richardderus's eleventh 2021 thread

É uma continuação do tópico richardderus's tenth 2021 thread.

Este tópico foi continuado por richardderus's twelfth 2021 thread.

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2021

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richardderus's eleventh 2021 thread

1richardderus
Editado: Jul 29, 3:52pm


Chester Himes, crime novelist, was born 29 July 1909 to very bougie parents...a college professor and a seminary teacher. Nevertheless, Himes got into trouble with the law and was sent to prison for 20 to 25 years. It was in prison that he dedicated himself to writing "as a way to earn respect from guards and fellow inmates, as well as to avoid violence." Later in life, he wrote Cast the First Stone about his time in prison. It was scandalous because he dealt as openly and honestly as one could in the Lavender Scare years about homosexual relationships in prison.

Lucky us!

Because Murrikinz is stoopud, Himes's work was far more popular in France than here. If He Hollers Let Him Go, a "protest novel" about racism written in the 1940s while he was working in Hollywood, and his romans policiers featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones from the 1950s, were huge sellers there. He relocated to France and lived in Europe the rest of his life. Our loss...though his novels appeared in the US and sold respectably, the real impact Himes had was perhaps a generation later: Walter Mosley's career!

Try a read about Easy Rawlins's spiritual grandfathers, Grave Digger and Coffin Ed:
A Rage in Harlem
The Real Cool Killers
The Crazy Kill
All Shot Up
The Big Gold Dream
The Heat's On
Cotton Comes to Harlem
Blind Man with a Pistol

ETA I found this old Hilton Als piece about Chester Himes and his place in Blackness quite interesting:
Himes produced male characters who really were noir—in fact and in sensibility. Unapologetic and testosterone-driven, they weren’t hard-done-by; they were in love with having been done wrong. Turned on by their own bravado, they claimed entitlement and viewed sex as a struggle for power—the only form of intimacy that engaged them.

2richardderus
Editado: Ago 16, 10:59am

I'm delighted to introduce, laddies and gentlewomen, my new spirit animal:
The Fucktopus.

**********************
In 2021, I stated a goal of posting 15 book reviews a month on my blog. This year's total of 180 (there are a lot of individual stories that don't have entries in the LT database so I didn't post them here; I need to do more to sync the data this year) reads shows it's doable, and I've done better than that in the past.

I've long Pearl Ruled books I'm not enjoying, but making notes on Goodreads & LibraryThing about why I'm abandoning the read has been less successful. I give up. I just don't care about this goal, so out it goes.




My Last Thread of 2009 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2010 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2011 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2012 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2013 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2014 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2015 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2016 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2017 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2018 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2019 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.
My Last Thread of 2020 Is Here:
Reviews are back-linked there.

First five reviews? 1st 2021 thread..

Reviews 6 all the way through 25 can be viewed in the thread to which I have posted a link at left.

The 26th through 36th reviews occupy thread three.

37th through 44th reviews belong where they are.

Reviews 45 through 58 are listed here.

Reviews 59 through 65 present themselves in that spot.

Reviews 66 through 75 reside in this thread.

Reviews 76 through 98? Seek them before this.

Reviews 99 through 110 remain becalmèd thitherward.

Reviews 111 up to 123 actualize their potential in the linkèd thread.

THIS THREAD'S REVIEW LINKS

124 The Library of the Unwritten excelled, post 55.

125 Amatka intrigued, post 86.

126 Afterparties: Stories engulfed, post 108.

127 Radiant Fugitives pleased, post 126.

128 The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell impressed, post 149.

129 Two Spies in Caracas entertained, post 157.

130 The Eternal Audience of One delighted, post 172.

131 From the Caves discomfited, post 191.

132 Edge Case: A Novel intrigued, post 222.

133 The Changeling enchanted, post 254.

134 Liesmith worked, post 256.

135 Gunpowder Moon suspended, post 259.

136 Gordo groomed and decorated, post 269.

3richardderus
Editado: Jul 26, 9:37am

2020's five-star or damn-near five-star reviews totaled 46. Almost half were short stories and/or series reads. While a lot of authors saw their book launches rescheduled, publishers canceled their tours, and everyone was hugely distracted by the nightmare of COVID-19 (I had it, you do not want it), no one can fault the astoundingly wonderful literature we got this year. My own annual six-stars-of-five read was Zaina Arafat's extraordinary debut novel YOU EXIST TOO MUCH (review lives here), a thirtysomething Palestinian woman telling me my life, my family, my very experience of relationships of all sorts. I cannot stress enough to you, this is the book you need to read in 2021. A sixtysomething man is here, in your email/feed, saying: This is the power. This is the glory. The writing I look for, the read I long to find, and all of it delivered in a young woman's debut novel. This is as good an omen for the Great Conjunction's power being bent to the positive outcomes as any I've seen.

In 2020, I posted over 180 reviews here. In 2021, my goals are:
  • to post 190 reviews on my blog

  • to post at least 99 three-sentence Burgoines

  • to complete at least 190 total reviews


  • Most important to me is to report on DRCs I don't care enough about to review at my usual level. I don't want to keep just leaving them unacknowledged. There are publishers who want to see a solid, positive relationship between DRCs granted and reviews posted, and I do not blame them a bit.

    Ask and ye shall receive! Nathan Burgoine's Twitter account hath taught me. See >7 below.

    4richardderus
    Editado: Jul 26, 9:40am

    I stole this from PC's thread. I like these prompts!
    ***
    1. Name any book you read at any time that was published in the year you turned 18:
    Faggots by Larry Kramer
    2. Name a book you have on in your TBR pile that is over 500 pages long:
    The Story of China: The Epic History of a World Power from the Middle Kingdom to Mao and the China Dream by Michael Wood
    3. What is the last book you read with a mostly blue cover?
    Wasps' Nest by Agatha Christie
    4. What is the last book you didn’t finish (and why didn’t you finish it?)
    The Perfect Fascist by Victoria de Grazia; paper book of 512pp, can't hold it...hands too feeble now
    5. What is the last book that scared the bejeebers out of you?
    Too Much and Never Enough by Mary Trump
    6. Name the book that read either this year or last year that takes place geographically closest to where you live? How close would you estimate it was?
    The Trump book; set in Queens and the Hamptons, so just down the road a piece
    7.What were the topics of the last two nonfiction books you read?
    The last successful rebellion on US soil and caffeine
    8. Name a recent book you read which could be considered a popular book?
    The Only Good Indians, a horror novel that's really, really good
    9. What was the last book you gave a rating of 5-stars to? And when did you read it?
    Restored, a Regency-era romantic historical novel about men in their 40s seizing their second chance at luuuv
    10. Name a book you read that led you to specifically to read another book (and what was the other book, and what was the connection)
    Potiki, which Kerry Aluf gave me; led me to read The Uncle's Story by Witi Ihimaera
    11. Name the author you have most recently become infatuated with.
    P. Djeli Clark
    12. What is the setting of the first novel you read this year?
    Hawaii and PNW
    13. What is the last book you read, fiction or nonfiction, that featured a war in some way (and what war was it)?
    The Fighting Bunch; WWII
    14. What was the last book you acquired or borrowed based on an LTer’s review or casual recommendation? And who was the LTer, if you care to say.
    There isn't enough space for all the book-bullets y'all careless, inconsiderate-of-my-poverty fiends pepper me with
    15. What the last book you read that involved the future in some way?
    Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
    16. Name the last book you read that featured a body of water, river, marsh, or significant rainfall?
    Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm
    17. What is last book you read by an author from the Southern Hemisphere?
    Red Heir by Lisa Henry
    18. What is the last book you read that you thought had a terrible cover?
    please don't ask me this
    19. Who was the most recent dead author you read? And what year did they die?
    Agatha Christie, 1976
    20. What was the last children’s book (not YA) you read?
    good goddesses, I don't remember...Goodnight Moon to my daughter?
    21. What was the name of the detective or crime-solver in the most recent crime novel you read?
    Poirot by Dame Ags
    22. What was the shortest book of any kind you’ve read so far this year?
    The World Well Lost, ~28pp
    23. Name the last book that you struggled with (and what do you think was behind the struggle?)
    Lon Chaney Speaks, because I really, really don't like comic books
    24. What is the most recent book you added to your library here on LT?
    see #23
    25. Name a book you read this year that had a visual component (i.e. illustrations, photos, art, comics)
    see #23
    I liked Sandy's Bonus Question for the meme above, so I adopted it:

    26. What is the title and year of the oldest book you have reviewed on LT in 2020? (modification in itals)
    The Sittaford Mystery by Dame Aggie, 1931.

    5richardderus
    Editado: Jul 26, 9:41am

    I really hadn't considered doing this until recently...tracking my Pulitzer Prize in Fiction winners read, and Booker Prize winners read might actually prove useful to me in planning my reading.

    1918 HIS FAMILY - Ernest Poole **
    1919 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS - Booth Tarkington *
    1921 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE - Edith Wharton *
    1922 ALICE ADAMS - Booth Tarkington **
    1923 ONE OF OURS - Willa Cather **
    1924 THE ABLE MCLAUGHLINS - Margaret Wilson
    1925 SO BIG - Edna Ferber *
    1926 ARROWSMITH - Sinclair Lewis (Declined) *
    1927 EARLY AUTUMN - Louis Bromfield
    1928 THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY - Thornton Wilder *
    1929 SCARLET SISTER MARY - Julia Peterkin
    1930 LAUGHING BOY - Oliver Lafarge
    1931 YEARS OF GRACE - Margaret Ayer Barnes
    1932 THE GOOD EARTH - Pearl Buck *
    1933 THE STORE - Thomas Sigismund Stribling
    1934 LAMB IN HIS BOSOM - Caroline Miller
    1935 NOW IN NOVEMBER - Josephine Winslow Johnson
    1936 HONEY IN THE HORN - Harold L Davis
    1937 GONE WITH THE WIND - Margaret Mitchell *
    1938 THE LATE GEORGE APLEY - John Phillips Marquand
    1939 THE YEARLING - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings *
    1940 THE GRAPES OF WRATH - John Steinbeck *
    1942 IN THIS OUR LIFE - Ellen Glasgow *
    1943 DRAGON'S TEETH - Upton Sinclair
    1944 JOURNEY IN THE DARK - Martin Flavin
    1945 A BELL FOR ADANO - John Hersey *
    1947 ALL THE KING'S MEN - Robert Penn Warren *
    1948 TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC - James Michener
    1949 GUARD OF HONOR - James Gould Cozzens
    1950 THE WAY WEST - A.B. Guthrie
    1951 THE TOWN - Conrad Richter
    1952 THE CAINE MUTINY - Herman Wouk
    1953 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA - Ernest Hemingway *
    1955 A FABLE - William Faulkner *
    1956 ANDERSONVILLE - McKinlay Kantor *
    1958 A DEATH IN THE FAMILY - James Agee *
    1959 THE TRAVELS OF JAIMIE McPHEETERS - Robert Lewis Taylor
    1960 ADVISE AND CONSENT - Allen Drury *
    1961 TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Harper Lee *
    1962 THE EDGE OF SADNESS - Edwin O'Connor
    1963 THE REIVERS - William Faulkner *
    1965 THE KEEPERS OF THE HOUSE - Shirley Ann Grau
    1966 THE COLLECTED STORIES OF KATHERINE ANNE PORTER - Katherine Anne Porter
    1967 THE FIXER - Bernard Malamud
    1968 THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER - William Styron *
    1969 HOUSE MADE OF DAWN - N Scott Momaday
    1970 THE COLLECTED STORIES OF JEAN STAFFORD - Jean Stafford
    1972 ANGLE OF REPOSE - Wallace Stegner *
    1973 THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER - Eudora Welty *
    1975 THE KILLER ANGELS - Jeff Shaara *
    1976 HUMBOLDT'S GIFT - Saul Bellow *
    1978 ELBOW ROOM - James Alan McPherson
    1979 THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER - John Cheever *
    1980 THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG - Norman Mailer *
    1981 A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES - John Kennedy Toole *
    1982 RABBIT IS RICH - John Updike *
    1983 THE COLOR PURPLE - Alice Walker *
    1984 IRONWEED - William Kennedy *
    1985 FOREIGN AFFAIRS - Alison Lurie
    1986 LONESOME DOVE - Larry McMurtry *
    1987 A SUMMONS TO MEMPHIS - Peter Taylor
    1988 BELOVED - Toni Morrison *
    1989 BREATHING LESSONS - Anne Tyler
    1990 THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE - Oscar Hijuelos *
    1991 RABBIT AT REST - John Updike *
    1992 A THOUSAND ACRES - Jane Smiley *
    1993 A GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN - Robert Olen Butler *
    1994 THE SHIPPING NEWS - E Annie Proulx *
    1995 THE STONE DIARIES - Carol Shields
    1996 INDEPENDENCE DAY - Richard Ford
    1997 MARTIN DRESSLER - Steven Millhauser
    1998 AMERICAN PASTORAL - Philip Roth
    1999 THE HOURS - Michael Cunningham
    2000 INTERPRETER OF MALADIES - Jumpha Lahiri
    2001 THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY - Michael Chabon
    2002 EMPIRE FALLS - Richard Russo
    2003 MIDDLESEX - Jeffrey Eugenides *
    2004 THE KNOWN WORLD - Edward P. Jones
    2005 GILEAD - Marilynne Robinson
    2006 MARCH - Geraldine Brooks
    2007 THE ROAD - Cormac McCarthy
    2008 THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO - Junot Diaz *
    2009 OLIVE KITTERIDGE - Elizabeth Strout
    2010 TINKERS - Paul Harding**
    2011 A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD - Jennifer Egan
    2013 ORPHAN MASTER'S SON - Adam Johnson
    2014 THE GOLDFINCH - Donna Tartt
    2015 ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE - Anthony Doerr **
    2016 THE SYMPATHIZER - Viet Thanh Nguyen **
    2017 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD - Colson Whitehead **
    2018 LESS - Andrew Sean Greer
    2019 THE OVERSTORY - Richard Powers
    2020 THE NICKEL BOYS - Colson Whitehead

    Links are to my reviews
    * Read, but not reviewed
    ** Owned, but not read

    6richardderus
    Editado: Jul 26, 9:43am

    Every winner of the Booker Prize since its inception in 1969

    1969: P. H. Newby, Something to Answer For
    1970: Bernice Rubens, The Elected Member
    1970: J. G. Farrell, Troubles ** (awarded in 2010 as the Lost Man Booker Prize) -
    1971: V. S. Naipaul, In a Free State
    1972: John Berger, G.
    1973: J. G. Farrell, The Siege of Krishnapur
    1974: Nadine Gordimer, The Conservationist ... and Stanley Middleton, Holiday
    1975: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust
    1976: David Storey, Saville
    1977: Paul Scott, Staying On
    1978: Iris Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea *
    1979: Penelope Fitzgerald, Offshore
    1980: William Golding, Rites of Passage
    1981: Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children *
    1982: Thomas Keneally, Schindler's Ark
    1983: J. M. Coetzee, Life & Times of Michael K
    1984: Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac *
    1985: Keri Hulme, The Bone People **
    1986: Kingsley Amis, The Old Devils
    1987: Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger *
    1988: Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda *
    1989: Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day *
    1990: A. S. Byatt, Possession: A Romance *
    1991: Ben Okri, The Famished Road
    1992: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient * ... and Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger
    1993: Roddy Doyle, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
    1994: James Kelman, How late it was, how late
    1995: Pat Barker, The Ghost Road *
    1996: Graham Swift, Last Orders
    1997: Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
    1998: Ian McEwan, Amsterdam
    1999: J. M. Coetzee, Disgrace
    2000: Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin *
    2001: Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang *
    2002: Yann Martel, Life of Pi
    2003: DBC Pierre, Vernon God Little **
    2004: Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty *
    2005: John Banville, The Sea
    2006: Kiran Desai, The Inheritance of Loss
    2007: Anne Enright, The Gathering
    2008: Aravind Adiga, The White Tiger
    2009: Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall
    2010: Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question *
    2011: Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending **
    2012: Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
    2013: Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
    2014: Richard Flanagan, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
    2015: Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings *
    2016: Paul Beatty, The Sellout
    2017: George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo
    2018: Anna Burns, Milkman
    2019: Margaret Atwood, The Testaments, and Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other
    2020: Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain

    Links are to my reviews
    * Read, but not reviewed
    ** Owned, but not read

    7richardderus
    Editado: Jul 26, 9:42am

    Author 'Nathan Burgoine posted this simple, direct method of not getting paralyzed by the prospect of having to write reviews. The Three-Sentence Review is, as he notes, very helpful and also simple to achieve. I get completely unmanned at the idea of saying something trenchant about each book I read, when there often just isn't that much to say...now I can use this structure to say what I think's important and not try to dig for more.

    Think about using it yourselves!

    8richardderus
    Jul 26, 9:30am

    Okay, the newspaper's down, go ahead.

    9katiekrug
    Jul 26, 9:44am

    Happy new one, RD!

    10richardderus
    Jul 26, 9:47am

    >9 katiekrug: Thanks Katie! You're the first visitrix!

    11PaulCranswick
    Jul 26, 9:47am

    I'm just inside the top ten!

    Happy new one, dear fellow.

    12PaulCranswick
    Jul 26, 9:49am

    Or I woulda been if I was a second or two quicker!

    13PaulCranswick
    Jul 26, 9:50am

    At least the last post got to be the 3,000th on your threads this year, RD.

    14drneutron
    Jul 26, 9:52am

    Happy new one! Himes' Coffin Ed and Grave Digger novels have been on my list for a while. Can't wait for retirement so I have time to knock a bunch of these off the list!

    15FAMeulstee
    Jul 26, 9:53am

    Happy new thread, Richard dear!

    16jnwelch
    Jul 26, 9:56am

    Happy new Thread, Richard. great to see chester Himes spotlighted. I enjoyed the first two and want to read more of his books. I loved that movie adaptation of Cotton Comes to Harlem. Great casting.

    17weird_O
    Jul 26, 9:59am

    Weird_O was here.

    18karenmarie
    Jul 26, 10:05am

    'Morning, Rdear, and happy new thread.

    Another author I've never heard of, Chester Himes, so thank you.

    19humouress
    Jul 26, 10:06am

    Happy (I suppose) new thread, Richard!

    20richardderus
    Jul 26, 10:31am

    >19 humouress: Of course it's a happy thread! Why ever wouldn't it be? *batbat*

    >18 karenmarie: Good gracious, Horrible. What a pleasure you have in store! Himes has written some very, very good books, so enjoy your discovery!

    >17 weird_O: Weirdski! Welcome.

    21richardderus
    Jul 26, 10:36am

    >16 jnwelch: Hi Joe, and thanks awfully. I was very impressed by that adaptation when it came out as well. Seems like good ol' racist BS was at work in its, um, lackluster box office. *sigh* I despair...

    >15 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita! Thank you most kindly for the well-wishes.

    >14 drneutron: Heh, thanks Doc. And yes, you've got many more hours of reading joy when the workaday world recedes in your rear-view mirror.

    >13 PaulCranswick:, >12 PaulCranswick:, >11 PaulCranswick: Wow! I got to 3K posts! It's been a slow plague for my threads, hasn't it. I'm glad you nabbed the three-thousandth for yourself, PC.

    22msf59
    Jul 26, 10:46am



    Happy New Thread, Richard!

    23Crazymamie
    Jul 26, 10:57am

    Happy newness, BigDaddy! I have only read one Chester Himes - A Rage in Harlem, and it was an audiobook narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who was so full of fabulous. You are reminding me that I need to get back to that series.

    24Helenliz
    Jul 26, 11:02am

    Happy new thread, Richard.
    Another who has not heard of Chester Himes. As if I needed any more authors to explore...

    25richardderus
    Jul 26, 11:09am

    >24 Helenliz: ::evil Muttley laugh::

    My principle joy is making sure the maximum number of people who visit my threads leave with more reading to do.

    >23 Crazymamie: Mamie darling! *smooch* It is mos def time to bring your Himesing up to speed. I'm so glad people relate to this author I've loved forever.

    >22 msf59: Now THERE is a Tentacled American with a plan I can support!

    26magicians_nephew
    Jul 26, 11:20am

    I discovered Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones from the movie version of "Cotton Comes to Harlem" - then discovered the books and raced through them. Not exactly a "cosy" but fun to visit and revisit old friends.

