Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' thread -- November 2018 Edition

Gomen Nasai!
Real life has been a bit too real lately and I forgot to start the new thread. puppy eyes

Currently I am reading Ghostland by Colin Dickey. I’m enjoying it a lot.

I am also reading Snake Agent by Liz Chen, it’s not bad but not grabbing me by the throat.
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Khadaji was one of the earlier members of 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, who started these threads way back in the Stone Age of 2013. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectantly passed away, we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.

Last month: Hello Autumn!

As I just wrote in last month’s thread (and gee, is it November already?):

Finished Camino Island, by John Grisham. A departure from his usual legal thriller, it’s a straight-up heist yarn set in the world of rare books and manuscripts. In the opening, a team straight out of a classic 1950s French heist film, or maybe even Ocean’s Eleven, steals F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original, handwritten manuscripts to all five of his novels from their home in Princeton University’s Firestone Library. The owner of a popular independent bookstore on Florida’s Camino Island, off the coast near Jacksonville, is suspected of having obtained them by a sophisticated private detective agency hired by the manuscripts’ insurer. The agency presses into service a beautiful, young and struggling author with a history on the island to help get them back. Meanwhile, the leader of the heist team, who dumped the manuscripts on the black market for a rip-off price after he got spooked when two of his team were arrested, now wants them back to sell for a real profit and is willing to kill for them. This is perhaps my favorite Grisham book to date. An excellent read.

Next up is Dark Sacred Night, by Michael Connelly, his newest novel, featuring Harry Bosch along with Renee Ballard, who was introduced in his The Late Show last year. The book went on sale just yesterday, and the wife and I made a special trip to Barnes and Noble to buy it. Connelly is one of the few authors I will buy the hardcover.

Thanks for beginning a new thread.

I recently finished a novel called Harmony by an author called Carolyn Parkhurst.

I’m sure I’ve had this experience before, but I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head: a book that I really, really liked until I got to the ending, which was…terrible. (Maybe Gone Girl. Well, the first five sixths of Gone Girl was better, and the ending of Harmony was worse, so…maybe not.)

The book deals with a family in DC: mom, dad, 13-and-11-year-old daughters (ages at the time the action begins). Older daughter is a major challenge–diagnosed with pervasive development disorder, which simultaneously explains everything and nothing. School is hard, home is hard, friends are hard–everything is very difficult with her. The dad is frustrated, the mom is immensely frustrated, teachers are frustrated. Younger daughter, who is neurotypical, loves and resents her sister and gets lost in the shuffle a lot.

The mom hears a guy named Scott give a talk about the challenges of raising extremely complicated kids. Scott has some interesting ideas, she thinks, but mostly he seems kind, compassionate, and good with kids, though he’s not a parent, psychologist, or therapist. Over time Scott becomes more and more important in the family’s life, helping them manage the many many issues one on one as well as in groups, and if they squint hard they can see progress… eventually the family agrees to join Scott and a couple of other families in running a summer camp for families with children like theirs.

The book is told partly by the younger daughter in the present time (what things are like at the camp) and most of the rest in flashback by the mom explaining “how we got here.” Much of this is great. My own two kids were very complex, though not THIS complex thank goodness, and the author does a great job of explaining what it’s like to try to parent kids in this situation. (Embarrassment, frustration, living on pins and needles, what’s going to happen next???) The writing is generally very good, the voices are strong (okay, the 11-year-old sometimes comes across as too sophisticated for her age, and the mom tells her chapters in the second person, which doesn’t work very well), and there’s this excellently-managed sense of foreboding as we see more and more problems with Scott, issues which the younger daughter sees clearly but doesn’t understand and the parents refuse to see at all…

…and just as I was saying “Wow, this is good, wonder how she is going to end it?”, the book completely fizzles with an ending that is not in the least believable and seems to be mainly in the service of “I’m over deadline, better think of something quick.” Very unsatisfying on every level.

Oh well. As I say, there’s a lot of good things about the novel till we hit the last 25-30 pages or so. If you want a realistic account of what it’s like to live with a kid who has PDD, this is a fine choice. Just stop reading while the stopping’s good :).

Still working on Dorothy L. Sayers’s GAUDY NIGHT. It’s fat and long enough to be intimidating, but every time I pick it up I LOVE it.

The Abyss by Greig Beck. I read Fathomless, the first in the series last year. These are basically just good modern sea monster stories. Since supposedly extinct coelacanths were discovered, why not a few other, more hostile ancient critters? That’s the basis for several of his books.

I’m also working my way through the Hell Divers series, awaiting book 4 on Audible. I’ve already paid and am “in line” for the release next week. Very short summary: Very bad war, Earth mostly uninhabitable, some survivors escape to the sky in sophisticated high altitude airships (prepared by the elite for this purpose). As time and generations go by, an increasing need for repair/resupply from the surface sends a sort of special forces parachute corps down to the hostile surface to forage. They have to contend with the scary world that survived down below. I guess the concept is a little over the top, but the characters are interesting and I got hooked.

