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Old 08-01-2019, 06:59 PM
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Khadaji's Whatcha Reading Thread--August 2019 edition


How can it be August already?! April was just last week!

So here we are, in the North American west, sliding slowly into autumn... or maybe not since it's supposed to hit nearly 100 this weekend.

So Whatcha all reading? I am currently:

3/4 of the way through Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie and loving it a lot. It's interesting to see the mess that is the US race relations through the eyes of an outsider.

The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch, Tobias Winter isn't nearly as interesting or as good of a narrator as Peter Grant.

Demon Spiral # 3 of fellow Utahn, Cheree Alsop's Dr Wolf- The Fae Rift series, it's more YA urban fantasy than I expected, but it's a fun series.

Limelight by Emily Organ, it's the first Penny Green book: set in Victorian England, Penny is a newspaper reporter and amateur sleuth. Again more YA, but the writing is good.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Khadaji was one of the earlier members of SDMB, and he was well-known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader, who started these threads way back in the Stone Age of 2013. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectantly passed away, we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.
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Old 08-01-2019, 07:03 PM
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Last month's thread: Was that July just running past?
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Old 08-01-2019, 10:51 PM
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I'm a little over halfway through American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley. It's almost a joint bio of JFK and Wernher von Braun. It's a little overwrought and sometimes repetitive, and I've caught Brinkley in a few minor errors, but overall it's an interesting look at the leadup to that famous "one small step for a man."
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Old 08-02-2019, 07:52 AM
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Finished Stephen Silverman's The Amusement Park: 900 years of Thrills and Spills. Despite its length, it's often oddly brief in the coverage and biographies it gives, although it dwells at great length on others. Given the length of time covered -- and he DOES do credit to the entire period -- and the geographical area, he does do a pretty good job of hitting it all, at least briefly. I'm jealous that he was able to get the book printed on heavy slick stock, which lets him put detailed colored photos on any page he wants. Overall, a good book.*


Now I'm starting the "new" Penguin translation of Gilgamesh.

I'll be on vacation next week, so I intend to do a lot of reading, much of it light. I've picked up Jules Verne's The Will of the Eccentric, because I like reading Verne in the summer, and this is one of the dwindling collection of those I haven't read. I've also ordered Horowitz' new James Bond novel Forever and a Day. Like his previous effort (which I liked) it's done as a 1960s period piece and incorporates material Fleming wrote but never incorporated into a Bond novel. I also have Andrew Shaffer's Obama-and-Biden-as-detectives fantasy Hope Never Dies and Toni L.P. Kelner/Leigh Perry's The Skeleton Makes a Friend, the most recent of her "family skeleton" mysteries.



* I also read it to find out who his publisher and agent were, and how he handled the topic. It looks as if I might have a publisher for my book on the 1906-1910 Revere Beach amusement park Wonderland, but they don't want to put a lot of pictures in it. That's a bummer, because I found a lot of them, many of which have never been published.
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Old 08-02-2019, 08:09 AM
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Still plowing my way thru The Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens - about two thirds of the way thru. And enjoying the wallow in mawkish Victorian sentimentality about how noble children are, especially if they are dying. Little Nell is far from the most interesting character - she is mostly a projection of Dickens' resentment of his own childhood. Other parts of the novel are more interesting - the lovable rogue Dick Swiveller, the evil dwarf Quilp, the potboiling plot 'will they find little Nell in time? What improbable encounter will save her bacon next? Stay tuned for the next episode!'

I gotta get to the library.

Regards,
Shodan
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Old 08-02-2019, 10:20 AM
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...Now I'm starting the "new" Penguin translation of Gilgamesh....
You probably knew the story is prominently mentioned in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "Darmok."
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Old 08-03-2019, 05:58 PM
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Finished None of My Business:PJ Explains Money, Banking, Debt, Equity, Assets, Liabilities, and Why He's Not Rich and Neither Are You, by P.J. O'Rourke. It was fun, and I enjoyed it, but anyone who wants to read it should know it reprints some things he's had in earlier books. Some of his earlier books, such as Parliament of Whores (about government) and All the Trouble in the World (about war, among other things), are better written, I think. (However, they're outdated now.)

Now I'm reading a historical novel, Tree Wagon, by Evelyn Sibley Lampman.
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Old 08-03-2019, 09:17 PM
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Four fifths of the way through The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy, the second novel in his LA Quartet. Gay murders and the Red Scare in 1950 Los Angeles. Very good so far. Also interesting to see the city that my then 20-year-old father would have been running around in. Born and raised in Hollywood.
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Old 08-06-2019, 07:25 AM
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I finished Whiskey When We’re Dry. It was a pleasant journey for the most part, but didn’t amount to anything in the end. A flavored rice cake of a book.

