I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
A rainy day, but we birded between the showers.
American Coot & chick
American Coot chick
It was a good day!
And so the 2019 Summer of Sherlock begins!
Hello Dr. Watson and Mr. Holmes, I'm delighted to spend time with you both.
7 days left before this comes due at the library and 5 people waiting for it.
No problem! It's going to be a fun book.
Many people dream of escaping modern life, but most will never act on it. This is the remarkable true story of a man who lived alone in the woods of Maine for 27 years, making this dream a reality--not out of anger at the world, but simply because he preferred to live on his own.
In 1986, a shy and intelligent twenty-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage, developing ingenious ways to store edibles and water, and to avoid freezing to death. He broke into nearby cottages for food, clothing, reading material, and other provisions, taking only what he needed but terrifying a community never able to solve the mysterious burglaries. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life--why did he leave? what did he learn?--as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world. It is a gripping story of survival that asks fundamental questions about solitude, community, and what makes a good life, and a deeply moving portrait of a man who was determined to live his own way, and succeeded.
What an oddly fascinating little book! Even though I am very definitely an introvert, I cannot imagine existing in the way that Chris Knight chose to live for nearly three decades. He wandered off into the wilds of Maine in 1986 with next to no planning and next to no supplies. He managed to find himself a sheltered campsite, right alongside civilization, where he existed in a tent even during the cold of Maine winters. Mind you, he could never have achieved it without pilfering supplies from nearly all of his civilized neighbours.
Mr. Knight might still be out there, still not speaking to other humans, if he had found a way to support himself without specializing in home break-ins. I can’t conceive of not letting my family know where I am and that I’m okay. I may withhold details of my holiday locations to prevent the more neurotic from pestering my tour company unnecessarily, but I generally try to email or Facebook if I think there will be any concern. Chris Knight just wandered out into the landscape without letting anyone know anything. He also abandoned a partially paid for truck that his brother (who had co-signed the loan) was stuck paying for without the benefit of being able to drive it.
It seems like there is a tendency among a certain segment of humanity to seek solitude. The author, Michael Finkel, provides just enough history of religious hermits, recluses, and other people seeking seclusion to be interesting without being overwhelming. It rapidly becomes clear, however, that it is very difficult to avoid human interaction even under those circumstances. And most of us don’t want to completely avoid other humans.
Mr. Knight’s whole family seems to be rather taciturn and isolationist, so in some ways his behaviour is no surprise. I do feel rather sorry for him, now that he has been returned to society and must deal with people again. It is obvious from Finkel’s observations that it is a great hardship for him. In this regard, he is certainly not neural-normative. I hope he can find some way to exist somewhat happily in the world.
In a chamber overlooking the nighttime waterways of a maritime city, a man looks back on his youth and the people who shaped his life. Danio Cerra's intelligence won him entry to a renowned school even though he was only the son of a tailor. He took service at the court of a ruling count--and soon learned why that man was known as the Beast.
Danio's fate changed the moment he saw and recognized Adria Ripoli as she entered the count's chambers one autumn night--intending to kill. Born to power, Adria had chosen, instead of a life of comfort, one of danger--and freedom. Which is how she encounters Danio in a perilous time and place.
Vivid figures share the unfolding story. Among them: a healer determined to defy her expected lot; a charming, frivolous son of immense wealth; a powerful religious leader more decadent than devout; and, affecting all these lives and many more, two larger-than-life mercenary commanders, lifelong adversaries, whose rivalry puts a world in the balance.
As usual, GGK writes like a dream. If you like historical fantasy, I would highly recommend his work. This volume features a world very much like Renaissance Italy, with all its political machinations and complications.
But what I absolutely adore is Kay’s portrayals of women. They have exactly the same depth, the same complexity, the same motivations as the male characters. In other words, he treats women as equal people. It is such a delight to read fiction written to depict real women!
I was especially fond of Adria Ripoli (with her desire for a more independent existence and the freedom to ride in a horse race) and Jelena, the healer who rejects a traditional female life to pursue her calling and her interests. Because there must have been women during every time in history who weren’t willing to be relegated to being solely wives, mothers, or nuns.
