rhian_of_oz Reads in 2019, part 2

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rhian_of_oz Reads in 2019, part 2

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Editado: Jan 1, 2020, 10:23am

I'm Rhian and this is my first year in Club Read. I don't have any particular reading goals for the year other than to make a dent in my TBR pile (I've joined the TBR CAT to give me some structure) however I suspect being in this group will likely have the opposite effect!

Currently reading:
Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
Working Class Man by Jimmy Barnes (November TBRCat)
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Next up:
Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (library book)
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (December TBRCat)

On hold:
Light by M John Harrison (bookclub)
Manual for the Solution of Military Ciphers by Parker Hitt
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Potential TBR from CR:
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon
The Rubber Band by Rex Stout
A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw
A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
White Heat by M J McGrath
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Blue by Nancy Bilyeau
City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Hotshot by Peter Watts
The Amateurs by Liz Harmer
The Welsh Fasting Girl by Varley O'Connor
Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky
Assumption by Percival Everett
The Children of Men by P D James
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Severance by Ling Ma
Austral by Paul McAuley
Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg
Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty
A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension by Matt Parker
Recursion by Blake Crouch
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Happiness by Aminatta Forma
Today I Am Carey by Martin L Shoemaker
The Dressmaker's Gift by Fiona Valpy
Captain Rosalie by Timothee de Fombelle
The Woman in the Photograph by Stephanie Butland
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner
Akin by Emma Donoghue
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Jul 24, 2019, 9:42am

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
How to describe this?

Our main character (though not narrator) is Billy Pilgrim who, as a POW, survives the firebombing of Dresden in February 1945. Billy's story is told in a nonlinear manner which reflects the theme that "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time".

What I liked
  • The philosophy relating to time."All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist".

  • The repetition of the phrase "so it goes". The first time it is used after the description of someone's death it is quite shocking in its apparent callousness. But it's impact diminishes over time, both through the repetition and due to the explanation of the philosophy behind it.

What I didn't like
  • The slapstick nature of some scenes. This is personal preference rather than a criticism. I can appreciate the attempt at dark humour even if I didn't love the manner in which it was delivered.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The nonlinearity. I don't mind this as a storytelling device in general because usually it's used to fill in the gaps or build the picture between 'there' and 'here'. But in this book it seems like its only purpose is to continually demonstrate his philosophy of time.

  • Tralfamadore and the Tralfamadorians I don't get the point of these components of the story.

  • The whole thing is just weird.

Why I read this
Monthly bookclub.

For me, this is one of those classics that doesn't really stand the test of time. Somehow the writing seems dated, though I don't have the literary theory to be able to describe how the style strikes me as so very 60s. I didn't hate it, it's more a case of 'meh' than anything particularly strong. I learnt some history I didn't know which is never wasted, but the strong anti-war message is kind of obvious 50 years on. I don't consider this to be science fiction because I think the elements that might make it such (i.e. time travel and aliens) didn't actually happen.

I don't regret reading this but I don't intend reading any other work by Mr Vonnegut.

Jul 24, 2019, 9:46am

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts
This is the second book in the Chronicles of the One and takes place 13 years after the Doom killed billions of people and awoke magical powers in many of the survivors.

Fallon Swift is The One and in this instalment she starts the training that will enable her to lead the light in the battle against the dark.

What I liked
  • I picked the baddie but not the 'why' so it was nice to be surprised.

  • Like most of Ms Roberts' books this is easy to read and moves along at an even pace.

What I didn't like
  • Forced kisses. This was written in 2018 and we should be done with seeing this sort of thing as romantic. "You didn't say No" is not consent FFS.

Why I read this
Ms Roberts is a "comfort read" author and usually pretty reliable (if not original) in telling a story.

This is not ground breaking or particularly sophisticated in terms of post-apocalyptic fiction, even with the supernatural elements. The bad guys are one-dimensional, the good guys are all pretty nice and work well together, and it's very clear who's who. It's a little bit earnest, especially with the Craft stuff, but mostly it's written in an uncomplicated style. I will read the final book in this trilogy because I need to finish it, even though I expect few surprises.

Jul 30, 2019, 9:25am

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
This is a memoir that is primarily concerned with Adeline's mistreatment by her family, lasting her whole life.

What I liked
  • The history lesson. Adeline tells her story against the backdrop of enormous economic and social change in China.

  • Her aunts were amazing women, especially for the time.

  • Adeline's professional achievements are remarkable given she was a Chinese woman studying medicine in England and the US in the 1950s.

What I didn't like
  • The overall tone. Misery Lit is a great description.

Why I read this
A woman I volunteer with recommended this to me and I read it now for the June TBRCat.

This is such a frustrating book. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary Adeline continued to believe/hope that her family would behave decently. Someone on CR made an observation about abused/neglected/unloved kids and how they never stop seeking love and approval (I thought the comment was in a review of Educated but I can't find it). I know I am lucky not to understand how this feels, but I struggled to supress my logical inner voice who couldn't figure out why Adeline didn't *learn*.

The other thing I found frustrating is that despite her success (at the time of writing Adeline had a happy and loving marriage and children, plus a career she apparently enjoyed) there is no sense of joy or triumph in her achievements, or her overcoming adversity.

I don't regret reading this book but I won't be reading any other work by this author.

Ago 10, 2019, 3:39am

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
Centuries after humans left Earth and were accepted into the galactic community, the Exodus Fleet is still home to the largest concentration of humans outside the Sol system.

