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.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

December 2022

  December is done. Happy New Year, dear reader(s)!

Books read:

Books bought:
  • Underworld, by DeLillo. Kindle deal for $2
  • The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, by Robert Tressell. My Classics Spin read. One dollar on Kindle deals.
  • The Last Days of the Sioux Nation, by Robert Utley.
  • Death with Interruptions, by Saramago. Great book!
  • Inverted World, by Christopher Priest. Blurb sounded intriguing. 
  • Moab is My Washpot, by Stephen Fry. Love his writing. This one and the above one for $4.
Pretty light for me, all things considered. 

The most exciting news of the month is my wife's book is published! Children of Cain, a great read. Available here in Kindle.

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...