ago and thought it looked like a nice book to dip in and out of. I might get hold of a copy sometime.

71markon
Mar 1, 2019, 6:48pm

>63 rhian_of_oz: Thanks for this review. I read this sometime last year, enjoyed it, and didn't think much about it. You make a good point that it isn't a diary and that there are some "entries" that the midwife couldn't have known about. I seem to remember there was supposed to be a sequel, and I see on Amazon that The book Etta and came out in 2017 and The book of Flora will be published this spring. I don't know that I care about it enough to look for sequels - I have far too much on my TBR that I want to read.

>67 rhian_of_oz: I read and enjoyed Kowal's collection of short stories, Word Puppets. I also liked the book Hidden Figures much more than the movie. Maybe I'll keep these in my back pocket for when I need a light read.

72rhian_of_oz
Editado: Mar 4, 2019, 1:36pm

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Anil and Leena are childhood friends whose paths diverge as they reach adulthood. Anil is torn between his role as leader of his clan and his dreams of becoming a doctor, while Leena embarks on her more traditional path of an arranged marriage.

This was an easy enough read. It raised some interesting ideas about the immigrant experience including the cultural adjustments and the tug-of-war between family expectations and one's own hopes. It also shone a light on the system of dowry and its potential for abuse which is quite topical in Australia at the moment.

This book was given and recommended to me by my mother-in-law. It was an easy enough read and I liked it well enough, but I don't think it will stick with me for the long term.

73rhian_of_oz
Mar 4, 2019, 1:53pm

The Erratics by Vicki Laveau-Harvie

Vicki's mother breaks her hip, and while she's in hospital Vicki and her sister do all they can to have their mother committed to ensure the safety and well-being of their father.

This book has quite an oppressive feel to it, flipping between the present and the past as we learn more about the girls' upbringing and why they are so determined to save their father from their mother.

I read this because it was longlisted for The Stella Prize which is an award for Australian women's writing. I was a bit disappointed because it didn't really have an 'Australian' voice and it is mainly set in Canada.

Overall I enjoyed reading the book but when I got to the end I was a bit perplexed because I didn't get what the point of it was. And then I read the back and realised it was a memoir.

74rhian_of_oz
Mar 6, 2019, 2:59pm

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
This is a military science fiction story about an interstellar war between humans and Taurans told from the perspective of one of the first conscripts.

What I liked
  • This book has so many cool ideas, time dilation and the stasis field being just two of them.

  • Haldeman conveys very strongly the experience of soldiers returning to civilian life after war, especially the sense of alienation.

  • A function of time dilation was that humans never knew if the Taurans they expected to encounter were going to be more or less advanced in relation to technology.

  • The use of a Temporal Orientation Officer to provide an information dump that didn't feel like one.

  • The interesting exploration of the consequences of an interstellar war on economic systems.

What I didn't like
  • The first section gave me Heinlein flashbacks. It seems like the view of the future from the 70s for some writers was hot and cold running sex.

What I have mixed feelings about
  • The 'accelerated life situation computer'. I can't decide whether it's a really cool idea (it's likely one of the first appearances of what became cyberpunk) or a cheat for later events.

  • Haldeman really stretches the envelope in the societal changes he explores, but the means with which he does so has uncomfortable parallels to "conversion therapy".

  • The last three pages. Part of me loves it and part of me is disappointed with it.

Why I read this
This was a reread for my RL bookclub. I originally read this book about 20 years ago which was around 25 years after it was first written.

Summary
This is quite rightly a classic in the science fiction genre. There are some parts that are a bit dated from this modern perspective, but probably more parts and ideas that stand the test of time. My overall opinion is that I didn't love it but I didn't hate it. The bookclub's opinion ranged the whole gamut from loathe to love and we had a really good discussion about it.

75auntmarge64
Mar 6, 2019, 5:15pm

>58 rhian_of_oz: I've read all three of Hosseini's adult novels and was impressed by them all. Hope you enjoy And the Mountains Echoed!

>63 rhian_of_oz: Oh, I really liked The Book of the Unnamed Midwife and the sequel, The Book of Etta. Your review reminded me to check, and there's another sequel coming this spring: The Book Of Flora, so I've preordered it. One thing I like about the series is that it's not all peaches and cream, it largely concerns women, and it's just an unusual post-apocalyptic tale in general.

76baswood
Mar 6, 2019, 10:34pm

I liked The Forever War but I didn't love it. Had some interesting ideas and at times felt quite experimental. Enjoyed reading your thoughts,

77rhian_of_oz
Mar 13, 2019, 3:03pm

Golden State by Ben H. Winters
Golden State is a society in which a fundamental concept is Objectively So and the Permanent Record is reality. This is achieved by omnipresent surveillance and everybody keeping everything ("archiving is bulwark"). In this culture the worst crime one can commit is to lie, with enforcement carried out by Speculators who can perceive when someone is being untruthful.

Why I read this
This was on a list of recommendations I found on the Parnassus Books blog.

Summary
Despite the "big brotherness" of this society it doesn't feel as oppressive as 1984, probably because our narrator is on the "inside" (he is a Speculator). This starts off pretty much as a police procedural (including our "lone wolf" assigned a partner against his will) with our intrepid pair investigating a suspicious death that becomes more mysterious the further they go. It then turns into a conspiracy, and then turns into I'm not sure what.

I read this in one sitting so the pace was mostly spot on. I really enjoyed the detecting part (about two thirds of the book), wasn't as keen on the conspiracy part (some internal logic holes started appearing), was even less keen on the next part (you can probably guess what happens when our hero learns about the conspiracy), and was seriously disappointed with the last twenty pages.

I'm prepared to give this author another go because I mostly really enjoyed this book and thought there were some really neat ideas. Plus The Last Policeman Trilogy looks interesting.

78raton-liseur
Mar 13, 2019, 3:33pm

>40 rhian_of_oz: Catching up on your thread. I was interested by your review of A Train in Winter.
If I am not wrong, this deported group was the one with the highest rate of survival for Auschwitz. There are various factors to explain this, but it seems the high level of mutual aid between co-deportees was one of the reasons.
A few of the deportees are fairly famous. One of them, Charlotte Delbo was the secretary for Louis Jouvet, a famous French actor and theatrical producer. She has written a few books on her time in Auschwitz. You reminded me that one of them is sitting on my shelves, Auschwitz and After. I have heared some excerpts from it and seems really interesting.

79rhian_of_oz
Mar 14, 2019, 2:37pm

>78 raton-liseur: The book describes many instances where they helped each other, from keeping their spirits up to literally saving their lives. One of the things they did was perform plays that Charlotte remembered from working with Louis Jouvet.

80raton-liseur
Mar 14, 2019, 6:18pm

>79 rhian_of_oz: Yes, that's exactly what I had in mind. Nice to know there is an Anglophone book on this matter. It has been under-reported in France for decades but, for one reason or another, comes back in the spot light at the moment, and I believe it is a nice thing to do to recall those events and the strength some of those people havec shown in those horrid circumstances.

