Annie reads in 2019

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Annie reads in 2019

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Jan 2, 2019, 5:30pm

Welcome to my reading diary for 2019.

(I may change this but for now just copying my introduction from the introduce thread):

I read in 3 (and a half) languages: Bulgarian, Russian and English (the half is for German - I used to read in it, I am not that good anymore (don't abandon a language that is not stable enough or you will lose it...) but I am working on it). I also have a fascination with linguistics and languages so I occasionally try to work on a new language - although I am more likely to work on linguistics and not languages :). I highly doubt that I will ever start reading in another language but you never know. :)

I like genre fiction - both the speculative and the crime/mystery genres - and comics and graphic novels. I read an occasional mainstream novel (I like storytellers and some of them stay in the mainstream), I like short stories and albeit rarely, I read poetry. My non-fiction reading leans toward the more academic and better researched ones but if something catches my eye, I am known to read pretty much anything. I tend to read everything that a writer I like had ever written - which sends me into planning for years ahead sometimes (I am 82 novels into Erle Stanley Gardner's works (69 of them Perry Mason novels) for example) - although I tend to veer off script and usually just have a list of authors...

Jan 2, 2019, 5:32pm

Books read in 2019:

Jan 2, 2019, 5:32pm

Stories read in 2019

Jan 2, 2019, 5:33pm

Articles read in 2019

Jan 2, 2019, 9:08pm

Good to see your here, Annie. Happy 2019!

Jan 3, 2019, 9:39pm

Thanks Dan :) Happy 2019!

Jan 6, 2019, 6:14pm

Glad to see you back here again this year and looking forward to following your reading again!

Jan 7, 2019, 3:53pm

Yes, also glad to see you here again. I'm sure both Michael and I will be keeping an eye out on was you are reading.

Jun 5, 2019, 8:38pm

So... I was busy (and traveling a lot) in January so never got around to writing about my reading - and then I went into a reading slump for almost 3 months (2 books in 3 months is unusual). Back to reading for the last 6 weeks or so - so time to start reporting about it. I will catch up with all the missing reviews (in some order) but if I do not start posting now, I never will.

Editado: Jun 5, 2019, 8:45pm

Sibanda and the Black Sparrowhawk by C. M. Elliot

I am not sure that charming is the word I should use for this mystery -- it can be gruesome in places - but this is the word I want to use.

Third in a series, it is the first one I read and besides a few notes that probably will spoil some of actions in the first two novels, it works on its own.

Meet Detective Jabulani Sibanda - assigned to a small town in the bush of Matabeleland North, Zimbabwe. He went to school to England and because of that is the only professional detective - despite what his boss may think. And he is not exactly patient enough to just take the daily needling from Cold War (as the boss is called behind his back).

This time it all starts when a train hits an elephant in the middle of a long stretch of railroad - and the mutilated body of a woman is found nearby. It does not take long for the Jabu to realize that this is a part of serial killer spree and things take off from there. His sergeant should have sounded like a simpleton but somehow the author manages to make him somewhat likeable (and the sergeant's attempts at improving his English by reading a dictionary causes even more confusion than usual).

Add to that a love story, a brilliant depiction of rural life in Zimbabwe and a somewhat side story that does not make sense until the dots get connected and you realize when it happened and this is one gem of a novel - despite the gruesome depictions of murder and wild life (if you cannot stand watching the documentaries on National Geographic where a pride of lions kill an animal, you probably won't like the description here either).

Now I need to go find the other 2 books that had been published in this series...

Jun 5, 2019, 8:42pm

4000 Miles and After the Revolution: Two Plays by Amy Herzog

Technically these two plays are supposed to be independent but while "After the Revolution" works on its own, "4000 Miles" is full of underdeveloped characters if you had not read the other one.

"After the Revolution" is all about the past, the memories and forgiveness. A few months after Joe Joseph, the family patriarch, dies, a book is about to expose the biggest lie in his life. Unfortunately, despite the fact that most of the characters knew the truth, one of his granddaughters did not - and she had made a career out of the lie itself. So when the truth is about to come out, it throws her life into a disaster - or so she believes. Is the truth really what it is? And are there shades of grey somewhere in the whole thing? Herzog asks the questions - and answers them with the voices of her characters - and leaves you wondering what you would have done - both if you were in Joe's shoes and in his granddaughter's shoes. And somewhere along the line, it is Vera, the 82 years old grandmother, that seems to be able to look at most of it from outside. And the very last sentences are gut-retching - not unexpected but still giving you something to thing about.

The second play, "4000 Miles" is set almost entirely in Vera's apartment, 9 years later (based on Vera's age anyway). One of her grandsons shows up unexpectedly after biking from Seattle to New York and stays for a while. It is not a happy story - there is death and memories that bubble to the top - but it is all about life (and death). Without the previous play, the two main characters look almost like caricatures - there is no depth to their depiction. Add all you had been told (and what had been implied) in the previous play, and this one makes a lot more sense - and you can see the depth.

I definitely like Amy Herzog's work - and I will need to chase the rest of her plays.

