Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - February 2014

Hm - interesting idea - I wonder if maybe just 1 or 2 copies of the book are “Sizzlers” and the rest go thru the regular hold queue - would require more management on the library part; but, as you say, get the book out to more people in less time. I’m “cheating” a bit as I have Hollow City on hold via my local library as well as the Indiana Digital Media website -whereever I get it from first, I’ll go ahead & cancel the other hold.

Backing up a bit, I bought Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore when it was on a Kindle Deal, thanks to **Tapiotar’s ** recommendation in the “Top 10 Books of 2013” thread.

Poore writes a very engaging & imaginative story about John Scratch, aka The Devil - taking familiar elements (fallen angel, makes deals for human souls) and weaving them into a darkly funny narrative that jumps back and forth between not-quite present day & historical touchpoints.

Attempting to lure the love of his left back to Earth (both fallen angels, she rejects the violence of early Earth & returns to heaven) - John helps raise Egyptian and Roman empires - but his greatest success starts once the Pilgrims make it to the New World. A good portion of the story is spent with musicians - in particular a 1960’s jam band that he assists in their rise to fame (not the Dead - a fictional group whose name escapes me at the moment). After introducing these characters, the story focuses in on John’s involvement with their lives and changes direction; I liked this storyline well enough, but kind of wish Poore had kept going with the historical touchpoints instead.

I found myself highlighting a lot of phrases along the way - not just the humorous stuff (“Great civilizations boasted the weirdest entertainment. This was and always would be true.”) but some more philosophical thoughts as well:
“This is Good,” said God, more pleased than ever. It was a strange idea, “Good.” Lucifer frowned. If this or that, from now on, was “Good,” then by implication there were things that were not. “Life” was the most complicated part of the Plan.” It reminds me a bit of Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice, in how the relationship between God and the Devil is portrayed as being more sympathetic to the Devil.

I’m not sure this will make my Top 10 of 2014 list, but I did really enjoy the story and plan on not only seeing what else Poore comes up with (as this was an impressive first novel!) but also revisiting this book in the future.

I really liked the first book in this series, but the “Book World” idea just didn’t work for me. Thursday’s own world is strange enough so that you don’t need the weird and oh so very twee book world. On the other hand, I really enjoyed “Shades of Grey” which is an equally weird world with it’s own extremely odd logic.

My annual New Year’s resolution to make more time for reading has once again failed to be realized, same as every year. But still I finished Cat Chaser, by Elmore Leonard. It’s 1981, and an ex-US Marine who took part in the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic and is a now a motel owner in South Florida returns to Santo Domingo to look for the female sniper he chased across rooftops. While there, he gets involved with an American lady he almost got involved with back in Florida. Hijinks ensue. A good read.

Next up is another Leonard: LaBrava.

Ah, I see. Thanks.

My library doesn’t have a “Sizzler” program. Although it’s kind of an interesting idea, I agree with you - if you reserve a book, you should get first dibs.

Caveat emptor as to any O’Reilly “history”:

Although I haven’t read them, I’ve heard from history-loving friends that Manhunt by James L. Swanson and Blood on the Moon by Edward Steers Jr. are much better books on the Lincoln assassination.

I will endorse Manhunt. It’s very well done. I was on the edge of my seat even though the outcome is something we all know in advance.

Seconded. It does a good job of portraying the shock of the first Presidential assassination and the mayhem that ensued.

I read Of Mice and Men over the weekend. Somehow I had gotten to my present age knowing nothing about this book. I liked it okay, but it feels like it could have been a few chapters of The Grapes of Wrath.