81rhian_of_oz
Mar 17, 2019, 2:06pm

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Henrietta Lacks' cells are famous for being the first human cells able to be grown in a laboratory. This book is about Henrietta and her family, and also about her cells and their "journey".

Why I read this
I had heard of Henrietta Lacks previously though I can't remember where and then I'm sure someone in CR mentioned her in a review for another work but I can't find the reference so maybe it was from somewhere else.

Summary
The author's writing style is very accessible so the parts about science are as easy to read as the human interest sections. The book raises many interesting ethical issues around research using human tissue. It also shows the impacts of commercialisation on knowledge sharing.

I'm not sure how I feel about the parts relating to Henrietta's family. I mean a lot of terrible things happened to them - but they mostly had absolutely nothing to do with Henrietta's cells. I struggled to relate to their feelings about their mother's cells which I suspect is due to a fundamental difference in belief systems. On the other hand, their story is interesting and no doubt reflects the experiences of many poor African American families.

The author also inserts herself into the story which I'm not that keen on. It feels a little like she needed to demonstrate that she had a 'special' relationship with them to somehow make up for her persistence (harassment?) in pursuing them even when they didn't want to speak with her.

Overall I'm glad I read it.

82rhian_of_oz
Editado: Abr 1, 2019, 2:30pm

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
Cormac Reilly is a detective recently transferred from 'big city' Dublin to 'regional' Galway whose new boss only assigns him hopeless cold cases. He's ostracised by most of his colleagues except for a fellow he went through training with and a young ambitious officer.

A current suspicious death and a twenty-year old cold case intersect and thus our chase begins.

What I liked
  • The opening few scenes.

  • The hints of the relationship between Reilly and his partner Emma.

What I didn't like
  • The "whydunnit" was convoluted and ridiculous.

  • The police investigating Jack's case were overly incompetent.

  • The book is set in 2013 (published in 2018) and uses technology that wasn't available until 2015. The author admits she cheated by using the technology ahead of it's time but it's not clear to me why she didn't just set the novel later.

  • Despite formerly being part of an elite Special Detective Unit Reilly is not a particularly perceptive detective.

Why I read this
There was a lot of buzz about it so I grabbed a copy as soon as it came out in paperback.

Summary
I found this easy to read and well-paced but I'm not sure it stands up well under a critical eye. It's difficult to talk about its faults without giving away massive spoilers.

I'll read the next one because it has more about Emma in it and I'm hoping their relationship is given more depth. Plus the preview of Chapter One indicates that maybe Reilly will "come in from the cold".

83rhian_of_oz
Mar 19, 2019, 9:08am

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Imagine you disappeared through a portal into a different world and on your return you struggled to adapt back into your "before" life. At Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children you would not be cured of your "delusions" but rather be accepted as you are.

We are introduced to the school via Nancy, a young woman who has recently returned from the Halls of the Dead, and through whom we learn more about the place and its inhabitants. And then people start dying.

What I liked
  • The concept. The idea that not all returns from other worlds results in happily ever after, and that there would be a place for these children to be themselves.

  • The attraction theory. There's a suggestion that there is something pre-existing within our 'explorers' that makes them suitable for the world they end up in.

What I didn't mind
  • The lack of detail of the other worlds. This is a complaint some reviewers had but I'm okay with it. The point of this story is *not* the other worlds per se, but only the parts that are relevant to the impact on their visitors.

What I'm not sure about
  • The diversity of the characters. I'm not sure whether it's trying too hard or whether it's an accurate reflection of young people these days.

What disappointed me
  • I thought we were seeing the development of a Scooby gang but apparently not.

What I didn't like
  • The murder mystery. I mean I realise the story needed some catalyst but this was pretty clumsily done. Only the first victim is reported to the police? The case is closed after only a matter of weeks? And don't even get me started on the fact that the killer was literally pointed out and no one got it. Lots of suspension of disbelief required for this bit.

Why I read this
Jennifer's (jjmcgaffey) review of a later book in the series piqued my interest.

Summary
For me, the main "point" of this book wasn't the murder mystery so I found I could set aside the weaknesses associated with that part of the tale and enjoy the rest of it. I am interested to see where the author takes this series next given it didn't end up where I was expecting.

84markon
Editado: Mar 28, 2019, 4:52pm

Stopped by to catch up.

>77 rhian_of_oz: You got me with a book bullet for The Last Policeman series (via Golden Gate.) Just snagged the title volume at the library and put book 3 (World of Trouble) on hold. May have to resort to buying the second volume (Countdown City) if I like book 1. Hope to make this read coincide with traveling to visit my Dad next month.

>83 rhian_of_oz: I enjoyed Every heart a doorway. I agree with your point about the murder being clumsily done, but I really like the concept of this world. Funnily, I haven't gone back to read any of the sequels (yet), although my library has several of them. Maybe another read for my trip?

My audiobook checkout of The Alice Network expired yesterday, and I was only about halfway through. Sigh. So I'm back on a wait list, as I found it a wonderful story (though I know there are some difficult bits coming.) I did notice Kate Quinn has a new book out, so I've requested it at the library on the basis of her writing. She's got me interested in the characters as well as what will happen next (and finding out, in Eve's and hopefully Fiinn's case, what happened in the past.)

85rhian_of_oz
Mar 29, 2019, 9:12am

>84 markon: I hope you don't have to wait too long to reunite with The Alice Network. I'd lend you my copy but I've recently lent it to my MIL. Oh and you're in another country ;-). I did know about Quinn's new book but had forgotten. I think maybe I'll spend some of my evening (while my partner is out to dinner) updating my non-CR wishlist because I'd also forgotten about The Last Policeman series.

86rhian_of_oz
Abr 10, 2019, 2:17pm

I'm a bit behind in my reviews and am hoping to catch up by Easter (at which time I will have no time for reading or reviewing).

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James
I read a review that described this as a soft apocalypse - which is a great description of what happens in a world where a virus doesn't kill everyone off but instead makes them all infertile.

Lowrie (our narrator) and Shen are the last two people born in the world. Teenagers being raised by a community of octogenerians, learning skills to enable them to survive on their own.

And then people start getting sick.

What I liked
  • As the story progresses the current events are interspersed with blog entries and social media posts from after the virus. The author does a really good job of pacing the revelations from the past with the action of the present.

  • It's hard to discuss without spoilers but it explores the idea of what humans as a species would do if they couldn't have children.

  • The resolution. It was totally consistent with where the story was heading.

What I didn't like
  • The Epilogue. It's supposed to be written by someone in their 30s but reads like the rest of the book, i.e. written by a teenager. So annoying.

Why I read this
I was browsing in an airport bookstore and the cover looked appealing.

Summary
I read this in one sitting - though admittedly I was on a 5 hour flight with no entertainment alternatives. I liked this a lot but it is definitely a YA book (it has that *tone* to it), so if that's not your jam this might not be for you. I intend to read other books by this author when I'm next in the mood for YA.

87rhian_of_oz
Abr 11, 2019, 2:30pm

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
At its very simplest this is a story about a motley crew who undertake a massive cattle drive across the Old West from Texas to Montana.

