Ron turns the pages through 2020

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2020

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Ron turns the pages through 2020

1RBeffa
Editado: Jan 6, 2020, 5:15pm

I'm Ron, retired, but seem to be as busy as ever since I always have too many interests. The Best thing about retirement is that it has given me the time for books that I haven't had since I was young, and that makes me happy. In a good year I'll read about 75 books but I set my sights lower at about 60 for a goal. A book a week works well. I spend time herding cats in my non-reading hours, listen to a lot of music, take photographs of home and the world around me, work on local and family history off and on, do a lot of cooking and work in the garden (a lot). I don't do the hiking that I would like to but I do hope to do better with that this year.

This year I plan to read a little more non-fiction, a few more classics, less science fiction but always some including anthologies, historical fiction, work on some mystery series and a few re-reads of old favorites. I usually read a couple young adult or kids books each year, so there will be a little of that. I'm hoping to get to a couple I read with my kids long ago.

I've been on LT since early 2009 and have not been very active this past year, but I do keep this thread up to date as it serves as great reading diary for me. I welcome visitors and hope to see some old and new friends here this year.

To give you an idea of my reading, here's my 2019 favorites:

Top Ten Fiction for 2019:
1. Pavanne by Keith Roberts
2. Munich by Robert Harris
3. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
4. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
5. Diary of a Dead Man by David Downing
6. Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz: Three Adventures by Garth Nix
7. Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan by Vonda N McIntyre
8. A Breath of Air by Rumer Godden
9. Dark Voyage by Alan Furst
10. The Mother by Pearl Buck

Top Five Non-Fiction for 2019
1. Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
2. A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester
3. Boone: A Biography by Robert Morgan
4. Inventing Japan by Ian Buruma
5. End of the megafauna : the fate of the world's hugest, fiercest, and strangest animals by Ross D. E. MacPhee and illustrated by Peter Schouten

Favorite anthologies for 2019:

1. Catfantastic II edited by Andre Norton and Martin Greenberg
2. The 1988 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim
3/4. The 1986 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Arthur Saha
3/4. Wondrous Beginnings edited by Steven Silver and Martin Greenberg

Fiction re-reads for 2019:

1. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
2. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. Inkling by Kenneth Oppel
2. A Castle Full of Cats by Ruth Sanderson

Best fun read:

1. Transit To Scorpio by Alan Burt Akers

and my 2019 thread ended here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/309811

So here we go.

2RBeffa
Editado: Jan 2, 2020, 4:49pm

There is usually a photo or two here of one of my cats and the garden. This time is different. There will be cat pix along the way but on New Year's morning I went and photographed lichen in my yard. I like the lichen. You might too. I did this last year as well. A strange Ron tradition. So here's a foursome - I hope you lichen them.






3RBeffa
Editado: Nov 9, 2020, 5:27pm

I'll keep a list of my books read here. I'm trying to read books from the library or off my shelf or off the nook or kindle app (which has accumulated too many unread books, many of which I haven't even cataloged. sigh). My goals this year are fairly modest. 60 books and I'll be very happy. I do need to work on the physical books in the house.

The books read in 2020 list for the year:

January

1. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, finished January 6, 2020, about 3 stars
2. Dewey : a small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter, finished January 9, 2020, about 2 stars

February

3. The 17th Suspect (Women's Murder Club) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, finished February 2, 2020, about 2 stars
4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, finished February 5, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
5. Three Worlds To Conquer by Poul Anderson, finished February 10, 2020, 3 stars
6. Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child, finished February 18, 2020, 3 1/2 stars (can't quite call this a 4 even tho I enjoyed it)
7. Rain of Ruin: A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Donald M. Goldstein, J. Michael Wenger, Katherine V. Dillon, finished February 22, 2020, 3+ stars
8. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang, finished February 27, 2020, about 3 1/2 stars

March

9. Across the nightingale floor by Lian Hearn, finished March 3, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
10. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy, finished March 7, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
11. The Au Pair by Emma Rous, finished March 12, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
12. Daybreak 2250 AD aka Star Man's Son by Andre Norton, finished March 24, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars
13. The Mayor of Casterbridge A Story of A Man of Character by Thomas Hardy, finished March 30, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars

April

14. Expedition to Earth short story collection by Arthur C Clarke, finished April 2 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
15. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter, finished April 7, 2020, 4 1/2 stars
16. Elsewhere and Elsewhen short stories by various authors and edited by Groff Conklin, finished April 12, 2020, 2 stars
17. Simon the Fiddler: A Novel by Paulette Jiles, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner, finished April 18, 2020, 3 stars
18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, finished April 19, 2020, 4+ stars
19. A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, finished April 22, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
20. The Borrowers by Mary Norton, finished April 25, 2020, 3 1/2 stars

May

21. Verses for the Dead (Agent Pendergast Series Book 18) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished May 7, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars
22 The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke, finished May 10, 2020, 3 stars
23 The River by Peter Heller, finished May 17, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (rounded up to 4 stars)
24. Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 1971 (Vol. LXXXVI, No. 5) various authors edited by John W Campbell, finished May 24, 2020, 2+ stars
25 Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear, finished May 26, 2020, 4 stars

June

26 Darwin's Children by Greg Bear, finished June 3, 2020, 2 stars
27 Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather, finished June 5 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (close to 4)
28. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction September/October 2016 various authors edited by C. C. Finlay, finished June 7, 2020, 3 stars
29 The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, finished June 9, 2020, 4 1/2 stars
30 Mankind on the Run by Gordon R. Dickson, finished June 11, 2020, 2 - 2 1/2 stars
NN The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, finished June 19, 2020, about 3 stars
31 Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, finished June 21, 2020, about 4+ stars
32 The Crossroads of Time by Andre Norton, finished June 23, 2020, 2 1/2+ stars

July

33 Men Against the Stars various authors, edited by Martin Greenberg, finished July 4, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars
34 Year's Best SF 4 by various authors, edited by David G. Hartwell, finished July 12, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
35 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May June 2016 by various authors, edited by C. C. Finlay, finished July 17, 2020, 4 stars
36. Great Ghost Stories by various authors, chosen by John Grafton, finished July 19, 2020, 3+ stars
37. Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year, No 14, 1984 by various authors, chosen by Terry Carr, finished July 24, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
38. Year's Best SF 11 by various authors, edited by David G Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, finished July 30, 2020, 2 1/2 - 3 stars

August

39. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen, finished August 2, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
40. The Resistance Man (Bruno, Chief of Police) by Martin Walker, finished August 4, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
41. A Market Tale: A Bruno, Chief of Police Story of the French Countryside by Martin Walker, finished August 5, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
42. The Best American short stories 2007 by various authors, and edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor, finished August 13, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
43. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, finished August 15, 2020, 1 1/2 - 2 stars
44. Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London, finished August 17, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
45. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, finished August 21, 2020, 4 1/2 stars
46. Seven Days to Lomaland by Esther Warner, finished August 24, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
47. Christmas Eve 1914 by Charles Olivier, finished August 25, 2020, 3+ stars
48. Mastodonia by Clifford Simak, finished August 27, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
49. Splendid Outcast: Beryl Markham's African Stories by Beryl Markham, Mary S. Lovell (Compiler), finished August 28, 2020, 3 stars
50. Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume, finished August 30, 2020, 4 - 4 1/2 stars

September

51. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers, finished September 5, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
52. Star Trek 12 adapted by James Blish and his wife Judith A Lawrence, finished September 7, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
53. Star Trek III, the Search for Spock by Vonda N McIntyre, finished September 10, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
54. The Pocket Book Of Modern American Short Stories by various authors, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern finished September 16, 2020, 4+ stars
55. Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished September 20, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
56. Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished September 24, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars
57. The Dry by Jane Harper, finished September 29, 2020, 4 stars
58. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata, finished September 30, 2020, 4 stars

October:

59. 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand, finished October 4, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
60. The Fatal Impact : The Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead, finished October 9, 2020, 5 stars
61. The Ice Limit by by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished October 14, 2020, 3 stars
62. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay, finished October 20, 2020, 5 stars
63. Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band Is Playing & Leviathan '99 by Ray Bradbury, finished October 24, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars
64. The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton, finished October 26, 2020, 3 1/2 stars
65. Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski, finished October 27, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars
66. A Boy and his dog at the end of the world by C. A. Fletcher, finished October 29, 2020, 2 1/2 stars

November

On deck:
This is a reminder list of some of the TBR shelf books I'd like to get to this year. I'll add to this (and probably subtract) as time goes by.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene done
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy done
Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London done
several Year's Best science fiction type anthologies from the 60's to the present done
books in the Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker done
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
The Way West and The Big Sky by A. B. Guthrie
Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton
The Silver Lotus by Thomas Steinbeck
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
The Source by James Michener
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
Downfall by Richard B Frank
The Mount by Caroline Emshwiller
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
The Dry by Jane Harper done
Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young
a novel by Frank Delaney
a novel by Nevil Shute done
something by Haruki Murakami done
a novel by M. C. Beaton
books in the Night Soldiers series by Alan Furst done

4DianaNL
Jan 2, 2020, 3:48pm

Best wishes for 2020!

5FAMeulstee
Jan 2, 2020, 3:55pm

Happy reading in 2020, Ron!

6ronincats
Jan 2, 2020, 7:01pm



Happy New Year, Ron!

I like your lichen but BAD pun.

7laytonwoman3rd
Jan 2, 2020, 8:14pm

>2 RBeffa: I'm lichen it.

8PaulCranswick
Editado: Jan 28, 2020, 2:22am



Another resolution is to keep up in 2020 with all my friends on LT. Happy New Year!

9brodiew2
Editado: Jan 2, 2020, 9:24pm

Happy New Year, Ron. I hope all is well with you.

I hope to be around more this year. Read more too. We'll see.

I'm still gonna bug you about Discovery. Figure that DVD player out., Sir.

>1 RBeffa: Nice to see Destiny of the Republic topping your nonfiction of 2019. As you know, it's a favorite of mine.

10drneutron
Jan 3, 2020, 12:57pm

Welcome back!

11RBeffa
Jan 3, 2020, 8:14pm

>4 DianaNL: >5 FAMeulstee: >6 ronincats: >7 laytonwoman3rd: >8 PaulCranswick: >9 brodiew2: >10 drneutron:
Thanks for dropping by with good thoughts and wishes Diana, Anita, Roni, Linda, Paul, Brodie and Jim.

I've started my first book and I have a hold coming in to the library that I should be able to pick up this weekend or Monday. There are a lot of books out there that tempt me.

>9 brodiew2: Discovery is currently checked out from the library Brodie, but I do want to get to it.

12Berly
Jan 3, 2020, 8:22pm



Wishing you 12 months of reading
52 weeks of laughter
366 days of fun (leap year!)
8,784 hours of joy
527,040 minutes of good luck
and 31,622,400 seconds of happiness!!

13RBeffa
Jan 4, 2020, 7:32pm

>12 Berly: Thank you Kim!
----------------
Ever since I read The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng, possibly my favorite read of 2017, I've wanted to revisit the world of Malaya esp before the events of WWII that played so heavily in that novel. I picked up the recently published The night tiger by Yangsze Choo at the library and it opens in 1931 Kamunting, Malaya in May 1931. I have high hopes. I now have three books going at once. Sigh.

14thornton37814
Jan 5, 2020, 9:10pm

Enjoy your 2020 reading!

15RBeffa
Editado: Jan 6, 2020, 12:48pm

>14 thornton37814: Thanks for dropping by Lori.

-----------------------------
My first finished read of 2020. This newish book by a Malaysian author has gotten some buzz. Lovely cover.

1. The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo, finished January 6, 2020, about 3 stars



I don't have much to say about this other than it was OK. Story felt too drawn out and the central mystery of the story is solved by the halfway point although the author has set up many side stories within this. Strange character dynamics in here. The story just didn't flow well for me.

I wouldn't recommend it.

16figsfromthistle
Jan 6, 2020, 12:51pm

>2 RBeffa: Love the photos!

>15 RBeffa: sorry your first read was not a good one.

17brodiew2
Jan 6, 2020, 2:22pm

I'm starting with Foundation Ron. It's my third time, but I am already realizing why it has been a favorite of mine and has stood the test of time.

18RBeffa
Jan 6, 2020, 3:09pm

>16 figsfromthistle: Thanks for the note Anita.

>17 brodiew2: Foundation should be fun. I first read it in high school - the initial trilogy - and it completely knocked me out then. I still have my original trilogy book from the science fiction book club. I reread the initial series when the 4th book came out but I don't recall reading any of the others. What I want to re-read is the Dune series which I read the first couple of in the mid 70's. It was fresh in my mind when the first Star Wars film came out - I was awed by the special effects and the opening sequence but felt like the story was a mashup primarily of the Foundation series and the Dune series along with bits of many other things. I am glad you are enjoying your re-read. It will be on my mental list to do once I get myself through the Dune sequence.

19brodiew2
Jan 6, 2020, 3:49pm

>18 RBeffa: I finally got through Dune a couple of months ago. It's weird to say, but I was hoping for more action. there is a tremendous amount of world building and, sadly, the story just moved too slowly for me. I hope you enjoy your re-read through!

20RBeffa
Jan 6, 2020, 4:10pm

>19 brodiew2: In my memory the third book was the best of the Dune books - and the first three books together felt like a whole. Also, I never read the 6th book in the series by Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse Dune and I want to revisit the sequence before I do.

21RBeffa
Editado: Fev 19, 2020, 1:34am

>19 brodiew2: The more I think about it the more I think I'd rather have a go at the Foundation series. But probably not this year unless it is late. Too many books in line at the moment including a number of new releases I would like to check out.
------------------------------
2. Dewey : a small-town library cat who touched the world by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter, finished January 9, 2020, 2 + stars



The less said the better.

22jnwelch
Jan 18, 2020, 4:51pm

A belated Happy New Year, Ron! It took me a while to find your 2020 thread.

23RBeffa
Jan 19, 2020, 12:40am

>22 jnwelch: Thanks for the visit Joe. I've got some good and hopefully great reads planned, once my going gets up and goes. Spotty internet access the last week or so is helping keep me quiet as well.

24Berly
Jan 23, 2020, 4:17am

>21 RBeffa: A succinct review if ever I read one!! Sorry.

25RBeffa
Jan 27, 2020, 9:15pm

>24 Berly: Oh I think I was a little harsh Kim. I was expecting something different from what it was. I don't want to beat up on it. It probably deserves at least 2 stars. I would have loved to meet Dewey.

My usual reading time since Dewey has been spent doing some history research and documenting one of our local historic cemeteries. I have not yet started a new book even though I have many sitting there waiting. I'm doing a lot of reading, just not the usual. Soon, soon ...

26RBeffa
Fev 2, 2020, 2:21pm

3. The 17th Suspect (Women's Murder Club) by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, finished February 2, 2020, 2? stars



I've had a long break without finishing a book. Sometimes one needs a book that doesn't tax the brain.

It has been a very long while since I read a James Patterson book. How much of this is Patterson and how much the coauthor I couldn't guess. The writing is very simple. Nice short chapters - I like that. Frankly I read this for the San Francisco setting. I will probably read another book in this series one day, when I want something very simple.

