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Old 06-02-2019, 07:07 PM
Siam Sam is offline
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Khadaji's Whatcha Reading Thread--June 2019 edition


Here is the June thread. I'm a little hesitant to start it myself since I don't want to make it a habit, as I am rather busy here, am off the Board for days at a time and cannot guarantee I'll be available when a new month starts. But what the heck, here it is for this month.

I hope everyone is having a good late spring / early summer. I guess it's that time of year. Hard to keep it straight since it's always late spring / early summer here.

I'm almost halfway through Freewheel: #HonoluluLaw, #FamousTriathlete, & a #Charity, by local attorney and writer Katharine M. Nohr, the second of her Tri Angles mystery trilogy and sequel to the first one, Land Sharks. Reading the author's own copy that she's loaned me.


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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 2005. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectantly passed away, January of 2013 we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.
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Old 06-02-2019, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Siam Sam View Post
Here is the June thread. I'm a little hesitant to start it myself since I don't want to make it a habit, as I am rather busy here, am off the Board for days at a time and cannot guarantee I'll be available when a new month starts. But what the heck, here it is for this month.

I hope everyone is having a good late spring / early summer. I guess it's that time of year. Hard to keep it straight since it's always late spring / early summer here.

I'm almost halfway through Freewheel: #HonoluluLaw, #FamousTriathlete, & a #Charity, by local attorney and writer Katharine M. Nohr, the second of her Tri Angles mystery trilogy and sequel to the first one, Land Sharks. Reading the author's own copy that she's loaned me.


****************************************************************************************************
*************************************************************************************

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 2005. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectantly passed away, January of 2013 we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.
Oops. Link to May thread

See? You don't want me doing this.
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Old 06-02-2019, 08:54 PM
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Thanks, Siam Sam!

Still reading Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 bodysnatcher novel The Puppet Masters, which isn't as good as I remember but is still a good read. The protagonist, an agent for a supersecret American security and espionage agency which reports directly to the President, has just married a fellow agent and gone on his honeymoon. It doesn't go well, shall we say....

I've kind of bogged down in A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by British scientist Adam Rutherford, but expect to return to it before long.
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Old 06-03-2019, 08:22 AM
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I started, then abandoned, What the Dead Know. I think it could have been a good book if the writer had kept the story tight, but she kept wandering off in different directions. The main premise was that a girl disappeared thirty years ago, and now a woman is claiming to be that missing girl, but refusing to share details. That was an interesting plot, but then the writer also wanted to explore what the girl's mother was doing thirty years later, and what was going on in the sheriff's life, etc., and all the side plots were so boring that it wasn't worth plodding through to get back to the main storyline.

I read Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. I thought about DNFing that one as well, but stuck with it and I'm glad I did. To reduce an incredibly informative book to a quick catchphrase, the gist of the book was that nutrition can improve your health in ways that drugs and supplementation can't, but since there's better funding for pharmaceutical research, we're not properly educated on the benefits of nutrition. The author is a bitter old man, and this bitterness taints his writing, but if you can look past the bitterness, it's an informative read.

I read Orange World and other Stories by Karen Russell, which I was fully expecting to love, and which I did. Russell is my favorite short story writer; she comes up with these insanely imaginative scenarios and writes about them so beautifully that the whole experience of reading her work feels surreal.

I'm halfway through The Woman in the Window. The beginning was great and really sucked me in, but the middle is kind of lagging, and I did some skim-reading last night. I'm sure I'll finish the book, but I do hope the pace picks up again.

Also halfway through Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian by John Elder Robison. No complaints about this one; Robison is a humorous and engaging writer. It's easy to get sucked into the stories he tells, and his unique perspective on life is intriguing to read.
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:03 AM
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Finished View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman, which I enjoyed, and has inspired me to read several things he recommends.

Now I'm reading Giants of Jazz by Studs Terkel.
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:12 AM
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I'm reading a short story collection by Sarah Pinsker, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea. Collections are always uneven, but this one is pretty good so far. Some of the stories seem a little like pointless fragments of a larger tale, some are quite nice, and none have been boring yet.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:18 AM
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I'm less than halfway through Uncommon Type: Some Stories, by Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks). I'm...disappointed. The writing is good enough, but the stories are dull. So far, when each one has ended I've found myself wondering what the point was. Dung Beetle's "pointless fragments of a larger tale" description applies. I keep reading, though, figuring that the next one might be (has to be) better. If I hit the halfway point with no improvement in the storytelling, I might just abandon this book. I've already started to think of reading it as something I have to do vs want to do. I still love Tom Hanks, but I kind of wonder if this collection would have gotten published if the author were anyone else.

