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KatieMc

KatieMc

My corner in BookLikes

Currently reading

Risk Return (Return on Investment Book 2)
Aleksandr Voinov
License
Paul Markun
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
The Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace
Patrizia Collard

The Persian Boy

The Persian Boy - Mary Renault Is it a good idea to learn history through fictionalized accounts? Given my limited exposure to ancient history, it's probably better than nothing. Presumably the author has a firm grip on the subject matter, and Alexander's charisma came through loud and clear. But...I didn't like Bagoas. It seems unfair to dislike an enslaved, castrated child with no agency. I do empathize with what he went through and do admire the fact that he was able to open his heart to love and make something of himself. Beyond that, I just found him annoying. Whether that was the author's design or simply my interpretation I do not know. I do know that I got enough out of it to read more of Mary Renault's titles.

Dirty Heart

Dirty Heart - Rhys Ford Wow, this is probably one of the highest rated books I've seen (that's actually out and has more than a handful or ratings). At the time I write this, 61% have rated it 5 stars. I get it. It's a very good series, great characters and the romance element is genuine. I personally like the established couple trope and I found the connection between Jae and Cole satisfying. The non-romantic relationships are also well done, and a local to me setting is also a plus.

But then there is the mystery. The one mystery that runs through all the books, why Ben did what he did, does get answered. I just felt like, really, seriously, that was it? The other thing that bugged me, does everyone in this series have to get shot? So much of this series feels real and genuine, but the over emphasis on gun violence turns it into something it doesn't have to be. Just my opinion. I understand the love for this series and I share and respect that love. I just didn't love this conclusion.

The Swede

The Swede - Robert Karjel, Nancy Pick Who doesn't love a Scandinavian crime novel? Why is that? I never know how to review these sorts of books. No use describing the plot, other than to say it's clever and toys with your mind. Read it and enjoy.
Love Means... No Boundaries - Andrew  Grey
Nice traditional romance with an HEA. I liked this story very much and it was excellent counter programming to my other current read Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS. This is my first romance with a blind character, and I thought it was well portrayed. But does he have to fall for the guy with the scarred face who is terribly self conscious of his disfigurements? That just seems a bit too convenient and kind of waters down the message of acceptance.

maybe I need to be kinged

King Perry - Edmond Manning
I found this terrifically seductive.   Who doesn't want to be kinged?  Who doesn't want to be loved and adored, even if it's for a weekend?  It's a fantastic idea and certainly innovative (? is that the right word ?) for mm.  I loved Vin.  I loved how Vin loved.  It was a long weekend, yet satisfying.  And that scene with the cello, hubba hubba!
 
But yet, there were things niggling at me.  Sometimes I wish I could let go and not worry about the niggles.   I had the same problem reading the Falls Chance Ranch series. (BTW, WHY DON'T I EVER SEE ANYONE READING FCR ANYMORE?).   I loved the the open and accepting loving found on the ranch, even if it came with very strict rules.  Still, I couldn't help but call bullshit on it as well, especially on Flynn and his phony psychobabble credentials.  With Vin and his kinging process, I just can buy that a weekend of challenge and fun will 'fix' someone one in any meaningful way.
 
So, I will take this for the fun and good feels and check my worries at the door as I go on to the next kinging experience.  

Hazel gets cuter and cuter with each installment

Saga, Volume 5 - Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
This series has definitely taught me how wonderful graphic novels can be and how so much story and character can be communicated through the art.  
 
Each one of these books has one provocative yet hilarious image.  In this volume, there is Chuck Tingle worthy image of a dragon
pleasuring himself
(show spoiler)
.  You might be wondering about the logistics of this given that dragons have very small underdeveloped arms.  Well, you'll just have to get your own copy.

a review in two parts

City on Fire: A novel - Garth Risk Hallberg
Post Read Review
A book like this isn't for everyone but I loved it.  It's long, has lots of characters, and jumps back and forth in time.  But I'm a huge sucker for epic family centric stories, and one that takes me to an interesting time and place is right up my alley.  
 
New York City, primarily 1976-1977 is brilliant choice for a setting.  It wasn't a great time for the Big Apple.  It wasn't a great time for music.  And it wasn't a great time for the LGBTQ community.  There was disco and punk.  There was economic blight, riots and corruption.  And there was a massive blackout in the summer of 1977.  So much happened in the decade that followed that the late 70s often seems lost and forgotten. Fear not, City on Fire will bring it to you, not any in-your-face way, but craftily woven in as part of the tale.
 
No big analysis of the story or characters from me, but I do want to point out a minor bit that kind of fascinated me.  Keith and Regan had a vintage <b>horsehair mattress</b> that had been passed down in the family.   I had no idea of such things.  In this memory foam sleep number mattress era, horsehair sounds like rather old timey and slightly appalling, but also kind intriguing.  I can just see grandpa saying they just don't make them like they used to.
 