What I liked
  • I feel like the pace of the book reflected really well the pace of the cattle drive. Days of monotony broken up by moments of intense activity.

  • Gus. Mostly. I liked that he was a man of thought and one of action when required. But there is a scene where he breaks a bartender's nose because he feels the young man didn't pay him enough respect where I didn't like him at all.

  • The language was so evocative.

  • The friendship between Gus and Call. Seemingly inexplicable but clearly deep and strong.

  • The supporting cast. There's a lot of them but they are easy to keep track of because they are fleshed out characters.


What I didn't like
  • The casual use of the word whore bothered me throughout the whole book but I tried to remind myself that it was presumably in common usage in the time the book was set. But I really feel like it was dismissive of or disrespectful to Lorena to refer to her like that at the end.

  • "Off stage" ends of storylines. We find out about the death of one character who had a number of her own chapters almost as an afterthought or footnote.

  • Gus dying. I recognise that the manner of his death was consistent with his character, but it seemed so ignoble and end. Maybe it was the only way McMurtry could think of to resolve the Lorena/Gus thread..


What I'm ambivalent about
  • Call. I don't like his attitude toward women, or the way he handled his recognition (or lack thereof) of Newt as his son. But I really liked his loyalty, and the way he kept his promise at the end.


Why I read this
Club Read group read.

Summary
I don't normally read Westerns however when it comes down to it, a good book is a good book regardless of genre. At 858 pages this is an epic read but there doesn't feel like there's any padding, it has a nice mix of action and contemplation. I'm glad I read it, though I'm not intending to read the other three.

88rhian_of_oz
Abr 11, 2019, 2:40pm

Rats. I've lost most of my CR wishlist trying to restore it after the touchstones broke. I had it pasted into Notepad and then my laptop unexpectedly shut down. First world problem I know but still. Aaah!

89rhian_of_oz
Abr 12, 2019, 4:20pm

I was more upset about losing my wishlist than was really warranted (it was late and I was tired) but to make past Rhian feel better I think I've managed to recreate most if not all of it.

90rhian_of_oz
Abr 13, 2019, 4:56pm

Kindred by Octavia E Butler
Written and set in 1976 this is the story of Dana who finds herself "pulled back" into the early 1800s when Rufus is in danger of drowning. The complication is that Dana is African American and Rufus' family owns slaves. This is the first of many trips back in time for Dana and the beginning of the complex relationship between her and Rufus.

What I liked
  • The unflinching descriptions of life as a slave.

  • The exploration of the choices one might make in those circumstances.

  • The perspective of Dana's (white) husband Kevin of living in that time. There's a great scene between Dana and Kevin that begins with him saying "this could be a great time to live in" and ends with her saying "I never realised how easily people could be trained to accept slavery".

  • The fact that Rufus is Dana's ancestor. It (sort of) explains why she keeps being drawn back in time to him, and also gives a reason (from a narrative perspective) of why Dana doesn't just let him die.

What I didn't like
  • The speed with which Dana works out what's happening to her.

  • The seemingly easy acceptance by everyone (past and present) of Dana's sudden appearances and disappearances.

  • The language is a little melodramatic at times.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The backstory of Dana and Kevin's relationship was interesting enough, but not really relevant to the story.

  • Dana's feelings toward Rufus. I didn't find him to be a sympathetic character in the slightest and struggled to understand why she cared about him at all.

  • When Kevin returns to the present he has a lot of trouble adjusting after spending five years in the past. However when Dana returns after her next "trip", which is only three hours for Kevin, he's all good.

What mildly amused me
  • There is a scene in the present when Dana and her husband Kevin are trying to find out more information about the past and they are limited to the books and encyclopedia they have in the apartment. My first thought was "why didn't they Google it".

Why I read this
Someone (I think in bookclub) recommended it.

Summary
I've heard that this novel is referred to as science fiction. It absolutely isn't, but as I didn't have that expectation going in I wasn't disappointed. The how of the time travel is never explained either, which didn't bother me as it was clearly just a vehicle for Ms Butler to have a modern woman's experience of the antebellum south. What did irk me a bit was some inconsistencies in the treatment of time, but they weren't material to the story.

I think this is an interesting story, mostly well written. I'm glad I read it and liked it enough to try reading other work by Ms Butler.

91RidgewayGirl
Abr 13, 2019, 7:03pm

The loss of a book wish list seems to me to be solid grounds for at least some weeping and gnashing of teeth! Glad you were able to recreate it!

92rhian_of_oz
Abr 14, 2019, 1:26pm

Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
This is a fictional account of the friendship and collaboration between fossil hunters Mary Anning and Elizabeth Philpot.

What I liked
  • The narrators alternate between Mary and Elizabeth and their voices are easy to differentiate. It was interesting to see their different perspectives, which reflected their different "stations" in life.

  • I had never considered the impact that fossils would have had on religious beliefs of the time (pre-Darwin).

Why I read this
Book bullet from shadrach_anki.

Summary
I'm really interested in women in science, particularly historical as the recognition of their contributions was often ... lacking. This story provided an insight into the lives of women of the time, and especially those with "non-traditional" interests. It's a lovely book, but fairly sedate and slow-paced.

93dchaikin
Abr 15, 2019, 6:54pm

Sorry about your wishlist, but enjoyed catching up

>86 rhian_of_oz: that YA tone - It’s a thing and i’m not a fan.

>87 rhian_of_oz: I’m still plodding through Lonesome Dove, and I like your summary. Admittedly I was entertained by that one character’s side-note death. Read that last night. Seems LM likes his characters to die quickly and in many different ways and circumstances. If he designed the game Oregon Trail, there would be no way to win.

>90 rhian_of_oz: the inconsistencies drove me crazy with Kindred. That three hour turnaround by Kevin is a great example. Why would she do that? Still, interesting circumstance and story.

>92 rhian_of_oz: noting (again). Curious about Anning.

94OscarWilde87
Abr 18, 2019, 7:19am

There is a lot of interesting stuff to catch up with here. I quite like your review style, especially the way you point out what you liked and what you did not like. Makes it easy to find out whether to put a book on my wishlist.

95rhian_of_oz
Abr 19, 2019, 4:29am

>94 OscarWilde87: I'm pleased you like my reviews and that they are helpful. I'm enjoying reading everyone's reviews (even for books I'm pretty sure aren't for me) though I am riddled with book bullets ;-).

96rhian_of_oz
Abr 19, 2019, 4:37am

>93 dchaikin: Thanks for dropping by :-).

97NanaCC
Abr 19, 2019, 2:40pm

Just catching up on a few posts. You’ve reminded me that I want to get to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks sometime this year.

98Petroglyph
Abr 19, 2019, 2:21am

Catching up!

99rhian_of_oz
Abr 21, 2019, 4:36pm

>97 NanaCC: and >98 Petroglyph: I'm glad I'm not the only one behind in everyone's threads.