This book gives a "slice-of-life" from the POV of five humans (Tessa, Isabel, Eyas, Kip and Sawyer) plus the occasional observations from a non-human ethnographic researcher visiting the Fleet.

What I liked
  • All of our POV characters - even the whiney, entitled teenager ;-).

  • The way Ms Chambers has considered how a closed system would evolve over time.

  • How she showed us about the well-intentioned 'technologically advanced' and the unintended consequences of their intervention, without hitting us over the head with it.

  • The universe she's created and the fact that non-humans (even though there's not a lot of them in this book) are not simply non-humanoid humans.

Why I read this
I very much enjoyed her previous two novels.

The Wayfarers series is not a series in the usual understanding of the concept, as the primary thing linking the three novels is that they're set in the same universe (there is very minimal character overlap). Having said that it is a very interesting universe Ms Chambers has created.

This is a very character-driven book rather than the more traditional action-based we would expect from space opera. I read one review that described it as "This novel is about as bucolic as you can get aboard a spacecraft. Totally pastoral." which reflected how I thought about it perfectly. Another reviewer described it as "Nothing ever happens" and while I can see why they would say that, the clue is in the name - record of a few.

I enjoyed this very much so I'm afraid not much critical thinking went into the reading of it. I read some negative reviews to see if there were any points about their perceived weaknesses/flaws with the book that I agreed with but there weren't any.

I will read more by this author. She's just released a beautiful looking novella (that also sounds interesting) that I resisted buying when I was in a bookshop on Tuesday, but may not be able to resist the next time!

Ago 10, 2019, 3:44am

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In the wake of the Russian Civil War Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest at the Hotel Metropol in Moscow.

What follows is his life over the next three decades.

What I liked
  • Count Alexander Rostov. He's written very sympathetically and he comes across as very charming.

  • The supporting characters and their relationships with the Count. Slightly quirky but still believable - characters rather than caricatures. And despite his apparent shallowness, the Count maintains long and deep relationships.

  • It's amusing without being laugh-out-loud funny.

  • The ending.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • We only get glimpses of the world outside. I get that this is not a history book but it could be said to gloss over some of the worst activities in the Soviet Union.

Why I read this
I requested it from the library because it was number one in the 'Top Five Books of 2018' LT list. I read it now because the queue for it at the library was quite long.

I enjoyed this a lot. Some of the adjectives that I read in other reviews that reflect how I felt include lovely, enchanting, charming, sweet, sentimental. If you are looking for a warts-and-all recounting of life in Russia in the decades after the revolution then this is not the book for you.

I think I will read Rules of Civility but maybe leave it a while.

Ago 13, 2019, 7:21am

Catching up on your new thread reviews. I haven't read Slaughterhouse 5, but I think I'd hate the things you pointed out as unenjoyable so will probably pass ticking that box.

I enjoyed A Gentleman in Moscow, but a little less I think than most people in CR. Every time I picked it up I enjoyed the writing, but I found myself putting it down all the time. I think it just didn't grab me enough for some reason.

Editado: Ago 17, 2019, 7:36pm

8> I just put The girl from the Metropol hotel by Lyudmila Petrushevskaya on my Mt. TBR because I saw it mentioned as a memoir written during the same time period as A gentleman in Moscow by someone who lived in the are of Moscow where the book is set. Like you, I enjoyed this book - it was a fun read with well developed characters and relationships. But I also recognized it glossed over real life in the Soviet Union.

Ago 18, 2019, 2:33pm

>10 markon: I look forward to when you scale Mt TBR to The Girl from the Metropol Hotel and see how the two books compare.

Ago 25, 2019, 12:03pm

City of Lies by Sam Hawke
The peace that Silastra has enjoyed for centuries is suddenly broken by the poisioning of the Chancellor (and his food taster) and the simultaneous attack by an unknown army.

The story is told alternately by two characters. Jovan is the food taster of the new Chancellor Tain. Kalina is Jovan's older sister who, due to some undefined illness, was unable to tolerate what should have been her role as the Chancellor's food taster.

Isolated and under siege from an enemy both within and without, our trusty trio need to find a way to save their city against the odds.

What I liked
  • The world building. Ms Hawke has created a culture that feels realistic - with both strengths and flaws.

  • Jovan and Kalina. Really well-defined characters that aren't perfect.

What I didn't like
  • Tain's naivety. One would assume the Chancellor's heir would be a bit more savvy given he would have been raised to lead a council that by it's very nature is going to be made up of dissenting factions.

  • Chapter introductions. They are all poison descriptions which one initially assumes is going to have some relevance to the upcoming chapter. But they don't and I stopped reading them.

  • The use of magic. I didn't feel it added anything to the story.

  • The underuse of Jovan's poison expertise. So much is made of it at the start but it doesn't then play a huge part in the story.

  • The epilogue. Overly melodramatic.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The eventual antagonist. It felt like it came out of nowhere because the character had been on the periphery the whole time.

Why I read this
The way the owner of my favourite bookstore described it sounded appealing, and it has a cracking first line: "I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me.".

This was okay. Easy enough to read, but not gripping. So much promise not fully delivered. There's a slight tinge of YA, possibly because the three main characters 'read' young. I don't intend to read the sequel - I'm not that invested.

Set 2, 2019, 9:03am

**Note: While this review won't include spoilers for the book discussed, it may contain spoilers for previous books in the series.

Babylon's Ashes by James S A Corey
This is the sixth instalment in the Expanse series.