Halftime Show Review (written when I hit the halfway point)
Ok, I'm a bit past halfway.  Given that this book is 900 pages (or 37 hours of audio) and given no one is forcing any rules upon me,  I'm going to do something different here.  I am going to give a mid-book book report.  Because why the fuck not.
 
First, why am I reading this?  My sister recommend it to me because she knew how much I appreciated <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1235220590">A Little Life</a> and she thought this might appeal to me.  While this is not A Little Life, the recommendation made it an easy sell.
 
Very basic description - this is an ensemble cast sort of story where all the characters have some tenuous connection to one another.   Early on, one character has an unfortunate incident on New Years's eve in Central Park that leaves her on life support.  With this, it's sort of a who/what/why done it sort of mystery.  <spoiler>i'm a lazy mystery reader, but Amory seems like a good suspect to me</spoiler>
 
Probably the best and most interesting aspect of this book is the setting.  It takes place in NYC which isn't anything special.  If I had a nickel for each NYC based book.... What makes City of Fire special is the fact that it takes place in 1977 NYC (and some years prior).  The time period in general seems to be lost between the kitschy early 70s and the Reagan revolution of 1980.  Punk, disco, classic rock?  It was a cultural and economic crossroads and I find the portrayal to be the most compelling thing about the book so far.
 
I find myself personally drawn to Regan's story, her struggles with bulimia, family loyalty and personal relationships resonate with me.  One one hand, she just wants to be fucking normal and not beholden to other powers.  While she has privilege that she can't deny or shake, she knows she wasn't anyone's first choice.
 
There is still quite a bit to happen.  Sometimes the writing thrills me, and sometimes I want to give it an eye roll.  I can say this, I am engaged and I will see this through, even if it takes two more weeks.

the dubious choice between staying and leaving

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay - Elena Ferrante
My goodness, could these get any better.  There is something so raw and exposing about these characters, you almost feel embarrassed for them.  
 
In my review of the first book, I mentioned how the books were woman-centric without being feminist themed.  Strike that.  Lenu and Lila are all grown up and are tackling their complicated lives during a complicated time.  They make interesting choices in life, love and career.  
 
As usual, the author has artfully titled the book, and is reflected in so many facets of the book. Leaving and staying in the neighborhood, your marriage, your career, your family, your destiny. 
 
2016 reading challenge checks the box for  24. A book with a protagonist that has your occupation (or an occupation you have had in the past).  I'm so excited that I could weave these books into my reading challenge and I was worried about finding a book that fit this item.  Lila has become computer programmer and systems analyst in the era of IBM.   Granted, I don't do too much programming myself these days, i analyze the fuck out of lots of things.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay - Elena Ferrante My goodness, could these get any better. There is something so raw and exposing about these characters, you almost feel embarrassed for them.

In my review of the first book, I mentioned how the books were woman centric without being feminist themed. Strike that. Lenu and Lila are all grown up and are tackling their complicated lives during a complicated time. They make interesting choices in life, love and career.

As usual, the author has artfully titled the book, and is reflected in so many facets of the book. Leaving and staying in the neighborhood, your marriage, your career, your family, your destiny.

2016 reading challenge checks the box for 24. A book with a protagonist that has your occupation (or an occupation you have had in the past). I'm so excited that I could weave these books into my reading challenge and I was worried about finding a book that fit this item. Lila has become computer programmer and systems analyst in the era of big iron IBM. Granted, I don't do too much programming myself these days, i analyze the fuck out of lots of things.

Well, I'm glad I saw it to the end

Truth & Tenderness - Tere Michaels

Ok, I have to admit to the sin of skimming.  My punishment was the fact that I missed a semi-major plot line (or at least I think I did).  This book seemed to have aspirations of a serial killer detective novel, but not quite the ambition.  What I did like was the everyday family and career issues that the couples deal with, and that is what kept me going.  I'm glad I saw this to the end and I'm glad to move on to other things.

good journalism turned into good reading

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America - Jill Leovy
Maddeningly good and an excellent example of good journalism transformed into a very good book.
Not always the case as I found in this example https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1567538899
(show spoiler)

Having lived through the LA riots in 1992, this hits home. These detectives are unsung heroes and it's slightly embarrassing to learn that their work bears little resemblance to their literary counterparts found in popular fiction. I felt outrage at the dearth of resources available to them, especially when the Los Angeles seemed to give birth to the 'militarization' of police forces with such gems as this battering ram. Oddly enough, Daryl Gates is conspicuously absent from these pages. Even though Daryl Gates was long gone before the setting depicted in Ghettoside, law enforcement public relations still was important. Crime prevention was priority, solving crimes that were isolated to marginalized groups clearly was not.