This morning I started on Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. It's about a woman who doesn't quite fit in (Asperger's Syndrome maybe?) until she takes a job at a retail store where behavior is very regimented. Apparently a convenience store in Japan is quite different from what we would call a convenience store here! Anyway, pretty entertaining so far.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:18 PM
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I just finished Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson.

As usual with Atkinson's novels, I felt very satisfied when I completed the book, but a little while later I started wondering "wait, what about...?" until I had run up quite a list of unanswered questions and unexplained plot points.

I think maybe she does this on purpose*; she's admitted in interviews that sometimes she "lies" in her books, and it's obvious that she likes to confuse her readers. But she's such a terrific writer that I accept all this and eagerly await the next one.


*It's also possible that I'm just dimwitted.
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Old 08-06-2019, 01:44 PM
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This morning I started on Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. It's about a woman who doesn't quite fit in (Asperger's Syndrome maybe?) until she takes a job at a retail store where behavior is very regimented. Apparently a convenience store in Japan is quite different from what we would call a convenience store here! Anyway, pretty entertaining so far.
I read this book last year and liked it quite a lot.
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Old 08-06-2019, 02:08 PM
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Finished Tree Wagon, by Evelyn Sibley Lampman. Would've said "Meh," but the author's notes indicate that many of the rather unbelievable incidents in the book were taken directly from the diary of a woman who traveled the Oregan Trail. Assuming that's true, and that the diary was accurate, I found it much more interesting.

Now I'm reading Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach.
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Old 08-06-2019, 11:02 PM
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Taking a break from Brinkley's American Moonshot to listen to NPR's Serial podcast, Season 1 (about a 1999 Baltimore homicide and subsequent likely miscarriage of justice).
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Old 08-07-2019, 07:56 AM
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I read this book last year and liked it quite a lot.
I finished Convenience Store Woman; I enjoyed it too. I'm glad it had a happy ending.

Starting today on Mira Grant's In the Shadow of Spindrift House. The writing feels amateurish and I'm annoyed by the similarities of the first chapter to Shirley Jackson's Haunting of Hill House intro. On the other hand, I'm getting a good Scooby Doo vibe and I'm just loving the premise so much that I'm still really into this book.

Last edited by Dung Beetle; 08-07-2019 at 07:57 AM. Reason: My spacing is just weird all the time now.
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Old 08-07-2019, 04:44 PM
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I've almost finished Evangeline Walton's Mabinogion Tetrology, based on the same Welsh myths Lloyd Alexander used as inspiration for The Chronicles of Prydain.

It's absolutely spectacular, beautifully written, with a great narrative and some really surprising twists and turns. It honestly could have been released this year, it's incredibly dark and gruesome at times, but the first book was published before The Hobbit! I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy.
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Old 08-09-2019, 12:22 AM
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Finished The Big Nowhere, by James Ellroy, the second novel in his LA Quartet. Gay murders and the Red Scare in 1950 Los Angeles. Very good. The next in the series is LA Confidential. I saw the movie when it came out long ago.

But that will have to wait until I pick up a copy. For now, next up is Here Be Dragons, by Sharon Kay Penman. Intrigue in 13th-century Wales and the first of a trilogy.
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Old 08-09-2019, 07:14 AM
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Starting today on Mira Grant's In the Shadow of Spindrift House. The writing feels amateurish and I'm annoyed by the similarities of the first chapter to Shirley Jackson's Haunting of Hill House intro. On the other hand, I'm getting a good Scooby Doo vibe and I'm just loving the premise so much that I'm still really into this book.
Finished. Well, that was ...nice? I can't come up with much more to say about this book, except that it obviously should have been marketed as YA. Apparently, this Mira Grant also writes as Seanan McGuire, who is a well-thought of author that I've never been sufficiently moved to try. Maybe she'll hook me with some other book, but this one was "meh".
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Old 08-09-2019, 09:58 PM
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A friend of mine absolutely adores Seanan McGuire

Finished The October Man by Ben Aaronovitch, The plot progression is smooth, even if the timeline is a little jumbled and the issue of the defaced statue was never truly resolved. The characters were interesting and likeable, though Aaronovitch's attempts at dry humor were a little hit and miss. Tobias & Vanessa were enjoyable main characters ( though I still adore Peter the most).
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Old 08-10-2019, 10:34 AM
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Finished Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach. Excellent--one of the best books I've read this year.