100rhian_of_oz
Abr 23, 2019, 2:21pm

Dyschronia by Jennifer Mills
Set in a small Australian coastal town, the story starts a few years after the sea has disappeared. Our main character is Sam, a young woman who has been plagued by visions of the future since her childhood. We switch between the far past, the near past and the present, sometimes paralleled by the foreseen future.

What I liked
  • The back of the book describes it as "Oscillating between the future and the past" and this is a perfect description. One needs to pay attention at the start of each chapter to establish the who and when.

  • Some reviews refer to the writing as muddled, disjointed and confusing, which is true to a certain extent but to me beautifully reflected the way Sam perceives time.

  • The manner in which the story is built and information is revealed. So many instances of "Ah, so *that's* what was going on".

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The ending. I'm still not entirely sure about it despite reading it multiple times.

What amused me
  • There's a few examples of bureaucracy-speak. "Departmentally incentivised", "innovative public-private partnership", "monetisation potential".

Why I read this
It's a finalist in the 2018 Aurealis Awards Science Fiction category.

Summary
I liked this a lot. It's a difficult novel to describe/classify, it has post-apocalyptic elements but it's both more and less than a global survival story. It's probably more about causality and fate and whether the future is fixed or changeable. I will definitely be reading other work by this author, assuming I can get my hands on her other novels.

101rhian_of_oz
Abr 24, 2019, 1:10pm

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante
This is the second book of the Neapolitan Novels which chronicles the friendship of Lila and Elena. In this instalment the two are young women treading very different paths into adulthood.

What I liked
  • The cover. The young woman reminds me of Natalie Portman.

What I didn't like
  • The language is often stilted or awkward. It's hard to know whether this is due to the translation or the original writing.

  • Our narrator Elena, mostly because she's whiny. I feel like I should be more sympathetic toward her because she's discovering she doesn't belong where she came from and is trying to find who she is.

  • Lila, though admittedly we are seeing her only via Elena. Again I feel like I should more sympathetic toward her because her married life is horrid.

  • The life of working class women in Naples in the 1960s. Working their butts off for husbands that beat them and spent their hard-earned money keeping mistresses.

Why I read this
I must have been intrigued enough by the first novel to buy this one, but it then sat on my TBR pile for over two years. I read it now for the April TBRCat.

Summary
I didn't like it and I don't understand why it's rated so highly. I certainly won't be reading the remainder of the quartet.

102dchaikin
Abr 25, 2019, 5:48pm

>101 rhian_of_oz: It’s funny, I read this quartet maybe two years ago and was carried off so far, and was so enraptured, I thought everyone and anyone would love it. But most reviews I have read since then have been mixed or negative. We’re all different readers, thankfully.

103SouthernKiwi
Abr 26, 2019, 7:31am

>101 rhian_of_oz: I read My Brilliant Friend a couple of years ago and have no interest in reading the rest of the Neopolitan Novels. I had the same issue with the characteristation and writing as you Rhian. Good to see I'm not missing anything in the later books!

104AlisonY
Abr 26, 2019, 11:46am

>101 rhian_of_oz: this quartet definitely seems to be Marmite literature where people either really love it or are significantly underwhelmed as you were. I very much enjoyed the series, although I wasn't sure why it receive quite the level of international acclaim that it did. From memory I think the second book was actually my favourite of the four - just shows how different we all are as readers!

105dchaikin
Abr 26, 2019, 1:21pm

>104 AlisonY: The second was my favorite too.

106NanaCC
Abr 26, 2019, 1:46pm

>101 rhian_of_oz: I’m with you on this one. My reaction was meh. I didn’t hate it, but had no desire to continue. It may have been that I was expecting more because of the hype. It just wasn’t my cuppa’.

107auntmarge64
Abr 26, 2019, 11:21pm

Damn, damn, damn. (Not really). Another post-apacolyptic book for my list.

108BLBera
Abr 27, 2019, 1:51pm

>101 rhian_of_oz: This one sounds good. Onto the list it goes!

I loved Parable of the Sower by Butler. It's remarkably prescient. Written in the 1990s, it has a presidential candidate with the slogan, "Make America great again."

109markon
Abr 27, 2019, 6:28pm

Stopping by to catch up.

>86 rhian_of_oz: Have you read Children of Men by P.D. James? It has a different slant. Humans have inexplicably become infertile going on for 15 years.

The main character is contacted and asked to help a woman who is pregnant and wants to fly under the radar until her child is born. His cousin, the prime minister, wants to take the woman under his wing and use her to strengthen his power. (Don't judge the book by the movie, it changed the arc of the story.)

If your friend is still wondering about The Last Policeman, yes, I enjoyed the series - read it flying up & back to see my dad.

110rhian_of_oz
Abr 28, 2019, 5:01am

>102 dchaikin:, >103 SouthernKiwi:, >104 AlisonY:, >106 NanaCC:

Sometimes when I don't like a book that is highly rated I do wonder whether I've missed something. Or that maybe my "reading mood" might not be receptive to that book at that time. But who wants to risk rereading a book they didn't like on the possibility they might like it better a second time?

Given the diversity of readers' life experiences maybe the more extraordinary thing is that there is any agreement at all!

111rhian_of_oz
Abr 28, 2019, 5:41am

>108 BLBera: You recommended Parable of the Sower to me previously but I didn't find that recommendation when I was recreating my wishlist. So many thanks for recommending it again!

112rhian_of_oz
Abr 28, 2019, 5:47am

>109 markon: I haven't yet read Children of Men but have added it to my wishlist. I haven't seen the movie either so no suspension of judgement necessary.

The Last Policeman is on my non-CR wishlist based on Golden State so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it - another indicator that it's worth reading.

113rhian_of_oz
Abr 28, 2019, 6:41am

Becoming by Michelle Obama
This is the memoir of the most recent former First Lady of the United States, starting with her early life growing up in Chicago through to the end of her husband's presidency.

Why I read this
Many recommendations from CRers, and my SIL lent it me.

Thoughts
I found this a bit underwhelming, possibly due to high expectations. Don't get me wrong, it's an easy enough book to read, but it's fairly uncontroversial. I wasn't necessarily expecting anything salacious, but the only thing that makes her story different to many other women's stories is that she was married to the President of the United States.

Her upbringing was not particularly tough, her academic career not particularly challenging, her work life not particularly scaling dizzy heights. It's quite possible it was all tougher/harder but we don't see it. Or it's also possible that as a non-American I don't understand what she has left unsaid.

I appreciate that she has taken the opportunity to tell her own story after years of having other people's versions being published, but it came across as fairly sanitised.

I think she seems like a nice woman who has made the most of her opportunities both for herself and her community (both immediate and nationwide); who loves, admires and respects her husband; and who has tried to navigate as well as she could the best life for her family.

I don't regret spending the time to read it, but I'm not going to rave about it and recommend it to everyone I know.

114AlisonY
Abr 29, 2019, 7:37am

>113 rhian_of_oz: interested to read an alternative review of this book after so many plaudits. I haven't read it yet, but I strongly suspect that if you are based in the States this memoir resonates with you a lot more, especially given current Trump times. I expect that if I were to read this I'd probably end up with a similar conclusion to yourself.

