January 13th, 2016

Dead Dog Cat

#3, 4

Is this a slow start to the year's reading?

In the last twenty-four hours I finished reading these books:

First was Grunt Life by Weston Ochse. It's the first of an SF series of novels set in the present, more or less, in which a soldier severely affected by PTSD is caught attempting suicide by a company that's recruiting to staff a unit tasked with protecting the Earth from alien invasion, which happens to take place not long after his recruitment. With casualties in the hundreds of millions, can the aliens be stopped? I found the book to be a good, solid read, and there's a sequel that I have to pick up.

Next was this year's first of this series of books, this one being Osprey Campaign #37: Boston 1775: The Shot Heard Around the World which deals with the American Revolution in that small area of Boston. Maps and plates clarify the text. Not bad.
kitty, reading

First two books of 2016

My goals for 2016 are simply to read at least 50 books and to read for pleasure. I have typically set quotas for how many books by POC authors or disabled authors or LGBT authors, etc. I do still plan to read diversely, but I want to give myself a year of pretty much reading whatever strikes my fancy at the time, to read purely for pleasure.

Book #1 was "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time" by David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson. This is the story of how Mortensen established a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, a way to provide a neutral, secular education to children who might otherwise end up educated in radical Islamic madrasas or, in the case of girls, not educated at all. Mortensen has been scrutinized since this book came out, accused of confabulation in the book and questionable use of charitable funds, so it sort of soured the experience for me, but it's still a fun book, with many real-life scrapes where Mortensen was lucky to be alive. Even if Mortensen mis-remembered some facts, it's still a fun book. And I'm not surprised if it was hard to track where the money for the nonprofit went, since it's typical to have to bribe people to get stuff done in third-world countries. I'm planning to follow this up by reading some of the articles critical of Mortensen and his work.

Book #2 was "The Detroit Electric Scheme" by D.E. Johnson. The mystery is set in Detroit in 1910 and mixes real-life figures like Edsel Ford and the Dodge brothers with fictional ones. At the beginning, Will, the son of a well-to-do electric car manufacturer, has become an alcoholic after his fiancee dumps him and ends up with his former best friend. The friend who stole his girl ends up dead in the factor, framing Will, and Will must solve the mystery and man up in the process. I enjoyed the book, though I found it flawed in some ways. For instance, several male characters are well developed, but most of the female characters are pretty thinly-developed. There are also a few turns in the plot that felt a little overly-convenient. On the plus side, I live near Detroit and write articles about its historical landmarks for a local publication, so it was fun to see many of the historical figures and places mentioned in the book. Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it. It was a fun novel to start the year off with.

Book # 3: The Red Thumb Mark

The Red Thumb Mark by R. Austin Freeman

This one turned out to be a pleasant surprise, especially considering it was a free download for Kindle! Now on to the review...

An underrated classic of scientific detective fiction, Dr Thorndyke indeed proved himself to be, at least cognitively, a worthy successor of Mr Sherlock Holmes, and his methods of analysis and deduction. Referring to himself as a 'medical jurispractitioner', Thorndyke's investigations involve the legal defense of his clients, and whilst the case of a red thumb print found on a document concealed in a safe whose contents have lately been purloined seems cut and dry to the reader - and Scotland Yard - he sets about proving why a fingermark, instead of incriminating, acts as exonerating evidence.

Admittedly, aspects of the mystery elements were not at all abstruse and easily guessed at, however, Freeman nonetheless proves himself a master of planting subtle clues, with his courtroom revel, even by today's standards, being a veritable masterpiece of analytic reasoning. As with Holmes, once explained, the answer becomes "absurdly simple", yet its effect is no less astounding.

Therefore, whilst 'The Red Thumb Mark', is not without its weaknesses, its strengths, which include well rounded characters, a tinge of adventure and romance, and an applause-worthy denouement, greatly outweigh any criticisms. This book really ought to be considered essential reading for those with an interest in character based, intellectual detective fiction.

Book #1: The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

Hi! I'm new around these parts. My reading goal for the year is to read a book set in each US state - so 50 books total!

My first book took place in Vermont: The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

I would say that for the first 75% of the book, I was incredibly annoyed. I was convinced I had already figured out the twist. I was annoyed that Bohjalian was reciting so much of The Great Gatsby, a book I was forced to read in high school but never enjoyed. Man, as I read the majority of the book I was just so annoyed.

Laurel is a social worker who works at a homeless shelter. Bobbie Crocker, A schizophrenic man that Laurel had helped at the shelter dies and leaves behind his treasured photographs. Laurel takes it upon herself to unravel this man's story, believing him to be the child of Daisy Buchanan.

Some seven years prior Laurel was the victim of a violent crime.

As she unravels Bobbie Crocker's story, her own story becomes clearer as well.

I really did think I had it all figured out. I was so disappointed that Bohjalian didn't hide the twist better. But when I realized how wrong I was, my whole perspective of the book changed immensely.