April 23rd, 2016

Dead Dog Cat


Tooling along slowly, I finished Osprey Campaign #4: Tet Offensive 1968: Turning Point in Vietnam this week. I was pretty young when this happened, and on this side of the Pacific, whatever was happening was poorly reported, so this quick discussion of the events and results is pretty solidly good. Worthwhile.

Books #15-16

Book #15 was "Ancillary Justice" by Ann Leckie. I'd heard good things about this book and it has won awards, so it was on my "to read" list. Then I found out Leckie is guest of honor at an upcoming con, so I I bumped it up the list, and I'm so glad I read it! This story takes place in the future where the Radch have taken over huge swaths of the universe, trying their best (in their own minds, anyway) to be humane and fair with the people they conquer, turning the cooperative ones into full citizens. The book follows the story of an AI that used to inahbit a whole ship plus had its consciousness spread out among the bodies of formerly dead and frozen conquered people, called "ancillaries." The AI has been mostly destroyed and only inhabits one human body. She has parts of her memory erased, but the parts she remember are disturbing, and she's looking for answers and revenge. The book is space opera, but because the first-person narrative by Breq is so engaging, it really pulls you in. I loved it and can't wait to read the next two in the series and to (I hope) meet the author soon.

Book #16 was "Beauty Queens" by Libba Bray, as an audibook. I can't even remember how I came to get this from the library - I might have just been looking at YA audiobooks and found the premise amusing: a plane full of beauty queens goes down on a deserted island. What happens next? What happens next is a hilarious satire of the beauty industry and consumer culture, as well as a deconstruction of societal notions about gender. Bray walked the line of making it so ridiculous that it borders on camp, but she does end up fleshing out the characters with back stories, hopes and dreams, so they are more than just stereotypes. I had a few criticisms of how she handled point of view in the book, but I really had fun with it and recommend it, especially as an audiobook read by the author, with a short Q&A with Bray at the end.
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Books 14 and 16

14. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson. This one fits the middle school novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. This is essentially Woodson's autobiography, told in free verse. It's beautifully written. Woodson (After Tupac and D Foster, and many other books) covers her life from a toddler in Ohio and a young child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and later in her years split between Greenville and Brooklyn, the latter city which would eventually become her home. She captures a childlike innocence with a story set in the middle of the Civil Rights movement. She shows the difficulties growing up in two areas, both of which present difficulties, but she doesn't dwell on the hardships. Instead, you see the closeness of her family, especially to her grandparents. You see her relationship with her mother, two older siblings and her younger brother. You see her curiosity as she seeks to find her way and find where she fits, and her thrill as her ability to tell stories and, later, write them come to fruition. This is an excellent book for preteen and younger teens- or any age.

15. Trashed, by Derf Backderf. This fulfills the graphic novel requirement for the Book Riot challenge. Backderf, best known for his graphic novel My Friend Dahmer. Here, Backderf tells a fictionalized story of his time serving as a garbageman. As expected, this story has a generous serving of Backderf's irreverent humor. However, there's also a good deal of compassion, such as when the garbage crew comes to a house that has obviously been foreclosed on. Throughout the story, Trashed gives information on how much garbage is generated in the United States, how it is stored, the anatomy of a landfill and even some history on garbage trucks. While the story is listed as a fictionalized story of Backderf's life behind a sanitation truck, I suspect there's more truth than fiction in many of the stories, which not only go over the perils and hardship of picking up garbage, but exposes the garbage in politics and even within people. There are a few four-letter words, but teachers in the higher grades shouldn't feel they need to hesitate to use this book as a teaching tool, and not just for ecology, either.

16. Big Girls Do Cry, by April Kirkwood. This was an interesting autobiography of a Youngstown woman who had a periodic affair with legendary singer Frankie Valli. She recalls her days as a child, going with her mother to Four Seasons concerts and meeting Valli afterwards. When she was older, she'd go back with him to his hotel room. Her infatuation and dreams of becoming the next Mrs. Frankie Valli would color her relationships with other men, none of which ended well. She reflects on her weaknesses and on imprinting, which she says can ruin any relationship. Kirkwood also goes into her background, growing up in blue-collar Youngstown, her up and down relationship with her troubled mother, and the more stable support of her aunt and grandmother. This is a quick read, about a colorful and fascinating life. Today, she works as a counselor and as a speaker on relationships.

Currently reading: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, by John le Carre.

Book 21

Title: The Edge of Worlds
Author: Martha Wells
Series: part four of "The Books of the Raksura", follows Stories of the Raksura Volume Two
Pages: 388
Summary: An expedition of groundlings from the Empire of Kish have traveled through the Three Worlds to the Indigo Cloud court of the Raksura, shape-shifting creatures of flight that live in large family groups. The groundlings have found a sealed ancient city at the edge of the shallow seas, near the deeps of the impassable Ocean. They believe it to be the last home of their ancestors and ask for help getting inside. But the Raksura fear it was built by their own distant ancestors, the Forerunners, and the last sealed Forerunner city they encountered was a prison for an unstoppable evil.

Prior to the groundlings’ arrival, the Indigo Cloud court had been plagued by visions of a disaster that could destroy all the courts in the Reaches. Now, the court’s mentors believe the ancient city is connected to the foretold danger. A small group of warriors, including consort Moon, an orphan new to the colony and the Raksura’s idea of family, and sister queen Jade, agree to go with the groundling expedition to investigate. But the predatory Fell have found the city too, and in the race to keep the danger contained, the Raksura may be the ones who inadvertently release it.

My thoughts:
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Book 28: The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters

Book 28: The Golden One (Amelia Peabody #14).
Author: Elizabeth Peters, 2002.
Genre: Adventure. Historical Mystery. Egyptology.
Other Details: ebook. 641 pages. Unabridged Audio (17 hrs, 51 mins). Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.

Risking winter storms and German torpedoes, the Emersons are heading for Egypt once again: Amelia, Emerson, their son Ramses and his wife Nefret. Emerson is counting on a long season of excavation without distractions but this proves to be a forlorn hope. Yet again they unearth a dead body in a looted tomb - not a mummified one though, this one is only too fresh, and it leads the clan on a search for the man who has threatened them with death if they pursue the excavations. If that wasn't distraction enough, Nefret reveals a secret she has kept hidden: there is reason to believe that Sethos, master criminal and spy may be helping the enemy. It's up to the Emersons to find out, and either prove his innocence or prevent him from betraying Britain's plans to take Jerusalem and win the war in the Middle East. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.

After a slight slump with the last novel here the story and characters picked up the pace again. Multiple plot lines including more about the Great War in the Middle East were woven together and came to a satisfying conclusion.

I have been listening to this series while driving but early into this one I received the news that due to increasing eye problems I am no longer permitted to drive until the issue is corrected. As a result I elected to transfer this to my MP3 player and listen to it while waiting for buses and at odd moments during the day. I expect to continue and complete the series this way as well as to access the Kindle edition..