Last edited by Misnomer; 06-03-2019 at 10:19 AM.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:25 AM
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Re reading Band of Brothers..don’t know why.
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:10 AM
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Was on the road over the weekend and managed to finish three books - the fictionalized story of the C.S.S. Hunley, John Gardner's Grendel (which disappointed me), and The Penguin Book of Hell, which was a hoot. I'd always wanted to read the Vision of Tundale. I started Tales of the Marvellous and Strange, an Arabic collection of fantasy stories almost contemporary with the much-better-known 1001 Nights. There is a tiny bit of overlap.

On audio I am, against my better instincts, indulging in the latest of Preston and Child's Agent Pendergast stories, Verses for the Dead. At least they did something interesting by saddling the independently wealthy FBI agent with an unwanted partner, but I have the annoying feeling that they're field-testing the partner for a spinoff series.
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Old 06-04-2019, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by CalMeacham View Post
On audio I am, against my better instincts, indulging in the latest of Preston and Child's Agent Pendergast stories, Verses for the Dead. At least they did something interesting by saddling the independently wealthy FBI agent with an unwanted partner, but I have the annoying feeling that they're field-testing the partner for a spinoff series.
I thought it was a pretty good tale, especially since I've lowered my expectations of Preston & Child in recent years. I give it extra points for being a stand-alone story and not including any of the abysmal Pendergast family Gothic soap opera drama.
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Old 06-04-2019, 09:51 AM
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Last night I abandoned the Tom Hanks collection; at least, temporarily. I just couldn't take the pointless stories anymore.

I decided to (finally) start reading Tina Fey's autobiography, Bossypants. I'm only a few essays in (just past the point where the sample ended and I decided to buy the book), but already I have a feeling like she might be trying too hard. Anecdotes keep being set up like they're super funny, but...they aren't. I'll definitely keep reading, but I'm not sure I can handle consecutive literary disappointments from celebrities I like and admire. Has anyone read this and can tell me it gets better?

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On audio I am, against my better instincts, indulging in the latest of Preston and Child's Agent Pendergast stories, Verses for the Dead.
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Originally Posted by Rough Draft View Post
I thought it was a pretty good tale, especially since I've lowered my expectations of Preston & Child in recent years.
I'm up for a new series, and the first book in this one -- Relic -- sounds like a possibly interesting mixed legal/supernatural thriller. Do y'all think the earlier books in the series are worth checking out? Is it just the more recent ones that have you less-than-enthused?
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Old 06-04-2019, 10:32 AM
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Last night I abandoned the Tom Hanks collection; at least, temporarily. I just couldn't take the pointless stories anymore.

I decided to (finally) start reading Tina Fey's autobiography, Bossypants. I'm only a few essays in (just past the point where the sample ended and I decided to buy the book), but already I have a feeling like she might be trying too hard. Anecdotes keep being set up like they're super funny, but...they aren't. I'll definitely keep reading, but I'm not sure I can handle consecutive literary disappointments from celebrities I like and admire. Has anyone read this and can tell me it gets better?

I'm up for a new series, and the first book in this one -- Relic -- sounds like a possibly interesting mixed legal/supernatural thriller. Do y'all think the earlier books in the series are worth checking out? Is it just the more recent ones that have you less-than-enthused?
I've always hated the "gothic soap opera drama" that Rough Draft wrote of, but mostly because it a.) runs on interminably, and b.) involves something that I hate, the ultracapable and damned near omniscient villain (who is also virtually another cliché besides that, an Evil Twin).

Pendergast isn't front and center in Relic (which I liked*, for the most part) and Reliquary (which wasn't anywhere near as good). His stand-alone novels are over-the-top guilty pleasures, like Clive Cussler novels.


I don't recommend Crimson Shore, by the way. It feels as if they exhausted their story before they got to the end of their word count, and so felt compelled to tack on Something Completely Different to pad out the book, so they rewrote part of [Still Life with Crows and shoehorned it in.




*As I've mentioned before, Preston used to work for the American Museum of Natural History, managing editor for Curator and a columnist for Natural History and author of a history of the AMNH, and Relic feels like his daydream about a monster getting loose in the vaults in the museum's basement. He's gotten close to that idea in some of his other novels, too.
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Old 06-04-2019, 11:02 AM
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I'm up for a new series, and the first book in this one -- Relic -- sounds like a possibly interesting mixed legal/supernatural thriller. Do y'all think the earlier books in the series are worth checking out? Is it just the more recent ones that have you less-than-enthused?
Preston & Child know how to write a captivating tale, so you may find all of their books worth reading, even the ones with the bizarre Pendergast family plot lines. For me personally, the Pendergast series peaked at about Cemetery Dance, because it was followed by a three volume story (Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, Two Graves) that I found so frustrating I almost wished I'd never read them. After that, though, I did like several stories quite a bit, such as White Fire and City of Endless Night, and the latest one.