But there is also Ginevra della Valle, a woman who has chosen the traditional route to female fulfillment and succeeded. She began as a powerful mercenary’s mistress and has progressed to being his wife and mother of two sons. But there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that she is a power unto herself.
I cannot recommend Kay’s writing too strongly. I haven’t read his entire canon yet, but I have been delighted by everything that I have consumed so far.
What is it like to learn that your ordinary, loving father is a serial killer?
In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichita celebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.
For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie.
I wouldn’t have requested this book from the library if I hadn’t heard the author interviewed on the radio. She sounded somewhat exasperated and I wondered why, driving me to look for her book. Now that I’ve read it, I understand some of her indignation.
First, it seems that many people don’t read the title or don’t believe it. This is NOT a book about her father, this is HER story. Yes, her father appears in her account as a major player because he is her father, but the story is hers. It focuses on her life and her beliefs. I can see why she’s ticked that people read it only as a way to view her dad.
Secondly, it has obviously been written as what the evangelical Christians call “a witness.” She is professing her Christian faith and it is the most important part of the work to her. The discount of that by secular reviewers must drive her mad.
Truth be told, she could have used a good ghostwriter to assist her. There are several chapters dealing with one hiking trip to the Grand Canyon, where there should probably only be one. It was a good idea to use this trip as a way to illustrate her relationship with her father and to highlight his idiosyncrasies. It just drags on far too long and has too much religious reference in it.
It quickly becomes obvious to the reader that Dennis Rader was a volatile man and a challenge to live with. His daughter, having known no other way of life, didn’t realize the extent of his abusiveness until long after his arrest. She has fought a life-long struggle with anxiety and depression and that is unsurprising, given her family situation. Interestingly, it seems that she and her mother are the ones who are depended on to “manage” Rader. Funny how it’s always up to the women in the family to handle the volatile man!
The important aspect of this book, to my mind, is the fact that we tend to forget the families of serial killers when we are thinking about their victims. Rawson shows us in no uncertain terms the difficulties encountered by her family and their attempts to put their lives back together. Dennis Rader may be BTK to the world, but he was still a husband and father, uncle, neighbour, and working man. Those who shared his life were shocked by his arrest and confession and had hard work to do to put all of this behind them to some extent. We need to extend to them the same compassion that is offered to the murder victims’ families, as they have been betrayed and damaged too.
Thumps DreadfulWater has never liked surprises—even the good ones are annoying. So it’s no shock that a string of seemingly random occurrences is causing Thumps some real discomfort. First Noah Ridge, the Red Power Native activist, arrives in Thumps’ sleepy town of Chinook. Then the body of a retired FBI agent turns up at the local Holiday Inn. In the background hovers the ghostly presence of Lucy Kettle, second-in-charge of the Red Power movement, a tough woman in a tough place until her disappearance years ago. Now the sheriff wants Thumps to trade in his photography gig for a temporary cop beat. And it won’t be over, Thumps soon realizes, until everyone’s dead—or famous.
Hailed by critics in his first appearance, Cherokee ex-cop Thumps DreadfulWater is back in rumpled but razor-sharp form, doing his laconic, comic best to avoid trouble—and catch the bad guys. Bestselling writer Thomas King has penned a second entertaining DreadfulWater mystery, injected with the author’s characteristic dry wit and biting social commentary.
Thomas King is such a good writer! I’m loving these murder mysteries of his, starring Thumps DreadfulWater. We get both a good, convoluted mystery and a dose of King’s irreverent humour. Plus, he manages to tackle social issues that he cares about without getting preachy and without info dumps. For example, the reader just gets to witness the behaviour of the bigoted white deputy of the little village of Chinook and draw their own conclusions.
I’m particularly fond of the elder Moses, who has a whole collection of old trailers out behind his house and many old computers too. With his younger associate, Stick, they often go out to check the internet, or as Moses puts it, consult with the Nephews. No matter when Thumps arrives, the elder is always expecting him, tea brewed and ready to consult. I’m also partial to Cooley Small Elk, the huge man who may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but who can knock down the shed to find what he’s looking for. King writes the best side characters!