115rhian_of_oz
Abr 29, 2019, 3:23pm

>114 AlisonY: It would be an interesting exercise to analyse the US versus non-US ratings to see if there's a difference. Without any evidence to support my opinion I imagine that the USans that choose to read this book are already favourably inclined towards the Obamas.

116rhian_of_oz
Abr 30, 2019, 9:27am

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
On the last night of 1984 85 year old Lillian Boxfish takes a walk through Manhattan, encountering various characters and reviewing her life.

What I liked
  • Lillian Boxfish. I was glad to have spent time in her company. I really admire the way she has lived her life the way she wants rather than the way she "should".

What I didn't like
  • The scene at Penn Station. Most of Lillian's encounters require a bit of suspension of disbelief but for this one I just couldn't do it.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The ending. It felt a bit ... flat. On the other hand I'm not sure how else it could have finished.

Why I read this
Hit by a book bullet from Colleen (NanaCC).

Summary
This was a perfect end-of-work-week read. There are some quite serious/sombre scenes, however overall the tone is fairly light. You could describe this as a walk through history but I was far more interested in Lillian's personal story. I imagine that if one knows Manhattan there might be some additional nostalgic fondness/sense of place that passed me by, but I don't feel my enjoyment of the book was diminished by not being familiar with the setting. I would happily read other work by this author.

117NanaCC
Abr 30, 2019, 12:38pm

>116 rhian_of_oz: I’m happy that you liked this one. I’m not sure I’d be able to do that walk at my age now, let alone at 85, but I found the book delightful.

118OscarWilde87
Maio 1, 2019, 7:27am

>113 rhian_of_oz: The book is on my wishlist. Interesting to read a review about Becoming that does not simply praise it. I would also be interested in the outcome of a US/non-US review comparison, but I assume you're right in saying that Obama-inclined US readers will like it much more than non-US citizens who probably have a more sober perspective.

119dchaikin
Maio 2, 2019, 6:46pm

>113 rhian_of_oz: enjoyed your perspective. I suspect there is some unspoken meaning for US readers that might not cross the pond. I wonder how her education and life in Chicago might be viewed differently, for example.

120rhian_of_oz
Editado: Maio 12, 2019, 2:14pm

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
The story is set on the tidally-locked planet January where humans live in the perpetual twilight along the terminator, and where the areas on either side of this narrow band are deadly.

Our narrators are Sophie - a student who worked hard to escape the expectations of her family and community, and Mouth - a former member of a nomadic tribe trying to find where she belongs.

The story begins with Sophie being exiled into the permanent night.

What I liked
  • The world building. There are two cities in which most of the action takes place which have adapted/evolved in quite different ways.

  • The Gelet. I liked their society, their city, and their solution to stabilising the environment.

  • The explanation for the execution of the Citizens.

  • Mouth. I initially thought her character's development was all over the place, but I gained a much greater insight, and therefore appreciation, after our bookclub discussion.

What I didn't like
  • Sophie's blindspot. I really wanted to shake her about it, more and more as the story progressed.

  • Inconsistencies. One example is it's unclear how Sophie and Bianca support themselves in Argelo which is quite minor in the overall scheme of the story, except the need to support themselves drives behaviour for Mouth and Alyssa.

  • Character discrepancies. Bianca is probably the only main character whose behaviour is consistent throughout the story.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Mouth. She started out as this hard-assed smuggler but then seemed to turn into a bit of a sook. I've read some reviews that have made me rethink my opinion of her, but I still feel like her character was inconsistent.

  • The ending. It seems quite abrupt and unfinished. I don't know whether this is because it's also the start of something, the success (or otherwise) of which we are left to imagine for ourselves. Or it's leaving things open for a sequel.

  • The Illyrian Parlour. An interesting concept whose only purpose seems to be to introduce us to Jeremy (whose importance only becomes apparent at the end) and to introduce us to the "mystery" of Sophie's mother (which is never revealed).

What frustrated me
  • So many introduced yet unexplored concepts. Such as the Mothership and the different compartments. Xiosphant's circadian rhythms. Argelo's Nine Families. The relationship between ancestral compartment and social standing in Xiosphant.

Why I read this
Offline bookclub.

Summary
I'm a bit ambivalent about this one. I like the big ideas that it explores but the individual characters less so. It was definitely easy enough to read. It's not a YA novel per se, but has a slight tinge of it due to the age/maturity of our two narrators.

I'm looking forward to discussing this at bookclub.

121rhian_of_oz
Maio 12, 2019, 2:09pm

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion
This is the final instalment in the Rosie trilogy. The following review will include spoilers concerning the first two books that I'm not going to "spoilerize" because I would pretty much need to hide the whole thing.

After over a decade in the US, Don and Rosie return to Australia with their son Hudson. All three have struggles with their new lives, but Don and Rosie's main concern is Hudson and the troubles he has fitting in.

What I liked
  • The insight into the neuroatypical. Especially the concept of being labelled/not labelled and the consequences of each.

  • The examination of what it means to "fit in", how that has changed over time, and how it hasn't.

  • The serious repercussions of not being able to read social cues or being aware of social norms. In The Rosie Effect the outcome was interactions with the police, and this time it involved Don's employment and professional reputation.

  • The following quote: "I had observed that neurotypicals criticised autistic people for lacking empathy - towards them - but seldom made any effort to improve their own empathy towards autistic people.".

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Are we supposed to be laughing *at* Don or *with* him?

  • Rosie's problem. There is a smaller arc about Rosie and the sexism she encounters at work. The issue itself is an interesting topic (and a very real one) but I don't believe it fit well within the wider story.

  • The ending. It's a little "twee", a bit HEA. Except based on the characters we know that there will be further challenges for them in their future. And sometimes I do like a happy ending.

Why I read this
I really like Don Tillman and I wanted to catch up with him and see how he was doing.

Summary
This book is described on the back as "hilarious and thought-provoking" and while I don't necessarily agree with the former, it definitely delivers on the latter.

The second book wasn't as good as the first (a common problem) but this last one rounded out the trilogy quite nicely.

122rhian_of_oz
Maio 16, 2019, 2:20pm

Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman
Alex Delaware (child psychologist and sometime consultant to the LAPD) agrees to make a house call to almost-centenarian Thalia Mars. After an intriguing conversation he commits to return the following day, however when he arrives Thalia is dead.

He calls his best buddy Lieutenant Milo Sturgis and thus begins their investigation into Thalia's mysterious death.

Why I read this
This is the 32nd (!) in the Alex Delaware series and these are a bit of a comfort read/habit for me.

Summary
There hasn't been any character development of Alex, Milo or Robin (Alex's long-term partner) for many books now - they pretty much are buddy cop stories. The plot isn't as twisty/twisted as some of his earlier ones but certainly doesn't take a straight path to whodunnit. This is really one for fans of the series.

123rhian_of_oz
Maio 17, 2019, 3:08am

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
When we first meet our narrator Wash he is a ten or eleven year old slave on a plantation in Barbados in the early 1800s.