    Didn't know much about the author - thanks for educating me about him. Interesting.

    27richardderus
    Jul 26, 11:27am

    >26 magicians_nephew: Delighted to expand your database, Jim, he is a talent worth finding out more about. I havent read either of his bios, but am feeling called to at least one of them...permaybehaps Chester Himes: A Life because I like James Sallis's writing so much.
    ***
    Goddesses please rain blessings upon Jimmy Fallon...yesterday his book-club choice added 1741 views to my blog, and today...so far!...1245!! Instead of my usual, perfectly satisfactory I hasten to add, 6200-6500 views in a month I've already topped 11,000!!

    It's like the pre-breakdown days, and a very nice surprise it is.

    28quondame
    Jul 26, 3:58pm

    Happy new thread!

    29richardderus
    Jul 26, 4:01pm

    >28 quondame: Thanks! It's good to have a fresh start.

    30benitastrnad
    Jul 26, 6:23pm

    Jimmy Fallon has done a summer book club read for several years now. The book is selected by the audience voting which one they want to read. However, he selects 5 titles each year and invites each author to pitch their book on his show prior to the voting, so it ends up being good publicity for each of the books selected. I think that this year he upped the number of books on the selection list to 6 titles. Participants sign into his spot on Instagram and can put in comments as well as follow the reading chart. Periodically, during the summer Fallon tells his TV audience where he is in the book, and what he thinks about it. Finally at the end of the summer, usually sometime in September he has a big show with the author and they spend a great deal of time on his show talking about the book. I guess this proves that sometimes readers don't look like readers even if they are.

    31ronincats
    Jul 26, 6:32pm

    Happy New Thread, Richard dear! Hurrah for all the blog views!

    32richardderus
    Jul 26, 6:39pm

    >31 ronincats: Yay! Roni's visited! Thanks for the congratulations, and I'm thrilled to be benefiting mightily from the surprise concatenation of events. I can certainly understand why the voters voted the way they did...this is a *perfect* summer read.

    >30 benitastrnad: This is what comes of not watching TV or hanging on Instagram...I just don't know these things exist. Good for him!

    33SandyAMcPherson
    Jul 26, 6:59pm

    Chiming in that I, too, had not heard of Chester Himes. It's a good thing to hear the back stories in the wider world of novelists.

    On a different topic but sort of related, maybe, to your Himes theme, I wanted to revisit an old story which I read the year I first went to university, Five Smooth Stones (Ann Fairbairn).

    Is this story, which was at the time big in the civil liberties reading I had embraced, now so out of date that libraries culled it? It is just about impossible to find. Our public library lists the title in the province-wide system, but a request is never filled. I'm told that a great many books which "never" see any check outs are culled.

    Who in blazes ever thought that was a good criterion?

    OK, /rant. Also "happy new thread"....

    34richardderus
    Jul 26, 7:10pm

    >33 SandyAMcPherson: Goody goody! Another new set of eyes for Sir Chester of Himes's work. I'd suggest you try his excellent If He Hollers Let Him Go.

    Interesting about Five Smooth Stones, too. It's a whopper so permaybehaps they chucked it for another Stephen King or Twilight book...almost 800 pages! Why, the Gutenberg operation must've bent double under the strain of putting that one out in '66!

    If you want an e-version, the publisher has those available direct from them, but not the tree-book.

    Thanks for the new-thread wishes! *smooch*

    35SandyAMcPherson
    Jul 26, 8:03pm

    >34 richardderus: Faulty memory on my part (re the chunkster comment). I remember it was a paperback and perhaps that's why it didn't seem overwhelmingly long (or thick?).

    I was supposed to be studying for finals (1967) and read that book instead. My mom kept trying to hide it from me to read when I'd finished exams. What a lark. I knew all her hiding places. And I passed all my courses, not stellarly, but hey, a pass was okay in those days.

    I will see if I can get a tree-book. Really long e-books and me do not agree. But thanks for the link.

    36richardderus
    Jul 26, 8:08pm

    >35 SandyAMcPherson: The option exists, should other means be exhausted, and the biggest plus to ebooks is they don't go out of stock.

    Mothers. ::eyeroll::
    ***
    Google's day ends at 8pm EDT (5pm in Cali) and, just in case anyone wondered about the Power of TV and Celebrity to drive book-traffic, today my little blog saw 1,874 views for THE PLOT!

    That is astonishing.

    37bell7
    Jul 26, 9:01pm

    Happy new thread, Richard!

    Glad you got some extra hits on your blog. The Plot was funny with my patrons, it sat on the new shelf for awhile, started to go out and then suddenly had enough holds for me to buy a second copy. We're sitting at four holds and no new ones out on for awhile, though it'll be interesting to see if that changes with the Jimmy Fallon summer reads pick. I'll probably try it out eventually, but I have fifteen library books and as many ARCs on my Kindle calling my name. Librarian problems 😂

    38richardderus
    Jul 26, 10:50pm

    >37 bell7: Thank you, Mary...I'm not hugely surprised that your inmates aren't all over The Plot at first. It needs to be talked up, bruited about, brought up and chewed over before the word really gets out.

    Fallon's pick is absolutely amazing for me, and a big leg up for the author. Rule of Ten suggests to me that, of the ~5,000 extra viewers I've had will result in 450-500 sales for the book! I'm happy if it's that...ecstatic, really! Makes me wish I did the Ammy affiliate thing, which of course I can't afford to do. Still happy if I've influenced some buyers.

    Oh, the agony, right? Terrible to have so many excellent choices of reading material. Just torturous. :-P

    39humouress
    Jul 27, 1:11am

    >36 richardderus: Mmhmm? I have one that I'm trying to help study for mock exams (IB finals due in three months) although in his case, it's electronic devices which, apparently, I can't confiscate as they're vital to sustain life *eyeroll*.

    Mind you, I've been in Sandy's position, too, many times.

    40connie53
    Jul 27, 2:21am

    Happy New Thread, Richard.

    41BekkaJo
    Jul 27, 2:30am

    >27 richardderus: Great news! Happy new thread.

    42FAMeulstee
    Jul 27, 4:52am

    >36 richardderus: the biggest plus to ebooks is they don't go out of stock
    Sadly that isn't true, Richard dear, at least not over here. Publishers do the same as with tree books: a certain number of copies is availble, after that the e-book is sold out. If the e-library has no copy, the only public copy is at the "Koninklijke Blibiotheek", where usually is also a tree copy.

    43karenmarie
    Jul 27, 8:44am

    'Morning, RD.

    Continued congrats over Jimmy Fallon and the runaway blog...

    I'm looking forward to a mini-cheesecake for brekkie at 10 a.m., courtesy of Louise's son as a thank you for staying overnight with her on Sunday. No thank you was required of course - that's what makes it so pleasing. Why 10 a.m. you ask? To watch the played-earlier-today US women play Australia in the Olympics. I've assiduously avoided news since getting up, as I don't want a spoiler.

    *smooch*

    44richardderus
    Jul 27, 10:43am

    >43 karenmarie: Thanks, Horrible! Four-figure viewership is a thrill.

    Cheesecake-thanks breakfast and Olympics makes perfect sense to me, and I hope your favored team won whatever medal that was. *smooch*

    >42 FAMeulstee: Artificial scarcity at its finest. Revolting. Ah well, in a world where health care is for profit, it's a minor issue. Happy Tuesday, Anita!

    45richardderus
    Jul 27, 10:46am

    >41 BekkaJo: Thank you, Bekka, and I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

    >40 connie53: Thanks, Connie. I appreciate the well-wishes.

    >39 humouress: Yeah...sad to say, they almost are and not just for socializing. "Download our app" is now the basis of many, if not most, commercial relationships. *heavy, heavy sigh*

    46SomeGuyInVirginia
    Jul 27, 4:49pm

    I'm in! Wait, am I too late for a tiara?! Fine, I shall take mine cue from Napoleon and crown myself with any old crown that I have at hand. Don't you just love the dissolution of the monasteries?

    There. I proclaim myself Duke of Valvoline, crowned with the o-ring.

    47richardderus
    Jul 27, 5:32pm

    >46 SomeGuyInVirginia: Heh...your grace, I bid your circularity welcome to this realm. Brother Brylcreem will attend you.
    ***
    I think the author of Migrations liked my review...

    48quondame
    Jul 27, 5:48pm

    49SomeGuyInVirginia
    Jul 27, 6:00pm

    Brother Brylcreem? Is Brother K-Y outre mer?

    Like all good politicians, ancient and modern, my first edict will correct the weather. I decree that the temperature shall not rise past 88 degrees from henceforth.

    50richardderus
    Jul 27, 6:03pm

    >49 SomeGuyInVirginia: I am totally on board with that edict! And Sibling K of Y has elected to follow the non-binary path, which I rather assumed would, um, fail to get a rise from you.

    >48 quondame: I know, right?!

    51humouress
    Editado: Jul 28, 4:33am

    >45 richardderus: *sigh in agreement* The kids, being minors, can't download through the App Store and I ignore most of their requests but I let one through, just today.

    Yesterday we went to buy sports shoes for the younger sprog, who may have now hit his exponential growth stage, and I deliberately left my phone at home. The (otherwise very nice) guy in the shop was extolling the virtues of their app which can also be used as a catalogue, a price scanner, purchase history record, delivery requester ... etc etc. I was quite happy not to have my phone with me (although, I confess, I am already a member of their shops and the app does have the benefits of being more contactless and paper-free).

    52karenmarie
    Jul 28, 9:29am

    ‘Morning, RD! Happy Humpday to you.

    >44 richardderus: No medal, at least not yet. The US women tied with Australia at 0-0. They ended up group play with the same number of points as the Aussies, but with the goal differential came in second in the group, automatically advancing to the knockout rounds. The Aussies advanced too because of being one of two group-third-place teams that were allowed to advance. Sorry you asked?

    The cheesecake was acceptable, although it had whipped cream on top. There are several ways to ruin cheesecake, one being whipped cream. Mine’s better.

    >47 richardderus: Congrats.

    *smooch*

    53benitastrnad
    Jul 28, 12:54pm

    >52 karenmarie:
    I'm with you on the whipped cream, on cheese cake.

    54msf59
    Editado: Jul 28, 1:50pm

    Happy Wednesday, RD! I hope all is well. We have a bit of a cool down coming up and I am getting pumped. Those birdies have been calling my name and my feeder birds are just not quite cutting it. I am enjoying The Midnight Library but I think this is one you would HATE! Just sayin'...

    55richardderus
    Jul 28, 3:41pm

    124 The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

    Rating: 4.9* of five

    The Publisher Says: In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

    Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

    But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell...and Earth.

    I CHECKED THIS BOOK OUT OF MY LOCAL LIBRARY. SUPPORT YOUR LIBRARIES...USE THEM OFTEN!

    My Review
    : First, read this:
    "...There’s nothing stronger than an unwritten book’s fascination with its author. But a book that finds its author often comes back damaged, and the author comes out . . . worse.”
    –and–
    “You surely didn’t think I got duty in the Unwritten Wing by random chance?”

    Claire’s voice was hollow. She glanced at Leto with a paper-thin smile.

    “You know how they say ‘Never meet your heroes’? For authors most of all, never meet your heroes. Ruins everything.”

    Hell's Library is a multivalent torment to its creators, denizens, and those unlucky enough to be possessed by Story. Claire, our Librarian and an Unwritten Story author many times over, has reason to know the bitterest dregs of self-loathing and the self-knowledge it springs from. Our story, this one, the one we can actually read, is about the misery of knowing yourself as you are without knowing the way others know you. A motley band of adventurers is assembled to cope with a character's escape from his book in an ill-fated attempt to get his author to write him, to finish his story at last. Not only has he left the Unwritten Library, difficult enough to get a book out of there without a Librarian's approval, but he's taken his book with him.

    And showed part of it, the beginning, to his author.

    Thereby hangs this tale of rebellion, embattled souls, entrenched positions that must fall, and the startling void that you sense every time you fall, fail, flounder under a burden you don't entirely understand. When Claire brings the (self-)damned Muse Brevity, her librarian-in-training, on this wild goose chase, she wonders if it's all worth it:
    In a constant war of immortal forces, ancient demigods, good and evil, the most powerful piece on the board is the fragile pawn of a human soul.

    Even if stories and muses aren't given human souls, they originate from and build the stuff of those very souls.
    She was walking on his ending, and for that, she walked lightly, calmly. For Claire was not one to throw away her life rashly for vengeance. She respected vengeance. Vengeance deserved time.

    There is nothing in this book that is easy. Least of all the demands it makes of the damned beings in its story's ever-tightening coils.

    But there is so very much to learn, to absorb, to revel in in the words that create it. I'm so delighted by this story. A library in a hell made up of the self-judged, the exiles by their own hands and hearts...well, what's not going to be delicious about that? I'm already a vocal fan of The Invisible Library series of YA novels, a lot less shady and unhappy than this story is but equally delicious. Dragons and Librarians who're out to save worlds? Yes please! In this story, the dragons are demons, and a lot more morally grey, but the point still is to protect, to defend, to prevent harm from coming to those who can't defend themselves. Except for that one story's Hero. Which is a ratty little thread left untrimmed into tidy story-logic....

    There is so much pleasure in reading a story that layers in its concepts, like story logic, and leaves you to get on with picking the reasons you want to follow up for yourself. The main current of the story flows right on to the ending, the inevitability of which kept me turning pages past the moments I thought my heart would break. But there are dreamy little pockets of reality to poke around...vellum, parchment, leather being all the *skins* of dead things? the role of Malta in the Nuragic civilization, Mdina the Silent City, waitaminnit these bread crumbs are really tasty!...there are characters whose sibylline utterances and dulcet blandishments are not the red herrings you'd be forgiven for taking them to be, and there are deeper emotional resonances than you're going to want to look for.

    This is A Story. Let it unfold and do your part by fixing its fractal reality as loosely as you can. Revel a bit, while you're immersed, in the explicit acceptance and celebration of #LoveIsLove as no one with a sexual nature trammels it into just one box. Letting the roles of the dramatis personae explain the characters to you is a good strategy when you're in these kinds of very deep waters:
    We seek to preserve the books, of course. But we forget the flip side of that duty: treasure what we have. Honor the stories that speak to you, that give you something you need to keep going. Cherish stories while they are here.

    It's very, very good advice from a character we have reason, in front of us, in this story, to trust.

    What else this is, this carefully carved serving of a soul's prime rib, is a *perfect* film. A two-hour movie of quite stunning opulence awaits this book. Gloriously meaty roles for Mark Ruffalo, Glenn Close, Henry Golding, a number of talents old and young await within. The scenes in Valhalla, well, does that need expansion? And the gorgeousness of the Unwritten Library itself, the Arcane Wing and Andras the Arcanist...no question but what there is a delight for the ages to be created from these bones. I hope someone will see and lust after the fame that would accrue to a big spectacle made from this.

    But readers, those obsessive little producer/director/screenwriters of the mind, are the luckiest ones. We get to experience the catharsis of emotional devastation and despair of loss and humiliation without actual risk.
    “The voice of the book. The music—the song of the tale. ... Every book has it—you know, the book’s way of talking, the words it uses, the rhythm of the speaker in your head as you read. Its voice. Each one a bit unique to the author and the tale. Before the written word, it was even more important. Every storyteller worth their salt knew how to create their own voice, mimic others, and find the beat that wove it.”

    That is what Author Hackwith gives us with both hands in this gorgeous story, this vital and living piece of the stuff we humans have created the Hereafter from. A gift I hope you'll get into your readerly being and mull over, turn this way and that, study for its subtleties and complexities.

    As investments of your eyeblinks go, there are few from which you'll derive more sustenance and fuller pleasure than this one. (Those three w-bombs aside.)

    56bell7
    Jul 28, 3:54pm

    >55 richardderus: Oh yay, that series is such a fun one, I'm glad to see how much you enjoyed the first book :D

    57SandDune
    Jul 28, 3:57pm

    >55 richardderus: The Library of the Unwritten - I did check this out of the library a little while ago and I was enjoying it, but then it had to go back (I think we were going away so it really did have to go back) and so I never finished it. I must get it out again.

    Incidentally I read two of your recommendations on holiday (The Dictionary of Lost words and A Wizards Guide to Defensive Baking and enjoyed both of them.

    58richardderus
    Jul 28, 3:59pm

    >54 msf59: Hiya Mark! Thanks for the well-wishes, it's been a busy day. My Wednesday review got a little sidetracked with some other stuff, but it's up now. *whew*

    I did hate The Midnight Library and just don't try to discuss it. Your radar is spot on!

    >53 benitastrnad:, >52 karenmarie: I am never, ever opposed to whipped cream myownself. After all, it can be removed easily if one doesn't care for it.

    >52 karenmarie: No medal? Oh. How can...ya know what, I don't care enough to get the answer, so forget it.

    Thanks! I really enjoy it when authors share their pleasure in my work about their creations. *smooch*

    >51 humouress: It's always the convenience that lets the Devil in the door, isn't it. People have Siri and Alexa and the like, and they know that means the stupid device can hear them. Does that not seem to raise the simple ethical question, "if it can hear me, who is entitled to listen in?"

    Apps are less intrusive, I think, but I still avoid them.

    59richardderus
    Jul 28, 4:05pm

    >57 SandDune: Oh good, Rhian, I'm so glad the reads were good ones for you! Perfect holiday picks. Fun and weighty enough to make reading them rewarding.

    I'll coddiwomple threadward to see if Scotland Photos have appeared.

    >56 bell7: The series opener was such a pleasure that I'm really looking forward to the next ones, Mary. She's done a great job of investing me in the Unwritten Library, now on to the Arcane Wing!

    60quondame
    Jul 28, 4:46pm

    >55 richardderus: For this one I am indeed 1.9 starless. I could see it on the road you followed, but for me it didn't arrive.

    61johnsimpson
    Jul 28, 4:56pm

    Hi Richard, Happy New Thread my dear friend.

    62richardderus
    Jul 28, 6:13pm

    >61 johnsimpson: Thanks, John! Good to see you.

    >60 quondame: That's why they's chocolate and vanilla, o Starless one. Not everything will hit everyone, and this sounds like a big ol' Miss for you.

    63drneutron
    Jul 28, 8:04pm

    Have you read Finna yet? Very Sarah Gailey-ish. Plus, it makes a ton of fun of IKEA and capitalism in general. Kept giggling and Mrsdrneutron was looking at me weird.

    64richardderus
    Jul 28, 9:12pm

    >63 drneutron: Not yet...it's on the Kindle, though. It really sounds like a "me" book!

    65justchris
    Jul 28, 11:38pm

    >1 richardderus: Thanks for the incredibly educational topper!

    >2 richardderus: Reminds me to go to etsy and pick up a pile of these for 12th Night gifts all around.

    >25 richardderus: Damn you!

    >36 richardderus: Congrats! Do consistent good work over a long enough period, and people in the know come to appreciate you. Just like we all do here at LT.

    >55 richardderus: Sounds pretty amazing!

    66quondame
    Jul 29, 12:01am


    From the maker of the Steampunk Dragon courtesy of jjmcgaffey

    67humouress
    Jul 29, 12:16am

    >63 drneutron: Ah. You haven’t been married long, then.

    >66 quondame: ❤️

    68FAMeulstee
    Jul 29, 2:17am

    Happy Thursday, Richard dear!

    69karenmarie
    Jul 29, 8:53am

    Hiya, RDear, and happy day to you.

    >55 richardderus: Another excellent review. 4.9? Do the three w-bombs = .1 points off?

    70humouress
    Jul 29, 8:53am

    Richard! I saw this and thought of you.

    71richardderus
    Jul 29, 10:27am

    >70 humouress: I see.

    Supervillainy truly never sleeps, I also see.

    *sad headshake*

    >69 karenmarie: Normally they'd equal an entire star...but the story grabbed me by the eyelashes and shook me, so I couldn't. I tried! I did! I posted a 4-star version and Hackwith's Doppelganger smacked into my glasses trying to reach in and control my brain. So we compromised on 4.9 because w-bombing can't be forgiven *entirely* no matter what.

    >68 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita! *smooch*

    >67 humouress:, >66 quondame: Ooo! Thank you! I needed that lead.

