Thursday, March 23, 2023

Some recent reads

 I am still reading. Don't worry, dear reader(s). Just been busy at work and home. (New windows!)

Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson. The first one was chosen by my SIL for our family book club. I'd read it maybe 20-25 years ago. Loved it. Gibson of course was the inventor of the word cyberspace and boy could he ever create a world. I just had to read the following two of The Sprawl trilogy. The third one in particular is nicely done, wrapping up some questions I had after the second. (This is a lot of Gibson as I'd just finished Agency [The Peripheral #2] right before she picked Neuromancer.) 

McGraw-Hill Education Handbook of English Grammar & Usage, by Mark Lester & Larry Beason. Book for my copyediting class, first class of a 4-class certification. Very handy book, and much lighter than CMOS 17th edition! Don't have much more to say about this book. I used the third edition, which has a wonderful chapter near the back on eggcorns. If you have never heard this word, here are some examples: Your point is mute (vice moot). I watched her last night lip-singing (vice lip syncing). I gave my kids free reign (vice rein).

The Rosetta Stone, by Robert Sole. A Folio Society volume which I found in our local used bookstore for only $13. In perfect condition with the slipcase. Great history of the actual decipherment. My only complaint about this book is that in the entirety of this book there is not one picture of the Stone or is there a copy of the actual Greek, Hieratic, or hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone!

So there you go. At 15 books read for the year so far. Currently listening on Audible to Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (25 hours) and reading Viktimoj by Julio Baghy, a novel about POWs in a Russian POW camp, some of whose only common language is Esperanto. (This is semi-autobiographical as the author was in this very situation.)

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Tender is the Flesh, by Agustina Bazterrica (Sarah Moses tr.)


Spoilers abajo:

The world has changed. We can no longer eat animals. There's a virus they carry that harms humans. Vegan revenge. But then scientists prove that plant protein isn't sufficient nutrition. Humans need meat. They need special meat.

Thus begins the raising of humans for food. They're called 'head' instead of man or woman. Male and female head. It's illegal to eat anything with a first and last name. Unless they volunteer. Strong males are put aside for the game parks, where hunters can chase them down, kill them, eat them, mount the heads in their trophy rooms. 

All terribly disgusting. 

The main character is gifted a female head by one of his business contacts. There are those in this terrible world who raise "domestic head" in their homes, so this is not unusual. The problem for Marcos is this particular head is gorgeous. His wife has left him after the death of their son, his father is in a home with dementia, things are not good for him. He decides to "enjoy" his gift. 

Eight months later the reader discovers Jasmine (he's named the head, another no-no) is pregnant. Then begins a dangerous time when Marcos could be discovered to have had intercourse with cattle (punishable by death in the slaughterhouse). His father dies, a truck carrying a shipment of head is ambushed by Scavengers who kill the driver, an inspector comes by to certify that he still has the female head. He manages to get through all this without getting caught, but when Jasmine starts to give birth, he has to call in help. And who does he know with medical training? His wife of course.

She's disgusted with what her husband did, until she sees the baby boy. Then words like "mine" and "ours" come from her lips. Marcos then grabs a club and knocks Jasmine out. He drags her to the barn to slaughter her, as is his right in this new, terrible world. 

Spoilers termine.

Gross book. The chapters going through the process were particularly hard to get through. Thank goodness the book was short. This is book #2 of the 10 translated books I want to read this year, this one from the Spanish.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

February 2023

 Low month again. Books read:

  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab. Awesomely fun read and unique.
  • No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, by Condoleezza Rice. Listened on Audible, 29+ hours! But read by Dr. Rice! Loved it.
  • Вселенная Удачников, Роман Злотников / A Universe of Losers, by Roman Zlotnikov. Have had this since my first year in Moscow and even started it years ago. Read and listened to this. Fun story. Didn't help my DLPT, though.
  • Agency, by William Gibson. #2 after The Peripheral. Great book. Watched the series as I was finishing Agency and I can highly recommend it. But read The Peripheral first.
  • Neuromancer, by Gibson. My SIL's choice for our family reading group. She had no idea I was reading another Gibson. This is a sign, thus I'm reading the follow-on to this one (Count Zero) right now.
Books bought:
  • The Lord of the Rings, deluxe illustrated edition. Bought for my wife's birthday. Illustrations by Alan Lee.
  • The Chicago Manual of Style. Will need for a future copyediting class. Handy to have around.
  • The Man Who Walked Like a Bear and The Dog Who Bit a Policeman, by Stuart Kaminsky. Porfiry Rostnikov #6 and #12. Kindle deals for two bucks each.
  • Lone Women, by Victor LaValle. Pre-ordered. Love this author.
  • A Closed and Common Orbit, by Becky Chambers. Wayfarers #2. Loved the first one. Two dollar Kindle deal.
  • The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain. No idea why I bought this. Thought it was for my wife, but now I'm not too sure. 
I haven't written many reviews lately, and that's ok. Just got back from a two-week trip to Namibia. What a beautiful country! Heard one of the famous "click languages": Nama, or Damara or Khoekhoe (pronounced /kway-kway/). Five different clicks. One very nice lady tried to teach the clicks to me. I think I got one or two of them correct. The rest, not so much. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

January 2023

 What the hell happened to my January post? I was asleep at the wheel!

Books read:

Books bought:
  • Children of Cain, by S L Myers! Wife's book is not only out in Kindle, but in pb too!
  • Joy of Cooking, not in Kindle deals. Got it in hb because it is so good. Need to know how to cook woodchuck? This is the cookbook for you!
  • Fortunes of War: The Levant Trilogy, by Olivia Manning. Started her Balkan one and it's good, just wasn't in the mood to continue.
  • No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, by Condoleezza Rice. Bought on Audible and just finished it. Great memoir and she reads it! Fantasy fulfilled. 
  • The Bookshop of the World: Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age, by Andrew Pettegree. Looked good at $1.99.
  • Cooking with Booze: From Beer Batter to Vodka Jelly, by George Bone & Lucy Baker. Because booze is good.
  • Three Women in a Mirror
  • Red Chameleon
  • Rediscoveries, ed by David Madden. Great book of authors talking about forgotten novels that they recommend. This book suggested by the wonderful author of Neglected Books blog.
Five books kinda short for me, but the Waugh was 711 pages. And merely hours into February I finished The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, a great book I'll add to my February post next month.

Saturday, February 4, 2023

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V.E. Schwab

 Great book. I'm on a roll. 


Adeline "Addie" LaRue has a problem. She's being forced to marry. This is 1600s France, after all. So what does a 23-year old maiden do? Runs into the forest and sells her soul of course! 

Neighborhood witch Estelle, wiccan assuredly, teaches Adeline about nature, the old gods, and Adeline is warned: no matter what, do not pray for help after dark! So of course that's what she does. All she asks for is to be free, to be allowed to do what she wants.

That's what she gets, in spades. When she wakes in the forest the next day and returns home, no one remembers her. Her parents think she's a stranger, Estelle doesn't know her, no one in the village knows who she is. She's free!

Thus begins a 300-year (plus) journey. We see her in France, Germany, England, America, maybe even Spain (or was it Portugal?). Not only will she not die, but she can't forget anything. (Or tell the truth, like what her name is. Or draw anything, or write anything, everything she changes or does just disappears.) And still, no one remembers her. Except Luc, her personal devil. Need some new clothes? Go into the changing room, rip off the tags, throw your old clothes on the bench, wait a few minutes, and walk out. The sales staff won't remember you were even there. "Did you find what you need, ma'am?" "No, as always, nothing fits me as well as my own clothes." Then walk out. Happy birthday!

She does this with books, too. Why not? Got a book you want to read? Walk out with it. 

Except this one didn't work. The guy, attractive of course, follows her out of the store. When he sees it's a copy of The Odyssey, in Greek no less, he feels bad and just lets her have it. That's not the interesting part. The next day when Adeline returns she tries to return the book, to the same guy, and asks for credit for another book. He laughs at her; "maybe next time don't try and return it to the guy who gave it to you yesterday." 

He remembers!

Months of happiness follows. No longer does she wake up in bed with a man who doesn't remember the previous night. Or the previous weeks, for that matter. The stumbling, bumbling I'm sorry's, or th early morning sneak-outs. All that is over, for she found Henry and he's perfect. She can actually tell him what her name is. She enjoys hearing him say "Addie." She tells him her life story, and he writes it down. 