The story begins when the plantation master dies and is replaced by the terrifying Erasmus Wilde. But it is his brother Titch that will change Wash's life.

What I liked
  • The cover is gorgeous.

  • Part One. I haven't read a lot of historical fiction regarding slavery and so I appreciated how the scene was set. I really liked the development of Wash's character.

  • The depiction of the fear ex-slaves continued to live with, even when they were free and living in places that didn't have slavery.

  • Wash's relationship with/to Titch. More how Wash comes to view it at the end.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • It feels a little "boys own adventure". The set of experiences felt a little implausible to me.

Why I read this
Multiple positive reviews by CRers.

Summary
I liked this well enough but I wasn't really invested in it. Toward the end I found that I didn't really care about what happened to Wash one way or the other. I think part of the problem is that the first part of the book set me up to expect one type of story, but then it became something else. I feel Wash's "coming of age" story gets overshadowed by the "Victorian adventure" story.

124rhian_of_oz
Maio 21, 2019, 9:59am

Foreigner by C J Cherryh
Humans get lost in space (:-D) and end up at a planet already inhabited by sentient beings (the Atevi).

The main events of this book occur a couple of centuries after first contact.

What I liked
  • The beginning. Ms Cherryh does a superb job succinctly setting the scene for the rest of the book.

What I didn't like
  • The middle. Far too much telling rather than showing via internal monologue.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Bren (our POV character). He is humanity's sole ambassador to the Atevi and yet he makes so many mistakes and errors of judgement. So many misunderstandings, which are to be expected between humans and not-humans, except he is the sole ambassador. And the angst, gah! He redeems himself at the end which is why I'm ambivalent rather than flat out disliking him.

What puzzled me
  • In the introduction/foreword Ms Cherryh mentions that two of the characters get a lot of fanmail but I didn't find them particularly compelling. Maybe they become more interesting.

Why I read this
This was a SantaThing present.

Summary
For the first 60 pages I thought "I will definitely read the next one" and at the end of the next 300-odd pages I thought "I definitely won't read the next one". And by the end? I want to know what happens next. Sigh. Though I swear if the next one is mostly waffle that will be it.

125dchaikin
Maio 21, 2019, 5:42pm

>123 rhian_of_oz: Nice to read another perspective. I struggled with Wash on audio, but for different reasons then yours.

>124 rhian_of_oz: So, I tried Foreigner. I loved that opening so much and got attached to that, that the next part of the book, the part of actual plot, immediately lost me, and I quit early on. Every time I see a review I think about trying again.

126SouthernKiwi
Maio 22, 2019, 9:22am

Interesting review of Washington Black Rhian. I've picked it up at bookstores a couple of times but have put it back down again. Maybe one day.

127dukedom_enough
Maio 22, 2019, 11:16am

>124 rhian_of_oz: >125 dchaikin: You do know that Foreigner is first in what is a 19-novel series to date? A lot of reading there.

128rhian_of_oz
Maio 22, 2019, 2:34pm

>127 dukedom_enough: I was looking forward to a new series where I'm not waiting ages for the next instalment. I'd like to take the series longevity as an indicator of quality except there's enough examples of the opposite to make me wary. I'll give the second one a go and we'll see.

129rhian_of_oz
Maio 22, 2019, 2:35pm

>126 SouthernKiwi: The cover is *so* attractive I can see it luring readers in like a siren song :-).

130valkyrdeath
Maio 22, 2019, 11:08pm

>124 rhian_of_oz: I've been considering reading this series for some time and I just can't make up my mind one way or the other as to whether it sounds like something I'd like. I guess the only way to be sure is to try it, but there's so many other books around too and your review doesn't seem to be the most glowing recommendation.

131shadrach_anki
Maio 22, 2019, 1:40am

>128 rhian_of_oz: >130 valkyrdeath: I've read the first three books of the series so far (and the two prequel stories), and my experience is that Foreigner is the weakest of the ones I've read. There's a lot of set-up, and Bren spends a lot of his time about six steps behind everyone else, with the people who are supposed to be working with him and keeping him informed keeping him semi-deliberately in the dark.

132rhian_of_oz
Maio 25, 2019, 2:18pm

We're off on holiday for a week to watch some surfing (hopefully it won't be cancelled this year) so I'm taking the following books with me (I really should get a Kindle for trips). I don't expect to read them *all* but, well I'm not sure what I'm going to be in the mood for.

Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford (currently reading)
Fools by Pat Cadigan (for bookclub, must be finished by 5 June)
Black Man by Richard Morgan (sci fi)
Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies by Jackie French (WW1 espionage)
Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin (YA dystopian)
He, She and It by Marge Piercy (feminist speculative)

133rhian_of_oz
Jun 8, 2019, 2:36am

No Highway by Nevil Shute
Dr Dennis Scott (our narrator) is in charge of a department of "boffins" in the Royal Aircraft Establishment. One of these boffins is Mr Theodore Honey who's developed a theory that a particular type of tailplane will break after a certain number of flying hours.

When Dr Scott realises that the planes involved are flying daily across the Atlantic, action ensues to verify Mr Honey's theory.

What I liked
  • The pacing. Even though I was pretty sure how this was going to end, the way the story unfolded was well done. There were a couple of things that happened that I wasn't expecting (which was a pleasant surprise) but not in the modern "twist" sense.

  • The characters. They could seem like stereotypes of a past age (particularly with regard to gender roles) except this was written at the time it's about so they feel "real" rather than how someone writing now might poke fun at them.

What amused me
  • There's a scene where a pilot drops a note out of the (commercial) plane window to someone on the ground.

  • Dr Scott is a 34 year old research manager. He is embarassed because he struggled to hike 11 miles (17.7 kms) carrying a 50 pound (22.7 kgs) pack with no preparation. How times have changed!

  • Mr Honey's complete lack of domestic abilities and how that makes very attractive women want to take care of him.

What irked me
  • There's a point in the story where what happened to Mr Honey is described with a lot of detail - which would be fine if Dr Scott had been present. As it was it was far more detail then would be relayed by someone who was present after the fact. This seems like a minor complaint except it pulled me out of the story while I was reading it.

Why I read this
I'm a fan of Mr Shute's and this was the most highly rated (on LT) of his books I hadn't yet read.

Summary
I didn't love this as much as the others I've read but I still enjoyed it a lot. There are a lot of non-action scenes which I wasn't expecting, but once I adjusted my expectations they felt less jarring. This is charming and I've already identified my next Shute book.

134rhian_of_oz
Jun 11, 2019, 3:36pm

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong
Casey Duncan is a detective who keeps her life simple - she has her work, her best friend Diana, and her casual lover Kurt.

When Diana gets beaten up (again) by her ex-husband and Kurt gets shot on behalf of someone from Casey's past, it's time to disappear to Rockton.

What I liked
  • The characters. In Rockton everyone has a past which doesn't necessarily mean they're "broken" but does make them interesting.

  • The concept of the town. Especially for a series because you can cycle characters in and out.

