Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' thread - July 2016 edition

July, for the US the joy of fireworks… for American dogs time to load up on the Xanax spend a lot of time under beds.
I started Dead Wake by Erik Larson today. I learned about the Lusitania long ago in my early teens while reading Elswyth Thane’s Williamburg series, I think it was the first disaster of this nature that became “personalized” for me because of the character in the book. I think it’s going to be an emotional read, but Larson’s narrative should make it an enjoyable one too.

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.

last Month’s thread:
Oh June, you have flown so swiftly into the past…

I just started it (Dead Wake) today, too. Erik larson is such a reliable writer, and forty or so pages into it, I am finding it hard to put down.

I am late this year with my tradition of reading a ‘big long book’ over the summer (along with my usual steady diet of mystery novels, now with added sci-fi).

Has anyone read ‘City on Fire’ by Garth Hallberg?

It seems like this might fit the bill for me. Curious what people here think. What is it that is so fascinating about the 1977 NYC blackout? It seems to inspire a lot of interesting stuff.

Currently reading ‘The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn’ by the Strugatskies. Very good for mystery (and especially mystery-spoof, a special fave of mine) fans and fans of Soviet (subversive) lit-and-cult.

Oooh, Dead Wake! I just finished it as an audiobook. During the description of the sinking, I had to turn it off from time to time to de-stress. I cannot imagine how anyone lived through that ordeal - and how tragic that so many did not.

Currently reading Kraken by China Mieville. It’s good although dragging a bit in the middle. Mieville does scary villains awfully well!

Yesterday (which is still “today” over there) I started The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, by Umberto Eco. A 60-ish rare-books dealer in Milan suffers amnesia, except he can remember every line of poetry and literature he has ever read. Good so far.

I just read Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand, who clearly had a direct line into my subconscious, …and my record collection. It’s as if Nick Drake and Sandy Denny collaborated in a creepy parallel Summer of Love on the front lawn of Hill House. I loved it!

“Dead Mountaineer’s Inn” is funny, but slow.

Because I can’t ever just read one thing at a time, I’ve decided to launch into a rare non-fiction book, “Love Goes to Buildings on Fire”, about the music scene in NYC in the 70s.

I’ve raced through George R.R. Martin’s early novel Fevre Dream, about vampires on the antebellum Mississippi River. I last read it a decade ago and had forgotten just enough to keep it exciting. Some memorable scenes, characters and dialogue; Martin really did a great job of recreating the bygone world of steamboats on Ol’ Man River. The ending is just right.

Now I’m on the last hundred pages or so Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, a novel about four NYC siblings - some more sympathetic than others - fighting over an inheritance. I like what Sweeney has to say about the post-9-11 city, and what envy and a misplaced sense of entitlement can do to people who should know better.

Reading Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. About a quarter of the way in and like it so far. It’s about the aftermath of a private plane crash interspersed with flashbacks prior to the crash but isn’t anything like Lost (so far at least).

Finished reading Above All Things, a borrowed book that I didn’t realize was an historical novel instead of an actual account of Mallory’s last attempt on Everest. I only finished the book because the person who loaned it to me will ask what I think. I skipped entire chapters that dealt with what were basically fictional accounts of Mallory’s wife back in London. The author also played fast and loose with history, which really annoys me, even if it’s a novel. There are good historical novels out there, including Jeff Shaara’s WWII series, but this isn’t one of them.

I’m presently reading Albert N’yanza, Great Basin of the Nile, by the great British explorer Samuel White Baker. The prose is somewhat archaic, given that it was written in the 1800s, but he was an interesting writer.

I’m reading City on Fire now and I don’t love it. I like it OK and I’ll finish it, but it hasn’t sparked the OMG, this book is sooo good, I can’t put it down reaction I’d hoped for.
I generally love the big thick bestsellers that reviewers think should’ve been more tightly edited, so I had high hopes for this one. But the plot is awfully slow moving, I’m not feeling the atmosphere of the 1970s and the characters aren’t that well-drawn.

I would recommend Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch for your big long summer book if you haven’t read it. I loved it, it had all the qualities I was hoping to find in City on Fire.

I hate-hate-hated The Goldfinch, as I’ve said before, but YMMV.

Yesterday I finished Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, and liked it a lot. It went in directions I didn’t expect and was a very satisfying read, with a particularly good/poignant ending.

I’ve just started The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, a novel by Claire North. It has some definite similarities to Ken Grimwood’s Replay and Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, but North has her own distinct narrative voice. So far I’m digging it.

Finished Stiletto a couple of days ago. The premise of the Checquy hating the Grafters and vice versa made little sense to me, but I’ll take their word for it. The story was so interesting and funny and I fell right back into it even though I read the first book a couple of years ago. I hope we won’t have to wait as long for the next one!

And now for something completely different, this morning I started on a non-fiction book, $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.

Finished The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, by Umberto Eco. A 60-ish rare-book dealer in Milan in 1991 suffers a stroke that results in amnesia, except he can remember every line of literature and poetry he’s ever read. He searches through the attic of his family’s country estate in a bid to learn who he is and was, all the while taking the reader through a journey of Italy’s literary and pop culture and Fascist history. Pretty good. Sort of an odd ending. Wonderfully illustrated. The title is taken from the title of an Italian edition album of an episode of the American comic strip Tim Tyler’s Luck. Eco never did reach the same height as he did with The Name of the Rose though, IMHO.

Next up … dunno. I’m hitting the library today or tomorrow.

Looking for suggestions? If so, what are you in the mood for?

Thanks, but I already hit the library this afternoon. Not ready to get into anything too heavy now since I’m busy wrapping things up for the Big Move at the start of next month. So, next up is going to be … Cell, by Stephen King. I’ve started seeing posters for the film version, so I figure I should read it now. I’ll be taking it with us as we leave for Cambodia this Saturday on our farewell tour of Angkor Wat. (I’ll be offline until we return to Bangkok late next week.)

But speaking of recommendations, once back in Honolulu, I plan to start catching up on my nonfiction, as that category is really spotty here. I recall mentions of a couple of books covering the Lincoln assassination and the hunt for the perps. I believe there were at least two recommended. What were those?

I’ve been reading my Hugo awards packet – just finished Daniel Polansky’s “The Builders”, which was a lot of fun.

Probably Blood on the Moon by Edward Steers Jr. and Manhunt by James L. Swanson. I’ve read neither, but have heard they’re very good.

I was at Tattered Cover in Denver yesterday (amazing place to shop if you find yourself in the area). One of the staff picks was Neal Stephenson’s seveneves. I plan on reading it on my flight home tomorrow.