March 5th, 2017

Dead Dog Cat

#31, 32, 33, 34, 35

I had the time for a bit more reading this week, and it shows.

The first book I finished deals with a part of the history of the American colonies that I can't recall my schools ever covered. This was Osprey Raid #46: Montcalm's Crushing Blow: French and Indian Raids Along New York's Oswego River 1756. Seems to me that whole era gets short shrift, with vague statements that some of the Continental Army had experience in this war. Therefore, I found myself reading this Osprey a bit more deeply than I often do. Pretty good...

Next was In Your Dreams by Tom Holt. This is a moderately contemporary fantasy/humor book about a clerk who works for a magical firm. A trifle confusing but rather amusing.

Then, Drive, a short piece by James S A Corey (actually two authors working together, but what can you do). The story describes what happened when a Martian (human living on Mars) engineer finds a way to markedly improve drive efficiency in spacecraft. I had just read the tale, when the TV show on Scyfy included a bit of it in that evenings presentation. I really like the various Expanse books and short stories I've read, this one included. Worth reading from the start, though this short story is actually a prequel to the main storyline.

Next book was Osprey Campaign #35: Plassey 1757: Clive of India's Finest Hour. Some folks that I've heard lecture on the topic feel that the wars that involve this campaign as well as the earlier raid book from today's post are part of the very first "world war". Here we have some of the fighting in India, or at least Bangladesh.

Finally, Osprey Elite #53: International Brigades in Spain 1936 – 39; this particular war was a prequel to WWII and it allowed the Germans and Italians to practice warcraft with their new toys (tanks, dive bombers, etc.). This particular book deals with the volunteers who came from a variety of nations trying to support the more socialist elected government against the fascistic Spanish elements. Solid read.

On to the next week.

Book #12: The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb and Other Cases by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Number of pages: 357

This is another compilation of 13 Sherlock Holmes stories, taken from different books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There were just four that I'd never before, although I had forgotten what happened in most of the others. I liked the fact that there was a good mixture of murder stories and other mysteries.

I overall enjoyed it, including the stories that I'd not come across yet, and liked the fact that the final story, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter featured Sherlock's brother Mycroft.

The only issue I had was that there were a couple of stories where I had to re-read the endings because they were a bit hard to follow (the hardest one for me was The Adventure of the Golden Prince-Nez, which I must have read about three times).

Next book: Just Do Something (Kevin L. DeYoung)

Books 7 and 8

7. Ella Minnow Pea, by Mark Dunn. This fulfills the Book Riot challenge to read a book about books. I'm sure most readers have heard of "The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog." This was the shortest sentence that uses all of the letters of the Roman alphabet at one time. The story takes place in a fictional land called Nollop, named for the (fictionalized) author of this sentence. Nollop has been elevated to near deity status, and the residents even have a statue of Nollop, along with the famous sentence, displayed prominently. The story is told through a series of letters from the Minnow family, their friends and other Nollopians. They pride themselves in their letter writing and commendable use of the English language (there were many times I had to use the dictionary). Trouble starts in Nollop when the tiles from the statue's sentence fall off. The Council proclaims that this is a sign from the Almighty Nollop to stop using the fallen letters, despite efforts to offer more mundane reasons for the demise of the tiles (such as the age of the statue and tiles). This causes all sorts of problems- burning books with the problematic letter(s), renaming people and items, and more. The consequences for violating the prohibitions are severe, up to exile. Problems snowball as more tiles fall and the village leaders get more militant. This book is chilling, especially given the current political climate. My only objection to this book is how it is described as a light-hearted look at the foibles of the town. I was physically shivering at points in the story. The story illustrates so clearly the dangers of eschewing science and logic, and embracing fanaticism. It shows the perils of not nipping idiotic notions in the bud, the grave risks of giving weight to the opinions of lunatics and the consequences of letting stupid, power-mad people rule unchecked. This should be required reading for everyone. Especially now.

Kiss of the Spider Woman, by Manuel Puig. It was tough to decide which category to use this book for in the Book Riot challenge. It can fulfill the categories for a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author; a classic by an author of color; a LGBTQ+ romance novel; and a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. It probably could fit under the frequently challenged category as well. I eventually just did an eenie meenie miney moe... and LGBTQ romance novel it is. I first became familiar with the story through the fantastic musical, which I saw several years ago. The story is set in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the 1970s, a turbulent time in that country. Much of the action takes place in a jail cell, and centers on the cell's occupants Molina and Valentin. Molina is in prison for corrupting a minor; Valentin is a political prisoner, with ties to revolutionaries who are trying to overthrow the government. Molina helps the two pass the time by colorfully narrating the various movies he has seen through the years. An interesting side note: at least two of the movies are real films, and the third movie he describes has elements from another real film. His stories make up much of the book. However, the reader soon finds out that Molina has been put in a tough position by the jail's Warden, who wants Molina to ferret out information on Valentin and his revolutionary friends in exchange for early parole. I loved Molina's narrations and watching him try to juggle his growing friendship with Valentin, while trying to keep the Warden happy. I am glad I saw the movie and know a cursory bit of Argentine history first, because I think large parts of this book would have been confusing otherwise. Also, while I rather liked the dialogue format of the book - different format, but it worked - there also were large parts of the book that were (very) stream of consciousness. I'm not a fan of stream of consciousness writing, and I found these sections difficult to follow and tie into the main story.

Currently reading: Before Night Falls, by Reinaldo Arenas.