Also, I think some of the non-Pendergast books are very good. I especially enjoyed Thunderhead and Riptide. Like CalMeacham said, they're similar to Clive Cussler novels (except IMO they're much better written).

The Preston & Child website (https://www.prestonchild.com/) has lots of interesting stuff, including capsule descriptions of all their books.

Last edited by Rough Draft; 06-04-2019 at 11:06 AM. Reason: to add stuff
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Old 06-05-2019, 06:13 PM
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Finished Giants of Jazz by Studs Terkel, which I enjoyed. My brother's a jazz fan, and he used to play jazz records for me, but I didn't really appreciate them. After reading this book, I went on YouTube and listed to them again. Good stuff.

Now I'm reading The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany. Enjoying it so far.
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:28 PM
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Thanks, CalMeacham and Rough Draft!

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Finished Giants of Jazz by Studs Terkel, which I enjoyed. My brother's a jazz fan, and he used to play jazz records for me, but I didn't really appreciate them. After reading this book, I went on YouTube and listed to them again. Good stuff.
I'm a jazz singer, and that book has been in my queue for a while (because it's not available for Kindle); good to know that even a non-jazz-fan enjoyed it!

Last edited by Misnomer; 06-06-2019 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 06-06-2019, 03:55 PM
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I've been rereading my entire Doc Savage collection, selecting the books at random. When I'm done, I think I'm going to read Polybius' The Rise of the Roman Republic.
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Old 06-06-2019, 08:56 PM
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Got to read 1984 finally. It sucks ... Book is great, it is classic, I can see why. But I don't really enjoy reading classics. I struggle to find right word why not - they tend to be overspoiled, or hyperspoiled. That one in particular. To many back references ... It is agony to read it properly.
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Old 06-07-2019, 11:31 AM
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So far in June I have finished Have His Carcase (1932) by Dorothy L. Sayers and The Franchise Affair (1948) by Josephine Tey. In the May thread I expressed my lack of enthusiasm for Sayers (so talented but so long-winded!), so I'll skip over her book and just say that The Franchise Affair was a huge breath of fresh air after Sayers' meanderings. Tey was an extremely gifted author, and this book was a complete pleasure to read. The plot concerns two upper-class but impoverished English women who are accused of kidnapping a young girl of humble means and forcing her to be their maid for a month before she's able to escape. The mystery aspect of the story isn't really whether the girl is lying; it's all about how the women will be able to prove they're innocent.

And that's where I think Tey missed an opportunity to make this a truly great novel. Allowing the villain to be known (or at least confidently assumed) from the beginning removes any ambiguity on that point; I think leaving some uncertainty would have made the plot richer and more complex. Also, the villain is woefully underdeveloped as a character. Making her more than a cardboard cutout representing the "inferior" and presumably immoral lower classes of England at the time would have made the book much more nuanced (and it also would have gotten Tey off the hook from the charges of classism and snobbishness that she actually kind of deserves, at least in this particular novel).
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:12 PM
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The Yiddish Policeman's Union Michael Chabon

Reviving my ambition to read all of the Hugo awards novels...

The book is a mystery/alternate history. The AH is that during World War 2, part of Alaska was set aside for Jewish refugees, and by 2000 the region of Sitka is a mostly Jewish, Yiddish-speaking autonomous part of the United States, but is about, ominously, to revert to full American control.

The mystery is a police procedural around the murder of an elderly chess champion fallen on hard times and drug addiction.

It's a bit of a challenge to read for someone not well-versed in Jewish culture, but I am really enjoying it. The author really creates a believable world full of hardboiled, cynical characters. My only quibble is that it could be a bit shorter than its 400 pages.
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Old 06-07-2019, 08:06 PM
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For another excellent alt-hist murder mystery, zimaane, try Robert Harris's Fatherland. In April 1964, an SS criminal investigator looks into the recent deaths of several senior Nazi Party officials in and and around Berlin, just before Hitler's 75th birthday and a high-profile summit meeting with President Joseph Kennedy. Chillingly good, both as alt-hist and a mystery.

I finished Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. Not nearly as good as I remembered, and the protagonist is much more of a jerk than I remembered, too.