I didn’t know that this novel was being parodied by the Warner Bros. cartoons: “Which way did he go, George, which way did he go?” and “I will name him George, and I will hug him, and pet him, and squeeze him.” Actually Wikipedia lists a bunch of popular culture references to this book that I’ve been missing for years.
I read Michael Chabon’s collection of autobiographical essays, Manhood for Amateurs. There’s nothing extraordinary about the book except the writing, but I liked it just for that. My favorite pieces were the ones on fatherhood (he has four kids), particularly the one about “the low standard to which fathers are held (with the concomitant minimal effort required to exceed the standard and win the sobriquet of ‘good dad’”. Chabon says that once he was merely standing in the grocery store checkout line holding his rather grubby toddler when the woman behind him in line complimented him on being a good father. He muses: “I don’t know what a woman needs to do do impel a perfect stranger to inform her in the grocery store that she is a really good mom.”
And I finished C.J Cherryh’s Regenesis. I liked it, but it’s an odd, rambling book, and not entirely satisfying. It plays out the fantasy of having personal power great enough to have absolute control over a piece of the world; to make that piece into a paradise; to pull in and protect and reward the people you love while excluding those you don’t. Nobody seems to object to this claustrophobic gathering and sheltering, but then this seems to be a universe with a disturbing lack of expectation of personal freedom. I’m not sure if I’m more creeped out by the “azi” - humans genetically designed for specific kinds of work and literally brainwashed throughout their lives to keep them stable and performing - or the cloned humans who are systematically raised as duplicates of their predecessors.

Creeped out… I had to stop reading her stuff in that Universe because the whole concept of non human humans made my skin crawl.

I finished Billy Straight by Jonathon Kellerman. Overall I liked it, it’s definitely one of his best though the multiple POVs got kind of annoying and distracting as the book got closer to the conclusion. I felt it really dragged a lot of the non action out and flattened the concluding attack. Still though, I recommend it.

Started Concrete Blond by Michael Connelly this morning. Nice surprise in the first dozen pages and a good hook to keep the reader interested.

Whoever was reading the Harry Bosch books last year around this time, thanks for bringing them to my attention.

I think that was me. You’re welcome. :wink:

Finally got around to Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. It’s one of the SF classics I’d managed to overlook all these years; a mention in Among Others finally spurred me to check it out of the library.

Very unorthodox in its writing & story structure and told from multiple viewpoints (including advertising voiceovers), the novel explores a dystopic world dominated by corporations. We meet (among a cast of many) Norman Niblock House and Donald Hogan - two very different men who, thru sheer circumstance, were room-mates for a while. House is an executive, who uses his ethnic heritage (African-American) as a tool to rise thru the ranks. His latest assignment involves the corporate takeover of a small African country whose odd history may hold a vital key to mankind’s survival. Hogan, who works as a professional student/synthesist becomes a somewhat unwilling tool in the investigation of a genetic breakthrough in a South East Asian country. This second plotline reminded me a bit of Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, which I’d recently read -I wouldn’t be surprised if Neal had been inspired by this novel for some of his work.

It did take me a bit to get into this - New Wave SF leaves me cold more often than not; but the unorthodoxy of the writing supports and expands the plot and theme of the novel nicely. Scarily prescient in many ways (powerful corporations; genetic engineering, supercomputers); yet also dated in some ways - the sexual mores of the society felt very “Summer of Love” to me - and while I enjoyed Chad Mulligan and his “HipCrime Vocab” quotes - I couldn’t help but see George Carlin in his place.

Of the little Brunner I’ve read (Players at the Game of People and I think The Shockwave Rider as well as some short stories in various anthologies) - this is the work I’ve enjoyed the most. I will definitely be returning to it someday, and need to check out more of his work.

I finished “Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune.” Huguette Clark was the reclusive daughter of copper king W.A. Clark. She had three very expensive homes, including a massive 5th Avenue apartment, yet chose to live in a hospital room for the last 20 years of her life. There was a dispute over her will, which was just settled late last year. I absolutely loved this book.

I am trying to slog my way thru The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. I am about halfway thru. Someone please reassure me - does anything happen that is at all interesting? So far it is as dull as ditchwater, and I never dreamed that could be said about a novel where Japan and Germany won WWII.

Also working on The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, another YA dystopia of the sort beloved by my daughter and recommended by her. Don’t tell her, but I am getting a little sick of YA dystopian fiction, after The Hunger Games and Divergent/Allegiant/whatever the other one was.