    72SomeGuyInVirginia
    Editado: Jul 29, 11:17am

    I don't usually read romance books, but after your review I decided to download A Fashionable Indulgence from my lie-berry. So far I like it.

    Decades ago, my mom had a neighbor who was also a fellow church member, who visited her often when her neurological disease started to really take hold. She was really sweet, but I think she got on my mom's nerves because she would come over at least once every day. Anyway, back when Borders was a thing, I went one Friday night to check out new books and listen to the band they had, and I saw her in the store so I went up and said hello. She was pushing a shopping cart stuffed full of romance novels. Her husband was with her, who am I also liked, and I felt really sad for them. I remember thinking that they'd probably be happier with a quart of Astroglide and some climbing rope, but I didn't say anything. But, even more than that, I remember looking her grocery shopping cart full of books and thinking, 'Holy cow! That's a lotta books! How does she do that?!'. #madprops I'm really glad that neither she nor her husband seen particularly embarrassed by her choice of books. God knows, he might have felt relieved.

    Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is that I never get judgy about the kind of books that people are reading. But I do pay attention to reviews. So thanks Richard. You make things much simpler.

    73richardderus
    Jul 29, 11:25am

    >72 SomeGuyInVirginia: God knows, he might have felt relieved.

    Goddesses know *I* would've. Talk about the weight of expectations!

    Thank you, Larry, that was a lovely compliment, and I shall treasure it.
    ***
    If y'all haven't followed the link in >66 quondame: above, here's your reason to do so:

    74swynn
    Jul 29, 1:55pm

    Happy new thread, Richard!

    Must read some Himes.

    75richardderus
    Jul 29, 3:09pm

    >74 swynn: Thanks, Steve, and by all means get your brain around the Himes ouevre. It's got pleasures aplenty.

    76figsfromthistle
    Jul 29, 3:16pm

    Hi Richard!

    I have missed a few threads of yours so I will do my best to catch up. In the meantime, happy new thread!

    77quondame
    Jul 29, 3:25pm

    >73 richardderus: It's been a long time since I noticed the B & J. I had to give up Tarot because I really didn't want to know. But I still have 2 or 3 decks squirreled away.

    78richardderus
    Jul 29, 3:52pm

    >77 quondame: I think there's value in following your gut's promptings. I wonder if the role of any means of "divination" isn't simply to give form to one's perceptual grasp of randomness.

    >76 figsfromthistle: Hi there, Anita, it's good to see you! I'll head over to yours to see what's been up.
    ***
    I found this old Hilton Als piece about Chester Himes and his place in Blackness quite interesting:
    Himes produced male characters who really were noir—in fact and in sensibility. Unapologetic and testosterone-driven, they weren’t hard-done-by; they were in love with having been done wrong. Turned on by their own bravado, they claimed entitlement and viewed sex as a struggle for power—the only form of intimacy that engaged them.

    79quondame
    Jul 29, 6:29pm

    >78 richardderus: You see what your normal social processes and assumptions have covered up in your perceptions. Our senses are manifold but our processing is highly filtered.

    80SandyAMcPherson
    Jul 29, 7:02pm

    >55 richardderus: I'm still confused about what the "Those three w-bombs" refer to...

    The series sounds pretty intriguing however.

    81richardderus
    Jul 29, 8:54pm

    >80 SandyAMcPherson: A w-bomb is the code I use to castigate the lazy, cheesy, awful, ridiculous, repugnant, unnecessary, poor-substitute-for-characterization use of this:


    The series is indeed very good!

    >79 quondame: And that's why external objects are so very useful in breaking the iron grip of consensus reality.

    82Familyhistorian
    Jul 30, 12:46am

    >80 SandyAMcPherson: Thanks for asking, Sandy. I was wondering that myself. >81 richardderus: Thanks for the explanation, Richard.

    83karenmarie
    Jul 30, 10:42am

    'Morning, RichardDear. Happy Friday.

    >81 richardderus: I am almost always irritated when I see the g-word, which is grin. She grinned. He grinned. Blech.

    *smooch* and no g-word and no w-word

    84richardderus
    Jul 30, 10:50am

    >83 karenmarie: Another lazy bypass. Urgh.

    Solidarity, comrade! *smooch*

    >82 Familyhistorian: Hi Sandy! The more you know, right? Now you're in on the jokes...see #83...

    85weird_O
    Jul 30, 11:21am

    Yow! Guess I better line out those smiling faces and *grin* and such from my posts and comments. Oh, but maybe I'll just add *wink* to my repertoire. Bwahahaha...

    86richardderus
    Jul 30, 1:55pm

    125 Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

    Rating: 4* of five

    The Publisher Says: Vanja, a government worker, leaves her home city of Essre for the austere, wintry colony of Amatka on a research assignment. It takes some adjusting: people act differently in Amatka, and citizens are monitored for signs of subversion.

    Intending to stay just a short while, Vanja finds herself falling in love with her housemate, Nina, and decides to stick around. But when she stumbles on evidence of a growing threat to the colony and a cover-up by its administration, she begins an investigation that puts her at tremendous risk.

    In Karin Tidbeck's dystopic imagining, language has the power to shape reality. Unless objects, buildings, and the surrounding landscape are repeatedly named, and named properly, everything will fall apart. Trapped in the repressive colony, Vanja dreams of using language to break free, but her individualism may well threaten the very fabric of reality. Amatka is a beguiling and wholly original novel about freedom, love, and artistic creation by an idiosyncratic new voice.

    THIS PURCHASE WAS INSPIRED BY THE WICKED, WICKED SF BOOK-BLOGGER, RACHEL CORDASCO. GO FOLLOW HER...WHY SHOULD I GO BROKE ALONE.

    My Review
    : I was inspired to write this review by the book's selection for a group read in Goodreads's Speculative Fiction in Translation group. The power of group reads is not to be treated lightly, authors...court them!

    This is a weird, weird tale. Vanja, a government functionary in a brutally planned-to-a-fare-thee-well society, is sent to an outlying community in her colonial world of, um, psychically manipulable fungi. Sort of. I am floundering a bit for a way to present the world because Author Tidbeck uses the ever-useful in medias res technique to keep your defenses down. I've seen readers unable to decide whether it's all a fable, a magical-realist condemnation of the supposed grey horrors of socialism, or a real secondary world that the colonists have traveled to in some poorly-explained way. I myownself plump for the latter because "colonists" means little on today's quite crowded Earth.

    Also it pays for readers to attend to, then recall, that the book mentions the first colonists discovered buildings "not for human standards" which is all but a slamming shut of that case for me. Other readers may find other ways to interpret the story, of course; I don't think it's giving enough credit to a story to say that one and only one interpretation uses The Right Lens.

    It was, however, this point that convinced me this was not Earth whether past or future. The sun being missing, or *a* sun being missing, I took to mean that the planet's skies were totally overcast at all times. How else but via a thick atmosphere of some kind could a fungal habitat keep itself from desiccation? And that also went along with the colonists' arrival by non-chemically-propelled means, as their arrival isn't accompanied by any sense of A Journey.

    Vanja's life in this peculiar totalitarian society was what kept my interest the most. Her inability and/or unwillingness to be integrated anywhere made her fascinating to me. Nina, her love interest, is another more-or-less misfit. It seems to me their attraction is peculiarly one-sided. How can anyone be attracted to the point of falling in love with Vanja? She's the embodiment of the society she lives in...stop naming her and she will simply slide back into fungal goop.

    This presents my basic problem with the book: It stops. It slips back into the primordial goop of story-stuff. I'm sure the ambiguity of the ending is deliberate, is a choice and a declaration of stylistic intent. Looked at from that angle, it "works" inasmuch as I am unable to finish my relationship with this story...I keep needing to name it: "Amatka has ended...Amatka is over..." but note that I need to use "to be" verbs, there isn't even a gerund I can whomp up out of the story-stuff I'm given.

    It's not like this is a fatal flaw. It is, however, a self-inflicted wound on what might have been a hugely more popular seller...and I get the impression, reading about a rigid settler society that never appears to question WHY this fungal paradise of infinite, if ephemeral, possibility even exists or what happens to those who...vanish, that this is entirely okay with the author. If not the reason she wrote the story in the first place.

    I found myself chuckling at the knee-jerk responses to this story to the world of socialist economic austerity. In fact, it seems to me a bitterly outraged condemnation of the eternal horror of capitalism's consume-or-die ethos, its ephemeral products designed to fail to ensure they need to be replaced, the supposed inexhaustibility of the planet's resources tied to an endless need to rename...recycle, reform, reuse...the very substance of reality. Because it's gray and hopeless, it must be about Them, not us...well folks, your privilege is showing. The view from the bottom is very much in line with Author Tidbeck's retelling of it.

    What I want is for hundreds of thousands of you to be overwhelmed by a sudden desire to make your inner world richer with a flattened, attenuated emotional landscape. By contrast, even the new plague-fighting restrictions impinging on our daily lives must seem positively vibrant with possibility.

    All in all, a wonderful story to read, and then re-read, for its layered and beautifully textured use of, and celebration f the uses of, language. I have seldom read a self-translated work that was this exacting in its craft, so fully and unsparingly rendered as its own self. Many are the echoes of Solaris, for example, in the protean fungal goop; but never by word or deed do the characters echo the positions or words of Lem's ancestral work.

    Bravo, Author Tidbeck. Well crafted on all counts, in all metrics.

    87quondame
    Jul 31, 12:21am

    >86 richardderus: Checked out.

    88magicians_nephew
    Jul 31, 9:42am

    Whenever I'm stuck for a book to recommend for my book club, a quick perusal of your thread or Joe's will always turn up a few good candidates.

    89richardderus
    Jul 31, 9:42am

    >87 quondame: This one might not be your most favoritest book evar, Starless...

    >85 weird_O: Funnily enough, Weird One, I don't imagine your fate will be pleasant. Condign, but not pleasant.

    90karenmarie
    Jul 31, 10:27am

    Hiya, RD. Happy last day of the week to you.

    Lazy day, mostly, although I'll be going out with Bill to run errands because I need to go the PO for the Friends. Our new Treasurer had rotator cuff surgery and I need to step back into the role temporarily, since President is officially the backup.

    *smooch*

    91richardderus
    Jul 31, 10:51am

    >90 karenmarie: Hiya Horrible! *smooch*

    It's a perfect summer day here, so I'll get out to enjoy it this afternoon. Masked up, thank you very much!

    >88 magicians_nephew: We posted at the same time! I'm glad I can inspire, Jim.

    92richardderus
    Editado: Jul 31, 11:17am

    JULY IN REVIEW

    Another excellent month, was July! An extraordinary one, in fact. I posted 12 reviews on my blog, one short of the thirteen needed to keep the pace for making my 190 goal. I read thirteen this month, though. A total of 90 posted reviews left to get me to the 190 goal, five more than last year; that still means 13 a month or three a week. I can definitely do this.

    The biggest surprise for me was the fact that Jimmy Fallon chose The Plot as his summer reading club title the day after I posted my review of it.

    I average between 100 and 200 views a day on my I-only-do-book-reviews blog; thanks to the Fallon-driven Google searches for "The Plot reviews", July's average is 480 a day. Double to triple the norm! It's calmed way down...yesterday was "only" 504 views after several 1800-plus mammones...because I've posted other reviews since the searches began. But it's a lovely feeling.

    Clearly not a repeatable lightning strike; but one I'm most grateful for. And it wasn't for the best book I read this month, more's the pity. My favorite, and also the very best, read of July was Appleseed: A Novel, a wonderful and complex and mythic tale of what we've always thought of as manifest destiny turning out to be a triumphalist illusion; destiny indeed, only not in the nineteenth-century gloss.

    ETA close tag

    93katiekrug
    Jul 31, 11:59am

    I'm glad July was such a good month for you, RD!

    94richardderus
    Jul 31, 12:19pm

    >93 katiekrug: Thank you, Katie, it was a treat to be piggybacked into greater visibility. It looks like 150 more people signed up for email subscriptions, which was a lovely surprise.

    Now I need to move everyone over to Mailchimp because FeedProxy's going away. Bloody Google greedmeisters.

    95msf59
    Jul 31, 5:33pm

    Happy Saturday, RD. Just wanted to let you I am thoroughly enjoying Gordo, these migrant stories set in Steinbeck country. It sounds like you felt the same way. What a pleasant surprise.

    >92 richardderus: LIKE!

    96LovingLit
    Jul 31, 8:09pm

    >92 richardderus: Yuss. A corker of a month, as they say. (Or is that, as we say?)

    97PaulCranswick
    Jul 31, 8:17pm

    >92 richardderus: Well done, RD. What you have been reading is always something I look for and take tips from - not surprised that Jimmy Fallon would do the same!

    98PaulCranswick
    Jul 31, 8:18pm

    >96 LovingLit: Well I would say it too, Megan, anyway.

    99richardderus
    Jul 31, 8:51pm

    >98 PaulCranswick:, >96 LovingLit: Yes indeed, we will all say that.

    >97 PaulCranswick: Heh...I don't think Fallon, or anyone on his staff, knows I exist, but serendipity was very much my friend this month. I'm so glad for Author Korelitz that her book is getting boosted up the sales charts!

    >95 msf59: Gordo surprised me, Mark, not by being enjoyable but by being really above the bar I mentally set for debut collections. And the Steinbeck Country thing could've gone either way, for him or against; so far I think it's for, which wasn't guaranteed. Pleasant surprises abounded.

    100Berly
    Jul 31, 9:34pm

    Hurray for more emails subscribers following your words of literary wisdom!! Nicely done. : )

    101richardderus
    Jul 31, 10:09pm

    >100 Berly: That's a lovely way for people to get the results, reading the reviews, without having to remember to come by...the Feedly followers have dropped off a bit over the years, sadly. But it's all I do so some leavers are to be expected.

    So glad you're feeling up to rejoining us! *smooch*

    102LovingLit
    Ago 1, 3:33am

    Turns out we can all say (and understand) having a corker of a month then! Hurrah!
    Corker
    Today’s word of the day is corker, a remarkable or astounding person or thing.

    103karenmarie
    Ago 1, 8:48am

    'Morning, RD, and happy Sunday to you.

    Coffee, blueberry biscuit (courtesy of Bojangles), and reading for me today.

    *smooch*

    104richardderus
    Ago 1, 10:14am

    >103 karenmarie: That's a lovely-sounding Sunday, Horrible dear, and enjoying it should be a doddle.

    *smooch*

    >102 LovingLit: It's a corker of a word!

    105richardderus
    Ago 1, 12:30pm

    Speaking of words...LARB wants me to join their members-only club, which I deffo can't afford, but they did give me a beautiful new word:
    epeolatry, n. The worship of words.
    -via Wordnik. From Ancient Greek ἔπος (epos, "word") + -latry ("worship of"). The first citation of the word is from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., in his 1860 book Professor at the Breakfast Table.

    I am an epeolator.

    106brenzi
    Ago 1, 8:29pm

    Really busy over here Richard. Congratulations on riding Fallon's coattails at such a successful rate. I have The Plot on my Overdrive list and look forward to it.

    107Crazymamie
    Ago 2, 10:20am

    Morning, BigDaddy! I am still slightly shocked that July is over, but I am glad it was such a great month for you. I could have done better, but at least I got myself back on the threads. I am still trying to catch up with your previous threads, but like Rhian up there I took a BB from your review of A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking - reading it now and really liking it.

    >78 richardderus: "I wonder if the role of any means of "divination" isn't simply to give form to one's perceptual grasp of randomness." I just love this sentence so much - well said.

    108richardderus
    Ago 2, 12:39pm

    126 Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

    Rating: 4.5* of five

    The Publisher Says: Seamlessly transitioning between the absurd and the tenderhearted, balancing acerbic humor with sharp emotional depth, Afterparties offers an expansive portrait of the lives of Cambodian-Americans. As the children of refugees carve out radical new paths for themselves in California, they shoulder the inherited weight of the Khmer Rouge genocide and grapple with the complexities of race, sexuality, friendship, and family.

    A high school badminton coach and failing grocery store owner tries to relive his glory days by beating a rising star teenage player. Two drunken brothers attend a wedding afterparty and hatch a plan to expose their shady uncle’s snubbing of the bride and groom. A queer love affair sparks between an older tech entrepreneur trying to launch a “safe space” app and a disillusioned young teacher obsessed with Moby-Dick. And in the sweeping final story, a nine-year-old child learns that his mother survived a racist school shooter.

    With nuanced emotional precision, gritty humor, and compassionate insight into the intimacy of queer and immigrant communities, the stories in Afterparties deliver an explosive introduction to the work of Anthony Veasna So.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : The death by accidental overdose, at age 28, of Author Anthony Veasna So means this collection will have to serve us for a long time. The loss, I know you're unsurprised to hear me say, is going to alter our national literary conversation. Author So wrote these stories, and a handful of essays in prestigious venues like n+1 Magazine, all seemingly intent on exploring something I think he was beautifully placed...first-generation American, talented beyond the ordinary, and further outsidered by his queerness...and perfectly suited by temperament to render his own: Dreaming your way into a world too brutal to survive. These stories are satisfying in many ways, and not least among them is the author's simple, direct, conversational style. Try this: read any first paragraph out loud. Don't act, speak; they are all beautifully built for the rhythms of twenty-first century American speech. And that is why I will mourn Author So's early exit. I think we would've found many corners to turn and potholes to fill if he still walked among us. That makes me feel sad.

    As is reasonable and customary at this blog, the Bryce Method of short, separate impressions and distinct individual ratings for the stories will organize my thoughts and feelings while hopefully allowing you to reach your own conclusions. As there are so many thoughts, you'll need to look at them here: https://tinyurl.com/3b7vnnj9 But I'll be amazed and disappointed if you don't laugh out loud a lot.

    109richardderus
    Ago 2, 12:56pm

    >107 Crazymamie: Hiya Mamie! I'm delighted your lousy July didn't have a worse outcome. And hooray for A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking making another hit! I think the delight people experience in reading it is my own best proof that dismissing something for being itself is a lousy way to live one's life.

    I'm very honored that you liked my remark about randomness so much. It's all we have, randomness, and that's so utterly paralyzingly terrifying that we can't face it...have to slap a screen in front of it, paint a face on it, SOMEthing to distract us from its essential void.

    I think I'm not very cheery today...moving on.

    >106 brenzi: Hi there Bonnie, I'm glad you're here. It's true, Fallon's gift to me was tremendous and, even as it wanes, it keeps on giving...Sunday was a normal Sunday, all of 81 visits to my blog, and then today I'm already over 225! This is quite heady for a li'l ol' man with a computer and a lot of opinions.

    Speaking of which...my latest review was a corker. Follow the link in >108 richardderus: to see the whole thing.

    110karenmarie
    Ago 2, 12:58pm

    Quick hello on a strange day - stayed away from social media this a.m. so as to not ruin the viewing of the US-Canada women's match, have a bunch of stuff to do for the Treasurer because she's in the hospital with a staph infection after shoulder surgery, and have errands to run in town.

    So hello, happy Monday, and a *smooch* from your own Horrible

    111richardderus
    Ago 2, 1:30pm

    >110 karenmarie: Hi Horrible! Hope the weirdness that has been this day gets more pleasantly normal as it goes on.

    *smooch*

    112Crazymamie
    Ago 2, 1:49pm

    >108 richardderus: A direct hit. Onto The List it goes - I will add my thumb to your elegant and touching review before following the link to see the rest of your thoughts. As always, your words matter to me - please know that on your less than cheery day. *smooch and a bear hug*

    113richardderus
    Ago 2, 2:45pm

    >112 Crazymamie: *smooch* Thank you for that reminder, sweetiedarling.

    114msf59
    Ago 2, 4:11pm

    Hey, RD. No surprise, I enjoyed Gordo. What a nice debut. I hope we hear more from him. Good review of Afterparties. Sounds like another solid collection.

    115richardderus
    Ago 2, 4:41pm

    Yay for liking Gordo! He's really got that something, doesn't he, that voice you just can't ignore that really makes a book go up a notch.

    Thanks re: Afterparties: Stories! I hope you'll give it a whirl, since Author So won't be putting more work out. Dammit anyway.

    116ronincats
    Ago 2, 8:08pm

    Re: your remarks on Lucy's thread, in case you don't get back there for a while.