King sticks with many aspects of the murder mystery recipe. Poor old Thumps is perpetually unlucky in love, has difficulty getting along with the sheriff, and always seems to be close to broke. But he has a cop’s mind and instincts and can’t seem to disengage once a problem presents itself.
I can hardly wait to get my paws on book three. Thank you, Mr. King, for a great deal of reading pleasure!
When his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune‘s long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lindy, faces an unseen threat of her own, one from which even Jejeune may not be able to protect her. Between fending off inquiries from the internal review and an open murder case that brings more questions than answers, Jejeune will have to rely on the help of the stalwart Sergeant Danny Maik more than ever. But Maik is learning things that cause him to question his DCI‘s actions, both past and present. In the current case, and in the former one, the facts seem clear enough. But it is in the silences, those empty spaces between the facts, that the truth is to be found.
I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Burrows, each of his books seem to be better than the previous one. His writing reminds me a lot of Louise Penny, and her Inspector Gamache series, with added birding details. Both authors may allow their detective to solve the issue of each book, but there is an overarching story-line about the main characters that keeps the reader anxious to read the next installment. Interestingly, both men face questions about their professional integrity and they tackle these issues in similar fashion, by quietly working behind the scenes.
I’m up-to-date now, and very ready for A Dance of Cranes to be released later this month (and I’m number 3 on my library’s hold list, so that’s good). I’ll be waiting to see if Dominic JeJeune can sort out the predicament that he’s got himself into now, through his own wish to withhold information from Lindy.
It seems to me that Burrows is enjoying the British/Canadian interplay and the details of the two countries that he has considered “home.” And every time I read one of these books, I want to return to Norfolk--it’s been 20 years since I first visited there and I’m due for a return one of these days.
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
I’m reluctant to admit that I didn’t adore something that Seanan McGuire has written. And I’m pretty sure that it’s not her, it’s me. I love her October Daye, InCryptid, and Wayward Children series and I expected to feel the same way about this book. Unfortunately, I think I may have read it at the wrong time--maybe a re-read at some future date will leave me more impressed.
There were an awful lot of moving parts in this one, lots of details in a complicated world and plenty of characters to keep track of. For me, it took a long while to connect with the main characters, maybe ⅔ of the way through the book. Finally, though, I felt it reluctantly click into place.
This felt to me like an uneasy work, straddling the gap between the Wayward Children series and McGuire’s work under the name of Mira Grant. There are definitely more horror related details in this one that would be more at home under the aegis of the Grant persona.
But, if you, like me, love McGuire’s writing, you should definitely give this one a try. The writing is every bit as skilled as her other works and the ideas are good. As I say, I think it was just me who wasn’t in the proper state to appreciate this one. Your mileage may vary.
My name is Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman, and I am a car mechanic. And a coyote shapeshifter. And the mate of the Alpha of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack.
Even so, none of that would have gotten me into trouble if, a few months ago, I hadn't stood upon a bridge and taken responsibility for the safety of the citizens who lived in our territory. It seemed like the thing to do at the time. It should have only involved hunting down killer goblins, zombie goats, and an occasional troll. Instead, our home was viewed as neutral ground, a place where humans would feel safe to come and treat with the fae.
The reality is that nothing and no one is safe. As generals and politicians face off with the Gray Lords of the fae, a storm is coming and her name is Death. But we are pack, and we have given our word. We will die to keep it.
Mercy Thompson, the Witchcraft edition
When this book arrived at the library for me, I dropped everything and started to read. These books are always over too quickly and they leave me wanting the next installment NOW. Unfortunately, that’s not how these things work, but judging from the ending, there will be more volumes, so that’s a good thing.
This one had all the urban fantasy goodness--a little less of all the growly werewolves, much more Fae and Vampire fun. Although I have to say, not enough Stefan. Mercy needs to get that relationship mended, because I miss Stefan! Plus, I am intrigued by what happened to Wulfe during this adventure--further details are needed. But the witches & the goblins get front-and-centre roles in this book, something that was a-okay with me.