After bombarding the Earth, The Free Navy is on a crusade to stop "Inners" from colonising planets via the ring gate.

What I liked
  • The ongoing characters.

What I didn't like
  • Earth is essentially killed in the previous instalment and nowhere near enough is made of the consequences of that in this book.

  • Belters. Yes they were treated poorly by the inner planets which deserves sympathy. But the response to that poor treatment is so far out of proportion that any sympathy evaporates.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The bad guy. He's pretty useless, but somehow (probably due to his people) ends up in dominant positions. However I liked the resolution of his story arc.

  • There are *lots* of different POV characters, I saw one review that put the number at 19. I didn't have trouble keeping them straight, but I do wonder if they were all necessary.

Why I read this
I've really enjoyed this series.

I didn't love this as much as the others (and I have *really* loved these books) which I thought might be a function of time (there was three year gap between reading the fifth and the sixth), or the fact that I was reading another multi-POV space-opera at the same time. However reading some negative reviews has clarified it a bit for me. I will read the next one in the hope that the series gets back to its earlier glory.

Set 3, 2019, 9:30am

Vigil by Angela Slatter
Verity Fassbinder is part-human and part-Weyrd on retainer with the Council of Five to "do what was asked".

Children are disappearing and sirens are being killed and it's up to Verity to figure out what's going and sort it out.

What I liked
  • Verity. She's what you want in a heroine - snarky, smart and strong. And not damaged/broken/hates herself.

  • It moves along at a nice pace and like many mystery novels it brings a number of seemingly unrelated threads together quite well.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The romance. I'm not opposed to a bit of romance in my urban fantasy but in this case the fit was kind of awkward. But it makes Verity a more-rounded character and this is the first in a series, so I can also see why it's there.

  • We're introduced relatively shallowly to a number of characters that I'm assuming will be recurring in future instalments and therefore fleshed out a bit more.

Why I read this
The owner of my favourite bookshop recommended it as (a) I like urban fantasy, (b) it's Australian (both author and setting), and (c) female protagonist.

This was okay - not the best of it's kind but not the worst either. I don't regret reading it but I'm not going to rush out to read the sequel.

Set 5, 2019, 2:00pm

This is a difficult book to review without giving anything away (which in itself gives something away by intimating there is something to give away), so the following is quite brief. I would love to discuss it with a non-Australian if anyone at CR wants to read it.

Terra Nullius by Claire G Coleman
Jacky's on the run and by continuing to elude capture is stirring up the natives. The settlers are determined to tame both the hostile land and its savage inhabitants.

What I liked
  • There is a pivot point in the book and I was electrified when I reached it.

  • The sense of place is so strong it's practically a character.

What I didn't like
  • The author made a point and then hit me over the head with it a few more times. Yeah, yeah, I got it the first time.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The language changes after the pivot point and I think it would've been a lot better if it hadn't.

  • The ending was inevitable and unlike other books I've read where you know the ending (e.g. Burial Rites) I didn't hope or believe that it would turn out differently.

Why I read this
Monthly bookclub.

I love this book up to and including the pivot point. After that, not so much. The author had a message to deliver and once that was done the book seemed to lose purpose. So overall my feeling about this book is ambivalent, put skewing positive. It made for a really good discussion at bookclub.

Even with my ambivalence I'm glad I read it and will definitely read the next work by Ms Coleman. I'm attending an author event for her in a couple of weeks and am really looking forward to it.

Set 7, 2019, 2:02am

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Cameron Bright is found dead in station country - practically in the middle of nowhere. One of the golden rules of the Australian bush is that if you break down, don't leave your vehicle. So why is Cameron found kilometres away from his fully stocked, fully functioning four-wheel drive? His older brother Nathan sets out to answer that question.

What I liked
  • The pace at which the story unfolds. I can see how it might be a bit slow for some, but for me it is totally consistent with the environment it's set in - one doesn't rush in station country.

  • The resolution of the mystery. I didn't see it coming but it was completely plausible.

  • The sense of place is so strong. I almost felt like I had to brush the dust from my clothes after reading.

What I'm uncomfortable about
  • The relationship between Nathan and Ilse and how quickly it resumed.

Why I read this
I've thoroughly enjoyed Ms Harper's previous two novels.

I liked this a lot. It's definitely more a character-driven story than a "typical" murder mystery, with Cameron's death providing the vehicle for us to learn about his life and the people in it. I eagerly await Ms Harper's next offering.

P.S. I've had to giggle at the number of reviews that state this story is set in Western Australia - presumably because we are told early on that it takes place 1500 kilometres west of Brisbane (the capital of Queensland). The distance between Brisbane and the western border of Queensland is around 6300 kilometres.

Set 9, 2019, 3:04pm

He, She and It by Marge Piercy

Set in the mid 21st century the story starts with one of our narrators (Shiva) losing custody of her son in her divorce. When her ex-husband takes their son off-planet Shiva returns to her hometown to live with her grandmother Malkah (our other narrator) and to work on an illegal project.

What I liked
  • The worldbuilding. The components of it aren't necessarily unique (e.g. corporations as nations) but I thought they were brought together well enough.

  • The interspersing of the "present day" story with Jewish mythology.

  • The resolution in relation to Yod. Even though it's foreshadowed I was somehow expecting a different outcome.

What I didn't like
  • The last chapter. Somehow manages to end the story both boringly and with melodrama.

  • Gadi. Ugh what a waste of space.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • There are storylines and characters that I'm not entirely convinced the book needed. They're not filler exactly, but I also don't think the book would be worse without them.