  • The mysterious town council. It will be interesting to see if there's a longer story arc about them.

What I didn't like
  • There's a touch of melodrama in one of the relationships but thankfully it doesn't last long and it isn't repeated.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Diana turns out not to be as she appears. Which Casey didn't pick despite demonstrating some pretty excellent deductive skills. However she recognises the contradiction herself. She gets a pass this time but I really hope it doesn't happen again.

What slightly irked me
  • The resolution of whodunnit seemed to come out of nowhere. Plus there was a bit of Hercule Poirot-style detective exposition.

Why I read this
I somehow found about this series and as I enjoyed her Nadia Stafford series I thought I'd give this one a try.

Summary
This is the first in the series so there's a lot of 'establishing' going on - of Rockton and of the supporting cast as well as the main characters. The story is part mystery and part relationships which is my jam but isn't for everyone. I enjoyed this and already have the second book out from the library.

135rhian_of_oz
Editado: Jun 21, 2019, 3:49pm

Fools by Pat Cadigan
Imagine a world where putting on a costume isn't limited to makeup and clothes but includes plastic surgery and a personality imprint. Where memories can be sold like drugs, and where a mindsuck can leave an essentially uninhabited live body.

When your mind may or may not be your own, what is the concept of 'I'?

What I liked
  • So many things. The characters, the world building, the overall twistiness, the themes. The ending. So many things.

What I didn't like
  • The beginning. The whole book is told in the first person and I spent the first 90-odd pages trying to work out what was going on and couldn't. It was so frustrating I nearly stopped reading it. The general opinion at bookclub was to read it as it comes and don't try to figure out the bigger picture - you find out soon enough.

Why I read this
Monthly bookclub.

Summary
This is such a hard book to describe without giving away the essence of it, hence the brevity of this review. I do believe this is one for fans of cyberpunk - I'm not really sure how broad its appeal would be beyond that group.

Despite it making my brain hurt I'm really glad I read it and it made for a great discussion at bookclub. I will be hunting down other work by Ms Cadigan - though maybe not straightaway :-).

136rhian_of_oz
Jun 24, 2019, 2:46pm

Miss Lily's Lovely Ladies by Jackie French
Sophie is the only daughter of a successful businessman, whose manner of making his fortune is looked down upon by Sydney's upper class families. Sophie falls in love with one of the sons of these families and when she becomes a desirable bride choice (due to the family's reduced fortunes) her father arranges for her to travel to England for her 'coming out' season under the care and instruction of Miss Lily on what turns out to be the eve of World War One.

What I liked
  • The depiction of the class structure in Australia. One forgets that Australia had as distinct class divisions as the UK in the early 1900s. Which makes sense given we only became a country in 1901. Newsreaders and the like were still speaking with some sort of fake British accent well into the 1950s I think. It's quite possible (likely) the sort of snobbery described in the book still exists in the monied end of town.

  • The war chapters. Sophie really comes of age during this part of the book. Plus it showed me other un(der)told stories of women's contribution during the war.

  • Sophie. She is quite a well-written character. Naive and gauche, privileged and protected when she first arrives in England, she certainly is more mature by the end of the book.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The post war chapters. There's a resolution from her past that I think is unnecessary. There's a touch of soap opera/melodrama about Sophie's many potential suitors. And there's a revelation that was foreshadowed (though admittedly I was only partly correct in my speculation).

What disappointed me
  • The opening scene is of Sophie in a war zone with a fellow she knows and based on their initial interaction the reader is led to believe Sophie is involved in espionage. This is not quite true - this story turned out to be not the one I was expecting.

Why I read this
I always browse in airport bookstores while I'm waiting for flights and this cover caught my eye. I bought the book because I believed it was going to be about women spies in WW1. I read it now because I needed to read something a little more straightforward after Fools.

Summary
I liked this well enough even once I realised it wasn't quite the book I thought it was. It's not world changing though. There are another two books in the series that I think I would like to read, though I'm not in any rush and I think I might borrow them from the library.

137rhian_of_oz
Jun 27, 2019, 10:45am

Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin
Sixty years ago a virus killed almost all men. Our narrator River is 14 years old and lives in an all-women community with her mother (Zoe) and great-grandmother (Kate). She goes to school and participates in the running of her village.

One day as she is returning home with a cartload of apples she encounters a boy.

What I liked
  • River. I really like her as a character, I thought her 'voice' sounded authentic. Like most teens she is sometimes grown up and sometimes child in the way she acts and reacts.

  • The world of women. It was interesting to see the author's vision of how a women-only world would conduct itself. And despite what many reviews say, there is still crime in this world.

  • Kate and the Grandmummas. In them we have women in their 70s and older whose views on men were formed when they were young. It makes for an interesting contradiction. The generation gap between them and younger generations is both amusing and heartbreaking.

What I didn't like
  • The Sanctuaries. Not the idea of them but the fact that even though they were presumably set up and run by women, the boys are raised using the worst model of toxic masculinity.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The world building has limitations, but I think this is possibly a function of the fact that our narrator is a young village girl whose view is by definition going to be narrow.

Why I read this
I thought the premise was interesting.

Summary
I saw some really negative reviews of this book - a lot describing it as man-hating, which I didn't find at all. Yes it presents men in a negative light and while I know #notallmen there is still #toomanymen. It is very YA in tone (if you don't like YA you won't like this) though at least there are no angsty love triangles. I liked it. I thought it explored some interesting ideas about gender roles and expectations. It's not the best or most mature work in this space but I think it's pitched well for its intended audience.

138rhian_of_oz
Jun 29, 2019, 2:28pm

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
After suffering a crippling injury as an opium smuggler for the East India Company, our narrator Merrick Tremayne is facing a choice of living out his life in either an asylum or a parsonage.

He is convinced by his old friends Clem and Minna to join a dangerous expedition to Peru to try and smuggle out cinchona (source of quinine) cuttings.

What I liked
  • Everything, though I'll try to be a bit more specific :-).

  • The pacing can be best described as ... deliberate. This book is written to be savoured and read with patience.

  • Merrick. I like him a lot. He's clever and brave and compassionate.

  • The mood is atmospheric, brooding, oppressive, sometimes dreamlike.

  • It's beautifully written, though I'm not 'literary' enough to describe how.

  • The characters and the relationships between them are well written, nuanced and believable.

Why I read this
I loved her first novel The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.

Summary
This is very squarely in the magical realism realm so if that's not your thing this probably isn't the book for you. If you read and liked her first novel then this is a very worthy follow up. I loved it and eagerly await Ms Pulley's next offering.

139rhian_of_oz
Jun 29, 2019, 2:31pm

** Please note that while this review won't include spoilers about this book it may contain spoilers about the previous book in the series.

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong
When a blizzard hits while Detective Casey Duncan/Butler and Deputy Will Anders are tracking a runaway Rockton resident, they take shelter in a cave and discover a woman who has been believed dead for over a year.

The subsequent discovery of another two bodies starts a hunt for a serial killer.