If you jumped in at this volume (number 11, holy cow), you would wonder what kind of mad-house you had joined. But as we slowly make our way from volume 1 to present, we’ve had time to learn about the Mercy-verse, making all the details seem much less chaotic. Still, if you’re not a die-hard urban fantasy fan, this book is not the book you are looking for.
I note that the next book, Smoke Bitten, will be published next year and there doesn’t seem to be a new volume of the Alpha & Omegaseries anticipated yet. I trust that there will be another one. Between Patricia Briggs and Ilona Andrews, I spend an awful lot of time on tenterhooks, waiting for the next book to appear. To facilitate smooth publishing schedules, sacrifices to the book gods will obviously be required (see, I’ve learned a thing or two from all those witchy scenes!)
"If you have to evacuate while I'm away, just take Thunder the Great."
Those were Mamma's instructions the day before flames roared into Fort McMurray. On May 3, 2016, Mamma and Thunder the Great — a gerbil belonging to her son Jackson — were forced to flee their home. In a frightening rescue attempt, Mamma faces wildfire, traffic gridlock, an empty gas tank, and other challenges … all to get Thunder and herself to safety for the sake of her son.
Saving Thunder the Great is the true story of a hungry gerbil's rescue, a mother's love for her child, and the community who helps her.
This author will be a featured speaker at a conference that I am attending in August. Since I try to read something by each of the key-note speakers before the event, I requested this children’s book from my library. As Friday was exceedingly smokey from northern wildfires, this particular book seemed especially appropriate. Based on actual events following the Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016, it follows the path of a mother and her son’s pet gerbil, Thunder the Great, during the evacuation of that city.
If I wasn’t already familiar with the events of that summer, I think I might have sometimes wondered what was going on in this book. There is a lot of knowledge that the reader is just assumed to possess. In my opinion, the fearsome nature of the evacuation is rather glossed over--to prevent nightmares amongst the target audience presumably. If we are to abandon factual accuracy, it would have been more effective to make the child the main character of the book--I’m not sure how much children will identify with the mother as main focus.
The artwork is lovely and very realistic. It’s not often that I see gerbils appearing in illustrations in books. An explanation for Thunder the Great’s name would have been welcome, at least to me.
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations.
First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.
Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire--and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.
With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?
A cute paranormal romance, set in an alternate Victorian England, featuring steampunk elements, werewolves, and vampires. And really, if Victorian England doesn’t have werewolves and vampires, why would I read about it? Our heroine, Alexia, is soulless and therefore able to neutralize the magic (or excessive amounts of soul) that animate both of vampires & werewolves in this version of London.
This is kind of a modified Cinderella tale--Alexia actually has two gorgeous half-sisters, rather than step-sisters, and a mother who doesn’t value her unique qualities. They consider it punishment to stay home from various social events, but Alexia has somewhat reluctantly come to prefer her books and a good cup of tea. However, she is thrown into the company of Lord Maccon, the werewolf in charge of investigating paranormal oddities, and sparks fly. Her family’s idea of Alexia as an unmarriageable spinster may need some adjustment.
Bonus point for Lord Akeldama, a flamboyant vampire who chooses to be Alexia’s friend and confidante. He is tougher than he chooses to appear. Minus a point for Alexia’s sidekick, Ivy, who doesn’t get to talk to Alexia about anything besides men and her poor taste in hats.
There is nominally a mystery to be solved, but it comes to a conclusion almost as a side issue to the opponents-to-lovers romance plot. To some extent, I think the author might have been better served to draw out the couple’s courtship over two or three books, to produce more dramatic tension in the future volumes, but perhaps there is still enough oomph to carry the action forward for 4 more installments. I’m more than willing to give the next book a try, anyway.
The dwarfish, fetally-damaged yet brilliant Miles Vorkosigan has more than his share of troubles. Having recently escaped an assassination plot whose tool was a brainwashed clone of himself, Miles has set the clone, Mark, free for a new chance at life. But when he decides to let his clone brother assume his secret identity and lead the Dendarii Free Mercenary on an unauthorized mission to liberate other clones from the outlaw planet of Jackson's Whole, things start to get really messy. The mission goes awry, Miles's rescue attempt goes even more wrong, and Miles ends up killed and placed in cryogenic suspension for future resuscitation. Then, as if that weren't bad enough, the cryo-container is lost! Now it is up to the confused, disturbed Mark to either take Miles's place as heir of the Vorkosigan line or redeem himself by finding and saving Miles.