Why I read this
I *really* liked Woman on the Edge of Time.

When I was reading chapter three (the first of the 'mythical' chapters) I was worried that the book I was reading was not the book I thought I was getting, however it didn't take me long to realise what was going on. I quite like what I would consider the main storyline, but I'm not sure about the rest. I'm glad I read it but the more I think about it the greater my ambivalence.

Set 9, 2019, 3:26pm

>16 rhian_of_oz: nice review of The Lost Man, which, as you know, I really enjoyed too. I didn’t mention it in my own review, but I did wonder about the thing you put in your spoiler.

Set 9, 2019, 3:40pm

>18 rachbxl: I mean I got that there was the whole unrequited thing, plus the fact that Cameron was a vile husband, but it still felt a bit unseemly the speed at which they took up where they'd left off.

Set 9, 2019, 7:21pm

>19 rhian_of_oz: Exactly. It wasn’t that it happened, it was the speed.

Set 20, 2019, 1:22am

I'm posting this review because I need to return the book to the library and I am so far behind on my reviews. But posting it "out of order" is making me a bit twitchy.

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch
A linguistic study of the history of the internet.

Why I read this
'The Big Idea' post about it on John Scalzi's Whatever blog.

The book contained lots of ideas that I hadn't thought about. For example, the idea of formal and informal language and how the "rules" of the former don't apply to the latter. Informal language used to be mostly private and ephemeral but now it's more public due to the rise of social media.

There were numerous examples where Ms McCulloch described the links between internet language and behaviour and its offline ancestors. And how it's now going the other way (I will never forget the first time I heard LOL spoken. I thought my head was going to explode. :-D).

I like thinking about how language evolves and the idea that as long as I understand what someone's trying to say does it matter that it's not "correct". I found this book easy to read - Ms McCulloch managed to find the right balance in conveying her academic ideas in an interesting and entertaining way.

Set 21, 2019, 3:29pm

Snap by Belinda Bauer

When her car breaks down pregnant Eileen walks to phone for help leaving eleven year old Jack, nine year old Joy, and two year old Merry. They never see her again.

Three years later the children and their father are still dealing (or not) with the consequences of that day when Jack makes a discovery that reopens the police investigation.

What I liked
  • Jack. His method of coping is not one I would choose or necessarily condone, yet desperate times call for desperate measures.

  • The portrayal of the family in the aftermath of the unimaginable tragedy of losing their wife/mother.

What I didn't like
  • There are too many implausible things. For example Catherine not calling the police, or the police not recognising the rarity of the murder weapon, or no-one noticing what's going on with the children to name just two.

  • Cliche cops. One is the stereotypical brilliant detective out of place in the modern police force. Another is the stereotypical rule-follower but not good investigator.

Why I read this
BB from Kay (Ridgeway Girl).

One really needs to suspend disbelief to finish this. What kept me reading through the eye-rolling was Jack. I'm surprised it made the longlist of any prize, let alone the Man Booker. I won't be reading anything else by this author.

Set 25, 2019, 2:06pm

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

This is the first instalment of The Murderbot Diaries.

Our narrator (the self described Murderbot of the series title) is an Imitative Human Bot Unit - an entity that is part organic and part non-organic, but definitely not human.

Murderbot is providing security for a scientific survey mission (entertaining itself watching episodes of a space opera serial) when things start going wrong. Is it due to cost cutting or is it sabotage?

What I liked
  • Murderbot. What a great character. Not quite hero but not really anti-hero. Asocial rather than antisocial. Wry and very self-aware, this is not a case of a machine/robot yearning to be human.

  • The action unfolded at a good pace.

Points worth mentioning
  • One of the criticisms of this book is that there is little to no development of the other characters. This is absolutely true but I see it as a feature not a bug. Murderbot has very little interest in the humans it is guarding.

  • The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. It reminds me a bit of The Martian in the sense there are a series of problems/situations that need to be resolved.

Why I read this
BB from Margaret (auntmarge64).

I really, really enjoyed this. A *lot*. I'm not surprised it won prizes. I will definitely be reading the remaining novellas and probably the novel when it's released (assuming of course that the standard of the stories continues to be this good).

Set 26, 2019, 2:07pm

Foe by Iain Reid

Junior (our narrator) and his wife Hen live a quiet life on their farm in the middle of nowhere. They don't get visitors, not out there.

Until Terrance turns up late one night.

What I liked
  • The unsettled mood is established right from the start and continues throughout.

  • The ending. I thought I got it, but writing this review I've just realised something I missed about it the first time. So it's twice as good!

  • Like a lot of the best thrillers this has few characters in an isolated location.

Why I read this
BB from Margaret (auntmarge64) and Barbara (Simone2).

Taut is such a good description for this book. I felt on edge the whole time, continually speculating as to what was going on. There's not a lot of action and we spend a fair bit of time in Junior's head, but it all contributes to the constant building of tension.

A number of reviews I read suggest that his first novel I'm Thinking of Ending Things is better so I'm definitely adding it to my wishlist.

Out 4, 2019, 10:32am

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

This is the story of the rise and fall of King David of Israel.

What I liked
  • The portrait of David. It certainly isn't an exalted view of him - I don't think it's flattering at all.

Points worth mentioning
  • Hebrew names are used rather than the more familiar versions. Some reviewers thought this made reading the book difficult. I didn't find it so - I could mostly figure it out (I mean Shaul instead of Saul, or Beit Lehem instead of Bethlehem is not that hard).