Just started Stephen Ambrose's Nothing Like It In The World, a history of the building of the US Transcontinental Railroad. I know about the many early criticisms about its accuracy and am taking it with a grain of salt, but it's an interesting tale.
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Old 06-08-2019, 10:41 PM
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Finished Freewheel: #HonoluluLaw, #FamousTriathlete, & a #Charity, by Katharine M. Nohr, the second of her Tri-Angles trilogy and sequel to the first installment, Land Sharks. The author is a local attorney and writer. You may remember she's the one whose Land Sharks I got from her at a Christmas-party gift exchange last December. The friend of a friend, and when she heard I liked the first book, she loaned me a copy of the second through our mutual friend. The heroine of the series is a young lawyer/triathlete in Honolulu who solves sports-related crimes while dating a TV star of a show in the vein of Hawaii Five-0 or Magnum PI. It was okay. I'd rate the first one a little better. The soppy romance in this one could have been toned down some, as they seemed more like high schoolers than young attorneys and even middle-aged men. To the author's credit, one of the characters at one point even says the situation "sounds too much like a bad soap opera." And I easily guessed the real killer. But it was okay. I always like reading stories set in Hawaii, with its familiar place names. Not sure I would recommend it to anyone who does not have an interest in Hawaii. But if you are interested in Hawaii, I would cautiously recommend it. And same as before, she desperately needs a better editor to iron out the mistakes.

Next up is The Pioneers: The Historic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, the latest from my favorite historian, David McCullough.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:53 AM
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Finished The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany. Brilliantly written.

Now I'm reading The Nickel-Plated Beauty, a historical novel for children by Patricia Beatty.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:44 AM
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I am reading a Harry Turtledove Alternate History from last year called In Darkest Europe. It's set in an alternate near present where North African and Middle Eastern Muslim nations are a progressive and relatively peaceful First Word and Europe is backward, hyper violent and fundamentalist. Only just started but good so far and an easier read than I expected.
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Old 06-09-2019, 05:16 PM
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Got about halfway through Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger. It's part of a series of suspense/mystery novels set in Minnesota's North Country. I read one or two of the earlier ones and they were all right, but this one I'm giving up on. There's a little too much "I can tell what kind of man he is by shaking his hand and looking him in the eye," for one thing, and there are a few other problems with the book...

But the main issue is the Ojibway interpreter-of-visions who speaks in Yoda-like riddles using slightly off-center English, is over 100 years old but stands up straight and tall when he shakes hands with people, seems to have Wonderful Native Insight into the character of everyone who comes along (exactly who the Bad Guys are isn't entirely clear yet), and is listened to and obeyed by all the other characters. None of it works for me, at all. Also, he calls men by their full names ("We may not be given to understand, Corcoran O'Connor") while calling women by their relationship to him ("Bring me a little water, Niece"). The final straw for me was a page where he speaks two times to said niece. The first line is "Stay, Niece." The second is "Sit, Niece." I suspect the author did not intend to imply that the character (or the author himself) sees women as dogs, but that surely is the implication I got.

Too bad; it's reasonably well written and the setting is interesting, but I'm movin' on. There's a biography of Dr. Seuss with my name on it for next.

Last edited by Ulf the Unwashed; 06-09-2019 at 05:18 PM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 06:53 AM
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I finished Verses for the Dead and then Stephen King's Bazaar of Bad Dreams on a long car trip this weekend. (The segment "Drunken Fireworks" is a hoot. Told in a broad Maine dialect, with no horror whatsoever in it.) The next audiobook up was donated to me -- Genghis: Rise of an Empire by Conn Igulden, co-author of The Dangerous Book for Boys, which makes this kind of interesting. It's the first installment of a historical novel series, it turns out, not a history. Interesting so far.

