Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' thread -- February 2017 Edition

Last month’s thread here.

Okay, I’ll start this month’s thread, because I’ll be too busy to post for a few days and I want to get this post out.

Finished Palace of Treason, by Jason Matthews. Pretty good, a sequel to his Red Sparrow, but again with the inclusion of a recipe for a dish mentioned at the end of the last chapter. That’s pretty annoying. In one chapter, he even mentioned the dirty water coming out of a fountain resembled some sort of ethnic soup just so he could give the recipe for that soup. That has to go. But Matthews is retired CIA and seems to know his stuff. A “sparrow” is a Russian agent and CIA mole trained in “sexpionage,” and once again teaming up are Russian sparrow Dominika Egorova and the love of her life, her CIA handler. Dunno, but Matthews may be on a death list now for his portrayal of Putin as sexually impotent unless he’s giving the order to have someone killed. And his term “palace of treason” is a reference to the Kremlin.

Next up is Far Eastern Tales, a collection of short stories by W. Somerset Maugham.

Khadaji was one of the earlier members of the 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, and he started these monthly book threads. Sadly, he passed away in January 2013, and we decided to rename these monthly threads in his honor.

Thanks Sam!

ANYONE, feel free to PM me and thump me over the ears when I forget. Honestly with the current mess in the US, where I am, I’ve been spending more time away from social media. So I’m online, just not paying attention.

That said, I started The Science of Discworld yesterday. So far it’s okay, the Wizard’s story is funny, the science is a bit simple but interesting.

I finished Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident by Donnie Eichar. If you haven’t heard of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, I recommend Googling it because it’s a fascinating mystery. To briefly summarize, nine experienced hikers go up into the mountains, and something causes them to abandon their tent without even dressing themselves, and they die of hypothermia. The most obvious answer would be that an avalanche hit – except that their tent and belongings remained upright and undisturbed, and the surroundings offered no evidence of any avalanche occuring. I would NOT, however, recommend this book, as entirely too much of the book is spent talking about the author’s own life and experiences rather than the mystery or possible theories on the incident.

I’m most of the way through Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism by Arthur Fleischmann. I highly recommend this book; it’s a fascinating story told by a talented writer. The premise is that the writer’s daughter had autism and an oral motor condition that left her unable to speak, and she had no way of communicating until, at ten years old, she typed a sentence to her therapists, and they were able to pull her out of herself enough to communicate with the people around her. The story sounded incredible, but it became much more amazing when I actually read the book, and discovered just how severe her autism was: this girl was developmentally delayed in every way, from being able to sit up to being able to hold onto objects. Even at the age when she began typing, she would throw frequent tantrums, screaming and hitting herself, stripping her bed, flinging clothes out of her dresser and food out of the kitchen cabinets, she was unable to sleep through the night and would wake her parents up with her screaming, she would defecate her bed, and she had to have an aide with her at all times because she was unable to take care of herself. To read about such a profoundly disabled child blossom into a woman who is able to share beautiful, incredibly mature thoughts with the people around her is incredible.

Finally, I’m reading [Burying the Honeysuckle Girls](Burying the Honeysuckle Girls) by Emily Carpenter. The premise is that a woman who’s about to turn thirty has just been released from rehab, and her family tells her about how all the women in her family go crazy when they turn thirty. The book started out great, but as I’m getting more into it, I’m not liking it quite as much. I feel like there are too many characters/storylines, and it’s hard to get sucked into the storyline or care about the characters when the book jumps around as much as it does. But I’m less than halfway through the book, so it may pick up again.

I hit pause on my Game of Thrones re-read and started The Covenant by James Michener.

I’m reading Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris, a novel about a saboteur in a Yorkshire boys’ school. I’m embarrassed to say that it took me a while to realize that alternating chapters had different narrators. I realized the voice was quite different, but as they also jumped in time, I thought the narrator was contrasting the boy he was and the man he became…:smack: Anyway, when I skimmed back over, I do think the author could have done a better job delineating that. However, I am really liking this book. I originally picked it up because the sequel looked attractive and I’m hoping to get my hands on that soon. If it holds up, I will look for more by this author.

I picked up a copy of Before the Golden Age, the Isaac Asimov - edited volume of 1930s science fiction. I’d wanted to read it for some time, but it’s been out of print for ages. I stumbled across a complete hardcover edition at Arisia. I’ve read perhaps a third of the stories elsewhere, but that still leaves plenty of stuff I haven’t. I hadn’t realized that there are extensive autobiographical notes between the stories, telling us what was going on in Asimov’s life when the story first came out and he read it in the original magazines. It’s like the Asimov bio 0.0, before In Memory Yet Green/In Joy Still Felt (version 1.0) and I. Asimov (2.0). Apparently The Early Asimov and Buy Jupiter continue the trend.
I also came across a copy of the 1998 printing of Jules Verne’s Magellania, which I am reading on a hiatus from Asimov. I’m a big fan of Verne, and this book is a product of what I think of as the Third Verne Renaissance, in which books translated into English for the first time (as The Brothers Kip, or never before printed (Paris in the Twentieth Century or The Shipwrecked Family) or ones which have never been printed without the additions by his son Michel (such as The Meteor Hunt) have been printed for the first time and translated. This one falls into the last category. Michel Verne added 31 characters (!) and numerous chapters to Verne’s bare-bones story, messing up the theme and making actions inconsistent. I’d never read this one before, in any form.

