Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - February 2014

I’m about a quarter of the way into The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). I don’t read a lot of mysteries, but I needed a change of pace and it was recommended to me. So far, the characters and the set up seem a bit cliched, but I’m still eager to learn what happens next.

I recently read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War and The Ghost Brigades. They were both enjoyable reads, but I find his vision of the way humans interact with other species more than a little depressing. I really prefer for my sci fi to be optimistic. I’m still going to read the next in the series.

Heh, that’s awesome. :smiley: I loved the Seuss Beowulf, it deserves a wide readership. :slight_smile:

The current house book is New Amsterdam, by Elizabeth Bear. Only about 40 pages left, after which I’ll start on its sequel, The White City.

The current car book is Twenty Blue Devils, the ninth Gideon Oliver mystery by Aaron Elkins. Next, I think, will be an ARC of The Martian, by Andy Weir.

I’m nearly finished with Rebecca Goldstein’s book Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel. I have understood very little of it, and almost nothing about his actual proofs. I can grasp the importance of the liar’s paradox, but that’s it. The author lost me at the explanation of Gödel numbering.

The introduction is nice - she talks about the creation of the Institute for Advanced study in Princeton, and the unlikely friendship between Gödel and Einstein. Then she launches into a discussion of the Vienna Circle in the early 1920’s and the philosophies that Gödel’s work most disturbed: logical positivism and formalism. Then onto an explanation of the Godel’s proofs, which I skimmed over. Now she seems to be relating anecdotes about the man (the author met him once in a rare congenial mood at a party at Princeton) who was eccentric even for a genius. There’s a sad ending coming up: Gödel became so paranoid and delusional that he would only eat food that his wife prepared, and when she fell sick he starved himself to death.

I can’t really tell if the book any good or not, because it’s over my head, but it’s not what I was expecting. It’s part of the Norton “Great Discoveries” series, and the other two books in that series I’ve read (on Marie Curie and Ignac Semmelweis) were more accessible than this one.
On a lighter note, I just read Michael Chabon’s short novel The Final Solution, which has an aged, fading Sherlock Holmes roused by the mystery behind a mute 9-yr-old German Jewish refugee boy with a pet African gray parrot which recites strings of numbers in German, and which goes missing after a murder. The book is too slight to be completely satisfying, but Chabon’s writing is marvelous. I particularly enjoyed the chapter written from the parrot’s point of view.

Just started reading Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond. It’s a weighty tome; if the prologue is any indication, I’ll still be reading this in the March edition of this thread.

I finished Archimedes Neselrode, which I really liked. Next up is a copy of The Year’s Best Science Fiction 11 (1949). I’d missed this series when it was new, but was reminded of it when I picked up NESFA’s attempt to revive it at the New England Book Fair last year.

I’m towards the end of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It’s an informative look at African-American life in the early 20th century.

I think I’ve forgiven Stephen King for Under The Dome and the last volume of the Dark Tower series. I recently finished Joyland, and just started Doctor Sleep (the sequel to The Shining.)

I am about halfway through Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Kostin and Raynaud, a fascinating look at one of the greatest, if largely unknown, western intelligence successes of the century - and it largely just fell in our lap. An easy read; they don’t get bogged down in unnecessary details, but give as accurate a picture as possible of the spy and his environment. It puts the Reagan years, and the US’s relationship with France, in a new light (at least for me).

If you enjoy the FX show The Americans I think you will enjoy this book.

Finished The Black Ice by Michael Connelly. It is the 2nd Harry Bosch book and I enjoyed it a lot even though I worked out the plot twist about 20 pages ahead of Harry… I do like the way Connelly is parceling out bits of Harry’s Backstory.

I’ll start The Confessor by Daniel Silva in the next couple of days. So far I am 1 for 1 on the series.

Well, I haven’t finished this novel - Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge, and I may never. I was reading it with my wife, whom I just lost, and finishing it just sounds like torture right now.

Nevertheless, I want to trumpet as much as I can the greatness of this book. Truly a forgotten classic. At times I thought I was reading Dickens. I don’t know why this book isn’t huge. I’m not sure I want to tell you much about the book - it was wonderful for me not knowing anything about it except a recommendation that it was good, and letting it sell me on itself.

It’s a period piece - set in the 1830’s (written in the 1940’s) in the British Empire, and it’s the story of a few lives that intertwine. Sounds staid, but isn’t.

If you make the effort to seek it out, I think you’ll be glad you did.

Thanks for the tip! Always good to hear of a book which stirs someone’s passion.

And here’s the great Bill Evans tune of the same name.

Bup! :frowning:

I just finished The Abominable, by Dan Simmons and I loved it! I hesitate to recommend it, though. You have to not mind the occasional hundred page information dump on the evolution of the ice axe, the 12 point crampon and the mechanics of oxygen delivery. Then you have to be down with the step by step upward struggle with all the obligatory maladies, equipment failures, weather woes, hidden crevasses, and impossible rock climbing technicalities. Oh, …and there’s a slightly creaky (okay, really silly) development as if Hitler wasn’t bad enough just killing millions of people, Dan Simmons had to go and… that you’ll just have to go with.