  • There are some fairly violent parts. I didn't think they were gratuitous but probably reflective of the brutality of the times.

  • It's a bit slow to start.

Why I read this
I bought this because I am quite a fan of Ms Brooks and I read this now for August TBRCat.

I knew nothing of the story about King David (though I knew of David versus Goliath) so I didn't have any expectations going in. I also don't have any sense of how close to the Bible or controversial this version of his story is. I found this book interesting without it being compelling. It's not my favourite book by Ms Brooks but I'm still glad I read it and will happily read the next book she chooses to write.

Out 4, 2019, 5:09pm

Just catching up. You’ve done quite a mix of reading.

>4 rhian_of_oz: I was rather ambivalent about Slaughterhouse Five when I read it many many years ago. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

>16 rhian_of_oz: The Lost Man sounds interesting. I had to laugh at your comment about the perception of distance from Brisbane. Adding this one to my wishlist.

>17 rhian_of_oz: I have He, She and It on my bookshelf, I think it has probably been there from the time it came out in paperback. I may try it.

>22 rhian_of_oz: I will probably still pick up Snap based on Kay’s review. But I will set expectations.

Editado: Out 4, 2019, 5:12pm

Esta mensagem foi removida pelo seu autor.

Out 4, 2019, 5:44pm

>25 rhian_of_oz: I’ve wondered about The Secret Chord. It has two strikes against in that I’ve had mixed experiences with Brooks and I didn’t enjoy Joseph Heller’s take on King David, God Knows (but it’s not a bad book, probably I just had read Samuel too recently and had my own perspective, which of course would have clashed with Heller’s). Anyway, still, it’s always a fascinating subject to me. Noting your comments.

Out 5, 2019, 4:08pm

>26 NanaCC: I read much more widely than I used to, thanks mostly to being involved with bookclubs, and CR (this year at least). I like the diversity in world views I am exposed to by reading different genres, plus I have lots of options depending on my mood. Admittedly my TBR shelves are now fuller than they've ever been!

Out 5, 2019, 4:16pm

>28 dchaikin: I'd be interested in which Brooks books you didn't like. I wasn't that keen on March (which given it won a Pulitzer suggests I might be a bit of a philistine) mostly I think because ::whispers:: I don't like Little Women.

Out 5, 2019, 3:28am

** This review may contain spoilers about previous books in the Maisie Dobbs series. **

To Die But Once by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the 14th book in the Maisie Dobbs series.

It's spring 1940 and the Battle of France is not going well for the Allies. Against this backdrop Maisie investigates the disappearance of a young apprentice whose work is part of a secret government contract.

What I liked
  • The depiction of life in the UK during the early stages of WW2.

  • She conveys really well the anguish felt by the generation that had participated in and survived WW1 only to see their sons and daughters involved in another war.

What I didn't like
  • The plot line around Walter Miles. I thought it was unnecessary, especially given the plethora of plot lines in the story.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The investigation is not really the main part of the plot.

Why I read this
I'm a fan of the series.

The series took a turn in books 11 (A Dangerous Place) and 12 (Journey to Munich) that I wasn't keen on. Book 13 (In This Grave Hour) saw a return to the original murder investigation style that the series started with, but as my notes from when I read it say "it's not clear where she can go from here".

This book does contain an investigation but it's not really the main point of the story - it simply provides a vehicle for Ms Winspear to explore/explain some broader themes in relation to war and the economic opportunities it provides. There are also storylines about some characters' children going off to war, the Battle of Dunkirk, and child evacuees.

I'm a bit torn about this book. It's not that it is bad (it is very interesting), it's just that there was lots going on, and not what I wanted/expected. There is at least one more book in the series and I intend to read it, but this series is now a book-by-book proposition for me rather than an automatic must-read.

Out 6, 2019, 11:06pm

Just enjoyed catching up on your thread again.

>21 rhian_of_oz: Because Internet sounds like something I'd enjoy. I always appreciate language being treated as an evolving thing rather than something that needs to follow strict rules.

>23 rhian_of_oz: I love the Murderbot books. I'll be interested to see how you find the rest of the series.

Out 7, 2019, 9:20am

>32 valkyrdeath: What I also liked about Because Internet is how contemporary it is - the language of the internet is evolving right in front of our eyes.

I am absolutely loving the Murderbot books. I had thought to try and ration them out over time but I've already read the second and third books. The only thing that will stop me reading the last one straight away is I have committed to read other books. We'll see how long I last!

Out 7, 2019, 9:23am

** This review may contain spoilers about previous books in the Veronica Speedwell series. **

A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn
This is the 4th book in the Veronica Speedwell series.

Unable to handle the intimacy between herself and Stoker, Veronica runs away. She returns after six months only to be lured away again by Stoker's brother Tiberius with the promise of a rare and beautiful butterfly.

However when they arrive at St Maddern's island they discover the true purpose of their invitation is to investigate a years old disappearance.

What I liked
  • The resolution of the disappearance. It's not something I had come across before.

  • The way in which the mystery unfolded. It felt quite old-fashioned, Agatha Christie-like almost.

What I didn't like
  • I don't mind a bit of will they or won't they sexual tension and up until now Ms Raybourn has handled this well (the last scene in the previous book was especially good). But it was not well done in this book. I definitely understand that characters may be ambivalent in their own mind, but this felt like the flipping and flopping was done purely to draw out the tension rather than feeling real. And yes I realise that *everything* in a book is designed by the author to move the story in the direction they want but it's much nicer not to be so aware of it.