Except that he's also made a deal. Yep, with Luc. He wanted to be enough for everyone. And he is. He can tell. His friends, people he meets, they all get a glazed look in their eyes when they tell him he's wonderful, he's perfect. But not Addie. 

The ending, of course, is sad. Love ends, but not in a horrible way. But the lovers do not ride off into the sunset. Not Henry and Addie anyway. 

Spoilers end.

Very interesting premise and quite well done by the author. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Sharks in the Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn

 Excellent book. I discovered this book when I was looking up magical realism books. And guess what? My local library had it on the shelf! 

Spoilers follow:

Nainoa falls into the ocean during his family's one frigging vacation. He was 7. His father and the crew turn the boat to come back for him, but not before the sharks find him. 

He'd already shown a preternatural attraction to nature. And nature came to his aid. The sharks surrounded him, and next thing the reader knows is that Noa is being returned to the boat in the mouth of one of the sharks. Then the sharks return to the depths.

The family progresses through time. Noa ends up a paramedic, after finishing his bachelors in three years at Stanford. Dean goes to the Final 4, but loses his basketball scholarship after only two years in school. Kaui does great getting her engineering degree but leaves school early to take care of her father. Noa of course dies (I kept hoping he'd show back up) and that destroys the father (Augie). Malia, mom, was awesome. 

Noa's experience with the dying woman and her unborn baby...horrible. Terrible. Sad. Led to Noa's ruin. Oh how I kept hoping Dean would find the Germans and help him find Noa sooner. Maybe he was still in the landslide.

The Hawaiian gods were done right in this book. The magical realism part of it was subtle, wholly not overdone. Well done, Mr. Washburn!

Spoilers done.

100% recommend this wonderful book. 

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle

 What another great book. This man is awesome. 

Spoilers down there:

Pepper gets thrown into a mental hospital for roughing up some off-duty cops. He's a big guy, so some damage was done. He's welcomed by Dorry, a "friendly face." She's the longest serving inmate in this hospital, save one: the Devil in silver.

The cast of characters is varied. Loochie the teen with a hair-pulling problem, Mr Mack and Frank Waverly, roommates and, best friends? We'll see. Heatmiser and his obsession with finding typos in close-captioning, the Chinese lady (Sue), and her friends Redhead Kingpin and Still Waters, and the late arriving Sandra Day O'Connor and Doris Roberts, and of course, Pepper's roommate Coffee (Kofi).

A 72-hour stay becomes four months (at least) for Pepper. Lots of strapping down, lots of lithium, lots of hazy days and nights. Around this time I was pretty sure the author had an issue with mental hospitals. (I'm pretty sure he confirmed it in his author's note, right St. Luke's-Roosevelt?) 

The Devil in Silver, according to Dorry, is simply an old man. And it turns out she's right. But when you add doses of psychedelics and an unkempt old man, sure, then you've got a bison-headed creature out to eat all the residents. 

The author seemingly broke the fourth wall several times during the book. But I think it was really the narrator, after reading the author's note. I thought for a bit: "Ugh, another book about race, and white guys thinking racist things." Granted it was just a couple times, but still, I get so tired of this. 

But I was wrong. LaValle's happy I read it. (I normally don't.) LaValle talks about growing up working-class white guys, his friends, and their depiction in books, movies, and television as drunks, abusers, or drunk abusers. He wrote Pepper to correct that. And he did a great job.

Spoilers done.

Four and a smidge stars. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Children of Cain

Update #2 below!

 I just served as beta-reader for a friend's book. Imagine an Earth where, thousands of years ago, a promiscuous gene allowed those "other" humans to mate, and more importantly produce, with the tool-making homo sapiens. Fast forward to today, and there are organizations who track demi- and semi-humans out there, monsters, shape-shifters and even the changeling

These are the Children of Cain

In this world, where the Soviet Union still exists and the moon is on the verge of crashing into the Earth, Moss Rose is the director of the Exceptional Crimes Bureau (ECB), a division of the FBI. His team includes a werewolf, mind-reader, the changeling, a shape-shifter, leprechaun, a half-water nymph unnaturally lucky man, and a few others. The settings are awesome, where the reader meets a young sasquatch bartender, dozens of male flying fairies who steal earrings and suck on boobs without permission, and a leprechaun brewer of horrible alcohol. Not to mention the Succubus, the murder of whom is the main reason for the book. 

I can't wait to see this book in print. 

