Sunday (Evening) Post

Instead of going through what I’ve finished, what I’m continuing to read, and what I’ve begun, I want to give a summary of the January challenge I gave myself– to read six books before February first in an attempt to get a few books off my TBR list/shelf.

Here are the six books that led to a successful meeting of the challenge:

  1. The Whole Cat and Caboodle, a cozy mystery by Sofie Ryan that was due back at the local library. It is the first in Ryan’s “Second Chance” series featuring Sarah Grayson, who owns a second-hand shop (Named Second Chance) in a small town.  I chose the book because of the cat on the cover. (Of course there is a cat, this is a cozy mystery!) Sarah hangs out with her grandmother’s friends (Think The Golden Girls…) and one is found with her current beaux (of dubious reputation), his head lying on her shoulder, “deadder” then the proverbial doornail. Is her Grandma’s friend guilty of murder?  That’s what these funny, endearing “girls” are determined to find out.  Sarah’s reaction is not to get involved, but she can’t help herself, and she meets two prospective love interests (to be further developed as the series progresses) as she becomes entangled in the mystery.  The book is a fun “escape read” and provided just what I needed as I geared up for a new semester.
  2. Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee, a sci fi thriller, adventure-story for YA and for those of us older readers who still feel like young adults. This book was reviewed Saturday on https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com
  3. The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Santa Montefiore, also a library loan (chose it because the title “sounded familiar” and it was large print.)  It will be reviewed on PWR soon.
  4. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, a book club “assignment” recently reviewed here on PWR.
  5. Morningstar, A book about Growing Up with Books by Ann Head, which will be reviewed soon on PWR. I chose it because of one of Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz posts featuring “Books about Books.”
  6. Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Life in the Stacks, written by librarian, Annie Spence, which contains hilarious and sometimes pensive letters and break-up notes to various books in her reading life as she culls them from the library shelves. Kirkus Review writes, “…begs to be read with a pencil in hand.” So true! It writes, “Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way.” Warning: This clever, slim little book will expand your TBR list!

There it is–my successful completion of the January attempt to return books checked out over the holidays to the library, read the selection for two book clubs (They both chose Hillbilly Elegy.), and start in on TBR’s I already own. PWR readers may see an overlap of books because I took on “The Alphabet Challenge” another blogger was continuing shortly after I began my own January-Six-Book challenge, and read accordingly.  More on that challenge in another post.

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CRYSTAL CLEAR, A novelette by Aiden Reid: A Review

Aiden Reid, author of Pathfinder and Sigil, both fascinating novels, has written a long short story or a short novel which is another story about the hero of Pathfinders. In the story, Stephen finds a crystal that has special powers that turn his life around and change him from a slacker/loser to a very successful person.  How this is all accomplished, where the crystal came from, and what happens to the mysterious crystal is the focus to this attention-grabbing, interest-sustaining narrative.  It is sci-fi at its best with bits of philosophy and life-lessons tossed in for good measure.  It is a quick read, but one you won’t want to miss!

THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY: A Review

This 2016 publication by Genevieve Cogman is a fantasy novel, the first in a series. It has been called, “… a stunning work of art that has me absolutely begging for more…” by The Fantasy Book Reviewer. I have to agree that it left me begging for more, and I have already ordered the second book which came out in September.  I cared about the characters and would certainly like to continue following them and their adventures/misadventures.

Irene, one of the protagonists, is the daughter of Librarians and a “professional spy for the mysterious Library”, which is an organization that collects important works of fiction from all the different realities. 

Kai is Irene’s assistant, and the mystery as to his secret/identity left me reeling as I read.

The two are assigned to an “alternate London,” whose world is “chaos infected”–meaning the laws of nature are bent by “supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic.” Irene and Kai are sent to retrieve a special book, but when arrive, they discover it has already been stolen.  Mystery upon mystery and calamity upon calamity occur, including mechanical, giant alligators and the sticky business (literally) of a massive silverfish invasion which starts underfoot and climbs the walls and anything (including Irene and Kai) that gets in its way.

Beset by “sinister secret societies,” the pair learns more about their alternate world, the motivation and politics behind their mission, and each other.