I couldn’t put it down, dammit, and I’m sorry it’s over.

Aw, bup, I missed your post. I’m so sorry. :frowning:

I finished Voltaire’s “Candide” a few days ago. I never realised how short it was (novella-length).

bup, my thoughts are with you. I hope you have caring people to be with right now, I’m so sorry.

First of all, {{{bup}}}.

Second of all, I’ve officially decided I do not like, nay, cannot stand Christopher Moore. My Older Sister gave me a copy of The Stupidest Angel last year and I’ve put off reading it until I finally decided to give it a chance. I got five pages into it before I decided it was not funny in any way. I can see why she thought I’d like it because I love Douglas Adams and dry wacky British humour, but this is not the same. The only way I can describe it is this is what Hollywood thinks dry British humour is like without any of the wit. It’s now sitting in the used bookstore bag so someone who likes that sort of thing can get it.

I still love the Vish Puri mysteries. I got the latest one, The Case of the Love Commandos, from the library and I’m about three chapters in. Already Mummy-ji is taking over an investigation for Vish. :slight_smile:

Since I’m done with Dickens, the next Weighty Tome in the alluvial plain of Mt. ToBeRead is the Thomas North translation of Plutarch’s Lives. It’s a 70-year-old copy with a lovely old book smell. It’s also absolutely hilarious in places.

I read it when it came out and was enjoyed it/them, more or less, until the final sections when the ‘Abominable’ surfaced.
After that the dates just didn’t hang together for the plot to work for me. I said this at the time elsewhere:

Book ruining [spoiler]A huge amount of detail about almost everything the plot touches on, which is mainly Alpine and Himalayan climbing in the late 19th and early 20th Century. Actually, the bulk of the book is climbing detail, especially once the action moves to Mount Everest. His fictitious events are described with every bit as much detail as the real historical action, which becomes a bit wearing after a while and the ending, instead of a neat wrap-up is staggered over several incidents spanning decades as loose ends are coped with.
The Abominable was truly abominable but it’s eventual use seemed too late for maximum effect; 4 months earlier might have been better, or some other event years before maybe. And the ‘happy ending’ postcard was completely unnecessary, imo.

Also, his using his Secret Service position in Greece to hear apparently common (military) gossip which has never surfaced since, and using the same contacts later to find stuff out, contrasted oddly with his using these very channels but coming up blank about other things which should have been no harder to find trace of… All somewhat unsatisfactory.
A decent map/profile view of Everest would have helped, too!
If you read this, it’ll ruin the book:**

To be blunt, with the photographs Churchill could have destroyed Hitler’s reputation anytime from the mid-1920s onward but chose to allow him to gain power and conquer much of Europe before using them. I know he wasn’t in power for much of the time but he still had the contacts to use them successfully.
Yes, preventing the invasion of Britain was a good time to use them, but, except for linking in the Hess flight to Scotland*, surely the German decision not to crush the British army at Dunkirk in May 1940 was at least as good a hook for the end of the novel. An entire army of almost 350,000 men (British, French & Belgian) could have been destroyed or captured and there would have been no ‘Dunkirk spirit’. Even Churchill himself called it a ‘miracle of deliverance’.

*Actually, Operation Sea Lion was postponed indefinitely in September 1940 and abandoned in January 1941 and Hess’s flight, which he implies was the means of communication, wasn’t until May 1941 so the end just doesn’t make sense to me.
It would have worked much better for me if he had ditched the putative Hess connection and moved the blackmail up to the time of Dunkirk.

‘blackmail’ timeline:
late 1937 - Duke of Windsor visits Germany and tells Hitler about the photos
May/June 1940 - Dunkirk (apparently not part of any deal)
Sept 1940 - Operation Sea Lion delayed
January 1941 - Operation Sea Lion shelved
May 1941 - Hess flies to Scotland to negotiate destruction of photos

So, nothing happens for over three years after Hitler is approached, and the threat is withdrawn months before the negotiations are complete (or maybe even fully started!)
Doesn’t really hang together to me.[/spoiler]
But you’ve read it more recently; maybe I’ve misinterpreted something along the way…

Apart from that, the thriller by Joe Haldeman, Work Done for Hire wasn’t very good, with a rather rushed ending, and The Rabbit Back Literary Society by Pasi Ilmar Jaaskelainen also fell apart a bit at the end. It was a ghost story of sorts, but with too much left unresolved. Maybe I’m getting harder to please!

But now, for no particular reason, I’ve decided to finally read Red Mars (and hopefully the other two as well) by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’ve been meaning to read it for years - since 1992, I guess, when I got it! I’m now about as far in as I got on my previous attempt and still going strong! :slight_smile: