Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - May 2022 edition

Finished Nettle and Bone yesterday…five stars. T. Kingfisher is not one to let you down! I would love to read more books featuring the dust-wife and Agnes the godmother, but don’t know that a series is intended.

Started today on The Lost Village, a Swedish thriller by Camilla Sten. I’m not liking the characters much, but am hooked by the premise: filmmakers investigating an abandoned town where over 900 people once went missing, leaving behind only a dead woman and a live baby.

The Physics of Everyday Things: The Extraordinary Science Behind an Ordinary Day , by James Kakalios, which was okay.

Now I’m reading Sci Fi, by William Marshall. It’s a police procedural about murder at a science fiction convention.

That sounds interesting. A surely completely different type of murder mystery set at a science fiction convention (which I highly recommend) is Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun (Also the sequel, Zombies of the Gene Pool).

I have read and enjoyed both those books!

There is also another mystery set at a science fiction convention which is also SF, called Now You See It/Him/Them by Robert Coulson and Gene DeWeese, which is also a lot of fun.

I have never been to a SF convention, but I loaned Bimbos of the Death Sun to a friend who was a SF-convention kind of a guy, and he returned it to me saying “It’s amazing how true-to-life this book is.”

Finished The Lost Village. It was just okay. After a point, it was obvious what had happened in the village, so it was fairly paint-by-the-numbers then. Except for who the killer is in the present-day timeline, which was ridiculous.

Started this morning on Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda. A very modern sort of vampire story. The vampire is an artist, had an unhappy childhood, is filled with ennui and angst…it’s not gripping me yet, but I’ll continue.

Finished Sci Fi , by William Marshall, which I enjoyed a lot. It’s one of the best novels I’ve read so far this year. That said, there isn’t much about the convention–which they call a “congress”–itself.

Now I’m reading Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford.

I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. A young boy’s search for “closure” regarding his father, who was (presumably) killed in the attack on the World Trade Center. I thought it was quite good; moving and evocative. Best read as if it were a fairy tale or fantasy work, I think; the negative reviews I saw of it tended to focus on the unreality of the novel, which I get but which I think is actually part of the point of the book. I liked it, anyway.

Next up is Sara Paretsky’s newest novel, Overboard.

I finished it. It wraps up implausibly quickly but is still a decent Heinlein yarn.

Also finished recently:

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi, about a smart, snarky teenage girl on a hidden Earth colony being searched for by hostile aliens. Not Scalzi’s best but still worth a read.

All Sail Set by Armstrong Sperry, a Newbery-winning YA novel about the 1851 maiden voyage of the famous clipper ship Flying Cloud. Beautiful woodcut illustrations by the author; not much of a story.

I’m now listening to an audiobook of The Splendid Things We Planned by Blake Bailey. A memoir about the author and his mentally-ill, occasionally-abusive, always self-destructive older brother, it was recommended by David Sedaris but I’m finding it meh. I’ll still finish it, though.

I finished watching The Lincoln Lawyer on Netflix, so I decided to re-read The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly, the novel on which the series is loosely based. This time, however, I’m listening to it.

I’ve just finished the third book in the Luke Arnold’s Fetch Phillips series, One Foot in the Fade. Arnold is an Australian actor, who published the first book in the series, Last Smile in Sunder City, just a couple of years ago. I’d describe the series as noir-fantasy-environmental-allegory. The audiobooks (I’m mostly blind and almost exclusively consume books via audio) are really great, because Arnold narrates them himself, and he’s got the acting chops for a multi-character read. I’m particularly impressed by the main character’s voice, which he reads with an American accent. Why are Australians so good at American accents compared to Brits?

Earlier this month, I went on an Alex Bledsoe kick. Two of his series, which appear to be complete, are included in Audible membership, so no precious credits burned. The Eddie Lacrosse series is more noir-fantasy, but with the fantasy element being just on the edge of high fantasy parody. Fluff, but fun. The other series, the Tales of the Tufa, is contemporary fantasy and a little less fluffy. The overall story arc is interesting, but there are no real cliffhangers, so the books could stand reasonably well individually. Also, there’s no single lead character, and each book focuses on different characters in the story arc (though there’s a lot of overlap in the cast of characters).

One other book, not a new one, I finished last week is The World to Come by Dara Horn. She teaches Yiddish and Hebrew literature, and her books are very Jewish (as am I!) in content and themes. This is the second of her works of fiction I’ve read (the first was A Guide for the Perplexed). Both have somewhat similar structure, bringing in historical events and characters to mix with the purely fictional ones in a narrative that goes back and forth in time and place, and bring in elements of Jewish mystical and religious tradition. I liked it.

Finished Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy , by Tim Harford, which was interesting. I enjoyed the chapter about shipping containers the most. I saw an episode of Nova about the Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal just after reading it.

Now I’m reading Root Magic by Eden Royce.

Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East Gerard Russell

The author, an American diplomat fluent in Arabic and Persian, travels the Middle East illuminating the history and current (often precarious) situation of the minority religions that are still practiced alongside Islam.

Interesting topic and generally well-written book. Recommended.

Finished Woman, Eating. I’m looking at the reviews on Goodreads and several of them say it belongs in the “Sad Woman” genre. This is a thing? Well, if it is, I have to agree. This book was a drag. And all the discussions of “art” annoyed me, as “art” is one of the many things I don’t really get.

Next up, the perfect antidote. Badasstronauts by Grady Hendrix is a novella about one determined redneck who crowdsources an effort to build a rocket in order to rescue his nephew from low Earth orbit. Farfetched and funny.

Finished it. Both meh and bleak. Avoid.

I’ve now begun standup comic Mike Birbiglia’s book The New One, about his reluctantly becoming a dad after he and his wife had agreed before they even got married that they would never have kids (she later changed her mind). I like Birbiglia’s other stuff a lot; this has a few laughs but not many.

Finished Root Magic by Eden Royce, which was okay.

Now I’m reading Soulmates, a story collection by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn.

New thread: Bring on the dancing rainbows, it’s nearly June!

Finished Soulmates , a story collection by Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. The best one was “The Close Shave”.

Now I’m reading Ivory Shoals by John Brandon, a coming of age novel set in post-Civil War Florida.

Finished reading Clive Cussler’s Dragon from 1990. I can’t believe how racist the book is – and Cussler can’t even blame it on his co-author, because this is from when he was writing them all by himself.

Right-wing ultranationalist Japanese businessmen and politicians set up a nuclear bomb-producing operation and plan to use the bombs to take control of the world’s economy. Four years later Tom Clancy produced a much more plausible novel with a similar setup in Debt of Honor.

The Japanese antagonists are called “Japs” and they are portrayed as sadistic and lustful. A team infiltrating the Bad Guys’ headquarters disguise themselves with appliance epicanthic folds, a la James Bond in the movie You Only Live Twice, as if that’s all it takes. It’s amazing that this was published as recently as 1990, and republished many times since (my copy was published in 2020).

Started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Wizard of Venus and Pirate’s Blood, two pretty short stories bound in one volume that ERB apparently never published in his lifetime. I’d read other Carson of Venus stories, and this, the last of them he wrote, is pretty slight. I’m hoping Pirate’s Blood is a little better.