I’m back to Harry Potter after reading The Husband’s Secret by Liana Moriarty. It starts out as three separate tales of suburban women on a collision course due to one of their husbands. I loved it enough to reserve more of the author’s books from the library. Engrossing and although I knew what the secret was, how it all played out was a surprise. There’s a “For Want of a Nail” feel about it, in that one decision or choice leads to another that leads to an ultimate outcome you never could have foreseen, and you’ll always be unaware of how others’ choices affect your life.

For me, the quintessential example of this is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

*Kingbird Highway, * a classic and gentle Big Year birding book, notable for not trying for the forced hilarity of the regrettable *A Supremely Bad Idea. * I just read Noah Strycker’s Birding without Borders, another sweet big year book, so I guess I’m hitting the genre pretty hard right now.

I’m guessing I shouldn’t read it, then…or maybe just the first three fourths.

A new genre: Good Books with Dumb Endings.

I’m about 40% through Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars. I’m enjoying these stories even more than I expected to, and I like the author’s writing style enough that I’m already planning to read Never a Dull Moment: 1971 The Year That Rock Exploded (partly because I was born in 1971).

I’m glad it’s taking me some time to get through this book, because I have three great options for what’s next and I have no idea what I’ll pick:
[ul]
[li]Stephen King’s Elevation[/li][li]Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night (which was on my list before I read Siam Sam’s posts)[/li][li]John Grisham’s Camino Island (which wasn’t on my list until I read Siam Sam’s posts :))[/li][/ul]I also downloaded a sample of Tom Hanks’s book, Uncommon Type: Some Stories, and I finally bought the digital version of Joe Torre’s The Yankee Years (I’ve had the hardback on my bookcase for years, since before my first Kindle, and I finally realized that if I had the ebook I might actually read it). Those are both “eventually” books, though, along with about a dozen other samples I have on my Kindle.

Several Dean Koontz books fit that description for me, which is why I eventually slowed my reading of his stuff.

I recently finished Robert A. Heinlein’s sf novel Starman Jones, about a farmboy who wrangles a billet on a huge starship liner. Not Heinlein’s best, but it has its moments. I also wrapped up Joe Haldeman’s sf novel Worlds Enough and Time (last of his Worlds trilogy), which was a bit better than I remembered, but not as good as the first book in the series.

I’m now listening to an audiobook of Elmore Leonard’s crime novel Pronto, about a bookie on the run from the Miami Mob who goes into hiding in an Italian seaside resort town. I’ve also begun Brian Steel Wills’s George Henry Thomas: As True As Steel, a thick bio of a Civil War general and hero of mine. Both are pretty good so far.

No, it’s a wonderful book!! I absolutely recommend it, and if you know going through that it jumps the shark at the last part (I think the book is split into 3 parts? Or maybe 5?), then you probably won’t be as disappointed as I was at the ending.

Finished The Mystery of the Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah, which is a new Hercule Poirot novel, authorized by Agatha Christie’s estate. Meh. Not terrible, and it had one or two interesting parts, but nothing to really recommend it.

Also, it had one editing problem that I noticed right away. One character is named Kingbury, up until about a third of the way through the book, at which point he became Kingsbury, with an “s”. At first I thought it was a clue, or a red herring, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just an error.

Next up: Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata.

I went back to the Wool series. Because nothing will take me away from our current political clime like a post-apocalyptic series with even WORSE skullduggery.

I finished The Omega Objection the third book in GL Carrigers fantastic m/m urban fantasy series The San Andreas Shifters. My onlycritiques was the ending was a bit sappy for me but the build up to the climatic fight was nerve wracking, sexy and wonderful.

Ialso finished Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey. Not your average laundry list of American haunted houses by any stretch. Not the book if you want something that validates ghost stories, but definitely the book to read if you want history of the places rumored to be haunted. Dickey weaves a narrative of myth and fact together with a touch of psychology and a dose of humor as well. The book explores the myths of several well known hauntings as well as the known facts about the characters and places with an eye to why we see ghosts and why haunted places are so dear to our psyches.

On a Maine vacation in July, I read William Henry Hudson’s Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest, published around 1904 (ignored) and reissued in 1916 to tremendous acclaim and eventual “classic” status.

I loved the book, and like most readers, probably, fell in love with Rima, the Bird-Girl. The ending was a complete bummer…first for not giving any clue as to whether Rima was a supernatural entity, a space alien, or whatever…and especially for what happened to her and the effect it had on the protagonist. Ouch.

I was charmed to learn that Jacob Epstein carved an image of Rima (not the spectral beauty of my mind’s eye but the typical Epstein grotesque) which is part of the bird sanctuary in London’s Hyde Park.

https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/Petition_against_Jacob_Epstein's_Rima

Interesting title, under the circumstances: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Adventure_of_the_Missing_Three-Quarter

Dung Beetle, Grrlbrarian et al Have you seen this about The Empty Grave?

Empty Grave nominated for award

I just finished reading Duncan McCue’s The Shoe Boy. It’s about his memories of spending time with a Cree family and learning about their traditional way of life. It’s riveting, educational, moving, and all around a lovely book.