    Tigana is not my favorite, Richard, but The Lions of al-Rassan may well be. It chewed me up and spit me out in tiny emotional shreds of distress, but it was so powerful! Well worth the investment. I like McKillip a lot--why don't you try Od Magic, a later work with whimsical humor that I love very much?

    117richardderus
    Ago 2, 8:46pm

    My Thingaversary is the 13th, and it will be my...drumroll please...
    FIFTEENTH

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So, because that requires by statute that I procure for myself sixteen (16) new reads, I'm starting now. Also, I'm a broke old bastard, so I'm including books I get free from publishers and authors and randos on the streets.

    To start the fun, I was approved for four new books today by publishers:
    The Theseus Conspiracy
    Waves and Beaches: The Powerful Dynamics of Sea and Coast, second edition since the first one was published in 1964!
    Bitter Orange Tree by Jokha Alharthi, 2019 winner of the International Booker for Celestial Bodies, comes out in May 2022:
    Zuhur, an Omani student at a British university, is caught between the past and the present. As she attempts to form friendships and assimilate in Britain, she can’t help but ruminate on the relationships that have been central to her life. Most prominent is her strong emotional bond with Bint Amir, a woman she always thought of as her grandmother, who passed away just after Zuhur left the Arabian Peninsula.

    As the historical narrative of Bint Amir’s challenged circumstances unfurls in captivating fragments, so too does Zuhur’s isolated and unfulfilled present, one narrative segueing into another as time slips, and dreams mingle with memories.

    The eagerly awaited new novel by the winner of the Man Booker International Prize, Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman’s attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.

    The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije whose 2020 Caine Prize story The Neighbourhood I loved.
    Divine Lola: A True Story of Scandal and Celebrity for Women in Translation Month. It comes out on 31 August, and was part of Amazon's First Reads selections for the month.

    So! Five down, eleven to go.

    118richardderus
    Ago 2, 8:50pm

    >116 ronincats: Oooh, well, that does make a case to move Lions up the pile...and you know, I don't think Ma McKillip and I need to be besties now that I am well, well past my YA years...the library doesn't have it, and I can't see myself splashing out for it when there are approx. fifty googolplexplexplex titles I *really* want to read....

    119quondame
    Ago 2, 11:06pm

    >118 richardderus: No problem with you avoiding McKillip, but her work isn't exactly YA just because it's fantasy or even if it gets shelved there.

    120connie53
    Ago 3, 4:22am

    Hi Richard! I did not forget you but only finding time to visit now. Things are getting better here now Peet is moving to a facility in our home town and is transferred there tomorrow. 10 minutes by bike. So I will be getting more time for me-things without all the traveling in public transportation.

    121humouress
    Editado: Ago 3, 4:26am

    >85 weird_O: Know what ya mean, 'arry ;-)

    >92 richardderus: That picture has been branded on my brain for many years. Maybe I should wear it on my forehead as a warning to mossies in the hopes they stay away from me.

    >118 richardderus: You're missing out ...

    122karenmarie
    Ago 3, 8:50am

    ‘Morning, RDear!

    >117 richardderus: Congrats. You got on this glorious bandwagon early.

    Have fun acquiring the rest of your SIXTEEN Thingaversary books.

    *smooch*

    123richardderus
    Ago 3, 10:54am

    >122 karenmarie: Thanks, Horrible! I did...less than a full year of being open to the public when I signed up.

    It's such a *chore* to select new books. *weary sigh* And there are so few choices for me...

    *smooch*

    >121 humouress: Good luck with keeping bloodthirsty wannabe-mothers from latching onto you and battening on your very life-force.

    >121 humouress:, >119 quondame: I'll miss out without a moment's hesitation. Too few years left to risk reassessing someone whose work I didn't care about.

    >120 connie53: Excellent news, Connie! I'm so glad Peet will be recovering close to home. That is so much less stress for you both, and so many more opportunities to visit.

    124SandyAMcPherson
    Editado: Ago 3, 11:54pm

    >118 richardderus: I am totally besties with with Patricia McKillip!

    Not that I like everything she wrote. Some in fact I DNF'ed and immediately gave away!
    I haven't read everything she had published either, including that title >116 ronincats: Roni mentions (the Lions etc.). I did read Tigana back in the day but it has faded to oblivion now.

    125SomeGuyInVirginia
    Ago 4, 8:35am

    Good morning heartache! What do you do with books once you've read them? Are there any books that you've read and wouldn't part with? I almost never keep a book once I've read it, well, any fiction book anyway. That said, I always have copies of The Moving Toyshop and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas at hand.

    126richardderus
    Ago 4, 8:53am

    127 Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed

    Rating: 3.75* of five

    The Publisher Says: A tour-de-force debut following three generations of a Muslim-Indian family confronted with a nation on the brink of change in Obama-era San Francisco and Texas with a blockbuster ending you have to read to believe.

    Working as a political activist in the early days of the Obama presidency, Seema still struggles with her father’s long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian, forcing her to construct a new life in the West. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the father of her unborn son, Seema seeks reconciliation with the family that once renounced her: her ailing mother, Nafeesa, traveling alone to California from Chennai, and her devoutly religious sister, Tahera, an OB-GYN living in Texas with her husband and children.

    Pushed apart and drawn together in equal measure by their often conflicting beliefs, Seema, Tahera, and Nafeesa must confront the complex yearnings in their relationships with one another—and within their innermost selves—as the events that transpire over the course of one fateful week unearth an accumulated lifetime of love, betrayal, and misunderstandings.

    Told from the point of view of Seema’s child at the moment of his birth and infused with the poetry of Wordsworth, Keats, and the Quran, Radiant Fugitives is an operatic debut from a bold new voice, exploring the tensions between ideology and practicality, hope and tradition, forgiveness and retribution for one family navigating a shifting political landscape.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : Debut novelist Ahmed has done something special with this book. He has chosen to tell a story of rigidity and rage, of tenderness and forgiveness, and of sadness and loss from the point of view of a perinatal infant whose mother has died in trying to give him life.

    That is a bold decision. And it's not a spoiler because there's no way you could possibly miss it...the author says it plain and straight on the first page. I spent the first few pages a little unsure of the wisdom of it, because it will inevitably lead to the Satanic Second Person sooner or later. (Sooner as it turns out.) But the choice, like all bold gambles, carries a certain momentum that either weighs the reader down or drags him along in its wake. I was dragged. I wasn't sure I would be. When the infant addresses his grandmother as "Grandmother," I confess I winced and even pooh-poohed the idea. I was too taken in by the way Seema, the "hasbian" (in the ugly, dismissive formulation I've heard lesbians use towards one who marries a man...why not "bisexual" I've always wondered) mother of this child, was continually struggling to find her footing in the narrative...bad choice for a narrator; Nafeesa, the terminally ill grandmother, was too cowed and rendered voiceless by her entire life's denied course; Tahera, the rigidly religious sister, was too ragey and resentful. No one else matters, their quiet places in the story don't ripple strongly enough to compete with the women and their unborn male relative. I definitely include the father in this. Poor bastard.

    Back to our narrator, Ishraaq (meaning "Dawn"). He is the right choice to tell us this story because, like all infants, it's the story he inherits by his simple act of drawing breath. So my cavils were set aside, and the story progressed...familiar things happened. For example, I recognized the divide between the sisters as superficially being about their differing faith-walks but really being about the disfiguring jealousy of sisters denied the place they thought was theirs. Sibling rivalry was always going to rip their relationship to shreds. Their mother wasn't capable of standing up for herself, still less her daughters, against their forceful father and his ungovernable passions for poetry and control. Keats isn't used as a love language in their family so much as an armory of unresolvable resentments...it's their father's favorite work, and their mother was bludgeoned with it despite her love of her native Urdu and its vast, beautiful literature.

    As an adult, Ishraaq's mother is an out lesbian. That goes over badly with her devout Muslim father. Mother, of course, submits her actions to her husband's control. They cut their heretical daughter out of their lives. And she, for her part, builds quite a world for herself in activist politics, while her dutiful and Muslim younger sister becomes a family physician...so no slouch in the brains department. Such a lot of anger for Big Sis from childhood...it quite naturally fuels her religious rejection of Seema for her lifestyle. In his role as narrator, Ishraaq doesn't dwell on the particulars of his mother's sex life, which I think was a good authorial call. It doesn't feel to me as though anything in the story requires us to follow the characters into their bedrooms. I noted the fact that we mostly hadn't, and then thought, well, what a great way to make use of such a narrator!

    What I didn't find so believable was the way Ishraaq was sometimes omniscient, discussing things that would be impossible for him to know because the belly he was inhabiting was elsewhere. A conversation between his father and grandmother marked the first time I was jolted into awareness of the issue. It's here that the reader will stall out..."this is impossible, forget it"...or will reach the accommodation that I did: "we're assuming a consciousness is Ishraaq, not the infant flesh is Ishraaq, and the story ends when he's mere moments old." I'll get past my collywobbles re: magical narrators if there's at least a shred of a line to cling to as I suspend my disbelief. It was a close-run thing, though.

    Events happen that ground us in the US of 2010. Obamacare, Kamala Harris as a candidate for Attorney General, mosque vandalism...all struck resonant chords in me. I was also taken by setting the narrative in San Francisco for the most part. I loved the atmospheric descriptions of San Francisco's fog belt, and the evocation of Dolores Park. The use of color in the book is quite elegant...a deep, unrepentant purple sky!...as is the food the characters prepare, offer, consume. There's a much-needed specificity to these moments. A great deal of the book feels less moored, grounded, because it's a flashback. The past that Ishraaq narrates, or observes I suppose, and then describes, is of necessity less vibrant than a directly shown and not told timeline would be. In many ways this choice was made when Author Ahmed chose his narrator. There really is no other practical way to tell a story from that point of view.

    There are secondary characters with arcs that will shock you. There are characters whose "it's all my fault"s rang in my ears as solipsistic and self-important. There are moments of sheer blithering idiocy when decisions that should've been postponed are instead made and made badly. And that's one of the best things about the book to me. I enjoy a story with real-feeling stakes...death is a real stake, and there's more death in the book than is at first evident. The "radiant fugitives" of the title, what elicits that particular descriptive phrase, make for one of the book's set it down and say "wooow" moments.

    But even the death serves its purpose. People are never more themselves than when they are around death. The selves they are, all too often, are not the selves they want to be. And it's this immense tension that gives Radiant Fugitives its narrative drive, its memorable ending, its full measure of sadness and rage, love and compassion. It's a book that forgives its characters for being less than their best selves and giving less than their all when they're called to step up. The ending will strike some as overdone, it did me, but it was most certainly an organic, honest ending to the story we started out reading. That makes the journey a good and worthwile one, and as a debut novel, one of above-average skill to create.

    But, and I mean this, someone at Counterpoint needs to fix "Irvine, Texas" to read "Irving" because Irvine's in California. Irving's in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

    127karenmarie
    Ago 4, 8:55am

    'Morning, RDear! Happiest of Wednesdays to you.

    It's such a *chore* to select new books. *weary sigh* And there are so few choices for me...

    Poorest little... imagine this in my husband's central NC accent as po' est wi' ttle. I can't do it exactly like he does, though. He laughs when I try.

    *smooch*

    128katiekrug
    Ago 4, 9:07am

    I'm putting Radiant Fugitives on the Maybe list. Great review.

    129richardderus
    Ago 4, 10:18am

    >128 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! If it goes on sale, I think you could safely add it, but at regular price it would not be worth it for you.

    >127 karenmarie: Thank you, Horrible, and a happy Humpday to you, too. Yes, I'm a put-upon waif, ain't I...not like I know people who could (at the drop of a dandruff flake) suggest a book or two I might like. Yes, I soldier onwards absolutely isolated in my fondness for reading....

    *smooch*

    >125 SomeGuyInVirginia: Hey there, Larry! Almost all tree-books go to the Little Free Library nowadays. The facility's library is now a socially-distanced dining room so there's a lot less space for books than there was. I keep some, most often books gifted to me, or the ever-rarer one that I think I'd like to re-read at some point.

    >124 SandyAMcPherson: Hiya Sandy, how's tricks...McKillip would logically appeal to your XX-chromosome self, wouldn't she. But The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana are by Guy Gavriel Kay so don't sprain your brain trying to remember the entirety of McKillip's ouevre because you won't find them there.

    130SandyAMcPherson
    Ago 4, 10:36am

    >129 richardderus: yeah, I shouldn't post at night like that. Brain-fog, ya know?

    131richardderus
    Ago 4, 11:01am

    >130 SandyAMcPherson: I don't even have the excuse of night-time posting for my flubs of fact. I just...forget. A lot. I'm not always even aware I've forgotten, either....

    132SomeGuyInVirginia
    Ago 4, 11:13am

    >131 richardderus: both my grandmother and my dad developed Alzheimer's, so I'm always on the lookout for signs in me. Once, years ago, I tore the apartment up looking for my glasses before I realized that I was wearing them. I was so shaken that I had to sit down for a minute and collect myself. Now it's funny, but I spent the rest of that day absolutely sure that my mind was turning to goo.

    133richardderus
    Ago 4, 1:46pm

    >132 SomeGuyInVirginia: It's unnerving, forgetting things...reaching for a word and feeling a void where it should be, f/ex...but it's not too terribly uncommon. If you can see to look for them, you're wearing your glasses. It's an anxiety spiral that sends the frenzy out of control and that as different roots.

    134LizzieD
    Ago 4, 1:55pm

    >131 richardderus: >132 SomeGuyInVirginia: Oh Richard and Larry, peace to you both. You're hardly in my world at all. I find I have to concentrate to do the simplest things, or else I'll put the lemon in the cabinet and the honey in the frig, or stamp 7 envelopes on the top left before I wonder what I'm doing. The list can go on and on, but I hope to go on and on too. I've lived in my head most of my life, so it's a new experience to concentrate on my place in the physical world.

    Anyway, Richard, I lurk often and look at (but rarely buy immediately because, you know) books I'd never hear of otherwise. Really glad you're here! Really looking forward to your remaining owed-to-you 16!!!

    As to GGKay, when I had read only *Tigana*, *Lions*, and *Arbonne*, *Lions* was my least favorite although I loved the Jewish doctor's daughter in Moorish Spain fantasy. I'll bet I should look at it again. If I've read a McKillip, I don't remember it.

    135richardderus
    Ago 4, 2:57pm

    >134 LizzieD: Hi Peggy! Your dispatch from the front lines of memory loss is, I'm sad to say, mmuch needed...but I have my doubts that I'll remember it or be able to find it again.

    136SandDune
    Ago 4, 6:09pm

    >131 richardderus: >132 SomeGuyInVirginia: Once, when Jacob was fairly young and I was taking him to the cinema, we walked outside to notice that the car was not in the drive. “It’s been stolen” I said to Jacob. I decided to order a taxi to take us to the cinema and was intending to walk around to the police station to report the theft after the film. But as we were walking out of the cinema (which is next to the railway station) to head to the police station, it suddenly occurred to me that I had parked the car in the station car park the day before, and it had not been stolen at all. I had just forgotten it was there and gone home without it. To be fair, sometimes when I went to work I drove the car to the station and sometimes I didn’t, so it wasn’t quite as stupid as it sounds. But Mr SandDune thought it was hilarious that I thought someone would even be bothered to steal my car, which admittedly was pretty old and probably not top of any self-respecting car thief’s list.

    137richardderus
    Ago 4, 6:26pm

    >136 SandDune: Okay, yeah, that's a laugh-out-loud riot indeed Rhian. I'm still chuckling...priceless!

    138brenzi
    Ago 4, 9:40pm

    >128 katiekrug: Well, I think I just suffered a BB even if you weren't that enamored by Radiant Fugitives. It sounds like my kind of book Richard.

    >132 SomeGuyInVirginia: >133 richardderus: The other day, I was on the phone talking to someone about....something, when I had to look up an address on my phone. I looked all over for my phone...while I'm talking on my phone. Finally, I said to the other person, I'll call you back. Then realized I had it in my hand.🥴

    139richardderus
    Ago 4, 10:39pm

    >138 brenzi: Yep. I was talking to Rob on Zoom...my cellphone rang...I disconnected our call to switch over to the (nonexistent) other call...he buzzed me back while laughing hilariously at me.

    I think you will resonate to Radiant Fugitives indeed, Bonnie. The family dynamic should find its way directly to you. Or so I hope.

    140FAMeulstee
    Ago 5, 4:30am

    Happy Thursday, Richard dear!

    I guess we all have these moments. When Frank is tired, he often can't find the right Dutch word, and finds the English equivalent instead. I am searching rather frequently for things that are in my hands, or for my glasses that I am wearing. And names, I have always been bad with remembering names.

    141Crazymamie
    Ago 5, 7:44am

    Morning, BigDaddy! I love all these shared memories of lost memory. I have looked all over the house for my sunglasses before only to find that they were on top of my head. What plagues me the most these days is walking into a room and then stopping short because I can't remember what I went in there for.

    >136 SandDune: This made me laugh! Thanks for that, Rhian.

    142karenmarie
    Ago 5, 8:18am

    'Morning, RDear.

    ...drawing a blank... apropos of the conversation, eh?

    *smooch* from whoever I am

    143richardderus
    Editado: Ago 5, 8:21am

    >142 karenmarie: Hey there! Um...so...how the hell are you, erm, doing there? ::frantic mental search:: Horrible!

    >141 Crazymamie: Hiya Mamie! Yeah, the glasses are the commonest "I miss my mind" moments for, um, the MidCentury Moderns-to-Disco Era relics. I think people of all ages are susceptible to the "...now why did I..." moments. I've been doing that for decades.

    *smooch*

    >140 FAMeulstee: One of my sisters is better at Spanish than she is at English, and will pop out with Spanish vocabulary at the oddest moments.

    Spend a splendid Thursday, Anita.

    144msf59
    Ago 5, 9:02am

    Sweet Thursday, Richard. We are going up to Devil's Lake State Park, WI to go camping. We have never been there but it looks beautiful. I won't be on LT much. Radiant Fugitives does sound interesting but it's not a Must Read, right?

    145richardderus
    Ago 5, 9:49am

    >144 msf59: Have a great trip, Mark! "Devil's Lake" doesn't, I confess, inspire wanderlust in me...just a bit too, um, inviting of those I'd sooner not party with, shall we say.

    I think Radiant Fugitives should be a library borrow for you, honestly. I think you'd enjoy the author's way with words but not quite enough to get the full purchase price's worth.

    146LovingLit
    Ago 5, 6:47pm

    >117 richardderus: Your fifteenth anniversary of LT! Wow, don't the decades fly :)

    >144 msf59: >145 richardderus: I googled the place after seeing Mark's thread notifying of his trip; there is little evidence of devilish things there. Unless you count ecoli, swimmer’s itch, ticks, snakes, or, poisonous plants....

    147Berly
    Ago 6, 1:00am

    R--Your fifteenth is coming up!! Can you believe it's been that long? What did we do before LT?! I can't remember...and speaking of memory loss--both my moms had issues. I often find that my medical issues, when they hit me hard and I am tired, I have trouble finding the right words. So sleep is definitely something I try to get enough of. I would rather have physical issues than lose my mind. Crossing fingers!!

    148Helenliz
    Ago 6, 4:23am

    I can't imagine the pain of having to choose 16 books. Awful. I don't know how you do it.
    Happy forthcoming thingaversary

    149richardderus
    Ago 6, 9:35am

    128 The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell by Brian Evenson

    Rating: 4.5* of five

    The Publisher Says: "Here is how monstrous humans are."