I'm well into Tales of the Marvellous and Strange, but I've taken a break for Dave Barry's Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog. Barry wrote Dave Barry Turns 40 thirty years ago, and Dave Barry Turns 50 a decade later. Then, I noticed, there was no Dave Barry turns 60. This book is sorta Dave Barry Turns 70. As Bill Maher remarked on his show recently, Dave Barry is one of those people who seems to barely age, but Dave is clearly feeling his mortality now, and this book is his response to that. Funny, of course, ("I'm not saying professional humor is grueling work, like mining coal or cleaning toilets or being a personal assistant to a Kardashian..."), but you can sense the darkness under it.
I've also picked up Mysterious Stone Sites -- in the Hudson Valley of New York and Northern New Jersey by Linda Zimmermann. It's a revealing book about what appear to be rather elaborately constructed stone chambers, dolmens, and the like in the Hudson valley, by someone who is convinced there's something interesting here, but isn't a Barry Fell worshipper. Having visited Mystery Hill in New Hampshire and knowing about Gungywamp in Connecticut, I've been curious about these massive stone constructions in the Northeast, and skeptical of both orthodox dismissers ("root cellars" and the like) and damned near pan-spermic theorizers who suggest that everyone and his brother came to the Northeast just to build enigmatic stone structures.
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Old 06-10-2019, 07:39 AM
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Finished The Sun Smasher by Ed Hamilton. No better than it needed to be - pulp sci-fi, with a semi-standard plot but Hamilton rang the changes on it as well as might be. It ended pretty much as I expected,
SPOILER:
and reminded me of Ender's Game, and for many of the same motivations.
Currently audiobook-reading Agatha Christie's Murder is Easy for many of the same reasons - I want to see Christie do her thing with stock characters and plot twists and a standard-issue Christie whodunit.

On dead trees, I am reading American Tragedy: The Uncensored Story of the OJ Simpson Defense as sort of a flip side of a whodunit - I am only a bit into it, but it's already clear whodunit, and the defense appears to realize this. OJ is claiming he hasn't been to Nicole's house for a week, and his blood got there from a cut finger that he sustained that morning. And OJ has said not one single, solitary word about any concern for who "really" killed Nicole - only self-pitying "why me" and acting suicidal. It's kind of obvious.

Also got an Andrew Vachss novel called Haiku, which is another incarnation of his Burke novels. It appears I am reading only things with which I am familiar - maybe I need to stretch myself next.

Regards,
Shodan

Last edited by Shodan; 06-10-2019 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 06-10-2019, 08:06 AM
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I'm well into Tales of the Marvellous and Strange, but I've taken a break for Dave Barry's Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog.
Thank you, I did not know about this!
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Old 06-11-2019, 06:30 AM
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Started today on The Witch of Willow Hall, by Hester Fox. For some reason, it didn't look very appealing to me and I couldn't remember why I had chosen it. Then, in the first chapter, death of a kitten. Ditched.
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Old 06-11-2019, 07:37 AM
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Finished The Nickel-Plated Beauty, a historical novel for children by Patricia Beatty. It was okay, although it was written in 1964 (and set in the 1880's) and parts of it have dated badly.
Now I'm reading A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis.
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Old 06-12-2019, 03:26 PM
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Finished A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis, which was very moving.

Now I'm reading From a Surgeon's Diary by Clifford Ashdown. It's a collection of mysteries with a country doctor as the detective.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:05 PM
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Finished From a Surgeon's Diary by Clifford Ashdown. Not recommended.

Now I'm reading Martians, Go Home! by Fredric Brown.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:13 PM
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I'm still reading Tina Fey's autobiography (Bossypants). It did get better, and I'm enjoying it.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:49 PM
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I just finished the latest Anthony Horowitz murder mystery, The Sentence is Death. All of his books are good reads, and this one is no different. I don't really care for the Daniel Hawthorne character, but otherwise Horowitz has a great gimmick going here (making himself and other real people characters in the story) and I'll read them as long as he keeps writing them.
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Old 06-14-2019, 12:50 PM
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I've had too much going on to start a new book this week, so I've been grazing my old James Herriot books. They really are beautifully written.
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Old Yesterday, 10:49 AM
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I'm about three-quarters of the way through Stephen Ambrose's Nothing Like It In The World, about the building of the US Transcontinental Railroad in the late 1860s. Key takeaways: (1) it was an amazing engineering achievement, especially tunneling through the solid granite of the Sierra Madre mountains, and (2) jeez oh man was just about everybody racist against both the Indians who raided camps and work parties along the line, and the Chinese laborers who overwhelmingly did the hard work on the Central Pacific portion of the road. Pretty ugly stuff.
  #36  
Old Yesterday, 11:08 AM
Elendil's Heir is offline
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Location: my Herkimer Battle Jitney
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I also just zipped through Old Man's War by John Scalzi - terrific military sf with a deep core of humanism and love. Third time I've read it, I think.
  #37  
Old Yesterday, 10:38 PM
Sefton is offline
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I'm a huge fan of audiobooks read by John Lee. Not only does he have a great voice, but he chooses very interesting books to narrate.

I've been switching between two novels that I'm very happy with: By Gaslight and 131 Days. The first is a complex, 19th-century mystery involving the son of Allan Pinkerton. The second is about a group of gladiators fighting in a city similar to ancient Rome.
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