Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - November 2020 edition

Ah, you made my heart skip a beat, briefly.

Is Wonderland the title of one of yours?

My book Lost Wonderland just came out les than two weeks ago. Look in the Marketplace folder.

I was hoping that someone on this Board had actually picked up a copy.

I finished The Vanished Birds over the weekend. It’s a space opera epic in the vein of NK Jemisin and Seth Dickinson (The Traitor Baru Cormorant): beautiful, intricate, clever, devastating. As a debut novel it blew me away, and is on my list for best novels of the year; it would surprise me if it didn’t pick up Hugo and Nebula nominations, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it won.

Finished Magic for Liars , a fantasy/mystery by Sarah Gailey, which I enjoyed a lot.

Now I’m reading The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English, by Lynne Murphy.

Just started American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.

Wiki says it’s “about the ordeal of a Mexican woman who had to leave behind her life and escape as an undocumented immigrant to the United States with her son.”

After chapter 1, thus far it looks like a good read.

Just zipped through John Scalzi’s political-comedy novella, The President’s Brain is Missing, which is about… well, you can figure it out. Not all that funny, and not Scalzi’s best work; in fact, maybe my least-favorite thing of his. More a miss than a hit.

I’ve now begun The Thirteen Gun Salute by Patrick O’Brian, the next in the Aubrey-Maturin series of Napoleonic sea adventures. Not far into it yet, but so far, so good.

Finished The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English , by Lynne Murphy, which I enjoyed.

Just started Catfishing on CatNet, by Naomi Kritzer, which is a science fiction novel.

Just finished both books I was reading, By Hook or by Crook by David Crystal and No Known Grave by Maureen Jennings.

Starting 1637: No Peace Beyond the Line by Eric Flint and Charles E Gannon.

Next in line is The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews.

Completed A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and The Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre.

It was a fascinating read. A really gripping tale of real life espionage.

The fact Philby rose up and up to the highest echelons of British intelligence while keeping his secret was a tale of class, establishment and the old boys’ club. The book focuses a lot from the perspective of Nicholas Elliot who was Philby’s classmate from Cambridge, MI6 colleague, and dear friend for thirty years. Or that’s at least how Elliot thought. Philby betrayed his friend just like he betrayed the confidence of everyone in his circle including his own family. And no one suspected him because what was to suspect about an English upper class gentleman who was good at his job, popular, seemed destined to head the service one day, and who was awarded an OBE.

The one thing that wasn’t covered much was Philby’s motivation to keep up the charade. For that I will be reading his own writings and try and gather the reason. The book here gave the impression of someone who dabbled in left wing communist leanings like so many young educated people in the 1930s as the way to defeat right wing fascism which was on the march in Europe. Engaging in communist leanings was made more palatable by Britain during the war being allies with the Soviets against the axis powers. But after the end of WW2 and the beginning of the Cold War he carried on his deception all the while living the high life while the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union was the new enemy. Was it pure allegiance to ideology or was he a character who liked the cat and mouse game of espionage and just couldn’t resist being one step ahead? Whatever his motivation he led to the deaths of many people and never showed remorse.

Finished The Book of Dust, the first in a new series in the same world as The Golden Compass. It’s really good, but not the revelation that Golden Compass was for me. Nonstop action!

Also finished reading The Book of Despereaux to my younger daughter. I’ve read that book at least a dozen times, having used it as a classroom read-aloud for many years. There’s parts of it I still love, but I’m not as enamored with it as I used to be.

I’ll be starting A Promised Land tonight. I’ll try to report back on how I find it, but it’s 700 pages, so it could be awhile.

I stayed up late last night to finish American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, it’s a modern-day story about an Acapulco woman who owns a bookstore and lives a comfortable life with her journalist husband and 8-year-old son. But when her husband writes a expose about the local drug cartel chief, he is slaughtered, along with 15 other family members, at a birthday party. The woman manages to escape with her son, and they embark on a harrowing 3-week journey to the American border, riding mostly on the tops of boxcars. It’s a powerful story about the dangers of Mexican life and the struggles of the many migrants who are attempting to gain access to America.

Highly, highly recommended.

Finished Zoje Stage’s Wonderland. It was good enough to finish, but the writing felt somewhat amateurish and I really disliked the main character. When the mysteries were explained, the explanation didn’t ring true. So…that’s probably the only book I’ll ever read from that author.

Next up, a very short book, in keeping with the amount of reading time I’m likely to have this week, Stephen Graham Jones’ Night of the Mannequin.

Finished Catfishing on CatNet , by Naomi Kritzer, which was okay.

Now I’m reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

I finished Stephen Graham Jones’ Night of the Mannequins. It probably took less than an hour to read, and …that’s about the best thing I can say about it. It didn’t hook me.

You might next like to read Richard Hoyt’s semi-satirical political/espionage novel Trotsky’s Run, a favorite of mine, in which Philby makes a prominent appearance.

I don’t know if you’re aware of it (I certainly wasn’t, until I stumbled across a copy), but Kim Philby wrote an autobiography, My Silent War, published in 1968 and still in print.

Read it with a grain of salt.

I finished “reading” the audio version of Douglas Preston’s The Monster of Florence. It included, as an extra, a telephone interview with Preston. It’s an interesting story, but seems to go on interminably. Real Life has a lack of structure and Clear Resolution that makes it less satisfying than fiction.

Preston really needs to stay away from non-fiction, for his own good. His thrillers, written with or without Lincoln Childs, are my guilty pleasures, because they’re as far-out and far-fetched as those of the late Clive Cussler. For some reason, when he writes non-fiction he gets in trouble. Aside from his first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic (a history of the American Museum of Natural History, a fictional version of which serves as a setting for many of his later thrillers), he’s had serious real-life problems as a result of his nonfiction books. While involved in the research for The Monster of Florence he found himself arrested and banned from Italy (his co-author, the investigative journalist Mario Spezi was arrested and charged with multiple crimes and suspicion of being the mass murderer himself, or of being in league with him.)

When he was researching what became The Lost Temple of the Monkey God in the Honduras he (and many others in the expedition) was infected with the parasitic disease leishmaniasis, which has no cure and has a painful and complex treatment.

Started today on The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez, as recommended by @Left_Hand_of_Dorkness.