I finished Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes on audio, and am almost finished with Clive Cussler’s latest “Fargo” story, pirate.

Still enjoying my audiobook of Robert Penn Warren’s novel All the King’s Men, and am about a third of the way through. Lots about bare-knuckled Southern politics in the Thirties, although right now there’s a long but interesting tangent about a torrid antebellum love affair between an ancestor of the main character and a married woman.

I’m still about halfway through the graphic novel Before Watchmen: Minutemen / Silk Spectre by Darwyn Cooke and Amanda Conner, which is also pretty good.

I’m partway through Ted Chiang’s Arrival, a short story collection, which includes “Story of Your Life,” the inspiration for the recent sf alien-first-contact movie Arrival. One of the better stories (I won’t say which one) is, you only realize partway through, a supervillain’s origin story. Very clever.

Did you know there’ll be a TV series?: Can’t go wrong with Brendan Gleeson.

Just finished a collection of short stories by Gerald Kersh. British/American dark fantasy author who died in 1968. Most famous story is “Men Without Bones.”

People who love him REALLY love him; Harlan Ellison jizzes in his shorts in the introductory essay. I was, like, yeah, he’s OKAY.

For February just started Italo Svevo’s 1923 novel Zeno’s Conscience.

About a third of the way through 1635: The wars for the Rhine by Anette Peterson. It’s set in Eric Flint’s “Ring of Fire” world, where a small W. Virginia town has gone back in time to 1631 Germany, and the ripples from that event. This is a stand-alone book and one of the few Flint is not co-author on. It ain’t bad, but learning all the characters and keeping family relationships straight (fortunately, there is a list of all the characters in the back of the book). For faithful readers of the series, it’s well worth the time, but for someone unfamiliar with Flint’s world, not a good starting point (go read 1632, which can be found on-line at Baen Books).

On Sunday I finished Michael Connolly’s The Brass Verdict, which is #2 in the Mickey Haller series and #14 in the Harry Bosch series. The next book in the Haller series is #16 in the Bosch series, so I decided to go ahead and read Bosch #15 first. Which means I am currently reading Nine Dragons.

That sounds interesting! I just had a sample chapter sent to my Kindle, and I look forward to checking it out…if I ever stop reading Mickey Haller/Harry Bosch/Johannes Cabal/Joe Dillard stories. :wink:

I like Nine Dragons a LOT! It was twisty and wild and the characters well done.

I started re-reading “Thank you, Jeeves!”, the famous one where Bertie takes up the banjolele and taking a lease on a cottage in the country, leading to Jeeves sending in his papers.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten that it has a liberal use of the “n-word” in relation to the banjo, which is a jarring reminder of how casually the word was used back in the 20’s.

I’ve put it aside for a while, but I will go back, if only to read the famous scene where Jeeves’ replacement as Bertie’s valet, the Marxist-Leninist Meadowes, returns from a toot, tries to disembowel Bertie as an example of the Propaganda of the Deed, and ends up burning down the cottage.

Like Anatole, one must take a few smooths with the rough, I suppose.

CalMeachem, the notes in Before the Golden Age* are fascinating! Yes, Asimov continues that practice in his later collections - Great fun!

I finished The Witch’s Vacuum CLeaner and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett today.

A lovely compilation of some of Terry Pratchett’s earlier works, they were written 1966 -1970 when he was a reporter. The stories are uncomplicated and clearly aimed to children but the humour is pure Pratchett gold and will make even an adult snicker.

Picked up Peter Carey’s “The Chemistry of Tears” at the library, which I had thought I’d never read. Got home to see it on my books-read list, but strangely, with no notation of how I liked it. Now a quarter of the way through, it is only vaguely familiar, but I’m still liking it. Carey is an unpredictable author of unusual gift,

Oh good! I really liked it, even gave it the rare five stars at Goodreads. Starting today on the sequel, A Different Class.

Now I’m intrigued by Gentlemen and Players, I’ll put it on my library list.

I picked up a memoir called The Clancys of Queens, by Tara Clancy. I caught an interview on NPR with the author, she sounded really nice. The memoir was fine although it felt like a mostly an “of local interest” thing.

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi is a middle reader – it was one of those books where I thought it was okay, nothing too memorable, while I was reading it, but I think it was a better book upon reflection. Two cousins have to adjust to changing family dynamics when one family moves from Japan to the US. It’s a sweet story and the writing is quietly impressive.

I’m now about halfway through All the King’s Men, just finished Before Watchmen (OK, but not as good as the Dr. Manhattan issue), am taking a break from Arrival, and have just begun C.J. Sansom’s Dominion, an alt-hist novel set in 1952 Nazi-occupied London. Pretty interesting so far.

The Keep, F. Paul Wilson (1981)

Nazis have to hold a rural keep in Romania, but something inhuman is killing them off one by one!

I think this probably influenced a lot of people, not least Guillermo del Toro.

The writing’s very strong for a first novel. It wobbles now and again, and I think the treatment of the book’s only female character (so far, and I’m about 80% in) is overly sexual; yeah, the scumbag Nazis are gonna treat her like an object, but even when she’s on her own, the writing too readily turns to descriptions of her body.


It is good, otherwise, and the tensions between the ordinary German army officer and the SS officer feel realistic to me.

Would recommend, and it’s part of a series!

Also, just finished the audiobook of Alan Partridge: Nomad. Ruddy great stuff. Not as ruddy great as I, Partridge, but ruddy great stuff nonetheless.