Why I read this
I'm a fan of the series.

Despite the unnecessary angst regarding the relationship between Veronica and Stoker I enjoyed this very much. I will read the next one however if she continues with the foolishness I shall be very cross.

Out 9, 2019, 10:01am

Believe Me by JP Delaney

Claire (our narrator) is a British actress studying in New York and she earns money working stings for divorce lawyers to entrap cheating husbands.

Patrick is one of her targets that doesn't bite, and later the same night his wife is murdered. Did he do it?

What I liked
  • The twists and turns. Despite the believability (or otherwise) of some of the plot, it was still fun to speculate along the way as to what I thought was going on.

What I didn't like
  • The plot is kind of ridiculous - enough so that it continually pulled me out of the story.

  • The ending. I didn't see it coming - which you'd think would be good - except the reason I didn't see it coming is because it was ... what's another word for ridiculous?

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Claire. I like her as narrator (is she reliable or unreliable?) but her character is incredibly self-centred which is annoying.

Why I read this
I quite liked The Girl Before and this was going very cheaply at my local charity shop.

You *really* need to suspend your disbelief with this one - there were many times I exclaimed "as if that would happen". If you can do that and you like a twisty book then this may be for you. I'm not inclined to read any further offerings from this author.

Out 22, 2019, 9:46am

Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe

In this book Mr Pascoe provides an argument/evidence to refute the idea that pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians were only hunter-gatherers.

What I liked
  • Learning more about indigenous Australia before colonisation.

  • His use of writings by colonists to (presumably) forestall/pre-empt challenges to his ideas being unsubstantiated.

What I didn't like
  • The book feels more like a collection of essays on various themes which was mostly fine but resulted in noticeable repetition.

Why I read this
Recommendation at bookclub based on Terra Nullius.

I'm so glad I read this. Mr Pascoe explores and proposes a lot of ideas, many of which he acknowledges need further investigation to prove (or otherwise). Besides potentially rewriting pre-colonial Australian history what was exciting to me was how we might use indigenous knowledge to meet the challenges of climate change.

Out 30, 2019, 2:10pm

Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin

This book is set in the United States around the beginning of the 23rd century where an amendment to the US Constitution in 1991 reversed women's rights. There is also interplanetary trade with many alien species, facilitated by an oligopoly of 'Lines' of linguists.

Points worth mentioning
  • There are many storylines, not all of which are resolved by the end of this, the first book in a trilogy.

  • Pretty much all the male characters are misogynists. Some reviews saw this as over-the-top man-hating, but I don't think the men's attitudes are necessarily such a stretch when you consider (1) incels currently hold these attitudes, and (2) the men have had 200 years of women being legally and "scientifically proven" inferior.

  • There are holes (e.g. a change to the US Constitution apparently affects the whole world) so one does need to accept a number of premises at face-value.

Why I read this
Monthly bookclub.

I've read this book so many times that even though the last time was at least 20 years ago, there wasn't one scene I didn't remember. Since this was such a favourite I wasn't really able to read it objectively. The general consensus at bookclub was positive.

Nov 1, 2019, 2:27am

** This review is full of spoilers. My only alternative is to hide pretty much the whole post with a spoiler tag - this is easier. **

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Jason Dessen is a physics lecturer living a quiet life with his wife Daniela and son Charlie when he is abducted and abandoned in a parallel timeline.

He spends the rest of the book trying to get back to his family.

What I liked
  • It's easy enough to read.

  • The multiple Jasons. How do you outwit yourself?

What I didn't like
  • The method of navigating the multiverse. Pretty much hope and pray.

  • The 'hope and pray' method is simply a device to allow the author to drop Jason into terrifying situations.

  • It's melodramatic.

Why I read this
BB from sharach_anki.

This is essentially a race-against-time thriller that uses "quantum mechanics" as a mechanism to deliver tension. It is *not* science fiction. I possibly would have liked this better if I hadn't read Quarantine and had different expectations as to what I was reading. This is definitely a book to be taken at face value and not delved into too deeply. I'll keep Recursion on my wishlist for when I'm in the mood for a bit of fun escapism.

Nov 2, 2019, 12:23pm

>38 rhian_of_oz: I haven’t read anything by Crouch. Are his books part of a series, or are they stand-alone?

Nov 2, 2019, 1:18am

>39 NanaCC: He has a couple of series but most of his novels are standalone.

I watched Wayward Pines (first series) and really enjoyed it without knowing it was based on books, and I didn't know Crouch was the responsible for them until reading other reviews on Dark Matter.

Nov 4, 2019, 8:48am

The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders
This is the second in the Laetitia Rodd Mysteries.

Mrs Laetitia Rodd is a widow who undertakes private investigations to help make ends meet. In the spring of 1851 she is commissioned by a dying man to find his estranged brother. Her search takes her to Oxford where she stays with a couple of old friends.

Secrets abound and someone is willing to kill to ensure they stay hidden.

What I liked
  • Laetitia. She's somehow both conventional and unconventional for her time.

  • It's a good, old-fashioned whodunnit. No massive twists or convoluted motives.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • I picked the villain as soon as they were introduced though the why came much later.

Points worth mentioning
  • I would describe the pace as measured though other reviewers referred to it as plodding.

Why I read this
I enjoyed the first in the series.

I think this book (and it's predecessor) can be be best described as a "cosy mystery". Other words that spring to mind and/or are common in reviews are delightful, warm, engaging, quaint, charming. This is a definite curled-up-on-the-couch-with-a-cuppa book.