As this book doesn't have a cover yet, I'll end with this awesome painting of Puck, by sir Joshua Reynolds.

Update: The book is published in a Kindle version! You can buy it here. And below is the actual cover. 

Update #2: The book is now available in paperback

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Red Chameleon, by Stuart Kaminsky

 Another great Porfiry Rostnikov mystery. 

Spoilers \/

Back is my second favorite Russian policeman (Arkady Renko still reigns), Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, named after the Dostoyevsky's inspector in Crime and Punishment. In this installment, an old Jew is killed and Porfiry investigates.

Separately, yet connected, the cars of those "more equal than others" are being stolen. Oh, and a former almost-Olympian with stomach cancer is taking out people with her father's ancient rifle. All these things are connected in that the policemen involved all were Rostnikov's men, before he lost his position in book #2, Black Knight in Red Square

Those other crimes get solved, one way or the other, and Rostnikov is warned off the case "of the old Jew." But he cannot stop thinking about the Jew's children. With some clever thinking and word play, he continues the investigation and finds the murderer. But there is a fourth man outstanding. And the murderer is killed. 

I'd gotten most of the way through the book before the KGB reared its ugly head. Colonel Drozhinsky is an integral part of the first two books, and finally, right at the end, there he is. But Rostnikov isn't called in to speak to him, but a yet higher individual in that organization. And with that, the threat against Rostnikov's team, as well as his wife and son, the case is over. And then book. At 82% on my Kindle. 

Spoilers /\

I've managed to get about 10 of these wonderful books, all except the first, through Kindle deals, each for two bucks. Looking forward to #4!

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Three Women in a Mirror, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

 Great cover! I mean really, love it.

Even the blurb looked good. 
 Anna [sic], Hanna, and Anny. Three young women, free spirits all, each one at odds with the age in which they live. Despite the centuries that divide them, their stories intersect—a surprising narrative technique that lends increasing tension and richness to this novel, which builds to a thrilling crescendo of unexpected revelations.

 Spoilers below:

So I expected "a surprising narrative technique," but what I got was simply chapters-by-threes. First one set in the 1500s, the next in the early 1900s, the last today. Then chapter four, back to the 1500s, and so on... What's surprising about that? 

A "thrilling crescendo"? Really? An actress played the 1500 woman based on a bio written by the early 1900s woman? Thrilling because the first one was burned at the stake, the second one cheated on her husband and became a psychoanalyst/biographer, and the third was a drug-adled actress who found the perfect role? Whoopie-do. 

There were mirrors in this, but really, this book could have been titled Three Women and a Linden Tree, because the tree had more to do with this story than the mirrors. I kept hoping for some magical realism, Anne (the blurb misspells her as Anna) somehow transferring through the broken mirror (or the linden tree?) into Hanna, or even Anny? Oy, who the hell knows. 

And the editing needed quite a bit of work. Just some examples:

...I let others invaded me.

...still wondered it such a thing...

...others to deplored it. the all the saints of Bruges...

The owners and waiters and hurried around...

...not express an void in...

...Anny would could actually say...

...see how you is a look like mermaid.

"What you mean?" would a nice consolation.

Anne refuse to accept... 

...than the any of the lazy... 

She and Ethan they had sworn... 

 And there were some issues other than syntax or grammar:

...drinking the murky beer brewed from hops...  Uh, you can't brew beer from hops. Hops are a bittering agent.  

 February 29, 1906.  Uh, there was no leap year in 1906.

Spoilers done.

Two and a half stars. Not lower because there were a few beauties in the writing, like this one:

The birds were deaf to the sorrow of men and played tag among the trees.

It's also #1 on my Books in Translation Challenge.  

Monday, January 2, 2023

2023 Books in Translation Challenge

 Books in Translation for 2023! I read 10 translated books in 2022, qualifying me as a Linguist (finally! /snort/). 

Introverted Reader is hosting the challenge. There are four different levels, depending upon how many books you plan on reading. Might as well aim for the top, right? So I'll go for the Linguist level, 10 or more books. 

Last year I thought I'd read a Japanese translation but somehow I never did. Maybe this year. We'll see.

Some recent reads

 I am still reading. Don't worry, dear reader(s). Just been busy at work and home. (New windows!) Neuromancer , Count Zero , Mona Lisa O...