Now I'm reading Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.
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Old 08-10-2019, 04:05 PM
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I was given a book called The Empress of Forever, a space opera novel by Max Gladstone. It was amazingly poorly written, shallow, and pointless.
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Old 08-10-2019, 04:29 PM
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Just finished Camelot's Court by historian Robert Dallek, a pretty interesting look at JFK and his relationships with (and frequent letdowns by) his advisors. The Vietnam War and the Cold War generally get the most attention; the Civil Rights Movement and domestic policy relatively little.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:14 AM
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Yesterday I read Conversion by Katherine Howe. It's about a mystery illness that strikes a group of girls at a school, interspersed with the confession of a girl who helped start the Salem witch panic. This book sucked me right in and I couldn't put it down! However, in the aftermath, I'm disappointed in how it finished up.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:15 AM
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Book 2 of Game of Thrones. Martin sure spends a lot of time describing what people are wearing.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:14 AM
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Yesterday I read Conversion by Katherine Howe. It's about a mystery illness that strikes a group of girls at a school, interspersed with the confession of a girl who helped start the Salem witch panic. This book sucked me right in and I couldn't put it down! However, in the aftermath, I'm disappointed in how it finished up.
Have you read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane? If so, how did you like it? I've had that book on my to read list for a long time, but I'm hesitant to pick it up because it has some bad reviews on Goodreads.

I finished two books over the weekend. The first was Anybody Out There by Marian Keyes. I enjoyed the book, which was no surprise since I like everything I've read by the author. She has this wonderful gift about creating a story out of a very distressing situation, and making that story hilarious, marvelously entertaining, and compulsively readable while still being true to the human condition -- showing the full range of difficult emotions that characters are going through and handling tough subjects with sensitivity.

Also read Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential -- and Endangered by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. I have mixed feelings about this one. It had some intriguing insights into how the human brain works, particularly in reference to the concept of mirror neurons and the idea that empathy is actually (in part) instinctual and part of human biology. But I think I went into the book with my expectations set too high. I had recently read Perry's first book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, and was impressed at how elegantly the author struck a balance between engaging stories and informative research. Born for Love, in contrast, did not feel as cohesive. There were less stories to show how the research findings presented played out in real life. And you'd think if there were less stories, there would be more solid research in their place, but nope. There was just more repetition. The book felt longer than it needed to be in places, and the concluding chapter was riddled with editorial mistakes. I'm still glad I read the book, just saying it absolutely was not up to par with the quality of his first book.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:20 AM
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Book 2 of Game of Thrones. Martin sure spends a lot of time describing what people are wearing.
And eating. The man loves his food.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:31 PM
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Have you read The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane? If so, how did you like it? I've had that book on my to read list for a long time, but I'm hesitant to pick it up because it has some bad reviews on Goodreads.
I haven't decided if I'm going to get that one yet.

I was pretty surprised at all the bad reviews Goodreads gave Conversion...sometimes it seems like those guys love everything!
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:23 PM
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Just began another of Patrick O'Brian's novels of Napoleonic sea adventure, HMS Surprise. I'd read it before, more than a decade ago, out of order from the rest of the Aubrey-Maturin series, but am now enjoying it anew.
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Old 08-14-2019, 08:38 AM
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I took a mental health day off work yesterday and spent part of it re-reading John Bellair & Brad Strickland's The Ghost in the Mirror. [John Astin]I'm feeling much better now.[/JA]


I'm also partway through Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain. Mr. Bryson loves England, as do I. This is making me desperately want to go again. I had forgotten how funny he was, as well. I'll wait until I'm finished to give this five stars over at Goodreads, but it's just a formality.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:19 AM
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I took a mental health day off work yesterday and spent part of it re-reading John Bellair & Brad Strickland's The Ghost in the Mirror. [John Astin]I'm feeling much better now.[/JA]
I really need to get caught up with the Strickland books.
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Old 08-14-2019, 02:49 PM
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Finished Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I thought it was excellent.

Now I'm reading You're Not Lost if You Can Still See the Truck: The Further Adventures of America's Everyman Outdoorsman, by Bill Heavey.
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Old 08-14-2019, 02:54 PM
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I'm in the middle of book 8 of The Expanse series.
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Old 08-14-2019, 05:27 PM
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Re-reading Laura Resnick's Esther Diamond series, currently on Unsympathetic Magic

A fun urban fantasy about a minor actress in New York who keeps running into magical problems.
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