I am looking forward to the next instalment - hopefully it won't be another three years before it comes out!

Editado: Nov 10, 2019, 10:29pm

>37 rhian_of_oz: I read Native tongue a few years ago and it was too late for me to be impressed. I was to young to appreciate it when it came out (even if I had heard of it), and too much water had gone under the bridge by the time I read it. I didn't post a review but think I classified it as an interesting experiment.

Nov 16, 2019, 3:39pm

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
In 1967 four women invent a time travel machine and one of them suffers a mental breakdown.

50 years later time travel is big business when one of them is found dead in a locked room.

What I liked
  • I love a good locked room mystery. In this case we knew time travel was likely involved somehow but it was still interesting to find out how.

  • The exploration of the effects of time travel on time travellers. One example is how would one view death if one could continually visit people at any point up to when they die?

  • Time travellers interacting with themselves across time. Such an intriguing concept!

What I'm ambivalent about
  • There's a reasonably large cast of characters that can sometimes be hard to keep track of. But none of them are superfluous to the story.

Why I read this
I liked the cover and it sounded interesting.

I liked this a lot. It contains a variety of themes/genres - mystery, time travel, romance, psychology - and manages to combine them well. I look forward to reading this author's next book.

Nov 18, 2019, 6:48pm

>30 rhian_of_oz: sorry, fell behind and just saw your question on Geraldine Brooks. I actually remember liking March a bit, but have not read Little Women. I had some issues with it, but no longer recall what they were. Year of Wonders, on a plague outbreak, started out with me liking it, and left me not liking it at all. Again, a long time ago. So I had decided enough. But still, I read People of the Book more recently with a book club, and found it very soft.

Nov 21, 2019, 1:24am

>44 dchaikin: Given it seems we have almost diametrically opposite views on her books (:-D) you might enjoy The Secret Chord.

Nov 21, 2019, 1:31am

Working Class Boy by Jimmy Barnes

Jimmy Barnes is an Australian music legend. He was the lead singer of Cold Chisel in the 1970s and early 80s, before enjoying an even more successful solo career.

He has written his life story in two parts and this is the first which takes us up to the start of Cold Chisel.

Why I read this
I chose Working Class Man (part two) for November TBRCat.

It's pretty grim. It's not easy to read but only part of that is due to the subject matter. There's a lot of repetition. Many scenes of his parents drinking and fighting. Many scenes of Jimmy drinking, having sex and/or fighting. I mean it certainly paints a picture but it possibly could have been done with a few less words.

It seems miraculous that he survived - both at other's hands and his own - and absolutely incredible that he's been as successful as he has. Based on what I already know, the next part of his life story is not all rainbows and unicorns either.

I don't regret reading it but I have been a little slow getting into part two.

Nov 21, 2019, 4:17am

>45 rhian_of_oz: : ) Perhaps it's best left a mystery.

>46 rhian_of_oz: sounds grim. Good luck with part 2.

Nov 23, 2019, 4:27am

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C A Fletcher
This a post-apocalyptic story set some time after the Gelding - an unknown event that resulted in the majority of the population (99.9999%) unable to have children.

Griz (our narrator) and family are living a quiet life on Mingulay (an island in the Outer Hebrides) when they are visited by Brand who drugs them and steals Griz's dog Jess. Griz chases Brand across the sea and over land to get Jess back.

Why I read this
BB from lisapeet.

I liked this a lot. Despite Griz being young this doesn't read like YA. It's really well paced and a good combination of action and introspection. On the face of it it's a fairly standard post-apocalyptic story - lone traveller on a quest in an empty world encounters obstacles - but I think Griz makes this a better than average version.

I am interested in checking out the Oversight trilogy by this author.

Nov 24, 2019, 3:20pm

>48 rhian_of_oz: Glad you enjoyed it! I was really pleasantly surprised by how absorbed I was. Plus I’m always a sucker for a good dog story. Interested to hear what you think of the Oversight books.

Nov 25, 2019, 9:00am

Vendetta in Death by J D Robb
This is the 49th instalment in the Eve Dallas series.

Men are being tortured in the name of justice and it's up to Eve and her team (both police and civilian) to find the killer before they strike again.

Why I read this
Long time fan of the series.

I think I've mentioned before that not much thought goes into the reading of these, though this time I am taking a bit of time to reflect. There's a little bit of a feel of 'phoning it in' for this one. The plot is familiar (though that point is acknowledged in the book) and there is very little growth or development of any of the recurring characters. I'm not ready to abandon the series just yet but looking back this is the third in a row that's underwhelmed me.

Dez 7, 2019, 4:53pm

The Outside by Ada Hoffmann

In a future where AI Gods control and restrict access to technology, physicist Dr Yasira Shien develops a new energy drive that has catastrophic consequences when activated.

In the aftermath an agent of one of the Gods arrests/abducts Yasira to assist them in hunting down her heretical mentor Dr Evianna Talirr.

What I liked
  • Yasira. I liked her as a character. A number of reviews I read said they didn't believe the depiction of her as autistic. I don't know if those people are autistic themselves but I do know Ms Hoffmann is and therefore I figure she has better insight into what it's like.

  • The relationship between Yasira and Tiv. A number of reviewers thought Yasira's continued reference to Tiv as a "good girl" as somehow patronising or demeaning, but I only ever read it as Tiv having a number of positive attributes that Yasira didn't feel she herself had.