“If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”
This is basically the method that Miles Vorkosigan has chosen to use with his cloned brother, Mark. Mark is pretty damned determined not to “belong” to anyone but himself and, since abuse is pretty much the only way that others have dealt with him, his flight as far away from Miles as possible is understandable.
However, his desire to do right by other clones leads him to impersonate his brother and embark on a quixotic mission to free as many clones persons as he can. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a bit, actually. Especially when Miles shows up, supposedly to save the day, and digs the hole quite a bit deeper. Mark is backed into a corner, forced to meet his “parents,” Aral and Cordelia, and to learn first-hand about Barrayar. Fortunately for him, Cordelia is from Beta Colony and realizes that everything is all about choice. She should know, having chosen Barrayar, Aral, and Miles.
An entertaining examination of the many aspects of choice that we all live with, whether we realize it or not.
Book 321 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.
As the young student of the brilliant Vincent Rushkin, Isabelle Copley discovered she could paint images so real they brought her dreams to life. But when the forces she unleashed brought tragedy to those she loved, she turned her back on her talent - and on those dreams. Now, twenty years later, Isabelle must come to terms with the memories she has long denied, and unlock the power of her brush. And, in a dark reckoning with her old master, she must find the courage to live out her dreams, and bring the magic back to life.
I’ve been looking forward to this book for a while now and was so glad that it met my expectations, although in a way that I did not expect. One of my book-club women had recommended Charles de Lint’s work to me and I knew that this book was one of my reading project books for this year. I took it on holiday with me, starting it on the airplane.
To begin with, I was worried. I’m a dedicated fantasy reader and this was billed as fantasy and yet I wasn’t seeing how it could be fantasy. Imagine my relief as the required fantastical elements began to show up! I guess that’s my roundabout way of saying that it started slowly.
Like all good novels, this one explores a number of ideas and on a number of levels. What is the nature of art, whether visual or written? What responsibility does the artist have to his or her creations? What about other people, do they have a say in that relationship? How well do we really know the people in our lives? What conditions are we willing to put up with in order to learn the things we yearn to know? Are there any circumstances that justify emotional and/or physical abuse?
I found the ending just tied up a little too neatly for my tastes--I like a few messy ends left hanging and Memory & Dream came just a little too close to a HEA ending in my opinion. But that’s just me. Nevertheless, I’ll be reading more of de Lint’s work in the future.
Book 320 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.
In Excession, the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section orders Diplomat Byr Gen-Hofoen to steal the soul of a long-dead starship captain. By accepting the mission, Byr irrevocably plunges himself into a conspiracy: one that could either lead the universe into an age of peace or to the brink of annihilation.
When I intially approached Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, I was unconvinced that I was going to like them. Now, here I am, finished number 5 and I am a total convert. There was a lot going on in this one and I maybe didn’t love it all, but the Affront made up for it.
Yup, it was all about the revolting tentacle beasts! They are unremittingly patriarchal, violent, militaristic, all about meat eating, cruel, and anything else that the Culture stands against. Not only do they know that they’re an affront (hence their name) to the Culture, they are proud and loud about it. They are the villains that you can love to hate--such a caricature of the bad guy that they’re hard to take seriously. They’re so revolting that they’re adorable.
Add to that an espionage plot carried out almost entirely by super-intelligent AI spaceships, various people stored in one ship’s memory banks (are they dead or not in this state?) and an alien object apparently from another, older universe (the Excession of the title). However, I don’t care if you’re just a glimmer in some machine’s memory banks, I don’t think any woman would write a character who has chosen to stay 8 months pregnant for 40 years! I call bullshit on that, Mr. Banks.
Unfortunately, we lost Mr. Banks in 2013. I’m glad I still have a number of his novels as yet unread and can look forward to more time spent in the Culture.
Book 319 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.