Before that was Spade and Archer, a Maltese Falcon prequel that suffered by comparison to the original. I tried to make allowances, but the gap was too great. It read sort of like a Continental Op story where Hammett was hungover and needed the money. Meh, albeit understandingly.


I finished Apartment 16 and was kind of uninspired. There were some points in the book which opened it up to go too many directions and it seemed that the author forgot about those alternatives and went for closing up shop early instead.

Now I’m over halfway through S. J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep. I’ve nicknamed it “the little story that might”. It just keeps chugging up its hill towards a conclusion and from time to time, the grade is a little too steep so the train slides backwards and the story goes nowhere. Short synopsis: woman wakes up every morning with amnesia next to a man who claims to be her husband. A person who claims to be her doctor is trying to secretly help her reclaim her memory by revisiting her past.

It sounds a bit hackneyed, but it’s going to be a movie with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. so it might be good. The problem is, unless they change it from a regular diary to a video diary, a lot could easily be lost. Then again, there are a lot of plot fallacies already.

I discovered a new series I must read. I checked out Mike Carey’s The Devil You Know and now I must find the rest of the Felix Castor books. It’s the Vish Puri thing all over again. Dammit Mt. ToBeRead! Quit growing ever taller!

Anyway, the book is about Felix “Fix” Castor, a freelance exorcist (as in not affiliated with the Catholic Church or any of its subsidiaries) in a world where the dead have decided to rise back up and hang out as ghosts, zombies, or loup garous. Or he used to be until one of his best friends got possessed by a demon and Felix made it worse instead of casting it out. Now he’s doing magic shows at kids’ birthday parties. While visiting his office to throw out the accumulated mail, Fix gets a call for a job exorcising a ghost in an archive and a letter from his demon-possessed friend telling him the job is a lot more dangerous than it seems. Fix manages to get fired from the job, involved with a Romanian terrorist, on the bad side of a nasty loup garou, chased by a succubus, and shot with a rosary bead.

There’s also a nice little twist at the end involving who Fix chooses to be his new partner. It wasn’t the person I thought it would be, which was a relief. There was a character who had the same first name I do, and since my name’s not that common it was really jarring to keep reading it.

I think I will check out that series SpazCat. It looks interesting.

Finished the third Harry Bosch book today, The Concrete Blonde. On the whole I have to say this is the best one so far, it’s a page turner and the twists at the end are working for me. I thought I knew the killer, mostly because I have a deep seated distrust of his profession, but then it twists again and I’m left running to catch up! I’m hoping everything works out between Harry and Sylvia, they are good for each other. And I like her, which is rare for me.

Up next is Death in Vienna by Daniel Silva. I’m not tremendously enamoured of the series but Gabriel is interesting and I’m finding the books at our paperback exchange for $1.35 each.

Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. I’ve read the other two Zenith novels, and it was fun seeing Martin meet Babbitt, and hearing people refer to the Dodsworth family.

I’m gonna check IMDB to see if there’s been a movie version. The scenes with the Tozer family are hysterical. The Tozers are Martin’s wife’s family, and such a bunch of small town nosy, judgmental, control freaks you’ll never meet. It’s fun seeing Martin and his wife thwart them.

It is very slowly-paced and almost event-free, as I recall, but still worth finishing. Check out Robert Harris’s Fatherland or Len Deighton’s SS-GB for (IMHO) much better the-bad-guys-win-World-War-II novels.

Thanks. I’ve read Fatherland, but not Len Deighton.

I got another thirty pages in, and I am considering chucking it. Part of it is the prose - it is kind of jarring when the Japanese think in broken English, and I can’t tell if the part where the visitor gets a Mickey Mouse watch as an exemplar of American culture is supposed to be funny, or not. I do like the juxtaposition of the book they are talking about, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, where it is fantasy that the Allies won, and the book itself, where they lost, but they don’t seem to do much with it, at least so far.

Next up is Citizen of the Galaxy, by Bob Heinlein, which I have never gotten around to. Hopefully it is good - I like Heinlein (apart from The Number of the Beast, which was asinine).


The March thread is up and running