What I didn't like
  • The idea that self-aware intelligent machines will need humans. I didn't like it in The Matrix and I didn't like it in this. I really had to put this idea aside to enjoy this book.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The ending seems deliberately set up for a sequel.

  • I'm not sure all the characters were necessary. Certainly there weren't many that were well developed.

Points worth mentioning
  • The blurb mentions cosmic and unknowable horror. I didn't find it horrifying but maybe the horror was so unknowable I didn't recognise it.

  • I thought who were the good guys and who were the bad guys ambivalent. I'm not sure whether this is intentional or whether my own prejudices are coming into play.

Why I read this

This had a lot of interesting ideas and concepts and I'm glad I read it. I'm not sure I would read a sequel though - I am happy to leave the characters where they are.

I would consider reading other work by Ms Hoffman but they wouldn't be an automatic must-read.

Dez 11, 2019, 12:41am

Still Life by Louise Penny

This is the first in the Chief Inspector Gamache series.

Miss Jane Neal is found dead from an arrow wound in the woods on the edge of the village of Three Pines.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete is tasked to find her killer.

What I liked
  • Armand Gamache. I like that he mostly is an ordinary man (not a genius, not troubled) with stable (not dysfunctional) relationships with his wife and his team.

What I didn't like
  • Agent Yvette Nichol. I didn't understand the point of this character. I can only assume she appears in later books in the series.

  • Many of the village inhabitants come across as caricatures.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • There's a *lot* of characters. I've come to realise that the series returns to Three Pines may times (so much crime for a small village!) which explains it.

Points worth mentioning
  • This is a fairly standard 'cozy' mystery with lots of potential suspects, travels down false paths, before revealing 'whodunnit' in an over-the-top climactic scene.

Why I read this
Indirect BB from VivienneR.

I liked this well enough but it didn't blow my skirt up. Quaint is probably the word that best describes it for me. I'll give the second in the series a go if I happen to come across it, but I'm not going to go out of my way to obtain a copy.

Dez 19, 2019, 2:51pm

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Ms Orlean tells the the story of the Los Angeles Central Library. She weaves together three strands - the history of the library, the 1986 fire, and the current operations. A constant thread running through all strands are the people of the library.

Why I read this
This is a BB from pmarshall.

I liked this a lot. I found it easy to read and interesting. As a fellow library lover I enjoyed the insight into "behind the scenes". I look forward to reading other work by this author.

Dez 23, 2019, 10:09am

The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the fifteenth in the Maisie Dobbs series.

Maisie and her friend Priscilla are driving ambulances in London during the Blitz when Maisie is asked to take part in the investigation of the murder of an American journalist.

What I liked
  • Maisie and her loved ones aren't excluded from the tragedies of war.

  • Once again Ms Dobbs paints a vivid picture of life in the UK during WW2.

What I didn't like
  • Maisie ends up running the entire murder investigation. The rationale for her even to be involved was less than convincing, let alone being responsible for the whole thing.

  • The resolution of the mystery felt rushed and like it came out of nowhere.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • The romance between Maisie and Mark Scott. It didn't feel convincing, but then I don't remember him at all from Journey to Munich..

Why I read this
Fan of the series.

I think this might be the last Maisie Dobbs adventure for me. It's not that this book is terrible, rather that I find I am no longer interested.

Dez 23, 2019, 3:30pm

>52 rhian_of_oz: IMHO the second is the weakest of the series. It really improves beginning with #5 or so.

Dez 24, 2019, 4:22pm

>55 Jim53: That's good to know thanks. I was going to ask whether I could jump straight from #1 to #5 but even if the answer is yes I don't think I'd be able to :-).

Jan 1, 2020, 2:31pm

The Summer of Sunshine and Margot by Susan Mallery

Sunshine and Margot Baxter are fraternal twins whose romantic relationships in the past have been less than ideal and who are looking to make better choices in the future.

Sunshine works as a nanny for single dad Declan, while Margot is an etiquette coach working with Alec's mother Bianca.

What I liked
  • Sunshine. Her motivation for wanting to change is believable and she has a good side story about going back to college.

  • Margot. While her motivation is a bit less believable, she is an interesting character.

  • Sunshine and Margot's relationship.

What I didn't like
  • Alec's reason for resisting romance. Most romance stories include some impediment that needs to be overcome but I thought his was a bit weak.

What I'm ambivalent about
  • Bianca. Her character is bordering on caricature and the cause of her behaviour a bit cliche.

Why I read this
Fan of the author.

I was after a light summer read and that's exactly what I got. If you like contemporary romance with engaging characters, a realistic(ish) plot and plenty of humour then this book could be for you.

Jan 7, 2020, 3:29pm

The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

This is the seventh in the Corinna Chapman series.

Corinna and her apprentice Jason are baking all manner of deliciousness when ex-soldier Alasdair staggers into the bakery and collapses. This is the beginning of the latest adventure for Corinna that involves a missing dog, burglaries and threatening notes, a ransomware attack, and a drug war.

Why I read this
Fan of the series.

I was stunned to discover that I read the previous book eight years ago. No wonder reading this was like catching up with old friends. Corinna is an unconventional heroine and her friends and neighbours are delightfully quirky without (I think) tipping over into slapstick.

I must admit I didn't love the mystery components of the story but I was so happy to be in this company again it didn't bother me (too much). It does mean that I wouldn't recommend this book as an introduction to the series.

I don't know if Ms Greenwood is planning any more Corinna Chapman books but I sincerely hope so.