    A sentient, murderous prosthetic leg; shadowy creatures lurking behind a shimmering wall; brutal barrow men: of all the terrors that populate The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell, perhaps the most alarming are the beings who decimated the habitable Earth: humans. In this new short story collection, Brian Evenson envisions a chilling future beyond the Anthropocene that forces excruciating decisions about survival and self-sacrifice in the face of toxic air and a natural world torn between revenge and regeneration. Combining psychological and ecological horror, each tale thrums with Evenson's award-winning literary craftsmanship, dark humor, and thrilling suspense.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : A collection from Brian Evenson, even one with some pieces that weren't quite as welcome to me as they ordinarily are (see the whole review), will never not be greeted with warbles of delight from me. These tales are all from other homes, but they belong together. They're Family, much as a cult is.... Last Days, a pair of odd and deeply disturbing novellas linked by one hugely upsetting premise...and this premise is the *only* one I've ever encountered whereunder I am simply delighted to be called a "one"...made me think and shiver in 2014, and still does today. His short fiction tends to be very, very short (see my review of Windeye from 2013). This can render me almost mute, considering how very unreasonable the demands of reviewing collections, as opposed to anthologies of multiple writers, of short stories are. What's one meant to say? How to capture the gestalt of the collection? Is there a gestalt? If not, what the heck?! I get all verklempt and deeply verschmeckeled. But this is Brian Evenson. The peace is kept. These stories will take you, quickly, to places you're not at all sure you'd like to go.

    I got a bit of a foretaste of the unease Author Evenson had in store for me when I kept thinking I should know that title, such a resonant phrase and so elegantly crafted! Is it a quote? A line from some famous poem by Milton, or permaybehaps Swinburne...turns out the author attributes it to Marguerite Young from Miss Mackintosh, My Darling! That monster hasn't been mined as thoroughly for titles as I'd've expected. I don't have any notion of where in the book it occurs, nor does he vouchsafe the information, but the sense of that exact phrase *belonging* somewhere has been answered and laid to rest. Unlike, it must be said, the science-fictional treatments of Otherness, the spooky treatments of cruelty and neglect, and the other many-sided polygons of storytelling he gets up to here. I agree that the planet's had it with us, and can even understand the more, um, arcane ways Author Evenson's come up with for it to shuffle us off. But they are as one expects from him: Unsettling, open-ended, and prettily told even when they aren't at all pretty.

    With my usual éclat, I employ the Bryce Method of short impressions but no distinct individual ratings (at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud, there's twenty-to of 'em!) for the stories so as to organize my thoughts and feelings, while hopefully allowing you to reach your own conclusions.

    150richardderus
    Ago 6, 10:01am

    >148 Helenliz: Thank you for your heartfelt sympathy, Helen, in my time of distress. Oh the pain! the pain! as our very own national hero, Dr. Zachary Smith, would've crooned.

    >147 Berly: What did we do before LT?! I can't remember Me neither, Berly-boo.

    Body stuff can be transcended with the mind's help...the reverse isn't true. Sadly....

    >146 LovingLit: Google being The Devil's Own, Megan, I wouldn't trust what it has to say about the places The Devil wants to lure you.

    Juuust sayin'

    *smooch*

    151karenmarie
    Ago 6, 11:04am

    Late morning hellos, RDear.

    Soccer match over, coffee drunk, time to open the old Kindle and continue with The Stranger Times.

    *smooch* from your own Horrible

    152jessibud2
    Ago 6, 11:10am

    >150 richardderus: - I remember Dr. Smith! That was my favourite tv show back in the day! :-)

    153richardderus
    Ago 6, 12:37pm

    >152 jessibud2: That was quite a character that Jonathan Harris created, wasn't it? He was memorably Uriah-Heepish. And what a whiner!

    Have a lovely weekend's reads, Shelley. *smooch*

    >151 karenmarie: Hey there Horrible...glad you got to see your, um, sporting event. I'm finishing up my review of Two Spies in Caracas, which I've enjoyed more than I expected to. *smooch*

    154magicians_nephew
    Ago 6, 5:26pm

    >136 SandDune: Chuckling at this great story.

    155bell7
    Ago 6, 9:07pm

    Looking forward to seeing your review of Two Spies in Caracas!

    156richardderus
    Ago 6, 10:23pm

    >155 bell7: Tomorrow morning. Be there or be a Rubik's cube.

    >154 magicians_nephew: :-) still grinning here, too

    157richardderus
    Ago 7, 8:47am

    129 Two Spies in Caracas by Moisés Naím

    Rating: 3.75* of five

    The Publisher Says: From the New York Times bestselling author of The End of Power comes an edge-of-your-seat political thriller about rival spies, dangerous love, and one of history’s most devastating revolutions.

    Venezuela, 1992. Unknown colonel Hugo Chávez stages an ill-fated coup against a corrupt government, igniting the passions of Venezuela’s poor and catapulting the oil-rich country to international attention. For two rival spies hurriedly dispatched to Caracas—one from Washington, DC, and the other from Fidel Castro’s Cuba—this is a career-defining mission.

    Smooth-talking Iván Rincón of Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate needs a rebel ally to secure the future of his own country. His job: support Chávez and the revolution by rallying the militants and neutralizing any opposing agents.

    Meanwhile, the CIA’s Cristina Garza will do everything in her power to cut Chávez’s influence short. Her priority: stabilize the greatest oil reserves on the planet by ferreting out and eliminating Cuba’s principal operative.

    As Chávez surges to power, Iván’s and Cristina’s paths cross. Soon they’re caught in the fallout of a toxic political time bomb: an intrepid female reporter and unwitting informant, a drug lord and key architect in Chávez’s rise, and Iván and Cristina themselves. With everything at stake, the adversaries find themselves at the center of a game of espionage, seduction, murder, and shifting alliances playing out against the precarious backdrop of a nation in free fall. A thrilling fictional story based on unimaginable real-life events.

    I RECEIVED THIS DRC FROM AMAZON PRIME'S FIRST READS PROGRAM. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : Spying? Romancing? Weeelll...not quite as much as I'd been expecting based on the title. What there was of espionage was centered on the mechanics and motivations for spying on one's neighbors. The Americans have this corporately-coveted giant lake of petrochemicals close to them...the Cubans need the fuel...and the Venezuelans need food, medicine, the basics.

    No one gets what they expected to get because Hugo Chávez (quite obviously the author's bête noire) steps in the big, fat middle of things out of nowhere and shits all over the players. He's nobody in the hierarchy's opinion. He comes from nowhere. He's got no family pull. He's got a crap education. The author posits that he's a mentally ill striver. As he's dead, and was considered an enemy by the US Government's right-wing intelligence community, I'm inclined to put that down to politically motivated retrospective diagnosis.

    Whatever! I didn't mean to get so bogged down in the material I think surrounds the story. The on-the-page story is heavy on Hugo, light on spies, and still manages to be about the reasons spying happens in a way that was very interesting to read. The role of Pablo Escobar and his money in Chávez's rise, the massive betrayals that are inherent in any leader coming to power and seeing the perspective from inside instead of outside, and the hilarious (if terrifying) reality that "we" know about 5% of what is actually going on when "we" are making our decisions, all made the read worth my time to pursue. I'm afraid the prose wasn't lulling me into turning the pages:
    "I'm warning you, the president's ambitions are no longer local or regional. He wants international influence. He already has the oil production in his hands. and he'll spend whatever is necessary to make the world pay attention. This black gold will finance his socialist expansion. Hugo's narcissism is global now!"

    A spy reporting to her Washington-based boss wouldn't be terribly likely to use an exclam. Or to be so bluntly undiplomatic. She wouldn't be employed for long.
    "The moment is approaching for you to serve the revolution. When {the thing happens}, it's essential for Cuba that you, comrade Nicolás Maduro, {do the thing}."

    The future {doer of the thing}, as anointed by Fidel, smiled yet said nothing; both men knew he had nothing to say. And there was no need.

    So, does the author think Cuba runs the show or does he think Cuba runs the show. I mean, there was no time at which socialism and Cuba and Fidel and Hugo weren't all presented in the dimmest, dankest dungeon-light.

    The world spins on, though, and the focus of the story leaves the international stage to light on the two spies in Caracas. They've met, fallen in love, and begun to weave a tissue of lies that looks like a life together if you squint at it just right. Iván, the Cuban scion of a powerful political family, and Cristina, an illegal Mexican immigrant whose life prepared her for a career in espionage with the CIA, fall *whomp* in love. I don't know why, and the author doesn't tell us. They just do.

    While they're reassessing their loyalties to their respective agencies, they watch History take its inevitable course. Crappy people and dreadful deeds and a giant choking cloud of misery finally envelop the two, already unsettled in their minds by Love, and cause them to try to...unofficially retire, let's say.

    This does not go well.

    Betrayal. Back-stabbing from many angles. Lots of terrible things are about to happen to Iván and Cristina, when she decides that she doesn't want to die screaming. She pulls out her trump card, plays it...and that's when the ugly turns mean. The ending of the book involves the worst, least excusable sort of cruelty to both of them. And it's not like there was no way it could happen. It has already, earlier in the book, in slightly different form.

    What? It's a spy story! You were expecting the characters to take Pilates together and Iván to knit a baby blanky for their first-born while Cristina solves the mysteries of sourdough? This book's author might have a lot of right-wing axes to grind, but the book has its head on straight when it comes to Realpolitik! Henry Kissinger got nothin' on Author Naím in that regard.

    I've given it three-and-three-quarters stars. In my world, that is quite respectable. I don't keep reading books that aren't rewarding me. There are too few eyeblinks left to waste 'em. So, while I'm not yodeling the praises of this gorgeous artifact of genius, I'm here to tell you that I didn't even once think, "you know what? Pearl-Ruling this bad boy now."

    Considering my Pearl-Rule pages-to-read count is down to thirty-eight, that should tell you all you need to know.

    158karenmarie
    Ago 7, 8:51am

    'Morning, RD.

    >157 richardderus: I haven't had enough coffee to grok your review, but I bet it's a stunner.

    *smooch*

    159richardderus
    Ago 7, 9:08am

    >158 karenmarie: Stunned you already, hasn't it. Go get more caffeine into your system, it's too early to brain. I'm running about 30% myownself.

    160Crazymamie
    Ago 7, 9:11am

    Morning, BigDaddy! I think I will take a pass on that last book, but your review made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that. *smooch*

    161katiekrug
    Ago 7, 9:16am

    Morning!

    162richardderus
    Ago 7, 9:56am

    >161 katiekrug: Isn't it? Such a morning-y morning! Why, it's morning-ness is simply *epic*! *smooch*

    >160 Crazymamie: I think your book-radar is finely tuned. I can't see you getting all verklempt over the read, so...

    *smooch*

    163bell7
    Ago 7, 9:14pm

    >157 richardderus: nice review! Seems more my library patrons' jam than mine, but glad it kept your attention.

    164karenmarie
    Ago 8, 8:55am

    Hi RD. Happy Sunday.

    Thanks to you, I am now seriously addicted to QI. I've watched series Q and R and am trying to find a reliable source for earlier series. Do you prefer Fry or Toksvig as host?

    *smooch* from your own Horrible

    165richardderus
    Ago 8, 10:22am

    >164 karenmarie: Hey there Horrible, happy Sunday back at'cha. It's a pleasant one here, which I am enjoying. I'm not a Fry Guy, particularly, and Toksvig's tininess works in her favor as the invigilatrix in some weird psychological way...non-threatening superiority? Not clear to me.

    Offering up suerte-smooches in your quest!

    >163 bell7: You'd hate it. But if it can be procured for your patrons, why I say "full speed ahead." Spy thrillers in less-usual settings, like Caracas, are very likely the way forward for the genre. Paris, London, DC, and Moscow? So very done. Havana, Caracas, Riyadh, and Beijing? Come to Papa!

    Enjoy your Sunday, hopefully not too busily.

    166richardderus
    Ago 8, 11:29am

    My Thingversary books, continued:
    Sniper's Eye by Mainak Dhar is a thriller set in India. I've spoken in reviews before (eg, Sacred Games, Ghachar Ghochar) about the enormous English-language creative universe that is India. It's amazing to me that this book, translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, and a few other languages, hasn't been made much of here, considering how much we luuuv our "let's shoot the terrorist!" books. At 99¢, I snagged this one because someone's making a webseries out of it, and because the synopsis caught me:
    Sniper’s Eye is a thriller about an army major who has been trying to put the demons of his past behind him and live an ordinary life in Mumbai. On a date with his girlfriend in a mall, the man in front of them is shot, and he is thrust into the middle of a terror attack, which brings to the open his past, puts him on a terror kill list, and puts him and his loved ones in danger. As he is sucked in deeper, he has to become the man he once was and confront his past. He also he learns that things aren’t quite as they seem, and that there is a deeper conspiracy at play which he must unravel if he is to save himself and those he cares about. To do so, he has to learn to work with the sniper- a man who has sworn to kill him!

    It's only 144pp so it's priced right to risk a short few hours, no? Get a KIndlesample if you're not sure! They're FREE!

    167SandyAMcPherson
    Ago 8, 4:03pm

    Sheesh, I go away from LT for a few days and all the threads are like, having puppies and miles long...
    Thread-lenthening is going to get worse too. I'm off to the west coast again for a week in a week's time. This visit should be okay in terms of family drama. Let's hope lots of rain falls in southern BC, though. We just had a rain to clear out smokey haze here and I am *so* done with forest fires (I shouldn't complain. Our city is not threatened like many towns and villages are).

    168richardderus
    Ago 8, 5:57pm

    >167 SandyAMcPherson: Howdy do, Sandy! Good on you for going around at all, after being away. The threads do get a bit hairy after a while.

    I'm hoping for BC to return to Pacific Northwestern norms. Lots more wet, please! Enjoy your visit, no matter the atmospheric conditions.

    169karenmarie
    Ago 9, 8:44am

    'Morning, and happy Monday to you, RDear!

    >165 richardderus: Toksvig's tininess works in her favor as the invigilatrix in some weird psychological way...non-threatening superiority? Not clear to me. I'm in complete agreement.

    *smooch*

    170thornton37814
    Ago 9, 12:44pm

    Hotel Internet access was simply awful last week, and there was no option to upgrade it. That's not the only reason I'll never stay at that particular hotel again, but I'm just really disappointed that this hotel in a group that usually delivers was so awful. The best I can do at the moment is skim threads. Hopefully I'll be back to normal rounds soon.

    171richardderus
    Ago 9, 1:16pm

    >170 thornton37814: Hi Lori! I understand your frustrated disappointment. The quality of the service isn't the only sort criterion in choosing home-away-from-home but it's not the least important thing either. It'll all be waiting for you when you're ready!

    >169 karenmarie: Happy Monday, Horrible! *smooch*

    172richardderus
    Ago 9, 1:39pm

    130 The Eternal Audience of One by Rémy Ngamije

    Rating: 4.5* of five

    The Publisher Says: Reminiscent of Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon, this “gorgeous, wildly funny and, above all, profoundly moving and humane” (Peter Orner, author of Am I Alone Here) coming-of-age tale follows a young man who is forced to flee his homeland of Rwanda during the Civil War and make sense of his reality.

    Nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, not even the people in it. The most one can do is make some sort of start and then work toward some kind of ending.

    One might as well start with Séraphin: playlist-maker, nerd-jock hybrid, self-appointed merchant of cool, Rwandan, stifled and living in Windhoek, Namibia. Soon he will leave the confines of his family life for the cosmopolitan city of Cape Town, in South Africa, where loyal friends, hormone-saturated parties, adventurous conquests, and race controversies await. More than that, his long-awaited final year in law school promises to deliver a crucial puzzle piece of the Great Plan immigrant: a degree from a prestigious university.

    But a year is more than the sum of its parts, and en route to the future, the present must be lived through and even the past must be survived.

    From one of Africa’s emerging literary voices comes a lyrical and piquant tale of family, migration, friendship, war, identity, and race following the intersecting lives of Séraphin and a host of eclectic characters from pre- and post-1994 Rwanda, colonial and post-independence Windhoek, Paris and Brussels in the 70s, Nairobi public schools, and the racially charged streets of Cape Town.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : What do you get from a wisecracking young African novelist when you turn him loose with a contract? A novel of the prices exacted by immigration on the emigrated persons, be that emigration voluntary or enforced, cannot help but run into the problem of "why am I here again?" for its fat, complacent first-world-native readers. The usual answer is, "where else would you like to be?" Author Ngamjie writes sentences like this:
    The only certainty is this: everything that is not the end must be the start of something else.

    Séra says that his mother said it first; I believe him. I believe whatever Author Ngamije says, actually. I have already said nice things about Author Ngamjie's writing when I discussed The Neighbourhood for last year's Caine Prize reviews. He's deployed a lot more of his snappy humor here (a bed so narrow it should have a singles-site profile, East African parents outdoing the Spanish Inquisition in the barbarity of their interrogation, "FOMO, the acronym of doom," a vile w-bomb at 47% being self-described as a "salacious nictation"...though that didn't prevent him from using it three more times), having so much more room to make the case for laughs. Laughs you'll get, for absolute sure and certain. When Therése and Séra meet at a less-than-opportune moment, for example. If you fail to fall about screaming with laughter at how Author Ngamjie structures that scene, then you are deficient.

    And there is a great deal of uncertainty in the happiness of the parents in this story. There are no swift and sure answers to the eternal eyeroll of the offspring. A stern reminder, however, that your parents didn't become parents without having some kinda past together is fully served in several chapters. The set-up for them being together, a party attended in Paris, is...incomplete at first telling. It seems there was a lot more to being young in that day and time...well. Usually there was some, um, carnal dimension to their partnering up for parenthood:
    His torso occupied every inch of his shirt, and his maroon bell-bottom jeans accentuated a prim pair of buttocks and strong thighs.

    He was dressed to pull, for sure! And Therése was very much there to be pulled...well, that is half the story, and the other half was told, so you'll find it when you get to it. But the parenting years came next. A thankless task, that, and made more difficult by the implosion of their country. Several flashbacks to that time are all from Séra's child-vision. It's very effective, and still manages to evoke from the adult reader the fear and the determination of the parents to protect their kids. And then they spent the entire rest of their lives ensuring you'd have it better than they do, Séra. So what does he do with his uni life in Cape Town? What all of us did! Party! Make a group of like-minded friends, find something to rag on the world about...the usual twentysomething life. Author Ngamije says smart, funny things in a smartass way, just like Séraphin himself. He's got a helluva mouth on him, does Séra, and he's not afraid to use it.
    ...{I}f nobody ever makes it to the start of a story, and if everyone is in the same boat just bailing and steering as best they can, then I guess the whole point of life is to make some sort of a start and then work towards some kind of ending, whenever and wherever it might be. Part plagiarism will permit to agree with Shakespeare: "All the world's a staage..." upon which we perform for the eternal audience of one. ... I guess, then, that the point of life is to dive in, hold on, and hope that a flop...is worth the laugh at the very end.

    –and–

    "She actually likes black people," Séraphin said. "And it isn't because she's traveled a lot. Slavers traveled too and look where that got us."

    –and–

    "I have a better chance of being Pablo Escobar than being Pablo Neruda.

    "You and drug dealers." {She} laughed. "Not a fan of poetry, then?"

    "I approach poetry like other people's dogs. With great caution."

    The entire group of friends stay hooked in to their affection for each other, such as it is, and they overlook the usual tensions in any group setting...the odd man out, the tolerated-but-unloved, the group boss with the plans everyone goes along with because it's easier than fighting and better than anyone else's ideas anyway. The flirting, the hookups...the breakups and dumpings...it's all there, exactly where it should be, told in texts instead of long calls and short meetings.

    There is, of course, the requisite older woman in Séraphin's résumé, and she speaks a truth to him: "There is a point when actions become promises," that I truly wish I knew how to embroider so I could make a pillow-cover out of. I am also moved by immigrant Séra meditating on forgiveness being meaningless without remembering the thing being forgiven. It is a truth I learned much later in my life than he was forced to, but a severely underrated one in the general conversation we as a society should be having with more seriousness than we seem to be doing.

    The lighthearted moments, let me hasten to say now, are quite prevalent in the book. More time laughing is spent than Other Things. Don't mistake this for some gloomy, first-novel-MFA-program navel-gazing! You'll know for sure that you're in good, capable hands, that this is a cocktail party you can't quite imagine how you got invited to and not Thanksgiving with your in-laws.

    That is also, of course, apparent in some less joy-giving ways. The function of Séraphin's Great Council of Séraphins is clearly to make you aware that you've shifted to the inner workings of the lad's head; the problem is, for this seasoned reader, it was overused. Two or three times would've been effective...many more and it becomes Ben Stiller's 2013 remake of Danny Kaye's 1947 comedic classic The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. As much fun as recalling the original was for the first twenty minutes, seeing the shots recreated...well...it got old.