What I liked
  • By making Rockton off-the-grid Armstrong provides a valid reason for our investigators to not have easy access to modern technology (e.g. the internet) or experienced personnel (e.g. coroner) while still being able to set the story in modern times.

  • It's quite atmospheric. Though I have never lived in Canada I felt the oppressiveness of the wintery weather.

  • More is revealed about the actions (though not necessarily the motives) of the mysterious council.

  • The settlers and the hostiles were established as "bogeymen" in the first book but the idea of them is fleshed out some more in this instalment. I believe these groups and their 'development' will continue as a series-long story arc.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Casey missed a clue. When I initially read the scene I interpreted it in a manner which turned out to be correct, but figured I had read it wrong when Casey drew a different conclusion. However her reasoning wasn't wrong based on an assumption made early on (which was a reasonable one to make). This is the second occurrence of an out-of-character misdeduction by our heroine, and I'm not a fan of this type of device in a story. I'm ambivalent about it because in both cases it's acknowledged or explainable.

What slightly irked me
  • The final confrontation scene. I'm not a fan of bad guys needing to show how clever they are or overcomplicating things.

Why I read this
I recently read the first in the series and liked it enough to read the second.

Summary
This is described on the back as a "standalone thriller" however I believe you absolutely need to read these in order. This book continues along the part-mystery/part-relationships genre (is there a shorter description or acronym for this?) though without any melodrama this time. I am definitely enjoying this series and am keen to read the next one.

140NanaCC
Jun 29, 2019, 2:36pm

>139 rhian_of_oz: It sounds like you are putting another series on my wishlist.....Now stop that!!!! ;-)

141rhian_of_oz
Jun 29, 2019, 3:19pm

>140 NanaCC: You're welcome :-).

142rhian_of_oz
Jun 30, 2019, 4:29am

The Guilty Dead by P J Tracy
Wealthy businessman Gregory Norwood is dead in an apparent suicide on the anniversary of his son's death. Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth quickly establish that things are not as they seem.

What I liked
  • It wasn't difficult to read.

  • Rosalie Norwood. Clever and brave and cool under pressure.

What I didn't like
  • Not enough Monkeewrench. And what was there seemed forced.

  • Grace. I used to love this character because she was interesting. In this book she has pretty much been reduced to being a receptacle for Magozzi's baby.

  • The terrorism storyline.This added nothing to the main storyline (it's not at all referenced in the blurb) and it seems its only value was to involve the Monkeewrench crew. Badly.

  • It's sloppy. One of the first indicators that Norwood's death is not suicide is the fact that the gun is near his non-dominant hand. The person responsible for his death would have known Norwood was left-handed.A killer has managed to conceal a murder for a significant period of time but then leaves a trail of bodies pretty much leading straight to him. These are just two examples.

Why I read this
It's the ninth in the Monkeewrench series.

Summary
I didn't really love the last couple of this series but I persisted in the hope they would return to their former glory. This book has confirmed for me that I'm out - no more for me.

It's hard to tell how much of my opinion is due to unmet expectations. I do think there are still problems with this book but there seems to be a lot of love for it out there so maybe my disappointment is making me overly critical.

143rhian_of_oz
Jul 3, 2019, 2:08am

The Lily and the Rose by Jackie French
This is the second instalment in a trilogy about Australian heiress Sophie Higgs.

In the wake of WW1 Sophie (like many other women) is trying to work out how she fits in the world after her experiences during the war.

What I liked
  • There's a scene where the reader's heart is broken with two sentences.

  • All the interesting female characters.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The Hannelore storyline. It seems the only purpose of this character is to drag Sophie down some bewildering romantic dead end, or for the penultimate scene (see below).

  • Sophie's mad dash to England. It was amusing in a 'round the world in 80 days' manner but felt implausible.

  • Sophie. There's a lot to like about this young woman and yet at other times she acts like a child. What I can't decide is whether the childlike behaviour is reasonable and in character given her circumstances and experiences, or whether the author is using it as a device to introduce the resulting scenes.

  • Sophie and Nigel's relationship. I was not altogether convinced in the first book and I am probably less convinced now. It feels like the main reason for it is to allow Ms French to include famous people in the story.

What disappointed me
  • The penultimate scene. The name drop in the last paragraph made me roll my eyes. One can absolutely guess what's going to happen in the third book.

Why I read this
I recently read the first one and this one was available in my local library.

Summary
This is a pleasant read that I think should be enjoyed on the surface without delving too deeply. I will probably read the third book to see how things turn out.

144rhian_of_oz
Jul 6, 2019, 3:16pm

Master and Commander by Patrick o'Brian
Lieutenant Jack Aubrey and Dr Stephen Maturin's first encounter at a musical soiree is less than friendly. The morning after Jack's promotion to captain of the HMS Sophie they meet again under more convivial circumstances, and when they dine together later that day Jack recruits Stephen as his ship's surgeon.

Thus begins the first of the Aubrey and Maturin adventures.

What I liked
  • Jack and Stephen. I feel that both of their characters are well-developed and I like the relationship between them.

  • The unexpected humour. There are a number of instances throughout the book that provoked a smile or an outright giggle.

  • The good mix of character study and action.

  • The battle scenes. While I couldn't always visualise what was going on (especially when more than two ships were involved), I certainly appreciated the tactics demonstrated.

What I didn't like
  • The portrayal of women. Not awesome. Though to be fair, most of the characters beyond the main two are pretty one-dimensional.

What I struggled with
  • The nautical terminology. Mr O'Brian kindly includes a diagram of the ship with all the relevant parts labelled which I referred to now and again. He also makes good use of Stephen's inexperience at sea to provide a lot of information to the reader. But that still left a lot of words I didn't know and couldn't guess at even in context. I decided not to worry about looking them up but rather just took them as general "colour". I don't think I missed anything material, but then I wouldn't know :-).

Why I read this
A fellow at my bookclub recommended the series.

Summary
I've read a few space navy series but this is my first 'wet' navy one and I liked it. Enough that I will at least read the next book.

145rhian_of_oz
Jul 10, 2019, 9:28am

Fight Like a Girl by Clementine Ford
Clementine Ford is an Australian feminist writer and speaker. This book explores a variety of feminist issues in the context of Ms Ford's life and experiences. It's sort of a memoir but with a purpose or focus.

Why I read this
I read it now for May TBRCat. I originally bought it because I have read and liked some of the author's online pieces.

Summary
I'm glad I read this book. If you're a scholar of feminism I suspect there won't be anything new here for you, and this is certainly not an academic work. I found it a combination of lightbulb moments of "shit it never occurred to me that experience/viewpoint/behaviour was sexist" and rueful recognition. It took me a while to finish because I read it a chapter at a time - partly to mull over what I'd read, and partly because at times I found it overwhelming. There's a bit of repetition which I'm not sure whether to take as a miss by the editor, or whether it's done deliberately to emphasise the message. This book made me angry - now I have to figure out how to channel that rage into useful action. I already have her next book, though I think I will need a bit of time before I read it.

146rhian_of_oz
Jul 10, 2019, 9:34am

Finally finished my outstanding reviews for June. New thread is here.