A couple of years ago, I read an interesting book that examined the sociological/anthropological roots of violence where most things boiled down to "team aggression against an outgroup". If that doesn't sound like gang warfare, I don't know what does. While Ghettoside cites the root of the problem, it doesn't make it the agenda. Rather, she basically stipulates it as a given for the time and place being presented and uses it to present the heartbreaking story.
 
 
 

 

Enjoyable but flat

Love on the Jersey Shore - Richard Natale

Too much unexplained (or explained too late) angst.  Too much of Frank rationalizing why he doesn't want Robert.    If you like the idea of how a friendship evolves from childhood through adulthood, I suggest Full Circle.

Kind of went off the rails

Cherish & Blessed (Faith, Love, and Devotion Book 4) - Tere Michaels

Cherished was a bit over the top, but dealing with mourning step children is probably a thing, even if the mother has been gone for a few years.   Blessed had too much eating, too much baby lust and not enough communication.

SPOILER ALERT!

ice floes, blubber and reindeer sleeping bags, oh my!

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing
Insomuch as a written account of a noted historical event can be spoiled, this review contains spoilers. If you don't want to be spoiled, stop here and read the book. It's excellent.

So much is amazing about Ernest Shackleton's voyage to explore Antarctica and the misadventures that follow, but the most noteworthy one is that everyone survives. Think of it, 28 men spend nearly two years essentially camping on ice floes or drifting in 20-foot wooden lifeboats where the temperature rarely rise above freezing and no one dies. NO. ONE. DIES. What author of fiction would have the audacity to write that?

Actually, I should qualify the above to say that no human dies. Because the the expedition was supposed to be a trans-Antarctic, there were lots of dogs. More dogs than humans. And with so many dogs, there were also puppies!

Photo CreditFrank Hurley (1885–1962) - National Library of Australia - Tom Crean rears an Antarctic family, Public Domain,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index...

There was also a cat named Mrs. Chippy

Photo Credit Frank Hurley -http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3818613.stm from Scott Polar Research Institute - Cambridge,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?...

Sadly, the four legged crew members took one for the team so to speak. What author of fiction would have the audacity to write that?

As is often the case with survival stories, there's lots of discussion of food. The expedition was well stocked, and rations were supplemented and eventually supplanted with what they could hunt. Seals and penguins feature prominently in their diet, with the occasional sea leopard. Protein and blubber, yum. This image may bring memories of the delightful children's book Mr. Popper's Penguins, but nope, cute penguins never made it back to England, but they did make it into something called hoosh.

Photo Credit Frank Hurley -http://www.coolantarctica.com/images/hudson.jpg, Public Domain,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index...


Ironically, starvation was never a sustained threat to the crew of the Endurance. What was a threat was the sustained cold, wet and monotony. Monotony in their activity, their diet and the company they kept. And yet, they survived, and they functioned largely without despair or fear. At least that is how it's documented in this book. As you can see, there is a photographic record of the events and many of the men also kept diaries. The author interviewed many of the crew members and had firsthand accounts. I find myself wondering if the crew withheld any dark events or secrets for posterity (what happens on the ice floe stays on the ice floe). These events took place around 1915-1916 (think early Downton Abby seasons), an era that seems to be on the cusp between old timey-days and modern times.

So now that I have spoiled everything, why should you read this book? Because it is a case study in leadership and the will to survive. It's an amazing tale, yet as fiction it be ridiculed and rejected for its amazingly optimistic outcome. As non-fiction, it's compelling and hopeful. I was riveted.


2016 reading challenge checks the box for 36. A book about a road trip. Ok, that might be stretching it a bit, but if road trip = adventure, this is totally on the mark.
 
 
 

 

Love & Loyalty

Love & Loyalty - Tere Michaels Good story, decent enjoyment factor. Nothing life changing.

interesting topic, unfocused memoir

Negroland: A Memoir - Margo Jefferson

I'm sadly disappointed. It seemed as if the author couldn't decide if this was a memoir or a historical account of upper class African American society in 20th century America. The view into Ms. Jefferson's upbringing was unsurprisingly normal to the non POC reader, save for the underlying pressure to be better than the rest, to never slip up, to uphold unrealistic expectations imposed in an Faustian bargain for fair and equal treatment. I found her firsthand personal accounts the strongest part of the book. Unfortunately these were interspersed and often overshadowed with accounts of other historical figures and events leading to a confusing jumble. The subject matter was good, compelling even, but the presentation left me flat.

2016 reading challenge checks the box for 16. A memoir