    The fragmented construction of the story will put some readers off. The flashbacks aren't slowing the story down, I will protest, they are giving it traction! But many will disagree with me, I fear. Structuring a story in an anti-chronological way does indeed allow us to feel, instead of see, the action as the characters do. It does also require of us that we pay attention to what's underlying the surface story of an immigrant leaving home to leave home to learn how to return home to make a home. It's really just that simple...Thomas Wolfe did it, y'all all lapped it up. Ride the waves, don't shove your feet into them. (Have I ever mentioned that my Young Gentleman Caller is a surfer?)

    There is a time in a character's arc that the wise mentor offers a personal story that illuminates a Greater Truth that Our Hero needs to hear. That time came, it lingered a bit too long for comfort, and then it was over. That was, actually, a good thing, because the purpose of it was a deeper one than was expected. The way it happens, the moment it comes, are a little bit deceptive, so kudos to Author Ngamije for that misdirection. I like not knowing everything!

    But the classic misdirection, well. Remember how you found out your parent was a person before you were born? Remember the moment you learned what they least wanted you to know but you needed to hear? That moment is a beaut in this book, one of those "...I didn't know you had it in you..." times that come to all adult children. I loved it, and if you're the reader I hope you are for reading my reviews, you'll carry on to the very end for the reward you're offered.
    "All arguments can be fixed. Circumstances, not so much."

    Formerly tall father stood next to tall son.

    "You have to decide whether you want to be right or whether you want to be happy. It is a simple choice."

    It may be simple...it is simple...but it is never easy.

    173msf59
    Ago 9, 3:21pm

    Hey, RD. What is shakin'? We got back a day early, due to weather. Details on my thread. I never opened my book once, so I hope to really hunker down with the books this week. The possibility of rain and the heat will probably keep me off the trails for the next few days too. Boo!

    I didn't read your entire review of The Eternal Audience of One but enough of it caught my attention, so I added to my hefty TBR list.

    174richardderus
    Ago 9, 3:55pm

    >173 msf59: Well, if you're gonna be trapped inside at least you've got the books for purposeful company, right? And weather, well...I guess we'd better get used to having it nterfere with stuff. *sigh*

    That TBR is a scary, scary thing, ain't it?

    175Helenliz
    Ago 9, 4:20pm

    >172 richardderus: I'm tempted; this line alone is enough to pique my interest, "I approach poetry like other people's dogs. With great caution."

    176richardderus
    Ago 9, 5:53pm

    >175 Helenliz: Soul sibling! Yes yes yes, get it! Read it!

    177bell7
    Editado: Ago 9, 7:20pm

    >172 richardderus: this is already on the ever-growing TBR list, but if it hadn't been, your review would've put it there. Our library copy came in last week, but I've gotta wait till I finish a few others before checking something new out. I have given myself a stern talking to on the subject.

    Edited to fix my spelling, darn typing on a phone.

    178richardderus
    Ago 9, 7:28pm

    >177 bell7: Thanks, Mary! I wrote around 1400 words because, well, it needed that many. But I'm fairly sure you'll enjoy the book, permaybehaps a little less than I did. It's pretty male....

    *smooch*

    179humouress
    Ago 10, 12:19am

    Hey RD! Just delurking for a few seconds.

    180FAMeulstee
    Ago 10, 4:02am

    Happy Tuesday, Richard dear!

    181karenmarie
    Ago 10, 8:14am

    'Morning, RD. Happy new day to you.

    Trying to wake up... coffee's helping...

    *smooch*

    182Crazymamie
    Ago 10, 9:10am

    Morning, BigDaddy! I love that review - adding my thumb if you posted it. Also adding that title to The List.

    >172 richardderus: "You'll know for sure that you're in good, capable hands, that this is a cocktail party you can't quite imagine how you got invited to and not Thanksgiving with your in-laws." Sold!

    183richardderus
    Ago 10, 10:13am

    >182 Crazymamie: Thank you, Mamie my dear! I appreciate the kind words.

    I hope when its turn at the top of the pile comes, you'll be as pleased as I was.

    >181 karenmarie: Hey Horrible, don't move too quickly before caffeine kicks in. I speak from experience, sad to say. *eyes shattered drinking glass*

    >180 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita!

    184katiekrug
    Ago 10, 11:03am

    Late morning greetings!

    185richardderus
    Ago 10, 11:42am

    >184 katiekrug: Ciao bellina! Come stai?

    186richardderus
    Ago 10, 2:56pm

    I do not expect to see the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. I think it's y'all's gawd's judgment for naming it after a Lavender Scare-monger.

    But The New Yorker thinks it's going up in November: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/08/16/nasas-new-telescope-will-show-us-t...

    187richardderus
    Ago 10, 6:34pm


    This book is getting a really well-targeted online ad campaign! I know that because I, a very likely purchaser of it had I not already reviewed it (here: https://tinyurl.com/3tejhjs8), have seen at least eight different venues offering it, touting it, or reviewing it themselves. I hope it works...people who try the Kindlesample (here: https://smile.amazon.com/Eternal-Audience-One-R%C3%A9my-Ngamije-ebook/dp/B07VR2J...) will for sure end up buying it.

    188weird_O
    Ago 11, 1:56am

    Might you be interested in an interesting light fixture?

    189Crazymamie
    Ago 11, 8:15am

    >188 weird_O: Whoa!

    Morning, BigDaddy! I finished The Art of Defensive Baking, and it was full of charming, so thanks for that.

    190richardderus
    Editado: Ago 11, 10:24am

    131 From the Caves by Thea Prieto

    Rating: 4.75* of five

    The Publisher Says: Environmental catastrophe has driven four people inside the dark throat of a cave: Sky, a child coming of age; Tie, pregnant and grieving; Mark, a young man poised to assume primacy; and Teller, an elder, holder of stories. As the devastating heat of summer grows, so does the poison in Teller's injured leg and the danger of Tie's imminent labor, food and water dwindling while the future becomes increasingly dependent on the words Sky gleans from the dead, stories pieced together from recycled knowledge, fragmented histories, and half-buried creation myths. From the Caves presents the past, present, and future in tandem, reshaping ancient and modern ideas of death and motherhood, grief and hope, endings and beginnings.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : As tough as it is to sit in my air-conditioned room, with my instant access to hot and cold clean running water, my adequate...ample...luxuriously lush supply of food and think of the horrors to come for all those I'll leave behind in a decade or so, I am not required (yet) to decide if someone should live or die.

    And that is the new standard I'll measure my irks and crotchets against: Did I have to decide whether someone else lived the rest of this day? No? Well then, belt up.

    The story we're being told here in this novella is a simple one: How will Humanity sustain itself when the Earth declines to forgive us our trespasses any more? Five people, a remnant of the Los Angeles that once was, are living—eking an existence—on the shores of the Enemy Ocean in what was once Pasadena, near the Observatory. This information is lodged in the simple, basic words that Author Prieto puts in our sad, burning, withering climate-changed humans' mouths, but you need to be familiar with the place to get it.

    As we meet Sky, he is doing something mundane until there is a major event: Someone falls from a height onto the shore. And just like that, five become four. It was Green, the group...made up of teenaged Mark (so called for his nasal damage), Teller the story-rememberer, Tie who is very heavily pregnant, and Sky the lad who will be our third person close-camera point of view...leader of sorts, the one who knew the reasons to put up the fog net to catch water only until the summer storms become too violent and how to grow their food-tubers in a dark cave that was once a lower floor, where a removable brick can bring in only enough scorching, sizzling light to enable it to grow...you see how crucial he was. The sun and the ocean grew more menacing with his loss.
    As he climbs across the dunes and back into the quiet darkness of the caves, Sky wishes he could see the floating green and sparkling things Green liked to describe, wishes he could imagine people traveling by land and sea, but it's easier to remember sadness, thirst, and hunger when the ocean is an endless expanse of brown waves, a wide desert of seawater broken only by the distant, half-submerged remains of Old City. Out to sea, the torn shell of a single skyscraper and a lone section of a bridge loom out of the white-capped breakers, and the empty windows facing the beach are only sightless squares to Sky. Even though low tide reveals the flat tops of road signs and the hollow heads of street lamps, the only happiness Sky can summon from the past is remote, quiet, and small.

    There is so much wrong with this picture...but the story is merely drawing its breath.

    When I say "story," I want to be sure you're with me. This is a story. This story is, like every story you and I and all our ancestors have heard, seen, read, invented, based on an established need: Humans need stories to live. And this story, the one I want you to go spend your United States or Canadian or Australian or New Zealand dollars on, is rooted in ancestral stories of its own. I'm sure the repetition of the word "cave" will have its desired effect as a summoning bell for your memory sooner or later....
    Maybe it would help to hear the story again. We don't have to sing it like Song or—Tie pauses—or remember all of Green's words. We can tell the story any way we want.

    Tie looks at the globe, at the Moth message, and then at Mark.

    We will remember and make new memories at the same time, she says.

    And there is another story that Author Prieto retells, one that is a favorite of mine, from that same Ancient source. Here it goes by the name of Bear and Moon, and its lovely lineaments should summon you back to a symposium from longer ago than any of these characters can even conceptualize. Tie, heavily pregnant with the future, tells her men that she will accept nothing less than memories to put with the ones she already has.

    It is a deeply meaningful moment. It is spoken from a heartbroken place. But it is, like all of Life, a burden she carries alone. In such a small group, each person carries their burdens alone despite the constant demands of survival. Even Sky, all of nine or ten when the story takes place; he's never forgiven for the crime of just Being when it cost his mother her life to make him. The group is in a terrible way. The can just barely pull it together to subsist...scrape by. No wonder the too-young-to-help Sky treasures words, "deep scratches of words" as Author Prieto calls them; although Lonely will always mean more than it probably should for one without blame for the hate he carries from his angry, unforgiving brother Mark. A moment when "Sky asks, what's an apple?" on hearing the word in a story...Poor poor pod of people...what a dry, hateful world they can't escape from is in the unremitting heat.

    Because Teller has an accident as he, over angry Mark's objections, gives dead Green a funeral oration. Tie, pregnant with Green's child, has no strength for arguing, just follows doggedly as Teller gives his burning friend a farewell. But that accident...in a world with no food, you can be sure there's no Neosporin, and Teller slowly succumbs to an infection. In his long, wretched death the group comes to a new configuration, one that will have to last them for a long while. The burdens of existence are horrifyingly out of proportion to the endless luxury of those "progeny" who came before enjoyed.

    The entire story will take you two, two and a half hours to read. But, if you're at all a sensitive soul, you'll spend that long afterwards thinking about the Code Red IPCC report just issued. If you're reading one of my reviews, you're 99% likely already on board with the "stories = survival" articles I've linked above. Now I want this to be clear to you, in case it isn't already: Author Thea Prieto has told us a fable of the lives our descendants can look forward to living if we don't heed that Code Red. She's done so by harking back to foundational stories Western readers are, or are very likely to be, familiar with. And in doing this she's created a story that, while all her own, owes its life to the unimaginable, incalculable, and unsustainable privilege we're enjoying.

    I very deeply and humbly encourage you to buy and read this story as a work of literature that transcends its simple existence as that and offers you a hand held out in hope: We will not die; but we can, and should, and must do better than we are now doing. Our children's children's children need us to.

    191richardderus
    Ago 11, 10:29am

    >189 Crazymamie: Agreed re: Whoa! That's A MAZ ING.

    I'm so pleased you enjoyed that charming little tale! It was a lovely thing, fitted a mood perfectly for me and it sounds like for you as well. *smooch*

    >188 weird_O: I am stunned. That Tentacled American is glorious, Bill, and now I'm covetous as all hell!

    192katiekrug
    Ago 11, 10:46am

    >190 richardderus: - Excellent review. I've added it to The List.

    Stay cool!

    193richardderus
    Ago 11, 10:48am

    >192 katiekrug: Thanks, Katie! I hope you'll like it when it rises to the top of the TBR.

    You too...though it looks like you're in more trouble than I am in that regard. *wince*

    194weird_O
    Ago 11, 11:13am

    >191 richardderus: I thought you'd like that tentacled light source. Not for me, TBH.

    195richardderus
    Ago 11, 11:16am

    >194 weird_O: Got it in one, Bill...and go look at Mamie's thread. Heh.

    196msf59
    Ago 11, 11:35am

    Happy Wednesday, RD. Storms moving through our area and everything is dark and slightly sinister out there. I may do a library run, but otherwise I am in for the rest of the day. and hope to wrap up a couple of books.

    "From the Caves" sounds like another winner. You have sure been on a roll.

    197richardderus
    Ago 11, 11:50am

    >196 msf59: I'm glad for y'all that some storms will reduce the wretched heat, Mark. And it's not a bad thing to be trapped indoors for a day when your TBR looks the way yours does.

    Said the black pot.

    I'm really delighted with the quality of my recent reads! Tomorrow, two thrillers from France. Friday a debut novel by a Straits Chinese tech-scum lady. All just terrific at their job, keeping the pages turning on my Kindle.

    198LizzieD
    Ago 11, 2:36pm

    Saw your latest on Karen's thread and came over to congratulate you, but I don't find here which of your last reviews particularly pleased the publisher. All?

    Anyway, I leave bookbloodied with the Indian Sniper book already on my Kindle and the last several queued up for when the price comes down - and *Defensive Baking* sooner.

    199richardderus
    Ago 11, 3:02pm

    Hi Peggy! The latest one, >190 richardderus:, got kind words from Kate Gale the publisher.

    200quondame
    Ago 11, 5:08pm

    >55 richardderus: That sounds like a heavier load than I want just now. I'm putting off Things We Lost to the Water to (though I didn't know it) re-read The Magicians. I forgot the main story but for hints of details of Fillory.

    201richardderus
    Ago 11, 6:52pm

    >200 quondame: Probably for the best, Susan, if you're looking to set some time apart for light-hearted fun. I do hope you'll come back to it one day soon. I really liked the story.

    202LizzieD
    Ago 12, 12:05am

    >199 richardderus: No surprise here, Richard. I just marked your review "helpful" at Ammy. It is. Very!

    203FAMeulstee
    Ago 12, 3:47am

    Happy Thursday, Richard dear!

    204karenmarie
    Ago 12, 8:29am

    Good morning, RD!

    >190 richardderus: Excellent review, and although I did resist the urge to push click on Amazon, it has made it to my wish list.

    *smooch*

    205Crazymamie
    Ago 12, 8:53am

    >204 karenmarie: What she said.

    We made it to Thursday - just gotta make it through today to get to my favorite of the week. Here's hoping it's a smooth ride.

    206richardderus
    Ago 12, 11:17am

    Thanks, Mamie & Karen & Peggy, for y'all's kind words about the review!

    >205 Crazymamie: We'll get there...one way or another, it'll all end up where we're supposed to be. As to "smooth," I gave up expecting the world to be "smooth" a while back & haven't been (peasantly) surprised since.

    >204 karenmarie: That's a step, indeed, Horrible! *smooch*

    >203 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Anita! It's a hot one but I have no errand that requires leaving the a/c. Believe me, I'd try to find a way to get out of it if I did. *whew* The air temperature is 80° but the effective temperature, what the weather service calls the "real feel," is 91°/33C.

    >202 LizzieD: Hi Peggy! Thanks for the upvote! *smooch*

    207MickyFine
    Ago 12, 12:28pm

    Oof, your humidex temperature sounds gross. Stay cool, RDear. *smooch*

    208Crazymamie
    Ago 12, 12:52pm

    >206 richardderus: I never expect things to go smoothly, but I will always hope for it. Hope is at the core of me, so...

    Sorry about your weather. We are actually getting a bit of a break - 90F today but only 54% humidity. That's practically Fall down here.

    209richardderus
    Ago 12, 1:05pm

    >208 Crazymamie: I'm impressed...Life kicked the hopeful out of me in the 1980s, I make it through on rage and spite. "If I keep on living, it'll piss the @&%%!^%#$ out of {person/group I despise}, so waking up tomorrow is guaranteed!!"

    >207 MickyFine: "Gross" and insulting, Micky. It's awful, but it's also August, and that's the month of the year that routinely stinks in this demi-paradise. *shrug* Like Mamie says, it's almost fall-like for the South! (Austin, where I lived most of three decades, and Mercedes, where I lived a chunk of one decade, are a LOT farther South than Mamie, for comparison.)
    ***
    Y'all all remember how much I **LOVED** Natalie Zina Walschots's debut novel, Hench, right? You do, of course, recall how I warbled my fool head off about the way she made the stupidity of superheroism plain? You can always refresh yourselves by reading that review on the book's page...but there's exciting news! KINDLESALE TODAY! All of $1.99 at: https://smile.amazon.com/Hench-Novel-Natalie-Zina-Walschots-ebook/dp/B0831QRN8T/
    (I never use affiliate links, but the "smile" means your purchase will support whichever charity you've elected to receive their corporate donation on your behalf.)

    210LizzieD
    Ago 12, 2:27pm

    >209 richardderus: GETTING IT!!!!

    211richardderus
    Ago 12, 2:42pm

    >210 LizzieD: FabOO, Peggy darling, I knew I could count on you. *glasses-glares at the room*
    ***
    The 2021 Dragon Awards finalists are out! An annual fan-awarded contest of DragonCon, voting is open to all who register, and does NOT require a membership or any other monetary investment.
    A MASTER OF DJINN is up for Best Alternate History novel
    THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS is up for Best Horror novel
    A WIZARD'S GUIDE TO DEFENSIVE BAKING is up for Best Young Adult novel
    PIRANESI is up for Best Fantasy novel
    PROJECT HAIL MARY is up for Best Science Fiction novel
    These are the ones I've reviewed & the ones *I* say deserve the win in their categories. YMMV, of course.
    Details of how you can vote & when they're awarded: https://www.tor.com/2021/08/12/dragoncon-dragon-awards-finalists-ballot-science-...

    212weird_O
    Editado: Ago 12, 3:02pm

    Seems to be that today is my day to get all torn up by the pesky BBs. I dodged 'em first time around. Hench, A Master of Djinn, A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking. Curses!

    This after getting peppered at doc neutron's.

    213richardderus
    Ago 12, 3:27pm

    >212 weird_O: Don't overlook >190 richardderus:! Can't leave without the *full* effect of book-bulleting. :-)

    214Familyhistorian
    Ago 12, 4:11pm

    You don’t have to sell me on Hench, Richard. It was a fun read. Looks like your reviews are steadily gaining the recognition they deserve. Long may it continue.

    215richardderus
    Ago 12, 4:18pm

    >214 Familyhistorian: Thank you for the kind words, Meg! (Now go get >190 richardderus:....)

    216msf59
    Ago 12, 5:35pm

    Sweet Thursday, RD! Yep, I snagged a copy of Hench. I appreciate the heads up.

    217PaulCranswick
    Ago 12, 7:28pm

    RD, I answered your query over at my place. "Straits Chinese" would not hold too many negative connotations here.

    Oh and I'll share these with you:

    218richardderus
    Ago 12, 8:27pm

    >217 PaulCranswick: Oh, thank you so much, PC. I was hoping it didn't carry some "the Raj" sort of nasty cultural freight.

    *sob* now I want onde onde

    >216 msf59: Yay! I'm so delighted you got that one TOO (after buying >190 richardderus:, of course).

    219quondame
    Ago 13, 12:15am

    >209 richardderus: I bought it. I remember your warbling, not book details, so I get to be surprised.

    220FAMeulstee
    Ago 13, 5:01am

    Happy 15th thingaversary, Richard dear!

    221karenmarie
    Ago 13, 8:17am

    'Morning, RD, and Happy 15th from me, too!

    *smooch* from your own Horrible

    222richardderus
    Ago 13, 8:26am

    132 Edge Case: A Novel by YZ Chin

    Rating: 4* of five

    The Publisher Says: When her husband suddenly disappears, a young woman must uncover where he went—and who she might be without him—in this striking debut of immigration, identity, and marriage.

    After another taxing day as the sole female employee at her New York City tech startup, Edwina comes home to find that her husband, Marlin, has packed up a suitcase and left. The only question now is why. Did he give up on their increasingly hopeless quest to secure their green cards and decide to return to Malaysia? Was it the death of his father that sent him into a tailspin? Or has his strange, sudden change in personality finally made Marlin and Edwina strangers to each other?