This is a perfect opportunity to get in at the ground floor of an exciting, spectacular series.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY: by Charlie Jane Anders, A REVIEW

This unusual/weird novel is set in the near future and goes forward from there. Patricia Delfine and Laurence (“without a ‘w’ “) Armstead, the two protagonists meet in junior high.  They both are misfits among their peers–he, because he is working on an AI computer assembled in his bedroom closet and has invented a time machine that can move one two seconds in time; and she,  because she can talk to birds and other animals and is branded as a witch by her classmates. These two unusual, unlikely “friends” unite against strange antagonists and typical middle school harassment.

This book is science fiction which explores the themes of magic vs technology, the fate of planet Earth, and the complexities of friendship. As the cover asks, “Will they find love? Will they save the world? or, Will they destroy it?” The book is further described as “…wacky, sexy, scary, weird, and wonderful…” I found the novel to be all of the forementioned. As I read the book (and it didn’t help that I was reading it during the craziness of Hurricane Harvey) I wondered if both kids or their guidance counselor, or I, the reader, was crazy.  Many times I expected the author to end with an explosion of the planet and then the seventh graders’ denouement of, “And, then I woke up from my dream.” The author had in mind a much more complex yet satisfying ending. I would rate it five stars out of five stars and pay my compliments to the author.

Who Is the Human? Sam, Fred, Dylax: A Review of a Sci-Fi Novel

Gary Pegoda’s novel begins with a question posed on the title page: “If computers were human in every way, would it be human? How would you know?” In this day of messing around with IA, it is a question to be considered. The first character we meet is Sam, “I am Sam, the Star Bright Machine…” a computer activated in 2020 who is, in its/his own words, “intelligent,” and “conscious” although he/it is a quantum computer in reality. The second character we meet is Fred, who is escaping from Sam, in a series of fast-paced, action-filled escapes and near-escapes as Fred tries to decide whether he, Fred, is a human or a figment of Sam’s creation and imagination. When Dylax, who speaks strangely and is a bit hard to follow until one gets used to her disjointed, out-of-syntax speech, comes on the scene, she is the love-match for Fred, and the sex is out-of-this-world (pun intended).

Although the story is puzzling at times (I believe that is the author’s intention), the twists and turns keep readers turning the pages to see what happens next.  Oftentimes it is another beating, another capture, another operation to implant or take out implants on poor Fred.

Fortunately, the novel has a very satisfying ending, leaving it open for a sequel, which I hope the author will write.  I for one will follow these fascinating characters and their lives/existences.

ACCEPTABLE TIME by Madeline L’Engle: A Review

Polly, daughter of Meg Murry of A Wrinkle in Time, and neice of Sandy and Denys Murray of Many Waters, is spending time with her mother’s parents in New England. A neighbor, “Bishop Nase” manages to open a Time Gate which transports individuals back in time.  Both the Star Gazing Stone and the Old Wall act as portals for Polly on several occasions.  Meeting Anaral, a Druid who travels back and forth, and other characters from the time period, Polly and her cowardly friend Zak manage to become stuck 3,000 years before the present.

Back in time, Polly finds herself with The People of the Wind, and later captured by their enemies The People Across the Lake. They are besieged with drought and believe that a blood sacrifice is necessary to bring rain to their land and tribe.

Although the novel is not traditionally religious, it is spiritual and offers something for both believers and non-believers.

 

MANY WATERS by Madeline L’Engle: A Review

Published in 1986       Takes place sometime after the Wrinkle in Time Trilogy

Sandy and Dennys Murry, twin brothers of Meg and Calvin Wallace Murry (from A Wrinkle in Time) are the “dull,” “ordinary” ones in the family until they interrupt their physicist dad’s computer experiment.  Then, they are in trouble, not just with their dad, but in cosmos-changing trouble.  Many waters were coming soon to the dessert oasis where they “landed”, and stories their mother told them as small children from the Bible, as well as many mythologies and folktales of a world-wide flood come rushing to their minds.

Unknown to them, their dad was experimenting with time travel, and the Genesis (from the Bible) people’s reaction to them, as well as their reaction to the people of “this other place” is the premise for the story.  Unicorns, mammoths (miniature size ones), seraphims, and nephils all appear in this book. Both boys, young teens, fall for the same girl, Yalith, and for the first time, the twins do not tell each other “everything.” Will they get themselves home in time to avoid the “many waters?”/The Great Flood? Will they get home, period? L’Engle’s philosophy shines through as the boys engage in conflicts both on a personal level and on a universal level.

The writing, plot, and characterization are brilliant. This is one of my favorite authors whether she is writing YA novels, memoirs and philosophy, or anything. I highly recommend this book.