Jun 5, 2019, 8:43pm

Swamp Thing, Vol. 7: Regenesis by Rick Veitch

So how do you follow Alan Moore in the comics that is considered one of his best? Apparently by working with him in the latest issues and then taking over and making it your own.

Collecting issues 65–70, this one starts exactly where Moore left the story - Abby and the Swamp Thing are married and living together in the bog. But of course, it cannot stay like that - first John Contantine shows up again and then the Parliament of Trees make it very clear that the Earth needs its elemental and when ours was missing, a new one was created - and we cannot have two. Alec Holland (the current Swamp Thing for the ones that do not pay attention) refuses to kill the sprout or to essentially kill himself and join the Parliament (there is Abby after all) and that causes a lot of confusion.

So the sprout is trying to find a body (and we get to see Solomon Grundy (the other bog-man of the DC universe) turning green for awhile...) and Alec is trying to resists his elders. And as it turns out their biggest failure (as they had taken to calling him) has a few new tricks up his sleeve - he did not travel the cosmos for nothing after all.

Not very surprisingly, we do see Batman (and Alfred) in action - this time not trying to kill the Swamp Thing, we get a cameo of Superman and Metropolis (and almost get a Swamp Thing from there) but this collection is almost standalone in the DC world.

Let's see where this goes next.

Jun 5, 2019, 8:44pm

The Parade: A Novel by Dave Eggers

Two men go to a country that had just emerged from a brutal civil war with a very easy - build a road between the South and the North. They have a machine that essentially does the work - they just need to guide it and make sure the road is straight and does not have anomalies - and then leave, never to return.

One of them, Four (names are dangerous so numerical pseudonyms are used) is a veteran - it is his 63rd project and he knows how it works - go down, don't look at anything local, don't talk to the locals or even acknowledge their existence, build the road and go home. Nine on the other hand is new - and despite all the rules, he decides that this road is too important for the impoverished South - so he decides to meet the people and accept their hospitality. Which ends in a lot of "anomalies" - almost ending in death.

And the road is getting built - while we see a sketch of the land - with some minor blimps when Nine does something weird again. The deadline cannot be missed - because there is a parade coming -- and the North needs the road for that. It sounds like an easy story but something keeps ringing wrong in places where it should not.

It is the end that makes it clear what exactly was sounding the alarms in one's head - I almost expected it because of how the novel was going but hoped until these last sentences that this is not where the novel was going.

You can read the novel in a lot of ways. Read it as it is and it is a good story. Read it as an allegory of helping a foreign country without understanding the country and the people and without listening to them and it rings different bells in one's head. In both cases, it makes you think - because good intentions do not always lead to good deeds. And because humans will be humans.

Jun 6, 2019, 8:14pm

Nice to see you posting, Annie. You always have interesting things to say.

Jun 7, 2019, 5:22pm

Bosstown by Adam Abramowitz

Meet Zesty Meyers - Boston's fastest bike messenger. He is high more often than not, lives in an industrial loft and never misses a delivery. At least until we meet him anyway - because the first delivery we see is the first one he ends up not making - partially because he gets hit by a car and partially because the package explodes - papering the street with money. And things go downhill from there.

As it turns out, Zesty has a lot of experience with the authorities - his father is the format deal-maker and cards king of Boston (now retired and being slowed down by early-onset Alzheimer that eats his memory faster and faster), his mother is in Boston FBI most wanted list because of a bank robbery and his brother Zero has a moving business that is best described as shady (or so everyone believes anyway). On top of everything Boston is in the middle of another infrastructure project (the Big Dig) and long buried bodies emerge all the time - both literally and figuratively. And when his exploding pack of money gets tied to a bank robbery from a few day before than and the homicide detectives show up in his hospital room, it looks like his day won't improve much and that the car smashing his bike may have been the highlight of the day actually. The music that he starts hearing out from nowhere does not help much either.

And in parallel, we get his father's story - both the current one and the past one - seemingly unrelated. If you had read enough thrillers, you know that there is not a chance it to remain unconnected. But even knowing it is coming, some of the ways it get connected are surprising enough - and Abramowitz manages to surprise.

It is not a perfect novel - there are parts that probably should have been cut and in some places the story almost falls apart. But the end is worth it - while it becomes clear where the current days story is going pretty quickly, it is the past that makes the story finally click - exposing even more of those long buried bodies - this time just figuratively. Although there are real bodies as well - it is a violent novel.

On a separate note, reading another novel set in Boston had been a bit jarring. I had been reading Parker's Spenser novels and despite their Boston being a bit earlier than the one here, I kept expecting Zesty to bump into Spenser (or Hawk) - they are the same streets and the mood kinda matched. :)

I also remember seeing this book when it originally coming out and deciding that it does not sound like something I wanted to read. Then I found the second one in the series, did not realize it is a second in a series and got it. 30 pages into it, I figured out I better read this one first. And I am not sorry about it.

Ago 13, 2019, 4:00am

>13 AnnieMod: catching up, and was interested in your Dave Eggers review in particular. I'm thinking of buying A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - have you read it at all? I can't remember how it ended up on my wish list, and I haven't read anything else by him.