    As Edwina searches the city for traces of her husband, she simultaneously sifts through memories of their relationship, hoping to discover the moment when something went wrong. All the while, a coworker is making increasingly uncomfortable advances toward her. And she can’t hide the truth about Marlin’s disappearance from her overbearing, eccentric mother for much longer. Soon Edwina will have to decide how much she is willing to sacrifice in order to stay in her marriage and in America.

    Poignant and darkly funny, Edge Case is a searing meditation on intimacy, estrangement, and the fractured nature of identity. In this moving debut, YZ Chin explores the imperfect yet enduring relationships we hold to country and family.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : First, read this:
    Being very polite to train conductors and building security guards for the past decade has made my deferential way of speaking second nature. Though what an odd saying. What is my first nature?
    –and–
    He stood out, his skin a shade that I had seen compared to food items like chocolate or coffee in American books. Looking at him, I thought not of food, but of a neutral coolness that disguised something else, like an envelope that contained either really good tidings or earth-shattering bad news.

    First novelist YZ Chin isn't playing around. She wrote those two passages early in this book. There isn't, this writing informs you, going to be any false modesty in here. I am going to talk about how a Straits Chinese woman married to a Chindian man, a fat woman married to a lean, athletic man who loves her, feels when "America" does its number on them together, separately, and as Symbols. They're two damaged people, they're altogether too small to withstand the pressure of being Symbols, and they're cracking under the strains. Which is why the book is narrated by Edwina in phone-and-internet conversations with her not-quite-licensed (it's just a paperwork thing, nothing important) therapist (see INS form I-693) after Marlin leaves her.

    Edwina is an abused daughter of a harridan of a mother (The Banana Tree Spirit Story! OMG!!), a vegetarian to her dark, lean husband's more exacting veganism, a "quality control analyst" in a dudebro startup firm called, fully explanatorily, "AInstein," that lost its VCs a boatload of money by screwing some important code up and still releasing it to a client. Oopsie. Get a girl to handle it...an immigrant who won't dare make much trouble, cause any stress but will fill the role...one who won't be missed when we have to fire her for whatever screw-up she can't make us fix.
    The bug was what’s called an integer overflow, which is when a number is too large for its assigned storage capacity and thus can manifest instead as a negative figure. For example, if the number 128 were forced into a signed field that could express only up to 127, the input would ‘overflow’ and be displayed as ˗128. It was mildly gratifying to learn that the human body could also overflow. I idly wondered if, any day now, my pain would grow so great that it converted into happiness.

    What a terrific job, no? Not even a company-sponsored green card application, no no, you'll get your H1-C visa and that's it. Why, if she didn't really, really, really want to stay away from the poisonous reach of her mother's awful, barbed "past-life stories." Marlin's job, less pointless it seems, even affords him a few American friends, like best buddy Eamon and the guys he goes to the rock-climbing gym with. But everything changes when Marlin's father suddenly dies back in Malaysia.

    At his funeral, the pair of them expensively in attendance as the ceremonies take place, along comes Edwina's mother to tell the Banana Tree Spirit story about betrayal, misery, and hateful ignorance carrying the day. That was bad enough, being about her daughter's "past life," but the many, many echoes this latest piece of cruelty has bids fair to have broken poor Marlin. At this lowest, most grief-ridden moment, the words have twisted themselves into a noose around his logical self so the corpse is all that's left in an ever-darkening relationship to Edwina.

    A little detail about the pair returning from Malaysia into Trump's Murruhkuh, how they were treated at Customs, should make your blood boil, your mouth taste sour, and your eyes reflexively leak tears. I half-wondered if Edwina's speculation that "America made Marlin feel unwelcome, and so he left me," wasn't at least half right....
    The US government actually monitored immigrants online, and anything I typed might be used against me—that was what internet advice hinted at. Resources for immigrants cautioned that we should "avoid profanity and the use of aggressive or threatening language" while posting online, which really voided the whole purpose of being on Twitter.

    Of course, that internet false-identity therapy makes all the sense in the world in that light, doesn't it. Especially since the internet has a random, unidentifiable Crazy Person (or two, or fifty) to tell the suffering how, exactly, not to suffer anymore:
    Surely I was better than these people with their loud, false bravado. Yet wasn’t I on the internet precisely because I wanted someone to give me a to-do list? I objected to the content of the lists, found them laughable, but still—I wanted my hand held, didn’t I?

    Oh Edwina...that kind of comfort is so, so cold.
    I decided the problem was that none of the results mentioned meddling by spirits.

    Attagirl!
    But when I typed in "spirits told my spouse to leave me," there was a tidal wave of marriages ended by alcoholism.

    See? See what I mean, Edwina? Cold comfort...there're people out there a lot more fucked up than you and/or Marlin.
    What good is marriage if you can just cancel it like cable?

    Well. Now we're gettin' somewhere, Edwina. "Grieving in the form of research, because we believed in productivity above all else," might as well be tattooed on every modern workerbee, don't you think?

    Well...she wanted a way to manage her grief at Marlin's weird, sudden abandonment...what about being told you're so unvalued at work that your serious problems with the MVP beta are being ignored? Before one of the dudebros tries to kiss you at a company party? And yes, Edwina, in today's world that IS sexual assault. Her revenge? Condign. (If premature...?)

    It was no wonder to me that Edwina ended up doing what she did at the Korean deli. And it was actually a lovely surprise, a way of taking charge of her unhappiness. I can't help but wonder if this isn't, in fact, something that's in fact true and just not being discussed:
    I didn't buy that depression was caused by low serotonin levels. No, what I felt was way more aggressive than a simple deficiency of certain neurotransmitters. There had to be another neurotransmitter that carried sadness, that handed out hopelessness like drugged candy. After all, even matter had antimatter.

    But when matter and antimatter don't find a safe place to co-exist, what do they do then?
    I'd send nail clippers (he was fastidious that way, or at least he used to be when he lived with me), ramen noodles (the fancy, super spicy ones, not the kind that tasted like boiled water that someone had farted in), a throw, maybe even a handheld gaming console.

    No one who can write that sentence is done with being A Wife. Edwina, my dear lady, I've spent a grand total of five hours in your company, and they were grand hours! that ramen line!, but your modern-love-immigrant-style story isn't a huge revelation to me. Not once have you startled me, or surprised me, or done anything the least bit out of character.

    And do you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way.

    223karenmarie
    Ago 13, 8:30am

    Well, damn. Being very polite to train conductors and building security guards for the past decade has made my deferential way of speaking second nature. Though what an odd saying. What is my first nature? First time I've ever been given the opportunity to think about this.

    224richardderus
    Ago 13, 9:46am

    >223 karenmarie: It's that kind of a book, Horrible. Things seen from unintended perspectives. Relationships made with unexpected connections. I enjoyed that about it mightily.

    >221 karenmarie:, >220 FAMeulstee: Thank you, Horrible and Anita! My list of remaining Thingaversary books, courtesy of my YGC, is below.

    >219 quondame: It's such a fun read, Starless...it's deeper than it seems at first.

    225richardderus
    Editado: Ago 13, 10:12am

    MY FIFTEENTH THINGAVERSARY HAUL, COMPLETED

    Referring to >117 richardderus: and >166 richardderus: for the first six items, I now report the ten choices I made courtesy of my Young Gentleman Caller. He asked what a Thingaversary was...I explained...I got an email while we were still chatting with a gift card to Ammy!

    What a sweet lad. I am beyond lucky, ain't I?

    Why Read the Classics?--one of very few Calvinos I haven't read yet.
    Nightwork--an Irwin Shaw I remember enjoying mightily, but recall nothing whatsoever about reading; it was 99¢ so whatthehell.
    Authentic French Noir: Bird in a Cage, Crush, The Executioner Weeps, The Gravedigger's Bread--$3 for three Frédéric Dard novels? Yes please, and thank you Pushkin Press! (note: counts as one Thingaversary book)
    Forward Me Back to You--orphan boy meets troubled girl, romance blooms. We'll see, I've heard good things about Mitali Perkins
    Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto represents another swing at non-traditional noir. Sign me up!
    The Chocolate Works--fluffy gay romance.
    The Weight of a Thousand Oceans--post-apocalyptic tale set in New Zealand. Tell me how you could pass that up!
    Tienkuo: The Heavenly Kingdom--three friends discover China at the end of the 19th century. I think it sounds okay but the writing will be the determining factor...still, it was free. As in, zero dollars, so it doesn't count.
    The City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay--well, I couldn't NOT, now could I? A buck of someone else's money? PuhLEEZE.
    Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art--I'll just give you the first para of the synopsis: "Our perception of the Neanderthals has undergone a metamorphosis since their discovery 150 years ago, from the losers of the human family tree to A-list hominins. Spanning scientific curiosity and popular cultural fascination means that there is a wealth of coverage in the media and beyond – but do we get the whole story? The reality of 21st century Neanderthals is complex and fascinating, yet remains virtually unknown and inaccessible outside the scientific literature." So a popularization of the new science?! SIGN. ME. UP!
    and last, hopefully not least:
    How Chance and Stupidity Have Changed History: The Hinge Factor purports to trace the role of idiocy in History. Paging Jodi Taylor!
    ***
    Thank you, Rob. It was such a lovely gift to give me, and shows how well you understand me.

    226SomeGuyInVirginia
    Ago 13, 10:33am

    >209 richardderus: >225 richardderus: Snagged both Hench and Authentic French Noir at the sale price. Muchas gracias Ricardo!

    227richardderus
    Ago 13, 10:42am

    >226 SomeGuyInVirginia: I live to serve, m'lud.

    228thornton37814
    Ago 13, 11:13am

    >225 richardderus: Happy Thingaversary haul! Enjoy reading them.

    229Helenliz
    Ago 13, 1:02pm

    Nice thingaversary haul - hope you have as much enjoyment reading them as picking them. >:-)

    230richardderus
    Ago 13, 1:02pm

    >228 thornton37814: Thank you, Lori!

    And for all my librarian pals:

    BRB need to pack, moving to Waynesboro, VA


    Full story: https://uncommonwealth.virginiamemory.com/blog/2021/08/09/public-library-spotlig...

    231SomeGuyInVirginia
    Editado: Ago 13, 1:20pm

    Waynesboro is just about 30 miles north northwest of me, is all I'm saying... Ploos (French for plus) I have to pass that antique clearinghouse on my way to get there, so, really, it's on my way.

    When I first started looking for houses I almost bought a place in Waynesboro. It was a 1920s cottage that had been added on to through the 40s and 50s. It was absolutely charming, the most charming house I've looked at in my search and I've looked at probably almost a thousand houses by now, but it was surrounded by these meticulously tended flower gardens and I knew that I would never be able to keep them up. I kept on looking at pictures of it and all I could think of was Town & Country, Town & Country, Town & Country. If I buy that house I will become famous. Of course it sold within 48 hours and at the time I was relieved, but I often wonder what it would have been like to live in the house that Lucy and Ricky dreamed of moving into after they left Manhattan and settled on that Cape Cod thing? BTW, it was also in Waynesboro. Thiiiis close, I even arranged a tour and then backed out...

    I tell you what. I'll go there, ask for a library card, check out the dinosaur, and attempt to seduce the librarian. Something tells me that he is buttoned up tighter than a Victorian traveling bible or just not into guys. Even with the tie. Which, by the way, really is fabulous. If I'm successful I promise to rub it in in a really unseemly manner. No need to thank me, I'm a people person!

    232richardderus
    Ago 13, 1:47pm

    >231 SomeGuyInVirginia: The tie is, indeed, FULL of fabulous! As to the seducing-the-librarian thing...pictures or it didn't happen. *popcorn bowl* Go on, scoot! You've got a bone(r) to pick!

    >229 Helenliz: Thank you, Helen! Very little in life is as satisfying as choosing and getting...having and disfruiting are so fraught.

    233MickyFine
    Ago 13, 1:53pm

    >230 richardderus: Very cool, Richard. (See how I typed a message?)

    234richardderus
    Ago 13, 2:15pm

    >233 MickyFine: ...MICKY!!!...

    ...a Micky spotting!...



    ...I...I...must lie down...

    235humouress
    Editado: Ago 13, 2:41pm

    >190 richardderus: Wow.

    Happy Thingaversary RD!

    236richardderus
    Editado: Ago 13, 2:49pm

    >235 humouress: I agree, it certainly is a "wow" book.

    Thank you, Nina!

    237richardderus
    Editado: Ago 13, 2:51pm

    This TLS essay about the "out-of-character" novel in every prolific writer's career was fascinating. Highly recommended; but do make sure to choose "reject all" in the cookies section.

    238thornton37814
    Ago 13, 2:49pm

    >230 richardderus: I've been to Waynesboro many times. I stopped there briefly coming home from Richmond earlier this month. My brother's first wife (who died of cancer) was from there, and our family stayed in touch with her parents. They were wonderful people. Her mom is still alive although she has Alzheimer's. She no longer remembers any of us. I spent many happy moments in Waynesboro over the years. I love that area in the Shenandoah Valley. My sister-in-law's grandmother made a set of soft dolls for me. She asked me to name them Virgil and Nora for her husband and her. She was a remarkable woman too. They were originally from Page County--north of Waynesboro.

    239richardderus
    Editado: Ago 13, 2:54pm

    >238 thornton37814: Y'all make it sound like Mayberry-meets-Grover's-Corners! I would love to visit someday, but that will require a miracle cure for my condition so....

    240johnsimpson
    Ago 13, 4:12pm

    Hello Richard, my dear friend, wishing you a very happy 15th Thingaversary, i always find it amazing how quickly time passes, at the end of the year it will be my 9th Thingaversary and yet it seems just like yesterday that i signed up.

    241richardderus
    Ago 13, 4:17pm

    >240 johnsimpson: Hallo John! I'm amazed at the speed with which time's gone by, and the speeding whoosh it makes as I sit waiting to merge into oncoming traffic.

    Happy 9th a bit early!

    242johnsimpson
    Ago 13, 4:23pm

    >241 richardderus:, Thank you dear friend.

    243SandyAMcPherson
    Ago 13, 5:34pm

    Hiya. I PM'd you.
    Have a great day/evening of reading. I'm hiding out from the heat, reading and writing up reviews I've slacked off on.

    244msf59
    Ago 13, 5:35pm



    ^I was just going to come over and tell you about Afterparties, (after reading a Book Riot email) and I see you have all ready read it! You are an absolute animal, (of course, with lots of appendages). You gave it 5 stars, to boot? I got to read it! Wow!

    245richardderus
    Ago 13, 5:55pm

    >245 richardderus: Yeah, that's a major-push book right now, and I'm glad they got one to you! I'm always all about supportin' my QUILTBAG brethren and sistern. I expect you'll enjoy it.

    >244 msf59: I saw! Thanks! And thanks for the good wishes. It's shapin' up to be a pleasant weekend...NOT

    Over 39C temps!! YIKEZ

    246Berly
    Ago 13, 6:51pm

    >209 richardderus: After reading your post, on a hunch, I bought Hench! ; )

    >225 richardderus: Congrats on finding your 15!! And kudos to Rob. xoxo

    >245 richardderus: As you know, I have heat and smoke. Again. Blech.

    Happy reading!! With smooches.

    247richardderus
    Ago 13, 8:44pm

    >246 Berly: Oh goody good good! Enjoy Hench abundantly.

    I'm sorry about y'all's heat dome situation repeating itself. This is decidedly unfun. I'm repulsed to be living in Virginia's climate from 20 years ago without anyone consulting me or requesting my permission to screw up my planet. Tha noive.

    Rob's interest in maintaining my affectionate attention is a never-ending source of delight to me. He's a fine person whose friendship I treasure.

    248LizzieD
    Ago 14, 12:33am

    >225 richardderus: WOW! WOW! WOW! Congratulations and Hooray for your Rob! Well done and well deserved!

    I looked at Kindred the other day and decided against it, but now I'm thinking about it again. Also, a real killer of a BB with that Edge Case review. Thank you kindly!

    249quondame
    Ago 14, 12:46am

    >225 richardderus: How utterly perfect!

    250connie53
    Ago 14, 3:13am

    Hi Richard, happy Saturday!

    251richardderus
    Ago 14, 8:13am

    >250 connie53: Thank you, Connie, the same wishes heartily returned!

    >249 quondame: It really was, Susan, so very sweet. I really appreciated the thought.

    >248 LizzieD: Oh good, Peggy, I'm glad you saw it as a good choice. Rob's heart is really in the right place..."if I give him a book he'll think I'm wonderful" is a universally true statement.

    252karenmarie
    Ago 14, 9:10am

    ‘Morning, RDear. Happy Saturday.

    >225 richardderus: Sweet YGC, excellent and intriguing choices.

    253richardderus
    Ago 14, 10:12am

    >252 karenmarie: Thanks, Horrible, happy Saturday back. He's a prince among men, ain't he.

    I was pleased that the sale circulars gave me so many good choices at just the right moment.

    254richardderus
    Ago 14, 12:15pm

    133 The Changeling by Victor LaValle

    Rating: 5* of five

    The Publisher Says: One man’s thrilling journey through an enchanted world to find his wife, who has disappeared after seemingly committing an unforgiveable act of violence, from the award-winning author of the The Devil in Silver and Big Machine.

    Apollo Kagwa has had strange dreams that have haunted him since childhood. An antiquarian book dealer with a business called Improbabilia, he is just beginning to settle into his new life as a committed and involved father, unlike his own father who abandoned him, when his wife Emma begins acting strange. Disconnected and uninterested in their new baby boy, Emma at first seems to be exhibiting all the signs of post-partum depression, but it quickly becomes clear that her troubles go far beyond that. Before Apollo can do anything to help, Emma commits a horrific act—beyond any parent’s comprehension—and vanishes, seemingly into thin air.

    Thus begins Apollo’s odyssey through a world he only thought he understood to find a wife and child who are nothing like he’d imagined. His quest begins when he meets a mysterious stranger who claims to have information about Emma’s whereabouts. Apollo then begins a journey that takes him to a forgotten island in the East River of New York City, a graveyard full of secrets, a forest in Queens where immigrant legends still live, and finally back to a place he thought he had lost forever. This dizzying tale is ultimately a story about family and the unfathomable secrets of the people we love.

    My Burgoine Review: I think this is a book you'll either love or hate within seconds. I loved it. If you're an urban-fantasy fancier, and are an admirer of Lovecraft Country or Ring Shout, this novel will give you another excellent experience. Much as I'd like to tell you a lot more, it's best experienced without prior knowledge.

    Look at these quote pulled from the book. I think they're going to give you a great idea of what it's about and why I loved it without spoilering anything.

    255PaulCranswick
    Ago 14, 1:51pm

    Happy thingamy, RD.

    >225 richardderus: And a nice haul, too, dear fellow.

    256richardderus
    Ago 14, 1:56pm

    134 Liesmith by Alis Franklin

    Rating: 3* of five

    The Publisher Says: At the intersection of the magical and the mundane, Alis Franklin’s thrilling debut novel reimagines mythology for a modern world—where gods and mortals walk side by side.

    Working in low-level IT support for a company that’s the toast of the tech world, Sigmund Sussman finds himself content, if not particularly inspired. As compensation for telling people to restart their computer a few times a day, Sigmund earns enough disposable income to gorge on comics and has plenty of free time to devote to his gaming group.

    Then in walks the new guy with the unpronounceable last name who immediately becomes IT’s most popular team member. Lain Laufeyjarson is charming and good-looking, with a story for any occasion; shy, awkward Sigmund is none of those things, which is why he finds it odd when Lain flirts with him. But Lain seems cool, even if he’s a little different—though Sigmund never suspects just how different he could be. After all, who would expect a Norse god to be doing server reboots?

    As Sigmund gets to know his mysterious new boyfriend, fate—in the form of an ancient force known as the Wyrd—begins to reveal the threads that weave their lives together. Sigmund doesn’t have the first clue where this adventure will take him, but as Lain says, only fools mess with the Wyrd. Why? Because the Wyrd messes back.

    My Burgoine Review: I'm on record as a fan of the Kiwi fantasy/sitcom hybrid The Almighty Johnsons, a treat when I discovered it and a loss when the Netflix folk gave up the rights...it's back now on IMDb TV, follow the link. I've also warbled in the past about the delights of Thorne Smith's absurd gods-walk-among-us books (eg, Nightlife of the Gods), written in the waning days of Prohibition and suited to that time's slightly hallucinatory entertainments. (Watch any of the Broadway Melody flicks...no one can tell me peyote was unknown to these men!)

    I was hoping that, given those tastes and the specific aiming of Cupid's Dart at a mortal man's heart for a specific Asgardian, I'd be over the moon about this read. I was quite pleased instead. As a purchase will set one back 99¢, I think you're good to go if you want a pleasant diversion that doesn't quite know if it wants to be doom-y or dream-y. I chuckled, but I doubt I'll seek the next one out.

    257quondame
    Ago 14, 3:04pm

    >254 richardderus: I loved it. It was one of those that nestled into my hind brain and bubbled for a while.

    258Crazymamie
    Ago 14, 3:46pm

    >225 richardderus: WahHoo!! Well done! And what a lovely surprise from the YGC - I love those kind of surprises. Happy 15 LT years - I will be ten in September which doesn't seem possible.

    >254 richardderus: Excellent review - I'll add my thumb if you posted that. And onto The List it goes. I read one by him earlier this year in GN format, and I loved it - Destroyer, which is a futuristic take on Frankenstein.

    Hoping Saturday has been kind to you. *smooch*

    259richardderus
    Ago 14, 3:48pm

    135 Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

    Rating: 4* of five

    The Publisher Says: A realistic and chilling vision of life on the Moon, where dust kills as easily as the vacuum of space…but murder is even quicker—a fast-paced, cinematic science fiction thriller, this debut novel combines the inventiveness of The Martian, the intrigue of The Expanse, and the thrills of Red Rising.

    The Moon smells like gunpowder. Every lunar walker since Apollo 11 has noticed it: a burnt-metal scent that reminds them of war. Caden Dechert, the chief of the U.S. mining operation on the edge of the Sea of Serenity, thinks the smell is just a trick of the mind—a reminder of his harrowing days as a Marine in the war-torn Middle East back on Earth.

    It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled.

    But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting.

    In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.

    I RECEIVED AN ARC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA GOODREADS GIVEAWAY. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : First, read this:
    “I didn't realize our government considered altruism one of its core competencies," Dechert finally replied. "Is that why we're dropping a treaty that provides free helium-3 for the New Third World?" He started to unstrap his restraints. "I thought it was so we could prove to the orbital executives that we can keep up with their production demands.”
    –and–
    “Isn't that how most conflicts start? With a gross miscalculation of the possibilities of escalation? A village first, then a peninsula, and then a continent? It is cold up here, commander. Cold and distant. Just a point in space from their viewpoint - valuable but aesthetically detached.”

    If we're not just meeting each other, you'll recall my oft-expressed fondness for a pacey, pleasingly noir thriller. That is indeed what we have here. It's 2072; the Moon is split between US and Chinese control; the energy extraction of Humanity's dreams has begun. Caden Dechert is a combat veteran, a polymath and a politically astute loner in charge of the mining operations on US sector of the Moon. After a gigantic disaster more than thirty years ago (Asteroid collisions you can prepare for, carbon emissions you can legislate against, but who expected a subsea methane eruption would plunge us back into the Dark Ages for more than a decade?, asks Caden rhetorically), lunar helium-3 is now the (limited; do we never learn?) resource we need to power the planet.

    The thing about using the resources of another world is that it's complicated, requires humans to do complex and still-risky tasks, and exist in an environment that hates you and will kill you in a flash. Caden's job is, in part, to make sure that doesn't happen absent cataclysm...and to head off cataclysm whenever possible. To date he's been a success. Only now the Moon's a crime scene because person(s) unknown have decided to rid Humanity of an innocent waif called Specialist Cole Benson. (Unimportant detail, honestly; how often, in a thriller, does the deady really matter? That's how one knows it's not a mystery, where it matters a lot.)

    What happens from there is an astonishingly fast-paced series of ripples, enacted in meeting rooms and over long, long-distance conference calls. The bureaucracy, the meetings in the face of death, all that's so completely real, so calculatedly cool. No better way to bleed off righteous anger than to have a meeting with the brass. And Dechert, despite his rage and outrage, has caught a scent he really, really doesn't like, a corruption that not even the gunpowder smell of the Moon will hide.

    What a truly well-made thriller does best is direct you through misdirection. Keep that in mind, readers. Very firmly in mind.
    The dead settle in our mind like cooling embers. After a time they diminish, snuffed out by the immediate, and then a puff of memory rekindles them and for a moment they are hot and near once again.

    In discovering the actual intent of the event that killed poor young Specialist Benson, Dechert grows extremely determined to bring true Justice, wearing her Nemesis hat, to the perpetrators of what he regards as appalling immoral acts in service of an unconscionable aim. You've read noir thrillers before. You know this means "badness up the food chain." And that's a discovery Dechert isn't going to let lie, quietly festering. He is, thankfully for his health, talked down off the ledge of taking immediate action. There's a new post awaiting him, one that makes the Moon look like West Virginia: He's shipped out to Europa!

    The whys and the wherefores aren't utterly convincing, but I don't care, he's going to EUROPA!! A moon of Jupiter with a huge, huge ocean of liquid brine! Talk about coolness...and talk about remoteness, too, the speed of light takes just over forty minutes to get to Earth from there. That is one hell of a push-off assignment. (I'd take it in a heartbeat.)

    So why am I not awarding it all five stars? Because, as much as it pains me to say it, while the tone of the book is right in that indefinable way you feel in your sinews, it's also a message that really, really concerns me at this juncture: Don't trust The Man is an evergreen trope for a reason...The Man's done a lot to earn mistrust over the millennia...but we're facing two severe crises that only The Man can fight effectively, climate change's acceleration and COVID's move from pandemic to endemic and the behavioral changes that NEED to follow on both those things. The noir-lone-wolf-iness of this tale, the one extraordinary man who can put it to rights, is not believable and not timely. That's why the other star fell off my review.

    260msf59
    Ago 14, 4:11pm



    "Octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish are true aliens with respect to us. No other intelligent animal is as far from us on the tree of life."

    Cool article on these mysterious creatures:

    https://lithub.com/the-octopus-an-alien-among-us/?fbclid=IwAR0_CwlOU2hQfqhDk0l1p...

    261richardderus
    Ago 14, 4:34pm

    >260 msf59: Ooohhh, cool! Thank you for sharing that, Mark. I'll check it out soonest.

    >258 Crazymamie: Heya, Mamie, the review's all posted on the book page...I had to polish Gunpowder Moon up for mass consumption first. It's a whopping $1.99! Time to push it. You don't find a lot of noir thrillers set on the Moon, and let's just not about Artemis. Such a disappointment.

    Rob, well, what can I say...another piece of utterly stunning good luck on my part. Really great guy.

    >257 quondame: It's a bubbler, all righty alright! I think it's got some of the best takes on the stock characters I've found.

    >255 PaulCranswick: Thank you, PC! I'm deeply pleased with it all.

    262karenmarie
    Ago 15, 8:46am

    'Morning, RDear, and happy Sunday to you.

    You're really getting the reviews out there. I managed to dodge both this time, which should come as no surprise to you. Not a bad thing, considering that I've acquired 195 books so far this year, only offset by 64 culls.

    *smooch*

    263richardderus
    Ago 15, 9:50am

    >262 karenmarie: Hey Horrible, happy Sunday wishes heartily returned.

    I can't imagine that you'd like any of these reads, or Monday's either. Just really not in your area of interest...it's summer, so the new releases are pretty thick-and-fast, which isn't normally the moment for the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus readers such as yourself to acquire new tomes.

    *smooch*

    264bell7
    Ago 15, 3:20pm

    Happy Sunday *smooches*. Nice couple of reviews, though no book bullets for me (maybe The Changeling but I can be squeamish and won't watch Lovecraft Country...) this time around. Lovely that Rob facilitated your Thingaversary haul.

    265swynn
    Ago 15, 5:02pm

    >222 richardderus: Got me.
    >254 richardderus: Already in the Swamp. Well, it's Victor LaValle, innit? Must catch up ...

    266richardderus
    Ago 15, 5:31pm

    >265 swynn: Wheee! I got him, I got him!

    Yes indeed, the LaValle was your sweet spot anyway, so nevermind.

    >264 bell7: Hi Mary, happy to see you here...yeah, I don't really see you enjoying any of these reads. I don't think even your inmate population would like the LaValle, TBH.

    He's a gift, indeed. *smooch* for a good week-ahead's reads!

    267karenmarie
    Ago 16, 8:55am

    ‘Morning, RDear. Happy Monday to you.

    >263 richardderus: Hmmm. I’d never heard of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus before. A quick bit of online research makes me want to run screaming into the night because I do think I’m more than logic, but in fact, two thirds of my reads this year are mystery or thriller.

    I must ponder this.

    *smooch*

    268jnwelch
    Ago 16, 10:17am

    Hey, maestro. Whoa, I've gotten behind. Good reviews. You make Library of the Unwritten sound like a tasty creation not to be missed. Added to the WL.

    269richardderus
    Ago 16, 10:46am

    136 Gordo by Jaime Cortez

    Rating: 4.75* of five

    The Publisher Says: The first ever collection of short stories by Jaime Cortez, Gordo is set in a migrant workers camp near Watsonville, California in the 1970s. A young, probably gay, boy named Gordo puts on a wrestler's mask and throws fists with a boy in the neighborhood, fighting his own tears as he tries to grow into the idea of manhood so imposed on him by his father. As he comes of age, Gordo learns about sex, watches his father's drunken fights, and discovers even his own documented Mexican-American parents are wary of illegal migrants. Fat Cookie, high schooler and resident artist, uses tiny library pencils to draw huge murals of graffiti flowers along the camp's blank walls, the words "CHICANO POWER" boldly lettered across, until she runs away from home one day with her mother's boyfriend, Manny, and steals her mother's Panasonic radio for a final dance competition among the camp kids before she disappears. And then there are Los Tigres, the perfect pair of twins so dark they look like indios, Pepito and Manuel, who show up at Gyrich Farms every season without fail. Los Tigres, champion drinkers, end up assaulting each other in a drunken brawl, until one of them is rushed to the emergency room still slumped in an upholstered chair tied to the back of a pick-up truck.

    These scenes from Steinbeck Country seen so intimately from within are full of humor, family drama, and a sweet frankness about serious matters—who belongs to America and how are they treated? How does one learn decency, when laborers, grown adults, must fear for their lives and livelihoods as they try to do everything to bring home a paycheck? Written with balance and poise, Cortez braids together elegant and inviting stories about life on a California camp, in essence redefining what all-American means.

    I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA EDELWEISS+. THANK YOU.

    My Review
    : I'm always down for a story collection! This one is set in a world I liked the minute I landed in it, the Mexican American vibrant loud exuberant over-the-top everybody knows where you are, where you came from, and what to expect from you so watch it, FIESTA. Living in Mercedes, Texas, in the Sixties, I was The White Kid in my elementary school, and the Mexican American family who lived and worked on my great-aunt's place in Progreso were, well, welcoming. A little redheaded boy at the table? Okay, here's a tortilla, eat hearty. This was very much NOT to my mother's taste and she snatched me outta there to Austin by decade's end. I missed it. And when I got this collection of stories, I thought, yeah this works, I'm ready for a trip that far past the white-water rapids of Memory!

    I've used the time-honored (eight years and counting!) Bryce Method over at my blog: short impressions with individual ratings for the stories so as to organize my thoughts and feelings, while hopefully allowing you to reach your own conclusions. These are excellent stories, about people the Haves aren't acquainted with, in all their flawed reality and aspiring joy.

    270richardderus
    Ago 16, 10:58am

    >268 jnwelch: Hi Joe! It's always a shock how fast the threads can get all the way away from one without assiduous tending. I make it easy: Post #2 on every thread has the list of that thread's reviews, and links. Also links to post #2 on past threads. Easy-peasy!

    Enjoy Library of the Unwritten...it's a lot deeper than many I've seen give it credit for.

    >267 karenmarie: Hiya Horrible...what?! YOU haven't spent your whole life poring over Wittegenstein?! I am stunned at this. And more than a little disbelieving....

    At all events, sending hugs and smooches southward.

    271MickyFine
    Ago 16, 1:33pm

    Drive-by smoochings. Looks like you did all the reading this weekend.

    272richardderus
    Ago 16, 2:22pm

    >271 MickyFine: Hiya Micky...it was a writing frenzy of a weekend, all because Frédérique Molay's books are resisting my efforts to review, not retell, them.

    Help!

    273figsfromthistle
    Ago 16, 3:10pm

    Happy Monday, Richard!

    >225 richardderus: Great haul! What a nice gift from Rob :)

    Hmmm. I will have to look up when my Thingaversary is.

    274richardderus
    Ago 16, 3:14pm

    >273 figsfromthistle: Thank you! It was a lovely thing for him to do.

    Your seventh Thingaversary is this coming 25th. I checked your profile page. So you have eight-and-a-bit days to acquire the statutory eight books!

    275figsfromthistle
    Ago 16, 3:20pm

    >274 richardderus: Thanks! Now I have an excuse to go book shopping ;)

    276SandyAMcPherson
    Ago 16, 3:27pm

    Leaving my footprint here before I fly off to the land of fire, smoke and drought. Oh wait! I'm also leaving the land of smoke and drought. Just for a week though.

    Looks like you had, and are having, great fun on your Thingaversary. What a thoughtful gesture on Rob's part to assist with this joy.

    277richardderus
    Ago 16, 3:45pm

    >276 SandyAMcPherson: Hi Sandy! I'm glad you're changing drought-ravaged plains for drought-ravaged forests for a week...it's never a terrible idea to get some perspective on Home.

    I know, he's a treasure. Luckily I'm old enough now to know that.

    >275 figsfromthistle: Never let it be said that I failed to enable a book-buying binge.

    278karenmarie
    Ago 17, 8:06am

    'Morning, RDear.

    Yawn. Trying to wake up. Not yet successful.

    *smooch*

    279Crazymamie
    Ago 17, 8:29am

    Morning, BigDaddy! I got nothing, but I wanted to share it with you. *smooch*

    280richardderus
    Ago 17, 9:24am

    >279 Crazymamie: Hey there, Mamie, and thanks for the nothing...I was running out. Well timed! *smooch*

    >278 karenmarie: That whole "waking up" thing is a little overrated...don't go nuts trying for it.

    *smooch*
    ***
    I'm planning a day of napping and reading. That, my olds, is ALL that I plan to do. Permaybehaps a snack to liven things up, but no guarantees.

    281katiekrug
    Ago 17, 10:24am

    I missed your Thingaversary! Dang it. You'll have one more book to add to your haul if I ever make it to the post office... *hangs head in shame*

    Lovely to see your run of good books and excellent reviews!

    282richardderus
    Ago 17, 11:10am

    >281 katiekrug: Hiya Katie! No worries, the PO run can happen as and when. I got a surprise giftie from SOMEone who reads my words: Chester Himes: A Life by James Sallis has arrived, whoever you are, and thank you!

    I've been delighted with the run of good reading. Streaks are fun when they're good, but they all come to an end. Hoping that this one won't for at least a while longer.

    283magicians_nephew
    Ago 17, 1:02pm

    adding my belated good wishes on your Thingaversary. You were one of the first people from LT I met and there are a ton of good memories.

    >209 richardderus: Thanks for reminding me I meant to poke a nose into Hench Marvel and now even DC have beaten the "superheroes ain't so super really, ya know" meme to a deep and malodorous putty - but there's still room to say more if the say-er is a talented one.

    >211 richardderus: and A Master of Djinn too.

    >222 richardderus: AND Edge Case too

    >254 richardderus: AND AND AND The Changling (Remember loving The Devil in Silver

    >256 richardderus: if you mention Thorne Smith you have to tip your hat to Topper which i remember as a delightful little black and white TV sitcom with Leo G. Carroll and also is a REALLY delightful little book of the same name from back in the days where women's nether garments were called "Step-ins". Period comedy of manners at a VERY high, laugh out loud level.

    284richardderus
    Ago 17, 1:35pm

    >283 magicians_nephew: I appear to have machine-gunned you with book-bullets, Jim! But they're all worthy of your attention.

    Oh yes, TV-Topper! That was a silly bagatelle wasn't it. The novels were surprisingly deep. The 1930s films with Billie Burke as Mrs. Topper were cute, too.

    We have had fun, haven't we, all of us in this odd little readerly corner of the internet. Many,many good memories indeed!

    285msf59
    Ago 17, 1:45pm

    Happy Tuesday, RD! Excellent review of Gordo. I sure hope that inspires more than a few people to pick that one up. It deserves a lot more attention.

    286MickyFine
    Ago 17, 2:05pm

    Highly envious of your plans for the day, RDear. Hope both the reads and the naps are of excellent quality.

    287richardderus
    Ago 17, 3:01pm

    >286 MickyFine: Thanks for the ego-boost, Micky...I think the only thing better than wallowing in bed munching blueberries and reading books is the knowledge that others would love to be doing the same thing but can't.

    >285 msf59: Thank you, Mark, I sure hope lots and lots of people are hustling their bustles over to wherever they procure their tomes to get one.

    HINT. HINT. HINT.

    288quondame
    Ago 17, 4:52pm

    >283 magicians_nephew: I did love that show. The TV days of my childhood were few and truncated (the grandparents gave us a spare TV which died in 1959) but there are some fond memories. And everyone else's memories of Hiram Holiday and Crusader Rabbit have been overwritten by other shows.

    289richardderus
    Ago 17, 5:45pm

    >288 quondame: Hi Susan! My own TV days started in 1962 and ended in 1974. Eighteen years later, I got a TV of my own for the first time to watch the Barcelona Olympics. I *still* won't get cable. Pay for someone to bug me with advertising?! Nay nay nay.

    290quondame
    Ago 17, 8:44pm

    >289 richardderus: Well, originally you paid so people wouldn't bug you with advertising - or to get any signal at all. Of course the programming was one long advert for our way of lifelessness.

    291karenmarie
    Ago 18, 9:35am

    'Morning, Rdear, and happy Wednesday to you.

    Ah, Topper. I love the movie, just downloaded the book for 99¢.

    *smooch*

    292richardderus
    Ago 18, 10:04am

    >291 karenmarie: Happy Wednesday, Horrible, and congratulations on the Topper addition! 99¢ does make it irresistible. Poor Cosmo...poor Marion....

    >290 quondame: And then advertisers realized we'd pay to get away from them, so they demanded a presence on the platforms we'd already paid for.

    The whole shitshow makes me queasy.

    293jnwelch
    Ago 18, 10:09am

    Loved the Topper show with Leo g. Caroll, the movie with Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, and the books were fun, too. This is one where I thought the adaptations outshined the books.

    I'm underway with Hench, and she's on-site with E.

    294richardderus
    Ago 18, 10:41am

    >293 jnwelch: That's great, Joe, you're starting the fastest part of the ride...I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!

    Agreed re: Topper...the way the actors made the silliness real was very alluring. There was another Topper TV show with Roddy McDowell for a minute in the 1970s that, regrettably, lacked all the finesse of the originals. I happened onto it because the joke was that McDowell inherited his uncle's haunted car, and I was hoping it was the 1937 one:

    It wasn't, instead being something prosaic that I don't remember.

    295magicians_nephew
    Ago 18, 1:03pm

    >291 karenmarie: as Richard said, the book is both funnier and somehow deeper than either the movies or the TV show. I found it in an early edition in a thrift store bin, and would never part with it

    (Pondering a re read)

    296richardderus
    Ago 18, 1:09pm

    >295 magicians_nephew: Oh my goodness, Jim, that's a helluva commitment in a literary landscape as full as this one!

    ...but it *is* tempting...

    297quondame
    Ago 23, 5:47pm

    >89 richardderus: Well, you called that one. All the meaning you felt in it was lost to my overwhelming sense of privilege and seemed a rehash of a rehash ... to me.

    298richardderus
    Ago 23, 6:20pm

    >297 quondame: I got a pretty good bead on your taste by now. That Amatka was so inexactly spelled out doomed it before you opened the cover.

    299quondame
    Ago 23, 6:58pm

    >298 richardderus: Inexact? Hmm. I'd put it down more to the palate than the resolution.
    Este tópico foi continuado por richardderus's twelfth 2021 thread.