27RBeffa
Editado: Maio 22, 2020, 2:52pm

4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene, finished February 5, 2020, 4 stars



I am of two minds about this book. I think this is regarded as one of Graham Greene's best books but I found myself a little disappointed. It just isn't up there with the very best of them. However, Greene doesn't fail here. There is an undeniable art to this story and the way it is told can stir up the mind and soul. It sets hooks into the reader, pulls them into the lives of the characters, and unsettles me as the reader. I won't argue with those who think of this as a great novel.

I read an older edition of the book and I wish it had either an introduction or an after discussion and analysis included. I think I'll keep my eyes open for another copy. I'd like to read this again at some point. I'll probably re-read some of it now. I also very much want to see the film.

I'm wavering on what to say and how to rate this book. It is closer to a 4 star read than a 3. 3 1/2 stars for now and I'll think on it for a while.

ETA 5/22/20 I originally wrote this on Feb 5th and the book has stayed with me. The last two days I have re-read the second half of the book and I think I appreciate all the more. I'm still a bit bothered by this angsty philosophical God dilemma of one of the characters, but i appreciate the artful presentation of this story all the more now, on reflection. I'll give this a solid 4 stars.

28brodiew2
Editado: Fev 5, 2020, 6:47pm

Hello Ron! I hope all is well with you.

>26 RBeffa: I did a Patterson audio recently as well. NYPD Red 4. I was a fun procedural and I no apologies for enjoying it.

I am now on to The Institute by Stephen King (on audio). It is off to a good start. I have not read a King in many years.

I have stack of potential print reads but feel like I can't sit still at the moment.

29RBeffa
Fev 5, 2020, 3:22pm

>28 brodiew2: I have a couple audiobooks here Brodie that I want to listen to, but I can't sit still enough to listen! a paper book at least forces me to stay there - and the short James Patterson chapters were perfect.

I have not read King in a while either but the Institute does look intriguing. I plan to visit the library tomorrow evening and hope I find something good on the new releases shelf.

30ronincats
Fev 8, 2020, 11:58am

Just saying hi!

31RBeffa
Editado: Fev 20, 2020, 12:19am

>30 ronincats: Thanks for dropping by Roni. We managed not to blow away in this windstorm which is easily the worst I have experienced in many years. The widowmakers were flying out of the trees.
Meanwhile I spent much of yesterday reading (and listening to a bit of an audiobook).

After several "dark" stories this year I wanted something light and fun so I thought an old fashioned science fiction story might do.

5. Three Worlds To Conquer by Poul Anderson, finished February 10, 2020, 3 stars



This isn't a terrible story. In fact I think it a very entertaining tale. I try to read an old Anderson novel or short story collection almost every year. I skipped last year. I enjoyed Poul Anderson's stories quite a bit in my teens and 20's, but all these years later these stories really show their age. Quite common to most older science fiction of course. But really, how severe was the nicotine addiction of these authors? They have the scientists filling and lighting up their pipes on the moon of Jupiter. Really? Really? Their future is now past in many cases. Not so really with this one but the writing style lets you know you are in the past despite the planetary exploration and exploitation going on. That's the same as it ever was. The United States has had a revolution and Civil War again - which may not be so far fetched - and there are other goings on far out in the solar system where the mining colony on Ganymede soon has trouble and the native inhabitants are embroiled in a war ... due to climate change! Hah. Not a bad story but this is not great literature. Just some entertaining fluff that I passed some time with, although it does have some important and serious themes. So not all fluff..

First published in serial form in IF magazine in 1964 it came out almost immediately in paperback. My later 1968 paperback edition has a rather cool cover by Jack Gaughan.

32RBeffa
Fev 13, 2020, 11:04am

I picked up the latest Pendergast book, Crooked River by Preston & Child shortly after it's release last week. My wife loves their books. She read it in two days. I figured I'd have a go with it. I've only read 2 dozen pages but it has me quite interested.

33RBeffa
Editado: Fev 18, 2020, 8:56pm

It has been a full decade or more since I read a book or two by Preston and Child. This hot off the press Agent Pendergast book gave me a lot of pleasurable reading. Browsing on the net I find a mix of reviews and sentiment, but mostly positive. Some regular readers of the series seem disappointed. This makes me want to go back to the beginning and read through the entire series. My wife considers this fluff reading. I think it is a little better than that.

6. Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child, finished February 18, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars (can't quite call this a 4 even tho I enjoyed it)



I have not read any of the recent books in the Pendergast series. I've been meaning to, but, well, there are so many books out there. I kick myself slightly for staying away so long. This is a fun in a gruesome way book. The fun part outweighs the gruesome part. Over a hundred amputated feet wash up on and around a beach on Sanibel Island. Queue screaming and vomiting child. Next, let us figure out just what has happened. The ultimate mystery isn't exactly solved in a satisfactory manner but the journey to the action packed rip-roaring end and the interesting characters make it worthwhile.

If there is a fault to the story overall I'd say that there was a bit too much sidestory happening - the whole thread with the reporter (who I think may be a touchback to an earlier book) should have been pared way back. I thought it the weakest and least important part of the book. There is also a bothersome and out of place bit at the beginning with the death of a dog that really did not need to be in here. These two things keep me from rating this a little higher. Recommended for those who enjoy the authors. This struck me as different than early Pendergast books and Pendergast in particular, even though it has been a long time since I read them. I'm a little shocked this is #19 in the series! Easy to step into tho, even if you have never read one.

34PaulCranswick
Fev 22, 2020, 11:26am

>27 RBeffa: I do agree with you on The End of the Affair, Ron. Not, in my view, amongst the top rank of his novels and.....yet.

Have a great weekend.

35RBeffa
Fev 22, 2020, 12:55pm

>34 PaulCranswick: Thanks for the note Paul. Hope your weekend is good as well.
------------

I was overdue for some non-fiction reading. I bought this book exactly six years ago - 2-22-2014 - my interest had been sparked by reading The Burning Mountain: A Novel of the Invasion of Japan by Alfred Coppel and John Hersey's Hiroshima in particular.

7. Rain of Ruin: A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Donald M. Goldstein, J. Michael Wenger, Katherine V. Dillon, finished February 22, 2020, 3+ stars



I was oddly disappointed with this book. The preface to the book by the authors really piqued my interest but the actual book, despite the subject matter, came across quite flat in many parts. There is something missing here. I think that the lack of some backstory for most of the major participants resulted in name after name after name, which documents who was involved but gave little or no context. I had to turn to the internet for information about some of the people involved. The internet barely existed when this was first published in 1995. Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay that dropped the Hiroshima bomb, lived to 92 years of age and died on November 1, 2007.

For me the main value of this book was the photographs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which are primarily in the middle two (of eight) chapters of the book.

I have a Japanese novel, Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse that I will read later this year. It deals with the aftermath of the bombing.

36RBeffa
Editado: Abr 8, 2020, 2:45pm

Ted Chiang writes stories that get you thinking. His most famous one is now probably "Stories of Your Life' which became the basis for the recent film "Arrival"

8. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang, finished February 27, 2020, about 3 1/2 stars



I have been waiting a couple months for a copy of this from the library, so when it finally showed up I was very happy and dove right in. There are several award winning stories in here (major and minor science fiction awards). The included material was:

The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate • (2007) • won best novelette Nebula and Hugo award 2008
Exhalation • (2008) • short story won 2008 BSFA and 2009 Hugo and Locus
What's Expected of Us • (2005) • short story
The Lifecycle of Software Objects • (2010) • Best novella Hugo and Locus 2011
Dacey's Patent Automatic Nanny • (2011) • short story
The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling • (2013) • novelette, 2nd place for Hugo and Locus in 2014
The Great Silence • (2015) • short story (appeared in the Best American Short Stories of 2016)
Omphalos • novelette (2020 Hugo nominee)
Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom • novelette (2020 Nebula and Hugo nominee)
Story Notes

A real plus for this collection of stories was the author including 10 pages of story notes at the end of the book discussing the origins of the stories and what he was trying to do with the story. It heightened my appreciation.

The first two stories get this collection off to a great start. I had read Exhalation about a decade ago when it was new but had forgotten how much I liked it. I really liked it. The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate is also excellent and it was one I appreciated even more when I read the author's notes. Unfortunately this great start did not continue. The Lifecycle of Software Objects is a novella that takes up about a third of the book and it may have won the major awards but half way through I started losing interest - it became repetitive and then I was getting seriously uninterested. So bored that I didn't care what was happening or where it was going, if anywhere, and so I skipped the last 20-25 pages of the story. Tamagotchi 2.0. Squeeee! Not. Disappointment.

My enthusiasm was quite dampened but I did like most of the remaining stories, and as noted, the story notes at the end which helped me see what the author was going for. Another excellent and thought provoking story in here was "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling". Ted Chiang thinks things that I have not - and I like that. After reading the first few pages of Omphalos I went to the back of the book story notes to see what was going on. Aha. Very interesting idea for a story and I enjoyed it more with knowing what the author intended. Was that a cheat? I don't think so.

In sum, an above average book marred by the large novella that paled compared to the rest.

37RBeffa
Mar 1, 2020, 10:02pm

I was gifted with several bags of books recently from someone who is downsizing and I picked out quite a few to read or consider reading. One that I started on was Across the Nightingale floor - it is a sort of historical fiction set in a place like feudal Japan with some slight fantasy (so far) and is the first in a series of stories of which I now have several. I've seen these books for a number of years and sorta dismissed them as young adult fantasy. They may fit into that category but having read about a quarter of this first book I must say I am enjoying it quite a bit. This is looking like a 4 star read.

38RBeffa
Mar 3, 2020, 7:37pm

9. Across the nightingale floor by Lian Hearn, finished March 3, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



A satisfying read. Historical fiction, or perhaps fantasy, set in a place similar to a feudal Japan. It is not Japan, so someone looking for historical Japanese fiction would likely be disappointed. It does have some of the trappings of what one might imagine Japanese life might be, but they are loose trappings. It explores some themes that don't seem Japanese. So, among other things, this is about a ninja without calling him one, and so on. If you know a little of Japanese history the way things are in here can be annoying, so just don't think of it as Japan. There's also a romance tacked on in the second half of the book that I should have seen coming but didn't. I sorta wish it wasn't there, the way it was done anyway.

Reading what I just wrote sounds rather negative, but I don't mean it to be. This was overall an enjoyable story, with characters I liked, and the first of a series of books. I am looking forward to other stories by this author when I want something light and enjoyable.

39FAMeulstee
Mar 4, 2020, 4:09pm

>38 RBeffa: Across the nightingale floor was one of the first books I read back in 2009 after a recommendation in this group. I liked the whole trilogy. Later I found there was a prequel and a 4th book, those I had to read in English, as they were never translated. I liked those two a little bit less.

40RBeffa
Mar 4, 2020, 5:46pm

>39 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita!
I somehow missed mentions of this book and series. After finishing and reading numerous reviews I see that there is a wide variety of reactions to it. I'm glad I read it without any idea of what it was about. Many of the criticisms I can understand but I would suggest readers just enjoy the story. I know I can get overly critical about things but that didn't happen here. I liked this and am looking forward to more. The followup 'Grass for his pillow' is on my read soon shelf. I'm glad to know you enjoyed the trilogy, and the prequel sounds interesting to me. I really liked Lord Shigeru and want to know more.

41brodiew2
Editado: Mar 6, 2020, 6:24pm

Hello Ron! I hope all is well with you.

>33 RBeffa: Excellent review if Crooked River. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. As I mentioned books 3-6 of the series were standouts and had a creepiness to them that worked well for me. I also listened on audio and Scott Brick did a great job with the story and characters.

I just had a flurry finishes and am now reading Border Son which is a departure for me, but is quite and engaging story.

I also started Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Great start so far.

42RBeffa
Editado: Mar 15, 2020, 4:03pm

>41 brodiew2: Hi Brodie. Thanks for stopping by. I think I'll head back to the early days with Preston & Child. They have a followup novel to The Ice Limit (non-Pendergast) so I may go for Ice Limit, or else start with The Relic. I also very much want to continue the series I just started with >38 RBeffa:.
Meanwhile ...
----------------------
10. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy, finished March 7, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars



Hmmm. I suppose depending upon who you innately are and where you are at in life (young, middle , old, older, ageless) this book will hit you right or else somewhere off center. For lack of better words I'll call it an illustrated fable. I think it hit me right. I can best describe it as a cross between Winnie the Pooh when he is being what was it called, The Tao of Pooh? and Le Petit Prince with a dash of Mister Rogers. This lovely, lovely illustrated book grabbed me from the start. The mole asks the boy "What Do You want to be when you grow up?" "Kind" said the boy

It gets a little too sugary at times, but this is well worth the time. If you have a little one to share it with, all the better.

43RBeffa
Editado: Mar 12, 2020, 11:43am

Sometimes I step out of my reading box. A random new book from the library. It often does not work out and not a word gets said here. Sometimes, though, it does work. Here is something like a contemporary gothic that caught my fancy from the first page or two. I was sure I had it figured out from the beginning ... From the beginning - now there was a great Emerson, Lake and Palmer song. I think I'll go put it on the turntable. What a lucky man I'll be. Meanwhile, there was this.

11. The Au Pair by Emma Rous, finished March 12, 2020, Better than a normal 3 stars, let's call it 3 1/2 stars



An impressive first novel. A gothic suspense and mystery rolled into one. Smartly written with alternating viewpoint characters. Part is told from 1991-2 and it alternates with essentially the present (2017).

I did think I knew how this would turn out, from the beginning, but even though I was on the right path the story became increasingly complex as things were revealed about character's pasts. The story was initially very compelling but as it neared the halfway point it started to get a little tedious. In particular, one of the two viewpoint characters who we alternate with becomes increasingly annoying and I lost just about any sympathy with her. We also veer a bit too much into chick lit territory and at that stage this became much less of a page turner. Looked at from the beginning, the actual ending was pretty unpredictable although looking back one can see the hints and crumbs left for the trail.

A lot of angst in the 2017 end of the story could have been resolved with simple DNA tests from 23 and me or Ancestry. In fact I'd suggest these characters still do it!

Interesting change of pace book.

44RBeffa
Mar 16, 2020, 11:37pm

DNF The Greater Journey : Americans in Paris, 1830-1900 by David McCullough, discontinued March 16, 2020



I had an odd and almost immediate impression as I began this book. I felt like I was reading a Ken Burn's PBS special with McCullough's voice - only I didn't have the visuals. I was briefly introduced to a bunch of characters whose names I had sometimes heard of, sometimes not, but who had never left enough of an impression on me to remember who they were. My brain would go "Charles Sumner, I must have heard that name, who was he?" And so on. That wasn't damning - in the past McCullough has pulled out names from the past such as Alexander von Humboldt and stunned me with his narrative. But that did not happen this time.

I did not find this book compelling - This is a long book and I found it tedious too often. There are too many people and the narrative is hard to follow at times. It required a rather intense focus. That's about all I need to say.

45laytonwoman3rd
Mar 20, 2020, 10:19am

>44 RBeffa: Curious, Ron. I listened to that one a couple years ago, and I absolutely loved it.

46RBeffa
Mar 20, 2020, 10:51am

>45 laytonwoman3rd: It may have partly been due to the craziness of the current world situation that affected my interest or attention. I gave it a fair try however and after setting it down I skipped ahead to read sections that were more of interest (I also really liked many of the photographs included in the book) but this did not get hooks into me at all. I really think I needed a visual with the narrative to capture my interest.

47brodiew2
Mar 20, 2020, 12:31pm

Hi Ron. I hope you and yours are staying healthy in these strange days.

>44 RBeffa: I am sorry the McCullough didn't work for you this time.Ihave two of his inthe TBR, The Wright Brothers
and the new Pioneers one.

Do you read many thrillers? I'm sure you've seen my reviews of the Orphan X series. Light nudge. ;-)

48jnwelch
Mar 20, 2020, 1:20pm

Hi, Ron.

Man, I completely agree with you about Exhalation: Stories. I loved all of Stories of Your Life and Others. I loved most of Exhalation: Stories, but that overly long boring novella really brought down its overall impact. It wouldn't dissuade me from reading another collection of his, but I wish someone had edited that novella down to a few pages.

Like you, I enjoyed Across the Nightingale Floor. There are more, but at some point I lost steam with the story. But that first one, I had a great time.

I've wondered about The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse. After reading your comments, I'll add it to the WL.

49RBeffa
Mar 20, 2020, 4:16pm

>47 brodiew2: Hey Brodie - I'm not a big thriller reader (or watcher) but I do like them now and then. Orphan X is probably not for me though. I'm watching a Hulu thriller at the moment since California is in near lockdown - Devs. Have you started watching Dev's? There are 4 episodes so far - a new one on Thursdays. I've watched the first three. I think I'm starting to root for the bad guys! An unusual story. I like the visuals a lot - get to see places in San Francisco I have seen all my life and also much of it seems to have been filmed at UC Santa Cruz where my daughter spent a summer and a school I almost went to. Love the setting of that school. They have a lot of architecturally interesting buildings there that the show uses to good effect.

We are in good health and safe here. The world is getting strange however - not always the best side of people on display.

>48 jnwelch: Hi Joe. I've been a Ted Chiang fan since I read his first story Towers of Babylon nearly 30 years ago I guess. He can write amazing stories. That Lifecycle novella however - i cannot believe it won awards - I am so out of synch with what some folks think is great these days.

The Boy, The Mole, the Fox and the Horse was a fresh bit of niceness I picked up from the library. I am pretty sure you will enjoy it but I'm not sure I would buy it - it doesn't strike me as one I'd want to go back to and re-read. Once was a nice pleasure.

And I'm raring to go for the followup book to Nightingale. I'm making myself wait till I get a few more others read.

50swynn
Mar 20, 2020, 4:30pm

Catching up ...

I'll probably get to to The Night Tiger this weekend, and Exhalation next month. Sorry to hear that both had their disappointments. The Chiang, though, sounds encouraging other than the one novella.

51RBeffa
Mar 21, 2020, 12:24pm

>50 swynn: I'm looking forward to your comments on both books Steve. Most people liked The Night Tiger more than I did. Altho I didn't recommend it I still think it was an OK read. We will see what you think. Parts of it are very good. As for Chiang, there are some very good stories in that collection.

I'm already getting closet fever with shutdown California, mostly because I had already pulled back several weeks before they ordered it. It does let me focus on home things - I've been getting the garden in and have lettuce, tomatoes and Squash planted - several kinds of each - so I have good veges to look forward to in the future (assuming the wild turkeys don't have a party). Fruit trees looking very very good for a crop this year - plums, prunes, apricots, peach, apples and my cherry are rocking the blooms. It should be a great harvest this summer.

52RBeffa
Editado: Mar 25, 2020, 10:20am

This is a re-read from 1965

12. Daybreak 2250 AD aka Star Man's Son by Andre Norton, finished March 24, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars





I sometimes tell a story that my wife and I are together because of this book. The story actually begins when I was about 11 in the sixth grade.

Did anyone here besides me experience the SRA reading system in the 60's (or the 70's)? When I was in the 6th grade this seemingly new-fangled reading program came into my class - it was a box of cards and besides whatever normal English/reading assignment you would have in class, the SRA was a bonus. I thought it came from nearby Stanford University (S for Stanford) but Stanford Research Associates could have been anybody. Actually it was apparently Science Research Associates, so what did I know when I was 11? Not much. But these cards in a box are like the Butterfly effect moment for me; one small thing that had effects down the line of life.

You can read an article about them here - I'm sure there are other articles out there:
http://hackeducation.com/2015/03/19/sra

So the way it worked in my class was that we had regular English/reading assignments. If you finished your assignment satisfactorily you got to go to "The Box" and pull out a bonus to work on - entirely optional. But it became a little bit of a competition. The bonus for me was that when you achieved certain levels you got to go to the school library which was a newish thing and about the size of a walk in closet if I remember right. A library at the school seemed magical. So, in this library thanks to some unknown librarian, there was one of the racks on a spinner and it was full of paperbacks, and pertinent to this story, had some science fiction/science fantasy paperbacks. It was suddenly time for Ron to graduate from Superman and Daredevil comics. The first three books I remember reading were two Andre Norton books, Daybreak 2250 AD and The Time Traders, and an ancient for the genre story "The Purple Cloud by M.P. Shiel. This was a 1901 story in a 1963 paperback that was also the basis for a movie 'The World, the flesh and the devil' starring Harry Belafonte and Inger Stevens. And I suddenly realized why W.E. DuBois' 1920's story that I read recently, "The Comet" felt so familiar.

I'll make the rest of this story very quick. Many years later I am at a business meeting and this attractive girl sitting nearby is reading an Andre Norton book. The rest is the history of my life. Thank you Daybreak 2250 AD.

So, about the actual story - it still holds up as an adventure story in a post Atomic War setting with some mutations. More importantly it addresses race as a "mutant" white haired light skinned young man, Fors, forges a friendship with a dark skinned young man Arskane. An extra bonus for me was Fors' companion, a puma sized feline much bigger than the large bobcat or housecat depicted on the cover. That drawing is otherwise very accurate to a moment in the story.

I enjoyed re-reading this all these years later. Did I still love it? Not really. For many years I remembered the story vividly but it had slowly faded in memory other than a very broad outline. So reading this now was like a fresh read.

ETA: I went and looked at reviews on Goodreads and countless people remember this book as the first novel they remember reading. It seems to have had quite an impact in the 60's and later. The book shows its age on reading now, but in some ways it remains timeless.

53Berly
Mar 29, 2020, 9:49pm

Ron--How fun to have a book that made such an impact on not only your memory, but also your married life!! Thanks for sharing. And love the story about the reading card and the competition to get to the library. : )

Stay sane and safe.

54RBeffa
Mar 30, 2020, 4:29pm

>53 Berly: It is a happy memory for me Kim. We are keeping safe - the sane part is a little harder.

I've put in a small vege garden this year. Have not done one for several years with the on and off drought situation. I've got several kinds of tomatoes and a summer squash and a zucchini. I also sprinkled basil seeds everywhere. Most of my restless energy in the yard has been directed to pruning some of our larger trees and shrubs. We've had some rainy days which I am not complaining about because we had been drier than usual.

Being stuck at home you'd think I'd be reading up a storm but I'm not. Just the opposite. Strange, I know, but I think my anxiousness about the world at large right now interferes with my attention span.

So, a book ...

I started this a couple months ago at a busy time and I wanted to focus on it so I set it aside, longer than I expected. I've worked on it this month. A book that is easy to read a few chapters at a time.

13. The Mayor of Casterbridge A Story of A Man of Character by Thomas Hardy, finished March 30, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



I thought I had read this book before, but I now believe I had only partially read it because the first part was very familiar. I know the story because I very much enjoyed the miniseries starring Ciaran Hinds about 15 years ago. I certainly remembered many elements of the story as I read it, and I purchased my copy around that time.

A thoroughly sad story, as is any story by Hardy that I can recall. I really like the books I have read by Thomas Hardy and this one is no exception. It was also very nice companion to the book I finished a few months ago, The Second Sleep, by Robert Harris.

There are plenty of reviews (but mostly blurbs) here on LT so I don't feel a need to write one more or recap the story-line. The writing seems to falter a bit as the story progresses or I just got a little used to his clever wordplay and awesome writing! I really like Hardy's writing in general and love finding forgotten words, or new words I never knew and I like how he uses them. I had to read some sentences twice, or slowly to translate an old or unknown expression into something I could understand and picture in my mind. 19th century stories will do that to you. I also liked coming across a phrase still in use now (at least in my little mind) that Hardy was using in 1886 when Casterbridge was first published. Hardy is a very descriptive writer and this book will get hooks into you from the first page. A true classic and as always it whets my appetite for more.

-----------------------

Slim picking for the first quarter summary since I have not been reading all that much. Rated here mostly for how much I enjoyed the story

Top Ten Fiction for 2020:
1. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
2. Across the nightingale floor by Lian Hearn
3/4. Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
3/4. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
5. The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Top Five Non-Fiction for 2020
1. Rain of Ruin: A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Donald M. Goldstein, J. Michael Wenger, Katherine V. Dillon

Favorite anthologies/ short story collections for 2020:

1. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

Best fiction re-reads for 2020:

1. Daybreak 2250 AD by Andre Norton

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy

Best fun read:

1. None so far

55ronincats
Mar 30, 2020, 6:08pm

Yes, SRA, 6th thru 8th grade, early 60s. Being a fast reader, I started at my level each year, read to the end, and then went and read all the earlier ones just to have something new to read. I didn't encounter Andre Norton until 9th grade, though, when the high school library had some of her books.

56laytonwoman3rd
Mar 31, 2020, 11:23am

I don't remember SRA when I was in school. We had a rather comprehensive school library, and the public library was almost on school property as well. As I vaguely recall, there was "Library class" once a week or so in sixth grade, where we learned how to find things using the Dewey Decimal System. We definitely had one of those vertical revolving shelves of paperbacks, though---I remember taking a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank home from there.

57RBeffa
Editado: Abr 2, 2020, 2:31pm

>55 ronincats: I remember missing SRA when I went to 7th or 8th grade. I think I only had it for 6th. I've heard from several friends who I asked about it and it wasn't just a California thing. Also depending on your age you may have missed it. One younger friend had it starting in the First through at least 6th grade in Central California coast area.

>56 laytonwoman3rd: You are lucky Linda. When I went to middle school for 7th-8th the school, which was almost brand new, they did not have a library for us. Our English/Language class had a small selection of books which probably came from the teacher. I spent a LOT of time at our public library those years. The middle school was a slightly experimental school for the time. It was intended I'm sure to transition us to high school - we had a modular concept with all the rooms opening onto a hub - one room was your homeroom but throughout the day you went to certain classes in other rooms for math, english and science if I remember correctly. It let the kids intermix. There was also an elective period where I had journalism for the school newsletter in 8th grade. Can't remember what my 7th was.

I think I've had a chip on my shoulder in some ways about 7th-8th grade my whole life. My 6th grade teacher was a wonder - she was a progressive way ahead of her time. She played us Weavers albums and told us about McCarthyism and blacklisting. We had a great teachers aide for a couple months also. And we had the SRA thing which many of us really liked. My 7th and 8th grade homeroom teachers were also pretty good truthfully but the school program overall was not the greatest. And no more SRA there. Luckily high school came along.

58RBeffa
Editado: Abr 4, 2020, 6:56pm

14. Expedition to Earth short story collection by Arthur C Clarke, finished April 2 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



This excellent short story collection by Arthur C Clarke contains 11 of his earliest stories. Every one is not a gem, but most are, and it made this very much worth the read. Most notable is that two story precursors to 2001 A Space Odyssey are included here. Expedition to Earth (aka Encounter in the Dawn) and The Sentinel. Probably 'The Sentinel' is the more famous one and has been broadly reprinted (sometimes in revised versions) since the initial 1951 digest magazine publication. However 'Encounter in the Dawn/Expedition to Earth' is considered the story that served as inspiration when greatly revised to became the opening sequence to the film 2001. This December 1953 publication was the first time the stories appeared in an actual book as far as I know. My copy was an August 1975 thirteenth printing so it seems it remained popular from first issuance. I'm not sure I ever read this early version of Encounter in the Dawn.

Here is a photo of the moon I took a few years ago



At the start of the story 'The Sentinel' Clarke writes: "The next time you see the full moon high in the south, look carefully at its right-hand edge and let your eye travel upward along the curve of the disk. Round about two o'clock you will notice a small, dark oval: anyone with normal eyesight can find it quite easily. It is the great walled plain, one of the finest on the Moon, known as the Mare Crisium - The Sea of Crises. Three hundred miles in diameter, and almost completely surrounded by a ring of magnificent mountains, it had never been explored until we entered it in the late summer of 1996."

A sea of crises on the Moon, a world of crises back here on earth. Next week, when the full moon is out, look up and wonder if the Sentinel is there right about two o'clock in the Mare Crisium.

The included stories are:
• Second Dawn • (1951) • novelette
• "If I Forget Thee, Oh Earth . . ." • (1951) • shortstory
• Breaking Strain • (1949) • novelette
• History Lesson • (1949) • shortstory
• Superiority • (1951) • shortstory
• Exile of the Eons • (1950) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke (aka Nemesis)
• Hide and Seek • (1949) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke
• Expedition to Earth • (1953) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke (aka Encounter in the Dawn)
• Loophole • (1946) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke
• Inheritance • (1947) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke
• The Sentinel • (1951) • shortstory by Arthur C. Clarke

59ronincats
Abr 2, 2020, 10:01pm

>57 RBeffa: Well, I was in the middle of Kansas at the time so I did know it wasn't just a California thing. ;-)

60RBeffa
Abr 4, 2020, 11:30pm

I was wondering what to read next and I considered a book by Conrad Richter, The Sea of Grass. I picked it up about 5 or 6 years ago. It is probably a first edition from 1937 and it has an inscription in it, also dated 1937.



It was a gift to Mrs. Bertrand Rockwell. Well, this sent me on an internet hunt. Bertrand Rockwell died in 1930 and Mrs Rockwell died in 1947. Here is Mr with an interesting history, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15111632/bertrand-rockwell and here is Julia Marshall Snyder Rockwell, the Mrs, who died at 97 years of age: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79318795/julia-marshall-rockwell

They had 5 daughters, two of which were in California and must have kept this book for some years. They've been gone for over 40 years and so this book must have been passed down another time or two until it happened to be found by me. Who loves a good history hunt.

61brodiew2
Abr 5, 2020, 1:57pm

Hi Ron! I hope you are doing well.

>58 RBeffa: This looks really cool. I was not aware of it. I read the entire Rama saga and enjoyed it. There were a couple of other Clarke's along the way as well. I'll if I can find it once the Corona runs its course.

62RBeffa
Abr 5, 2020, 2:38pm

>61 brodiew2: Hi Brodie. We are doing well, considering the circumstances. I'm spending more time on the computer and watching more television than I usually do, and being a lot less active. Combine that with what I call "nervous eating" and I've put a few pounds on that I didn't need. I suspect I'm not alone.

I think you mentioned you were having a hard time focusing on books and I've had the same problem but I plan to work on that going forward. The Clarke short stories worked well in that regard. I could read a story, finish, and start on the next one when I wanted. Like many people I hadn't read Clarke since I was much younger. A few years back I re-read Childhood's End and one I had not read, The Deep Range and have been wanting to revisit Clarke more often. This one worked for me. I look forward to reading or re-reading a few others by him before too long. I have half a dozen oldies here at home somewhere to choose from. The Sands of Mars was Clarke's first novel and i am pretty sure I never read it.

I read Rama long ago but none of the followup books.

Take care and be safe.

63laytonwoman3rd
Abr 5, 2020, 10:07pm

>60 RBeffa: A man after me own heart...I'd have done the same! Are you a member of FAG, Ron? I use it a lot, and have contributed a fair number of memorials and edits to the site. I spend some of my spare time in good weather wandering around cemeteries. I wish it would turn spring-like around here so I could go out and do some of that soon, because it's real easy to "keep your distance" from the occupants.

64PaulCranswick
Abr 5, 2020, 10:46pm

Hope you have had a lovely, peaceful, safe and healthy weekend, Ron

65RBeffa
Editado: Abr 5, 2020, 11:30pm

>63 laytonwoman3rd: Very safe distancing at those cems, Linda! You can find me on FAG at #48514404. I spend a lot of time researching our closest cemetery. I have found so much interesting history. (I even sent in an edit for one of the Rockwell's daughters to be linked to her parents.) Here are all the ones I have added so far: https://www.findagrave.com/user/48514404/memorial?type=added

ETA: You have been a FAG member exactly 4 months longer than I have!

66RBeffa
Abr 5, 2020, 11:24pm

>64 PaulCranswick: Thank you for the good wishes Paul. We are doing our best to keep ourselves safe. I hope you and your family can stay safe and healthy also.

67RBeffa
Abr 6, 2020, 10:00am

>60 RBeffa: As it happens I am really liking The Sea of Grass. I also had no idea it had been made into a Spencer Tracy - Katherine Hepburn film. I was such a fan of Spencer Tracy in my younger days. The Sea of Grass is a short novel - I read the first third last evening. It conveniently is broken into three parts. This was Richter's first novel and it is beautifully written. Set in the same area of the Southwest (future New Mexico) that his novel "The Lady" was set in, which i read and enjoyed in 2013. Told in the same way also if I remember right - someone recounting their childhood. Anyway, good stuff so far. Very cinematic.

68RBeffa
Editado: Abr 7, 2020, 7:17pm

I think this book is my favorite read of the year so far.

15. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter, finished April 7, 2020, 4 1/2 stars



The story from 1936 is told by Hal Brewton looking back on events from his childhood 50 years earlier in the New Mexico Territory. At the time the land was a sea of grass and massive herds of cattle grazed as well as antelope. It was not farmed as the land was not suitable for it. However in the 1880's desperate wagon trains, "emigrant trains" of homesteaders came to try and take a piece of the open land. Hal lives with his Uncle Jim Brewton who has arranged for a mail order bride, Lutie Cameron. Thus begins the story.

The reviews of this book are a little mixed but generally quite favorable. My reaction would be one of the quite favorable ones. I thought the author did a fantastic job of bringing the landscape and era to life.

This was Richter's first novel after having written a number of short stories. His novels are generally held in high regard and this one might be his most famous one behind 1953's "A Light in the Forest", one that it seems everyone read in school. The novel was made into a film with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in 1947. Once the libraries re-open I intend to check it out. I'm also going to be on the lookout for other novels by Richter. There are four at my library that I have not read yet.

69swynn
Abr 8, 2020, 6:15pm

Catching up.

>52 RBeffa: Excellent that Daybreak - 2250 A.D./Star Man's Son held up for you! I agree that the cat Lura was a bonus. I wanted more Lura and was irked when he could have been useful and just wasn't around. Also, great story about the book launching the rest of your life.

>68 RBeffa: I read and loved The Sea of Grass back in 2012, and vowed to read more Richter. Which reminds me I ought to read more Richter.

70PaulCranswick
Abr 12, 2020, 8:30am



I wanted my message this year to be fairly universal in a time we all should be pulling together, whatever our beliefs. Happy Celebration, Happy Sunday, Ron.

71RBeffa
Abr 12, 2020, 1:59pm

>69 swynn: Thanks for the comments Steve. The sea of grass has certainly made me want more Richter.

>70 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul for your good wishes to all here on LT. I'll return those good wishes to you for a happy and healthy Spring.

72RBeffa
Abr 12, 2020, 11:06pm

16. Elsewhere and Elsewhen short stories by various authors and edited by Groff Conklin, finished April 12, 2020, 2 stars



Conklin was a prolific anthologist of the 50's and 60's who died 2 months after this collection was published in 1968. Conklin collected these from magazines published in the 50's and 60's, and although he may have thought highly of them, I did not. I thought the editor's introduction to the collection, his reasons for selecting these stories, was very nearly incomprehensible. I had picked this old collection up primarily because it has an early story by Pulitzer prize winning author Michael Shaara. His Civil War novel "The Killer Angels" is one of the best books I have ever read. Shaara's story in here, "The Book", wasn't bad and it was certainly comprehensible. Also, James Schmitz, another author I have liked for many years, has a story in here. I thought it the best one, especially since it featured a strong, accomplished female character, Nile Etland, who a few years after this story would go on to star in one of Schmitz's best novels, "The Demon Breed", aka "The Tuvela". This story made this collection worthwhile.

Most of the stories in here are simply not good. The opening story, "Shortstack" was enjoyable in a campy sort of way. The stories after this with the exception of the two named above, never got better despite some authors I usually enjoy. Very dated with 50's and 60's paranoia and very odd sexism - the sort that spawned 60's flicks like "Mars Needs Women" maybe. I normally read books with a "That was then, this is now" mindset and can live with minor bothers. This was more than minor. It does include a Cordwainer Smith story which I looked forward to but it also had a very strange and very unpleasant angle which made me think it was the worst story of his I had ever read. I often enjoy these old anthologies but this one is very skippable and several stories I had to skim or didn't finish. These are longer short stories, considered novelettes.

Included stories are:
• Introduction • essay by Groff Conklin
• Shortstack • (1964) • novelette by Leigh Richmond and Walt Richmond
• How Allied • (1957) • novelette by Mark Clifton
• The Wrong World • (1960) • novelette by J. T. McIntosh
• World in a Bottle • (1960) • novelette by Allen Kim Lang
• Think Blue, Count Two • (1963) • novelette by Cordwainer Smith
• Turning Point • (1963) • shortstory by Poul Anderson
• The Book • (1953) • novelette by Michael Shaara
• Trouble Tide • (1965) • novelette by James H. Schmitz
• The Earthman's Burden • (1962) • novelette by Donald E. Westlake

73m.belljackson
Abr 16, 2020, 7:57pm

Hi again, Ron...if I'm remembering correctly from a long while back,
you recommended both IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE and THE BURNING MOUNTAIN...?

The first one has been eerily prophetic.

I just entered a review for THE BURNING MOUNTAIN,
ending with the question of what might have happened if the United States had not bombed or invaded Japan to end the war.

74RBeffa
Editado: Abr 16, 2020, 9:26pm

>73 m.belljackson: Hi Marianne. I did not recommend It Can't Happen Here since I don't think I've ever read it. I have praised The Burning Mountain. In answer to your question, the people would have starved to death or else succumbed to the continued firebombing. From what I have read the military was never going to surrender and I'm not sure at what point the emperor would have tried to force a surrender. That seems to be the key point historians disagree on. Was the a bomb irrelevant because surrender going to happen soon ...? Did Hitler ever surrender? No.

ETA: I don't think do nothing was on the table because the Japanese kamikazes were still destroying ships.

75RBeffa
Abr 18, 2020, 3:27pm

17. Simon the Fiddler: A Novel by Paulette Jiles, audiobook narrated by Grover Gardner, finished April 18, 2020, 3 stars



When I logged in to our library's ebook/audiobook app on April 14th I was a little thrilled to find both the ebook and audiobook of this book were available on the day of official publication, April 14th. Seeing that Grover Gardner was the narrator I opted for the audiobook. I listened to the first two hours almost immediately and went past my bedtime.

This is my first book by Jiles. She is an author I have wanted to check out and seeing that I like historical fiction and had just been wowed by Conrad Richter's 'Sea of Grass' I had high hopes.

Well ... Grover Gardner is a wonderful narrator and handles this very well. This story however did not rock my world I am sorry to say. Can something be too literary? Maybe. Too much meticulous detail? yeah, maybe. well, yes. Too drawn out of a story? yep. Unlikable protagonist? Yeah, for me, definitely.

Most folks seem to love this new release. Me not so much. I think my expectations were too high from all the initial praise but I don't think I would have liked this all that much anyway. I give it an OK 3 stars (for me 2 1/2 - 3 stars is an OK average book.)

76ronincats
Abr 19, 2020, 11:41am

>72 RBeffa: I'm just not an anthology reader, partly because I'm not that much of a short story reader, partly because of the unevenness of the works, and partly because the risk of getting traumatized is much higher because I'm not as much in control of what I am getting into. Still have shock memories of certain short stories years later...

77RBeffa
Abr 19, 2020, 12:54pm

>76 ronincats: And I'm just the opposite Roni, but also with the same sense. I think I enjoy short stories because I've been reading them most of my life and through the magazines I discovered many if not most of my favorite authors, especially in Asimov's but also the Magazine of fantasy and science fiction and the early year's best anthologies. I certainly have my hot buttons but if I encounter it in a short story I just quickly move on. On the other hand when I have invested time in a novel and the bad things rear up at me I get mad as well as upset. Plus, I just skim or skip a short story that doesn't work for me and enjoy the good ones. I trust the year's best anthologies more because I hope and figure some sort of filter has hopefully been applied. I loved Gardner Dozois's annual collections in the early years - there were very few poor stories in them and they were almost universally excellent, but the more recent ones it felt like Dozois had gone over to the dark side - and maybe it was just more stories that I find disturbing and offensive were being written, or some of both probably - but I did not enjoy the later anthologies much and have rarely finished them, just reading a story here and there - which I still do.

78RBeffa
Editado: Abr 19, 2020, 3:47pm

Set in Mill Valley, a town across the bay from where I live, it begins on Throckmorton Avenue, a place I have been numerous times over the years. The original Sweetwater Music Hall (or saloon) was on Throckmorton and I saw many fine performers there over many years. It was a great spot to get together with friends and grab a dinner nearby. Even in the 90's and 2000's the area had an old fashioned small town vibe.

18. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, finished April 19, 2020, 4+ stars



There are at least three versions of this story published and at least four films, first in 1954 in Collier's magazine, 1955 in short novel form as The Body Snatchers (which resulted in that first scary film with Kevin McCarthy in 1956). The popular expression "pod people" comes from this book and films. When a new film was made in 1978 Finney updated and revised his novel which now begins October 28, 1976. I read this version, although I also have a copy of the first novel boxed away somewhere.

I'll say first that I was a bit disappointed with the ending (and I can see why the films have different endings than the book), but the story hooked me from the very start and was really an excellent read. It still has a very 50's menacing vibe to it of life in a small town and has the best of the flavor of classic 50's stories. But it is also timeless.

It is kind of fun to read a book long after having seen a film since one has a basic remembrance of story elements and yet reading the novel is a fresh experience. I remember the 50's film better since I saw it a number of times as a kid but I did also see the 1978 and 1993 films. I never watched the more recent version with Nicole Kidman.

This is a short novel - my copy was 224 pages but it is a quick and easy read.

Recommended

ETA: Body snatchers has put me in a mood and given me an idea. I've pulled half a dozen books off my shelves all first published in the 1950's. Only one, if I get to it, will be a re-read. They are across genres and cultures and I think I'm going to like this. I'll look for a few more till I get 10-12 to choose from. I'll try and read at least five as my next books (although there could possibly be an interruption by library reserved ebooks). The first book I've chosen will be a ghost story from 1958 (although I'll be reading a 2004 printing of it.) Like Body Snatchers it was made into a movie. The film even spawned a sequel of sorts although I never saw it. The book? Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson.

79RBeffa
Abr 19, 2020, 3:17pm

Time for a cat photo. I took this picture of Jasper the week before last after several days of rain. I called it "I am you and you are me".
.

80laytonwoman3rd
Abr 21, 2020, 12:02pm

>79 RBeffa: That is just as lovely as can be.

81RBeffa
Abr 22, 2020, 12:08pm

>80 laytonwoman3rd: Thank you Linda.

------------------------

I have a bunch on 50's books to choose from and started two at once. I liked this one a lot less than the other so pushed my way through it.

19. A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, finished April 22, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



This is a ghost story and the book creeped me out. Not however because it is a ghost story. This isn't a scary book with respect to ghosts. There's an attempt to build all that up but the ghost bit, it didn't really work for me except ... except that the characters and worries in here get under your skin. My skin anyway. This is a creepy book because it digs into the underbelly of the mythical suburban family life of the 1950's. A couple of the neighbors were way too effed up and nasty. I was offended a number of times (multiple 'joking' references to punching pregnant women in the belly). Then there's the babysitter ... Some people really like this book. There are a bunch of 4 and 5 star ratings on this. I can see someone who likes getting creeped out giving this 4 or 5 stars. The end surprised me, but not entirely. Matheson plays fair with the reader. I'll probably have a few nightmares from this one.

Matheson has written some famous stuff. He wrote the story for what became the classic Twilight Zone episode 'Nightmare at 20,000 feet' with William Shatner. Among other things he also wrote 'I Am Legend' which was first turned into the film 'Last Man on Earth' then 'Omega Man' and more recently into the film 'I Am Legend'. This story, 'A Stir of Echoes' was made into a movie as well, about 20 years ago, although I never saw it. Others include Hell House, Duel, The Incredible Shrinking Man and more. My favorite film adaptation of a story would be 'Somewhere In Time' with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve.

82ronincats
Abr 22, 2020, 5:49pm

That is a GORGEOUS photo, Ron.

83RBeffa
Editado: Abr 27, 2020, 5:49pm

>82 ronincats: Thank you Roni.

----------------

Another dip into the 50's, this time a children's book from 1953

20. The Borrowers by Mary Norton, finished April 25, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



This has rested on a bookshelf for quite some time and I never read it. The closest I got was the Studio Ghibli Arriety film. I asked my daughter if she had read it and she said "Mom read it to me". Hmmm So I had an award winning classic to catch up with.

This was published in 1953 but is set in rural England more than 50 years before (Queen Victoria is still the Queen). It didn't charm me but I enjoyed it in a light simple way.

ETA: I asked my wife if we had more Borrower books. Oh yes we do - a set of five of them. So I will happily return to the world of the Borrowers soon.

84RBeffa
Editado: Abr 26, 2020, 2:07am

Stealing this list from Kim and Paul... Out of all the Pulitzers, how have I done? I'll mark those on my TBR pile also

Fiction Pulitzer Winners

1918 HIS FAMILY - Ernest Poole
1919 THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS - Booth Tarkington
1921 THE AGE OF INNOCENCE - Edith Wharton
1922 ALICE ADAMS - Booth Tarkington
1923 ONE OF OURS - Willa Cather
1924 THE ABLE MCLAUGHLINS - Margaret Wilson
1925 SO BIG - Edna Ferber
1926 ARROWSMITH - Sinclair Lewis
1927 EARLY AUTUMN - Louis Bromfield
✅ 1928 THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY - Thornton Wilder
1929 SCARLET SISTER MARY - Julia Peterkin
1930 LAUGHING BOY - Oliver Lafarge
1931 YEARS OF GRACE - Margaret Ayer Barnes
✅ 1932 THE GOOD EARTH - Pearl Buck
1933 THE STORE - Thomas Sigismund Stribling
1934 LAMB IN HIS BOSOM - Caroline Miller
1935 NOW IN NOVEMBER - Josephine Winslow Johnson
1936 HONEY IN THE HORN - Harold L Davis
1937 GONE WITH THE WIND - Margaret Mitchell
1938 THE LATE GEORGE APLEY - John Phillips Marquand
1939 THE YEARLING - Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1940 THE GRAPES OF WRATH - John Steinbeck
✅ 1941 no award but should have been For Whom the Bells Toll by Ernest Hemingway (the Pulitzer Prize jurors voted unanimously for it)
1942 IN THIS OUR LIFE - Ellen Glasgow
1943 DRAGON'S TEETH - Upton Sinclair
1944 JOURNEY IN THE DARK - Martin Flavin
✅ 1945 A BELL FOR ADANO - John Hersey
1946 no award
1947 ALL THE KING'S MEN - Robert Penn Warren
✅ 1948 TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC - James Michener
1949 GUARD OF HONOR - James Gould Cozzens
1950 THE WAY WEST - A.B. Guthrie TBR
1951 THE TOWN - Conrad Richter TBR
1952 THE CAINE MUTINY - Herman Wouk
✅ 1953 THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA - Ernest Hemingway
1955 A FABLE - William Faulkner
1956 ANDERSONVILLE - McKinlay Kantor
1958 A DEATH IN THE FAMILY - James Agee
1959 THE TRAVELS OF JAIMIE McPHEETERS - Robert Lewis Taylor
1960 ADVISE AND CONSENT - Allen Drury
1961 TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Harper Lee
1962 THE EDGE OF SADNESS - Edwin O'Connor
1963 THE REIVERS - William Faulkner
1965 THE KEEPERS OF THE HOUSE - Shirley Ann Grau
1966 THE COLLECTED STORIES OF KATHERINE ANNE PORTER - Katherine Anne Porter
1967 THE FIXER - Bernard Malamud
1968 THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER - William Styron
1969 HOUSE MADE OF DAWN - N Scott Momaday
1970 THE COLLECTED STORIES OF JEAN STAFFORD - Jean Stafford
✅ 1972 ANGLE OF REPOSE - Wallace Stegner
1973 THE OPTIMIST'S DAUGHTER - Eudora Welty
✅ 1975 THE KILLER ANGELS - Michael Shaara
1976 HUMBOLDT'S GIFT - Saul Bellow
✅ 1977 No award but Roots by Alex Haley got a special prize
1978 ELBOW ROOM - James Alan McPherson
1979 THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER - John Cheever TBR
1980 THE EXECUTIONER'S SONG - Norman Mailer
1981 A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES - John Kennedy Toole
1982 RABBIT IS RICH - John Updike
1983 THE COLOR PURPLE - Alice Walker
✅1984 IRONWEED - William Kennedy
1985 FOREIGN AFFAIRS - Alison Lurie
✅1986 LONESOME DOVE - Larry McMurtry
1987 A SUMMONS TO MEMPHIS - Peter Taylor
1988 BELOVED - Toni Morrison
✅1989 BREATHING LESSONS - Anne Tyler
1990 THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE - Oscar Hijuelos
1991 RABBIT AT REST - John Updike
1992 A THOUSAND ACRES - Jane Smiley
1993 A GOOD SCENT FROM A STRANGE MOUNTAIN - Robert Olen Butler
✅1994 THE SHIPPING NEWS - E Annie Proulx
1995 THE STONE DIARIES - Carol Shields
1996 INDEPENDENCE DAY - Richard Ford
1997 MARTIN DRESSLER - Steven Millhauser
1998 AMERICAN PASTORAL - Philip Roth
1999 THE HOURS - Michael Cunningham
2000 INTERPRETER OF MALADIES - Jumpha Lahiri
2001 THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY - Michael Chabon
2002 EMPIRE FALLS - Richard Russo
2003 MIDDLESEX - Jeffrey Eugenides
2004 THE KNOWN WORLD - Edward P. Jones
2005 GILEAD - Marilynne Robinson
✅ 2006 MARCH - Geraldine Brooks
✅ 2007 THE ROAD - Cormac McCarthy
2008 THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO - Junot Diaz
✅ 2009 OLIVE KITTERIDGE - Elizabeth Strout
2010 TINKERS - Paul Harding
2011 A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD - Jennifer Egan
2013 ORPHAN MASTER'S SON - Adam Johnson
2014 THE GOLDFINCH - Donna Tartt
✅ 2015 ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE - Anthony Doerr
2016 THE SYMPATHIZER - Viet Thanh Nguyen
2017 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD - Colson Whitehead
2018 LESS - Andrew Sean Greer
2019 THE OVERSTORY - Richard Powers

Only 17 Pulitzers or sortaPulitzers I am sure I read. There are one or two that I may have. 5 or 6 of the above I sampled but didn't think they were for me.

85RBeffa
Abr 27, 2020, 5:57pm

Time for another cat picture. This was taken a couple days before the photo of Jasper at >79 RBeffa:.

This little guy has several names but we call him Teardrop most of the time.

86laytonwoman3rd
Maio 2, 2020, 9:15pm

>85 RBeffa: Another heart-warmer.

87ronincats
Maio 2, 2020, 9:44pm

Another marvelous photo!

88RBeffa
Editado: Maio 7, 2020, 12:39pm

>86 laytonwoman3rd: >87 ronincats: He is our sweet tame feral who really really wanted to live here and so we let him. He sleeps each night in one of our chairs.
------

My journey through the '50s was interrupted by a library ebook that had a short borrowing period. I was looking forward to this one.

21. Verses for the Dead (Agent Pendergast Series Book 18) by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished May 7, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars



When I read the latest Pendergast novel in February, Crooked River, I liked it a lot and wanted to read the book in the series which lead into that novel. Each book can easily be read as a standalone but this gives a much larger part to FBI Agent Pendergast's new partner Coldmoon. This is a story about the FBI agents trying to figure out (and of course stop) and catch a serial killer. The best part of this novel is the interactions between Agents Pendergast and Coldmoon as they get to know each other and appreciate the insight and strengths they have. Initially I thought I was going to really love this novel but it does have some weak spots (as my wife who had already read it warned me) and that is all I think I will say as I do not want to give away plot points. Like Crooked River, the end is a big weak part as all sorts of stuff gets thrown about. I liked this a little better than Crooked River and look forward to reading more books in this series.

89RBeffa
Maio 10, 2020, 2:41pm

A month ago I read a collection of Arthur C. Clarke's stories that I enjoyed quite a bit. Considering his stature as one of the great "early" science fiction authors I realize I have not read a lot of his work. He was nowhere near as prolific as Asimov or Heinlein or others, but his stories are generally held in high regard. In keeping with my desire to read a batch of diverse books from the 1950's as well as May being Roni's "May Martians and Spaceships: The Group Monthly Theme Read" in the 75er group, this seemed the perfect next book.

22 The Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke, finished May 10, 2020, 3 stars



The Sands of Mars was Clarke's first written novel, published in London in 1951 and in the United States in 1952, although Clarke states in his Foreword that he wrote it in the late 1940's. I don't know if it was the first book put out by the Science Fiction Book Club in 1953, but it was one of the very first ones when that soon to be very important publisher/distributor started in 1953, and it also came from an early Science Fiction publisher, Gnome Press for the first publication in 1952. My copy from 1974 includes a Foreword Clarke wrote in August 1966 where he discusses the Mariner IV mission as well as Carl Sagan's observations. Clarke was pleased that his book was not yet out of date or impossible, although he acknowledged that some stuff didn't hold up. "But there is very little indeed that I would change if I were writing this story today." he writes. I'm surprised because one of my longtime pet peeves appears on page 19. The spaceship captain has a cigarette and offers one to his passenger. The futurist Clarke apparently could not imagine a world without tobacco. Even in space. There are other funny things such as a fax machine on the spaceship to Mars and the writer using a typewriter - no thought whatsoever about modern keyboards or storage - this guy needs carbon paper after all!

The story focuses on Martin Gibson, a science fiction writer, who accompanies an Earth to Mars mission. Hmmm wishful thinking Arthur? I could not help but think that Clark was describing himself in a way. There are apparently some similarities between Clarke's real life and that of his fictional author - except for the Mars trip of course. I did not take to the story immediately, but it slowly pulled me in and I found myself liking this well enough and caring about what happened to the main characters as the start of a Martian settlement progresses. There is a weird plot angle or two in here as well as some other oddities. I thought the second half of the novel once Mars has been reached was much better than the beginning. For a 70 year old novel I was satisfied and this gets an OK rating.

90RBeffa
Maio 11, 2020, 12:10pm

I'm waiting for a library ebook to come in - I have two on hold and at least one should come very soon. I am next in line for the newest Murderbot book so unless the borrower keeps it to the very end I may have it this week. I'm hoping. Rather than start a new book I am re-reading the latter half+ of The Mayor of Casterbridge. I had this feeling that the last 2/3 or so of the book did not hold up to the first part, and yet I have this overall very good feeling about the tragic story Hardy told. So I am revisiting it even though I read it very recently. I may also give David McCullough's The Greater Journey a second chance even though my first try disappointed me. I had such high expectations for that book and most readers give it a lot of praise.

91thornton37814
Maio 12, 2020, 1:24pm

>42 RBeffa: That one arrived right before we closed the library so I only got around to adding it yesterday when we finally came back at least partially.

92RBeffa
Maio 12, 2020, 4:44pm

>91 thornton37814: I'm jealous - our library is still saying closed until further notice. sigh. They have been really adding to the ebook collection but it isn't the same. Plus the time you get is a lot shorter.

93RBeffa
Maio 14, 2020, 10:10am

NN Network Effect by Martha Wells DNF

Well, here is a quick DNF. As usual I'm out of synch with the world. Everybody but me is loving this. I had really been looking forward to the first Murderbot novel, having enjoyed the first four novellas quite a bit. I was pleased when two of my ebook holds became available yesterday afternoon. I read about the first 40 pages of Network Effect last evening (roughly 10% of the ebook). It was not entertaining me. I kept thinking, oh she's trying way too hard. And I would hate to be a new reader who had no idea of the backstory. I don't plan to return to it and figure I should release the loan so someone else in the waiting queue can have a chance.

Better books await me.

94RBeffa
Editado: Maio 17, 2020, 10:29pm

23 The River by Peter Heller, finished May 17, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (rounded up to 4 stars)



This book had a very strong rec from a friend and since I really liked Heller's debut novel The Dog Stars I put in a request for the ebook from the library. This is a good story - part literary travelogue, part mystery and big part thriller. This had the potential to be my favorite book of the year (so far at least) but it let me down. It seems to me that for a thriller the story was stretched out too far, and with a lot of tedious detail which was overdone. (When I'm reading and my head is talking to myself saying c'mon c'mon would you get going here...) As a mystery, a plot device kept us from knowing the mystery early on, and that got frustrating after a while. The core to the story is about the friendship of two men who have each other's backs (although more than a few times keeping them separate in my mind should have been easy but wasn't.) There are flashbacks in the story. The end is a little unconventional. I wanted more closure. Despite all my bothers I thought this a very good book and for details of the story one can scan a few real reviews here.

95ronincats
Maio 21, 2020, 12:20pm

>93 RBeffa: Hey, Ron, I finally remembered last night to look at Network Effect on my Kindle to see where you were when it stopped. And the real action and main story plot start at about 14% to 15% of the way in. The previous is just setting up characters and dynamics for the main story. I'd love to see you give it another try at some point. And I don't think she wrote it for new readers--too much depends on the previous books.

96RBeffa
Maio 21, 2020, 3:16pm

>95 ronincats: I had high expectations Roni, since I had really enjoyed the story told in the first four novellas, but this didn't feel right to me. I may try it again one day.

97RBeffa
Maio 24, 2020, 3:53pm


I'm reading Greg Bear's novel Darwin's Radio, a big book, and a plague thriller (flu like virus renders the world sterile). I've had this book and a sequel a long time. I think I tried it once and set is aside. Greg Bear is always good at ideas, especially ones with genetics involved, but his actual storytelling varies.

Meanwhile ...

I have a bunch of older science fiction magazines I have collected and never read. I plan to be going through some more of them, Analog and Asimov's primarily. I keep saying that ... Time to work on them, but other than the odd story here and there I generally find these old magazines disappointing, especially the Analog ones. I picked out this issue because it has an early James Schmitz story - The Telzey Toy - which later appeared as part of DAW books #82. I've never been crazy about stories that focus on people with telepathy or Psionic powers of some sort - and that is what Telzey is, a telepath with extra powers - but the story is interesting and I enjoyed it well enough, though it is strange.

24. Analog Science Fiction and Fact, January 1971 (Vol. LXXXVI, No. 5) various authors edited by John W Campbell, finished May 24, 2020, 2+ stars



The included fiction is:
• The Telzey Toy • (Telzey Amberdon) • novelette by James H. Schmitz
• Homage • short story by Stephen Robinett as by Tak Hallus
• The Enemy • short story by M. R. Anver
• The Tactics of Mistake (Part 4 of 4) • Childe Cycle • serial by Gordon R. Dickson (book publication as Tactics of Mistake)
• Sprog • novelette by Jack Wodhams
Book reviews:
• Review: The Simultaneous Man by Ralph Blum • review by P. Schuyler Miller
• Review: Ice Crown by Andre Norton • review by P. Schuyler Miller
• Review: Tau Zero by Poul Anderson • review by P. Schuyler Miller
• Review: The Time Trap Gambit by Larry Maddock • review by P. Schuyler Miller
• Review: Genesis Five by Henry Wilson Allen • review by P. Schuyler Miller
• Review: Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock • review by P. Schuyler Miller

The letters to the editor section was strangely entertaining and the books review column highlighted some books that would become sorta classics such as Poul Anderson's 'Tau Zero' (the reviewer did not think it would be very popular now but people will remember it and go back to it) and Michael Moorcock's 'Behold The Man'. Overall this was a very good read. I did not read part four of the serial 'Tactics of Mistake' (serial stories were always one reason I shied away from Analog. I have the 1970 year issues boxed away so if I hunt for and find them I'll try to read October thru Dec 1970 in order and then come back to this issue for the final part 4 of the serial.) 'Tactics' would later be issued as DAW books #9.

The 'Sprog' novelette was a disappointment that I did not finish. All of these stories are quite forgettable.

The rather extreme conservative, anti-liberal bias of the editor John Campbell is a bit tough to stomach in editorials and letters to the editor.

98brodiew2
Editado: Maio 24, 2020, 4:58pm

HI Ron. I'm glad to see that you are keeping up with your reading. The best I've been able to do is read a couple of books to my son.

Lost in Outer Space and The Toothpaste Millionaire We started Treasure Island but are only a few chapters in.

I've started two books but can't seem to make halfway through either one. The latest was The Cabin by Landon Beach.

99RBeffa
Maio 24, 2020, 6:00pm

>98 brodiew2: Gosh I know the feeling Brodie. I am having a hard time focusing on books. I've started and abandoned, or at least delayed, half a dozen books these last couple months. I think it is a general anxiousness and stress from the virus situation.

Stay safe and thanks for the note here.

100PaulCranswick
Maio 24, 2020, 7:24pm

Enjoy your long weekend, Ron.

101RBeffa
Maio 24, 2020, 9:15pm

>100 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul. I trust you have been well with your family.

102RBeffa
Maio 26, 2020, 8:00pm

Hotter than it should be around here. But, I have my first tomato blossoms this morning and the vege garden and I are very happy.

My Bunny Foo Jasper cat is 8 years old today. We usually have a birthday celebration but it is soooo hot I can't think of baking a cake or brownies. We may have to settle for a scoop of ice cream

I'm such a party animal I spent most of Memorial Day consuming this book in mass quantity.

25 Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear, finished May 26, 2020, 4 stars



This book was released in 1999. It was and is a near future techno thriller kind of book - very heavy on science - genetics, virus, bacteria, paleo-anthropology and more.

It is an exciting book and something of a page turner. Except sometimes when it isn't. This is a long novel and the author is telling us a big story but parts of this work better than others and with such a wide stage one part steps to the side while another part comes front and center. Things converge. The reader knows much of what is going on very early in the book, but ultimately the story gets pretty far fetched. The mystery thriller part trying to identify the cause of a growing pandemic and how long it has been around takes up the first part of the book and is prety good. The big idea that the author works toward is pretty out there about how mankind can evolve (and has evolved) - but he works hard to get his idea to seem possible. It takes a while to get invested in several characters but it does happen. This novel has a followup (Darwin's Children) which I hope to read soon.

I'm giving this one 4 stars even though there are lesser parts of the novel here and there, more in the second half that seemed weak.

So what would happen if a flu-like pandemic hit that caused women to miscarry or give birth to deformed non-viable children across the world? Martial law? face masks? demonstrations and riots? separation of the sexes until they get a vaccine? hmmm

103ronincats
Maio 30, 2020, 10:41pm

Link is up for the Sector General summer group read--check it out!

https://www.librarything.com/topic/320907

104RBeffa
Jun 3, 2020, 10:08am

Darwin's Children is the followup novel to Darwin's Radio, my last book.

26 Darwin's Children by Greg Bear, finished June 3, 2020, 2 stars



Darwin's Radio left us with an unfinished story, although where it ended was OK ... we just didn't have any idea where it would go. I looked forward to seeing what it was all about and ultimately I was quite disappointed with this book. I don't think it was a very good or believable story.

The story begins about 12 years after the last book. I think the story that needed to be told could have been condensed into a novella one third the size of this book. The larger problem for me is that what the author imagined as the evolution of humans was very unsatisfying. I like several of the characters in Darwin's Radio and was more than happy to follow them in a new story. It is just that the new story is a big disappointment. At about the 200 page mark the story leaves the reader with a huge cliff hanger and jumps several years into the future - it also became very uninteresting and I found myself heavily skimming through many chapters.

Although this is science fiction with respect to genetics it is also, like the last book, a political thriller sort of novel. Like the last book there is more than a fair bit of social and political commentary, some of it too close for comfort to the present situation in the United States. As always, your mileage may vary, but I wouldn't recommend this book even if you had read the first one.

105RBeffa
Jun 5, 2020, 5:06pm

I hadn't read something by Cather in a while and pulled this off the TBR shelf. Glad I did.

27 Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather, finished June 5 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars (close to 4)



A refreshing and very enjoyable change of pace. Three stories, two of which are novellas and one a longer short story. Great characters and a look at life a century ago in the midwest. The first one was my favorite, "Neighbour Rosicky", a rather sentimental look at the life and end of life of a Czech immigrant and his family. "Old Mrs. Harris" gave me a window on a family life I was not familiar with. It was a very good story with several well developed characters. "Two Friends" whispers from the distant past that politics does wonders for friendship. Not.

All three stories were good.

Neighbour Rosicky
Old Mrs. Harris
Two Friends

106RBeffa
Jun 7, 2020, 8:24pm

A mixed collection of stories. I picked this up at the end of last year and have nibbled on it the past few months. Stories were read out of order and I finally finished it. Does it mean something if I can't remember details of a story I read a few months ago? I think that is pretty typical for me anyway. It has to be a really good story to stick in my brain. Some of these did.

28. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction September/October 2016 various authors edited by C. C. Finlay, finished June 7, 2020, 3 stars



The included fiction and essays are:
7 • Talking to Dead People • short story by Sarah Pinsker
20 • The Green-Eyed Boy • Last Unicorn • short story by Peter S. Beagle
34 • The Voice in the Cornfield, the Word Made Flesh • short story by Desirina Boskovich
49 • A Melancholy Apparition • short story by Ian Creasey
80 • The Amazing Mr. Gerrold • essay by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
86 • The Further Adventures of Mr. Costello • novella by David Gerrold
136 • The Dunsmuir Horror • novella by David Gerrold
184 • My Life in Science Fiction • essay by David Gerrold
194 • The Dragon • poem by Aimee Ogden
195 • Anything for You • short story by Lisa Mason
206 • Those Shadows Laugh • novelette by Geoff Ryman
231 • Cupid's Compass • short story by Leah Cypess
240 • The Sweet Warm Earth • short story by Steven Popkes
258 • Curiosities: The Adventures of Hatim Tai, by Anonymous (1830) • essay by Robert Eldridge

This didn't have any outstanding stories for me, but it did have a few very good ones. I thought "The Voice in the Cornfield, the Word Made Flesh" by Desirina Boskovich was quite good. Most disappointing were the two featured novellas by David Gerrold. Although it failed to charm or impress me and literally put me to sleep halfway through, Gerrold's Mr. Costello story was selected for Gardner Dozois's Year's Best annual collection. Gerrold's second story in here, 'The Dunsmuir Horror' was told in a very strange style and I got through it only by skipping through big chunks. The Geoff Ryman story was also selected for the Year's Best and I thought it very good.

107RBeffa
Jun 9, 2020, 11:38am

I don't know why I haven't read more by Somerset Maugham since I enjoy him a lot. This book was popular when I was a teen but I somehow managed not to read it. There are plenty of books like that and I'm trying to catch up on some old classics I missed and a few that i should re-read. I'm very glad I got to this one.

29 The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, finished June 9, 2020, 4 1/2 stars



This is considered the last great novel that Maugham wrote late in his career and it certainly impressed me. The story starts about a year after World War One. Very interestingly the author puts himself right into the story as himself and the events swirl aroud him. Set in Chicago, the Paris of Chanel and all those writers, places even further as the roaring 20's begin, the story is really about the meaning of life and the search for answers by a young man who was an avaitor in WWI. I started playing George Harrison's "What is Life" song in my head, a natural fit for this book. This will be one of my best books read in 2020. It doesn't seem like the kind of book I would really get into, but this one affected me.

The book was published 76 years ago in World War Two. It is still relevant today.

Recommended.

I somehow never watched the Bill Murray movie of the Razor's Edge. I should fix that.

108RBeffa
Jun 11, 2020, 2:31pm

I'm reading a two in one book, an Ace double novel that was pretty popular in the 50's and into the early 70's. They were published from 1953 up to 1981. I've read one story now, and probably the other half after a break with something different. The two stories are original ones, first published together in 1956 although they would later be reissued as standalone novels.

30 Mankind on the Run by Gordon R. Dickson, finished June 11, 2020, 2 - 2 1/2 stars



This was one of Gordon Dickson's first novels, from 1956, and it shows. It has 50's paranoia about government going for it, and an enforced peace on society via a very strange means. The viewpoint character as far as I am concerned was very unlikeable, but his wife was kidnapped in front of him on their 5th wedding anniversary and their darling this and darling that came to an abrupt end. Her disappearance was quite mysterious. None of the police, local or "World" will help him. "Oh she wanted out of the marriage" is the best answer he gets so our character goes to the underworld to find the answer. We then journey all over the place, with odd situations and odder characters, although Duluth, Minnesota of all places seems to be the center of the important stuff. This would be all well and good except I don't think we the reader ever get a real answer. The story amazingly does have an end and there is interesting stuff in here but as a satisfying story? Nope.

Not a complete loss however as there are bits of interest in here as the story progresses. Echoes a bit of the "what is life?" from The Razors Edge. Echoes of what is happening in the country and world right now.

109RBeffa
Jun 14, 2020, 12:37pm

I've started and paused half a dozen books looking for the right one at the moment. I didn't want to do another science fiction novel or collection right away - i wanted something different first. A western I thought - I sure liked the Conrad Richter one earlier this year. Louis L'Amour? Almost. Seven years ago I picked up a small set of books in 1940 editions - Zane Grey. That was what I needed. I remember liking a film version of Riders of the Purple Sage with Amy Madigan and Ed Harris in the 90's. Thus the story has a slight familiarity, but I started the book last night before bed.

110swynn
Jun 17, 2020, 9:38am

My goodness, but I have fallen behind.

>89 RBeffa: I read this one too recently, and had had similar thoughts about fax machines and cigarettes on a spaceship. (FWIW, they're still smoking in space in mid-sixties Perry Rhodan stories.)

>102 RBeffa: I read Darwin's Radio when it first came out, though now I remember very little of it other than the Big Idea. Far-fetched, yes, but it caught my attention at the time and I remember looking forward to the sequel. But

>104 RBeffa: by the time the sequel appeared, my attention had wandered elsewhere. (As it does.) From your review, it sounds like I didn't miss much, and won't make it a priority now.

I'm enjoying the magazine reviews. I have quite a few of those myself, and ought do the same.

111RBeffa
Jun 19, 2020, 10:07pm

>110 swynn: Thanks for the comments Steve.

NN The Rose of Fire by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, finished June 19, 2020, about 3 stars



Upon hearing of the death of the author today I thought to read this short story which had been available as a free kindle book, but which I now see has been removed. I'm glad I got it when I did and reading it I have had my appetite whetted to read The Shadow of the Wind and further books in the series.

112RBeffa
Editado: Jun 23, 2020, 2:00pm

31 Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey, finished June 21, 2020, about 4+ stars



This is considered one of the most significant western novels. It is also a romance, but that isn't a bad thing. It was published in 1912, only 40 years after the events in the canyon country of Southern Utah it portrays. It does not paint a pretty picture of Mormon elders. Considering when it was written, I thoroughly enjoyed this, certainly more than a typical Louis L'Amour story might entertain me.

I'm a little unsure how to rate this. For excitement this is a rare 5 star read. More realistically, although this is really an excellent classic, overall it probably would get 4 stars from me. In any event I thoroughly enjoyed it and Zane Grey has zoomed up my list to read more. Luckily I have at least 4 more books of his on hand, maybe more, and my library has many ebooks of his. If you like quality westerns give this one a try.

113RBeffa
Editado: Jun 24, 2020, 4:08pm

This short, original novel (169 pages) is the flipside novel to book #30 I read above in the Ace double at >108 RBeffa:

32 The Crossroads of Time by Andre Norton, finished June 23, 2020, 2 1/2+ stars



This is an early novel of Norton and apparently a companion to another one titled Quest Crosstime. The story didn't wow me (plus I get annoyed by characters with PSI powers and names that are not easily pronounced). It was however an OK read. I thought this must be one of the earliest novels with parallel earths as an idea and sure enough, when I looked into it a little it is credited as such. The travelers in this move sideways through earths with different histories. It gets some brownie points for that idea.

What it also gets points for is having brown and black skinned central characters ( lets call them the heroes of the story).

On Tor.com I found a very detailed review and discussion of this novel and I refer potential readers there: https://www.tor.com/2018/08/06/worlds-beside-worlds-andre-nortons-the-crossroads...

114RBeffa
Jun 28, 2020, 4:41pm

>103 ronincats: I was more than a little flustered to find I no longer had any James White paperbacks. I had read a couple years ago and apparently passed them along in a periodic downsizing of read books. Our library has zero James White books as far as i can tell ( and the libe is only open for pickups on holds or by appointment for a one hour visit). Anyway, I found one. In a monster sized anthology I have put out in 2016, The Big Book of Science Fiction edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer it has a section titled "Sector General" with an introduction to James White and what the editors call a 1957 novella that started the series titled, of course, "Sector General". So I have something after all. In the introduction among many things the editors say this:

The Sector General stories are underrated within the science fiction canon, perhaps because they do not depend on typical conflict or story lines for their resolution. But this is exactly what makes them unique and still fresh to this day. "Sector General" remains one of the most potent, demonstrating White's ability to tell an engrossing story while also exploring the hospital and presenting the reader with a unique experience.

"Sector General" first appeared in the magazine New Worlds Science Fiction, #65 November 1957, and was later included in the 1962 book "Hospital Station"

So now I have my next read for this evening.

115RBeffa
Jun 28, 2020, 11:41pm

This was read for the Sector General group read of a series of books by James White

NN Sector General by James White, finished June 28, 2020, 2 1/2 stars

This short novella from 1957 was the first story in what became a long series of stories and novels about a hospital station in space. Unfortunately I was put off rather quickly by one of the main characters Dr. Conway. Granted, his head gets messed up by an educator tape which is used by the doctors of the space station to almost immediately learn alien physiology and medicine ... and he discovers his idea of how the world is is not how the world is ... but the guy is just a judgmental jerk (there's a better word for it I'm sure). The story itself is very inventive and imaginative which lets me give this an OK.

116RBeffa
Jun 29, 2020, 11:32pm

Halfway through the year. Not a lot of outstanding reads so far. 32 books. I could recommend every one of my top ten so far, however.

Rated here mostly for how much I enjoyed the story, and the emotional impact and how much it has stayed with me. Other than The Sea of Grass at the top of the list the next 5 are rather flexible

Top Ten Fiction for 2020:
1. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
2. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
4. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
5. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
6. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
7. Across the Nightingale floor by Lian Hearn
8/9. Verses For The Dead by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
8/9. Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
10. The River by Peter Heller

Top Five Non-Fiction for 2020
1. Rain of Ruin: A Photographic History of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Donald M. Goldstein, J. Michael Wenger, Katherine V. Dillon

Favorite anthologies/ short story collections for 2020:

1. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
2. Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather

Best fiction re-reads for 2020:

1. Daybreak 2250 AD by Andre Norton

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
2. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy

117PaulCranswick
Jun 30, 2020, 7:05pm

>111 RBeffa: Set me thinking to read something more by Zafon too in memoriam so to speak. Am well into Marina and enjoying it tremendously. He really could tell a story.

118ronincats
Jul 3, 2020, 4:54pm

>115 RBeffa: I see Conway as somewhat neurotypical, actually.

119RBeffa
Jul 3, 2020, 6:47pm

>118 ronincats: I'm not sure what that means here. However when I worked in a hospital for several years I certainly ran into Drs who thought they were the most important thing around, more important than anyone else. Overinflated egos is what I put it as. I don't think most doctors are that way.

120ronincats
Jul 3, 2020, 7:45pm

>120 ronincats: That's because I typed in neurotypical instead of what I meant, neuroatypical, as in someone on the autism spectrum, generally the milder end with symptoms of Aspergers Syndrome.

"People with Asperger's syndrome have normal to above-average intelligence but typically have difficulties with social skills and often have pervasive, absorbing interests in special topics."

"Positive characteristics of people with Asperger syndrome have been described as beneficial in many professions and include:

the increased ability to focus on details,
the capacity to persevere in specific interests without being swayed by others' opinions,
the ability to work independently,
the recognition of patterns that may be missed by others,
intensity, and
an original way of thinking."

Hope this helps, sorry for the confusion I caused by the wrong term.

121RBeffa
Jul 3, 2020, 8:04pm

>121 RBeffa: Thanks for clearing that up! I would agree with your assessment of Conway.

122ronincats
Jul 3, 2020, 8:08pm

And thanks for your comment in >119 RBeffa:. That allowed me to go correct my post and add this info in the Group Read thread!

123RBeffa
Editado: Jul 5, 2020, 1:48am

First book of the second half of this year.

I've been going through some of my "iffy" books. These are ones I've picked up at various times because something caught my eye, or an author I liked had a story in the collection, or it was gifted to me, or any number of reasons. Some of these I've had a short while and some I've had many years. This Covid quarantine and social restrictions has led to a sort of Spring cleaning of books and many of these I'm deleting from my catalog and putting in giveaway bags to give to goodwill or the friends of the library one day. I usually do a quick sample read first. Some of these books are old science fiction anthologies, like the book I just finished. This one almost went in the giveaway bag but I started reading the second story and got hooked.

33 Men Against the Stars various authors, edited by Martin Greenberg, finished July 4, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars



My 1957 Pyramid paperback edition omits three stories that were in the original 1950 hardback edition of this anthology. My paperback had a rather high number of typo errors which surprised me. Some of these stories just are not that great from a modern viewpoint. Dated in various ways of style, but they are very much of their time and lets us go back 70-80 years and imagine what the writers imagined. Some however are very good and made me glad I gave this collection a try. I think the most notable story for me was Robert Moore Williams' "The Red Death of Mars." This one gave me the sorts of creeps and shivers that early stories such as some that are in Ray Bradbury's 'Martian Chronicles' did. This first appeared in the July 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. I was also charmed by the Scottish engineer in the story who could have been a model for Star Trek's Scotty! That was 80 years ago for this story, and for a science fiction story that old, this was good. I believe I've only read one other short story by this author several years back (and remember it as a good one). I have an unread novel by him in an Ace double.

I liked in one way or another almost every story in here. One of my other favorites was "The Plants" by Murray Leinster. My two least favorites were the science heavy one by Hal Clement, although it too had merits, and the finale by ElRon. The oldest story, the title one, by Manly Wade Wellman, was a little frightening with its sense of progress at any cost. I was also caught up in Van Vogt's story "Far Centaurus".

Even if nothing else was any good, the 'Red Death of Mars' story made this worth the trouble.

The included material was:
Foreword (1950) • essay by Martin Greenberg
Introduction (1950) • essay by Willy Ley
Men Against the Stars • (1938) • novelette by Manly Wade Wellman
The Red Death of Mars • (1940) • novelette by Robert Moore Williams
The Iron Standard • (1943) • novelette by Lewis Padgett (aka husband and wife team Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore)
Schedule • (1945) • short story by Harry Walton
Far Centaurus • (1944) • short story by A. E. van Vogt
Cold Front • (1946) • novelette by Hal Clement
The Plants • (1946) • short story by Murray Leinster
Competition • (1943) • novelette by E. Mayne Hull (wife of A E Van Vogt)
When Shadows Fall • (1948) • short story by L. Ron Hubbard

The editor states the purpose of this anthology was a theme, something new at the time. The stories were chosen and arranged to show the advancement of man into space in a timeline. The stories imagine there is a super volatile "atomic hydrogen" fuel, ancient race on Mars, a fully populated Venus with the equivalent of an "Earthman Go Home" sign, and so on. Fun stuff with a dark edge to it.

124PaulCranswick
Jul 4, 2020, 11:07pm

In this difficult year with an unprecedented pandemic and where the ills of the past intrude sadly upon the present there must still be room for positivity. Be rightly proud of your country. To all my American friends, enjoy your 4th of July weekend.

125m.belljackson
Jul 12, 2020, 10:20am

Ron - today's online FIVE BOOKS lists detailed reviews of "The Five Best Books About Japan."

126RBeffa
Jul 12, 2020, 11:36am

>125 m.belljackson: Thank you Marianne. I like seeing Inventing Japan at the start of the article. I thought it a very good book. I was just browsing my collection of unread Japanese books the last two days thinking I was overdue. Which I am. I had Kokoro in my hand and I see that as #2 in literature. I am a big fan of the films of Yasujiro Ozo and they have Donald Richie's book in there too. I borrowed that book from the college library about a decade ago when I had access to it. I've bookmarked the page to return to in the future.

I'm finishing up, slowly, a large collection of stories at the moment.

127RBeffa
Jul 12, 2020, 3:09pm

I have a whole bunch of Year's Best stories books, general fiction, science fiction and fantasy that I have collection over the years. Often I've read a couple stories in them but most of the book went untouched. I've liked Hartwell's selections in the past. His Year's Best science fiction series ran for 18 years and I have many of them. This 1999 book has what he calls a representative sample of the best science fiction stories of 1998. He thinks he could have had three times as many stories, he had found so many good ones over the year. This anthology is just shy of 500 pages, so it is a biggie.

34 Year's Best SF 4 by various authors, edited by David G. Hartwell, finished July 12, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



Hartwell writes a general introduction to the book as a whole as well as one to each story. There are twenty stories in the book from 1998, mostly shorter fiction, but one novella is included, the great "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang which became the basis for the recent (2016) excellent film "Arrival." I really enjoyed reading this story again, for the third time I think. It was only the 4th story the author had published at the time and it was good enough to win the Nebula award for novella. It is the rare case where the story and film complement and enhance each other.

Hartwell wanted to include some lesser known authors in his collection and as a result this year's best collection is vastly different than the collection of 24 stories assembled by Gardner Dozois. I think 'Story of Your Life' may be the only story they share. There are more than enough very good stories in here for me to consider this close to an excellent 4 star collection. It starts off with a good first step, Alexander Jablokov's 'Market Report' which warmed me to the collection right away. The stories are quite varied. Were they all amazing? No, but even the weaker and/or confusing stories seemed to have something going for them.

Included:

ix • Introduction • (1999) • essay by David G. Hartwell
1 • Market Report • (1998) • novelette by Alexander Jablokov
31 • A Dance to Strange Musics • (1998) • novelette by Gregory Benford
65 • The Year of the Mouse • (1998) • short story by Norman Spinrad
75 • The Day Before They Came • (1998) • short story by Mary Soon Lee
83 • This Side of Independence • (1998) • short story by Rob Chilson
103 • The Twelfth Album • (1998) • short story by Stephen Baxter
119 • Story of Your Life • (1998) • novella by Ted Chiang
183 • Whiptail • (1998) • short story by Robert Reed
209 • The Eye of God • (1998) • novelette by Mary Rosenblum
243 • Rules of Engagement • (1998) • novelette by Michael F. Flynn
269 • Radiant Doors • (1998) • short story by Michael Swanwick
291 • Unravelling the Thread • (1998) • short story by Jean-Claude Dunyach (translation of Déchiffrer la trame 1997)
303 • That Thing Over There • (1998) • short story by Dominic Green
323 • The Allies • (1998) • novelette by Mark S. Geston
377 • My Pal Clunky • (1998) • short story by Ron Goulart
397 • Life in the Extreme • (1998) • short story by David Brin
417 • Near Enough to Home • (1998) • short story by Michael Skeet
437 • A Game of Consequences • (1998) • short story by David Langford
451 • State of Nature • (1998) • short story by Nancy Kress
461 • Maneki Neko • (1998) • short story by Bruce Sterling

I might add a few comments about a couple other stories later. Some of these like 'Radiant Doors' and 'Unravelling the thread' were intriguing in very different ways. 'The Eye of God' had a good story going but the characters completely confused me for most of the story and only get sorta straightened out by the end. I think it was intentional on the author's part but I didn't come to that conclusion till I was finished. Overall I think this story needed to be fuller and longer.

128RBeffa
Editado: Jul 17, 2020, 7:21pm

Time for another digest magazine, and a packed double issue at that. I picked this up at a library sale in January for 25 cents. Such a deal as 'they' say. For me part of the appeal of story collections like this is that I can read one or two stories in a relatively short period of time such as before bedtime which is what I did with this one this week.

35 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May June 2016 by various authors, edited by C. C. Finlay, finished July 17, 2020, 4 stars



This is definitely one of the better issues of the magazine. Not a single dud of a story and the weakest one in here is co-authored by Ted Chiang! The included fiction is:

7 • More Heat Than Light • novelette by Charlotte Ashley
28 • Last of the Sharkspeakers • novelette by Brian Trent
62 • The Nostalgia Calculator • short story by Rich Larson
88 • Coyote Song • novella by Pat MacEwen
134 • The Great Silence • (2015) • short story by Allora and Calzadilla and Ted Chiang
139 • Caribou: Documentary Fragments • short story by Joseph Tomaras
152 • Steamboat Gothic • novelette by Albert E. Cowdrey
173 • Ash • short story by Susan Palwick
190 • The Secret Mirror of Moriyama House • short story by Yukimi Ogawa
208 • The Long Fall Up • novelette by William Ledbetter
231 • The Stone War • novelette by Ted Kosmatka

There seems to be a little something of everything in this issue. We start off with an alternative history story with a sort of french revolution in Canada leading to a soldier story. Honor prevails. It was one of the weaker stories I thought, but OK. We then have a story set on an asteroid, Ceres, where future humans have a very strange society. I liked this one. We also have a CSI type story with heavy supernatural elements and I liked that one too. Fantasy, supernatural and some horror is the overriding element of most stories.

I think my favorite story here was 'The Long Fall Up' by William Ledbetter.

129RBeffa
Jul 19, 2020, 1:24pm

I've posted this before and so I will again. Four years ago my wife and I listened to a talk by John Lewis and met him briefly. Such a good man who has come to the end of his days. I hope the path he created leads people to peace.

130ronincats
Jul 19, 2020, 2:45pm

Where's the "LOVE" button!! Yes, he was a great man.

131drneutron
Jul 19, 2020, 4:09pm

Nice!

132RBeffa
Jul 19, 2020, 5:05pm

>130 ronincats: >131 drneutron: Thanks. It was a very special day for us.
---------------

Short stories are working for me.

36. Great Ghost Stories by various authors, chosen by John Grafton, finished July 19, 2020, 3+ stars



Ten stories from long, long ago packed into 100 pages.

•1 • The Phantom Coach • (1864) • shortstory by Amelia B. Edwards
•13 • To be Taken with a Grain of Salt • (1865) • shortstory by Charles Dickens
•23 • Dickon the Devil • (1872) • shortstory by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
•32 • The Judge's House • (1891) • shortstory by Bram Stoker
•47 • A Ghost Story • (1892) • shortstory by Jerome K. Jerome
•53 • The Moonlit Road • (1894) • shortstory by Ambrose Bierce
•61 • The Monkey's Paw • (1902) • shortstory by W. W. Jacobs
•71 • The Rose Garden • (1911) • shortstory by M. R. James
•81 • Bone to His Bone • (1912) • shortstory by E. G. Swain
•88 • The Confession of Charles Linkworth • (1912) • shortstory by E. F. Benson

I am somewhat impressed with these stories but the dense sometimes wandering writing style of the era made this a longer read than one would expect. Long twisted sentences. I never found Dickens an easy read and this one "To Be Taken With a Grain of Salt" is no exception, especially at the start. Several of these stories are just "OK". Ones I liked more include Amelia Edward's "The Phantom Coach" and Ambrose Bierce's "The Moonlit Road". No stinkers here and I can recommend this collection.

133laytonwoman3rd
Jul 19, 2020, 6:50pm

>129 RBeffa: What a precious memory that must be. It is good to remember that men such as Congressman Lewis have been part of our heritage.

134RBeffa
Jul 20, 2020, 2:29pm

>133 laytonwoman3rd: An impressive man and experience that I will not forget.

135RBeffa
Jul 24, 2020, 11:19pm

Wow - published in mid 1985 - talk about back to the future - going back to 1985, the year of Marty McFly. This collects the editor's picks for 12 of the best science fiction stories from 1984. That was about the time I had really started reading science fiction again and as a result I have previously read several of the stories in this collection, but other than the titles I did not really remember much about the stories. This was most evident with the first story "Press Enter" and I realized that after 35 years my brain had successfully washed it away. That is pretty common with short stories, but 'Press Enter' is a novella, and a powerful one at that. This is a nice full collection running to almost 400 pages.

This was one of my goals for this year, to read a number of the year's best collections that I have "collected" over the years. Unfortunately this book was made with a poor grade of paper and it was literally falling apart as I read it. It had to go to the trash when I finished.

37. Terry Carr's Best Science Fiction of the Year, No 14, 1984 by various authors, chosen by Terry Carr, finished July 24, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



The included material is:

•9 • Introduction • (1985) • essay by Terry Carr
•11 • Press Enter • (1984) • novella by John Varley
•73 • Blued Moon • (1984) • novelette by Connie Willis
•108 • Summer Solstice • (1984) • novelette by Charles L. Harness
•153 • Morning Child • (1984) • shortstory by Gardner Dozois
•160 • The Aliens Who Knew, I Mean, Everything • (1984) • shortstory by George Alec Effinger
•176 • A Day in the Skin (or, The Century We Were Out of Them) • (1984) • shortstory by Tanith Lee
•194 • Instructions • (1984) • shortstory by Bob Leman
•203 • The Lucky Strike • (1984) • novelette by Kim Stanley Robinson
•240 • Green Hearts • (1984) • shortstory by Lee Montgomerie
•258 • Bloodchild • (1984) • novelette by Octavia E. Butler
•278 • Trojan Horse • (1984) • novelette by Michael Swanwick
•312 • Fears • (1984) • shortstory by Pamela Sargent
•325 • Trinity • (1984) • novella by Nancy Kress
•375 • 1984, the SF Year in Review • (1985) • essay by Charles N. Brown
•383 • Recommended Reading • (1985) • essay by Terry Carr

As Locus editor Charles N. Brown discusses at the end of the book, the big news of 1984 was George Orwell's then 35 year old novel '1984' which was back on the best seller lists. I think even I re-read it then. Brown thought 1984 would be quickly forgotten again as we got to the coming '90s. I don't think it has been forgotten, and here we are now 35 years later than then. It is deja vu all over again.

A few comments. Press Enter is one of the great early computer hacker stories. If this doesn't make you paranoid, nothing will. Excellent story. I also liked Kim Stanley Robinson's "The Lucky Strike" which imagines a different scenario for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This really isn't a science fiction story - it is one of those "what if" alternate history stories that wonder what might happen if some moment in history changed. "Summer Solstice is a piece of historical fiction set in ancient Egypt in the time of Ptolemy - but it does very much have a science fiction element put into it.

Connie Willis's humorous stories were always hit or miss with me. Some I loved, some not. The one here is a miss for me at this point in time.

'Green Hearts' by Lee Montgomerie is the only story I have ever read by this author and I don't think I will forget it very soon.

Besides 'Press Enter', the other story that makes this a must read is Octavia Butler's 'Bloodchild'. Bloodchild won the Hugo, The Nebula and the Locus award for best novelette. It is undoubtedly one of the most important science fiction stories of the 80's, and probably the story that first established Octavia Butler as an author to be reckoned with. If this story doesn't creep you out and make you think about things, then you are not human.

Overall this was a good collection of longer length stories from 1984. Dated in places with the advancements of technology, but not dated with the ideas and issues it addresses.

136jnwelch
Jul 27, 2020, 8:45am

>129 RBeffa: Wow! What a great photo with John Lewis, Ron, and how lucky you were to hear him speak and meet him. He had an amazing life, and fought hard for what's right through all of it.

I found The Borrowers in the library when I was a kid, and happily read all of them.

I'm glad The Razor's Edge worked so well for you; me, too. I haven't seen the Bill Murray film either. I'd forgotten about the author wandering in and out of the story. Great book.

137RBeffa
Jul 27, 2020, 2:59pm

>136 jnwelch: Well Joe, when John Lewis takes your hand and quietly calls you brother, it puts a good warm spot inside of you. When he came to the museum to talk there were about 400 or more people spread about. He came and stood in front of the table next to us. Here are some shots i put on FB 4 years ago. https://www.facebook.com/ron.beffa/posts/1325084080840698

138RBeffa
Editado: Ago 1, 2020, 3:00pm

And one more of the Year's Best anthologies. I had started this book late last year or early this year and then misplaced it. I thought I must have lost it somewhere, but it got tucked into a bookshelf. Turned out to be a poor entry in the series for me.

38. Year's Best SF 11 by various authors, edited by David G Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer, finished July 30, 2020, 2 1/2 - 3 stars



This collection of a large number of stories runs to about 500 pages. It covers a selection of stories from a number of places from the year 2005. I'm thinking that 2005 was not a very good year, if I used this selection as a judge. There are some themes in here, whether a reflection of what the author thought was current or just random chance I don't know, but religion is a heavily recurring element to these stories. (Religion is an element of many science fiction stories but it seemed a little overdone in this collection.) Artificial intelligence is everywhere and posthuman and transhuman and a few other buzzwords of the day like to get thrown around in many of the stories. Oh, and rats (as in rodents). There is also an odd excessive number of 2 1/2 page stories from the magazine 'Nature'. There were several stories in here that I just could not bother to finish. I had some other problems with this collection, but 'nuff said. I was more than a little disappointed.

There were however a handful of very good stories in this collection. One of the standout pieces for me was 'Bright Red Star' by Bud Sparhawk. A small scene in a future war where humanity has hard choices. I had read this story many years ago when it appeared in Asimov's magazine but it seems to have had a stronger impression this time. Another one is an Alastair Reynolds novelette (almost a novella) titled 'Beyond the Aquila Rift'. I had read this one before in 2011 in a collection of Reynold's stories that I really liked. It is an oddly affecting story, a space opera setting but with a small focal point of characters who have gone far astray, beyond the limits of normal travel. I also liked R Garcia y Robertson's 'Oxygen Rising' that focuses on a peacekeeper in a future war among altered humans. Inventive and comes with a twist.

Around 2003 my science fiction reading had dropped off a lot because it wasn't interesting me like it used to and by the time 2005 rolled around I was reading very little of it - until joining LT in 2009 resparked my interest in the genre. Part of the reason is because around 2005 I discovered how good our local Friends of the Library booksales had become and I started reading a lot more popular fiction, (think Nicholas Sparks), historical fiction, Japanese authors, mysteries and older fiction.

139RBeffa
Editado: Ago 2, 2020, 11:34am

I have another Year's Best anthology I am starting on shortly, for the year 2010, but I plan on spacing it out between other books, and I wanted something different for now. I bought this book a year ago - it is aimed at a middle school+ audience, but is certainly a book that adults can read and get something from. For an animal story I thought it pretty good. I was attracted to it by the lovely cover and there are several nice pen and ink drawings scattered throughout. There are two stories in here, which we go back and forth - the 12 year old boy Peter and the fox Pax whom Peter rescued as a young Kit. They both have a journey to make. Reading this I wanted to place it in a time and setting but that is pretty much impossible. There is a war going on in the countryside and there is kids baseball and also the grandpa has what sounds like a 50's-60's era television. One might think a rural Vermont type setting or parts of Canada or England but battles in the countryside and troop transports and talk of prior wars for each generation and other characters in here mean that this seems to have been intentionally created as a jumble of things to make the story universal. My advice is to not get distracted by trying to place this story. I think it might have been better if we could place it because the randomness of things is just a little bit odd.

The anti-war message of the book comes across oddly because of the ambiguous nature of the whole setting of the book. Not that war has to make sense but the depiction of war here makes no sense at all. It really detracts from the book. There are things to think about in here and I'm glad I read it. I can recommend this.

39. Pax by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen, finished August 2, 2020, 3 1/2 stars

140RBeffa
Editado: Ago 4, 2020, 3:15pm

I was overdue to continue my read of the Bruno Chief of Police series. This is a comfort food series for me, although a little more 'cozy' would be appreciated.

40. The Resistance Man (Bruno, Chief of Police) by Martin Walker, finished August 4, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



This is the sixth novel in the series. The previous novel in the series, 'The Devil's Cave' was too dark for me and I did not like it as much as others in the series. This book seems a bit better to me, although there is still plenty of murder and mayhem and dark episodes in France's past as well as the present. The setting in rural France is a huge plus for these books, as is all the food and wine stuff. Bruno is training a new puppy 'Balzac', a gift from his friend Isabel. Characters we know well from prior books appear here, so knowing the backstory is helpful, but Walker makes a subtle but effective mention of past episodes to fill things out or remind the reader of prior connections.

There are some sad moments in this novel especially for readers who have been following the series. I sped through this novel in 2 1/2 days. I'll want to read the next book soon.

141RBeffa
Ago 5, 2020, 9:03pm

41. A Market Tale: A Bruno, Chief of Police Story of the French Countryside by Martin Walker, finished August 5, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



A short but pleasant followup to the novel I just finished. This is a kindle short story of which there are at least 4 in this series. It could have been comfortably woven into a novel, as there are frequently subplots among the main murder mysteries in Walker's novels.

Bruno is a big romantic and when a Swiss visitor, Kati, comes to town he delights in a romance blossoming with Marcel, one of the vendors at the St Denis market. Of course trouble of some sort must ensue. Overall a short and enjoyable story.

142RBeffa
Editado: Dez 2, 2020, 1:27pm

42. The Best American short stories 2007 by various authors, and edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor, finished August 13, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



I started this large collection of stories a few months back and as a result some of the stories have faded from memory. At the start I was under-impressed with the collection and found elements of the stories tedious and not conducive to an easy reading, some were so dense. I encourage fellow readers to skim those that don't interest. I mention this so that others who read the collection not give up. Take your time. Taking breaks let me get through it and enjoy the high points. There lies in this collection one of the most powerful and affecting stories I have ever read. There are other very good and excellent ones but nothing quite like 'Sans Farine' by Jim Sheperd. The story originally appeared in Harper's magazine. It is set primarily at the time of the French revolution and in particular during the reign of terror and it touched me (and it educated me) in a way that few stories do. Jim Shepard is now on my short list of authors to read more.

Another story I really liked, and very timely, coincidentally, is set during the flu pandemic of 1918. It is a little odd and emotionally touching with a bit of horror. It is called 'L. DeBard and Aliette, A love story' by Lauren Groff. It appeared in The Atlantic and you can read it online here: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/08/l-debard-and-aliette/305035... .

I was also moved by Mary Gordon's 'Eleanor's Music' - it was such a sad story.

In sum, there are some boring, skippable stories and a couple stories have some horrific bits, but there are enough good stories in this collection to be worth the read.

Included stories:
Author Story Where story previously appeared
Louis Auchincloss "Pa's Darling" Yale Review
John Barth "Toga Party" Fiction
Ann Beattie "Solid Wood" Boulevard
T. C. Boyle "Balto" Paris Review
Randy DeVita "Riding the Doghouse" West Branch
Joseph Epstein "My Brother Eli" Hudson Review
William Gay "Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You" Tin House
Mary Gordon "Eleanor's Music" Ploughshares
Lauren Groff "L. DeBard and Aliette: A Love Story" The Atlantic Monthly
Beverly Jensen "Wake" New England Review
Roy Kesey "Wait" Kenyon Review
Stellar Kim "Findings & Impressions" Iowa Review
Aryn Kyle "Allegiance" Ploughshares
Bruce McAllister "The Boy in Zaquitos" Fantasy and Science Fiction
Alice Munro "Dimension" The New Yorker
Eileen Pollack "The Bris" Subtropics
Karen Russell "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves" Granta
Richard Russo "Horseman" The Atlantic Monthly
Jim Shepard "Sans Farine" Harper's Magazine
Kate Walbert "Do Something" Ploughshares

143RBeffa
Ago 15, 2020, 1:16pm

43. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, finished August 15, 2020, 1 1/2 - 2 stars



A cliche-filled, scattered, episodic memoir of sorts, like bits pulled from a diary, that disappointed.

144laytonwoman3rd
Ago 15, 2020, 6:04pm

>143 RBeffa: Ok,well, that's too bad.

145RBeffa
Editado: Ago 17, 2020, 9:27pm

>144 laytonwoman3rd: My appreciation of Murakami's works varies. This one was very underwhelming.

----

I read a novella by London several years ago, The Scarlet Plague, but otherwise i haven't read one of his books since I was a kid.

44. Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London, finished August 17, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



I happened upon a lovely limited edition of this book a couple years ago. There is a nice pen and ink drawing of a map at the front of the book and each story has a lovely illustration of a moment from each tale.

I think it was first published in 1905 and is seven stories of a young man like London in the 1890's set on and around San Francisco bay and especially where I live on the Carquinez Straits. I can look over my side fence and see where some of the adventures took place or just a short drive or walk further lie many of the others. Each of the seven stories are adventure stories, where the fish patrol works to outwit oyster pirates, thugs and people fishing with illegal nets and such, and they often are at great peril to themselves. I've been meaning to read more of London and this whet my appetite for some of his other stories that I have on hand. I hope to read more soon.

Here is a current photo of part of the Strait and the edge of the Benicia bay where so much of the action in the story takes place.

146RBeffa
Ago 21, 2020, 4:05pm

45. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst, finished August 21, 2020, 4 1/2 stars



Wow. What a book. Not that I am widely read in the genre, but in places this is one of the best 'spy' novels I have ever read. This is the first book, published in 1988, in Alan Furst's Night Soldiers series (loosely related books chronicling the years 1934-1945). This story is in 5 linked segments, spanning 1934 to the end of the European war. The first segment did a fantastic job of pulling me in to the story and is written so vividly. However, big however, the story really drags in some places and many of the transitions are not well done compared to the brilliant parts. However, they have their place in fleshing out detail of the world as it was. Furst is meticulous in detail of both places and characters. This could have been a fabulous book - a few bits bothered me - but it is still excellent and makes me very eager to read more in the series.

I have read 4 later books in the series. It is historical fiction that teaches me a lot of history I never knew. Here, the rise of fascism violently opposed by Stalinist Russia with all the countries of eastern Europe initial pawns in the game. This is so well written I felt like I was reading a true story. Amazingly this has what appears to be a happy ending. For some.

Highly recommended.

147RBeffa
Editado: Ago 24, 2020, 9:49pm

46. Seven Days to Lomaland by Esther Warner, finished August 24, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



This is a memoir of a time in Liberia. I'm at a loss to explain why this book seems to have fallen into obscurity. It has no reviews on Goodreads or LT, and there are not many copies of it. Many years ago I read a book by Graham Greene, a memoir too as I recall, set in Liberia like this one is and it was called Journey Without Maps. If one has read and enjoyed that book, or something like The Flame Trees of Thika I can't imagine not being interested in this book. However, this is not on the level of Flame Trees or Out of Africa or Paula McLain's book on Beryl Markham and other outstanding memoirs of Africa. It is a different sort of book.

The author explains at the start of the book what she is trying to do. The reason she was there was a little bothersome to me - they were collecting chimpanzees for export to a breeding farm in Florida. But that isn't really this story although the chimps play a part. This does give one insight into a time and culture probably gone now (this was published in 1954 but appears to be set in 1943 based on a reference to Sumner Welles). This book will take you to a place and on a journey that will reveal to the reader a different way of thinking about the world and how that world looks at you. It isn't a 'great' book, but it is an interesting one. The book is also filled with woodcut illustrations by the author's husband.

148laytonwoman3rd
Ago 25, 2020, 10:17am

I love discovering those lost but worthy reads...I think the '50s produced a lot of books like that. And you remind me I would like to revisit Elspeth Huxley. I was utterly captivated by the BBC production of The Flame Trees of Thika back in the early '80s.

149EmmaFleming01
Ago 25, 2020, 10:23am

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150RBeffa
Ago 25, 2020, 12:33pm

>148 laytonwoman3rd: Yes on Flame trees. It too is a 1950's memoir (1959 I think). A couple months ago when I decided I wanted to read more 50's books this year, since I was enjoying them so much, I pulled it out for the TBR shelf as a possible re-read. I also have Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, another 1959 book at the ready. I was planning to read it within my next couple books. Lomaland even surprised me with a mention of female circumcision on a 'frisky' young girl as part of the female rite of passage. The author presents many things in Lomaland as if she was an observant reporter (sometimes passing judgement, often not).

151laytonwoman3rd
Ago 25, 2020, 1:07pm

Achebe's book is another I need to revisit. I remember not caring much for it when I first read it...shortly after joining LT, I think..but feeling I wasn't quite "getting" it.

152RBeffa
Ago 25, 2020, 9:00pm

> 151 I had a try at it half a dozen years ago and didn't get very far. I want to give it a serious try.
-------

47. Christmas Eve 1914 by Charles Olivier, finished August 25, 2020, 3+ stars



This is an Audible original with a full cast and presentation. It is a fictional representation of one of the Christmas truces between the British and German soldiers in WWI. The story is bookended by a letter written ten years after the event and describes some of the soldiers on the British line as Christmas Eve approaches. A young soldier who has just arrived sings 'Silent Night'. This was written to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the truce in 2014.

I wasn't wild about this; seemed a bit uneven and overly dramatic, but I enjoyed most of it OK.

tiny trivia bit: one of the performers is Lance Guest, better known to those of us of a certain age as 'The Last Starfighter'.

153RBeffa
Ago 27, 2020, 11:49am

48. Mastodonia by Clifford Simak, finished August 27, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



This is a great piece of escapist fiction. I gobbled up Simak's novels in my twenties, both classics like 'City', 'Waystation' and 'All Flesh is Grass' and lighter material. Simak always writes a story very well. He was a newspaperman who turned to science fantasy and fiction for his writing career. He passed away in 1988. This novel dates to 1978. This past decade I have re-read several of his classics and a few that I missed. 'Mastodonia' was one I have never read.

I think the start of this novel is the best part. Our main character is Asa, a paleontology professor in his early 40's I'd guess who has taken a sabbatical for a year. He's supposed to be writing a book but instead he is enjoying a quiet year on a rural piece of property near where he grew up. Simak does well in creating the atmosphere of a small town and environs. There was an oddity there including a sinkhole that might be a crater. It piqued Asa's curiosity to try and figure it out and he bought the farm where he had played as a youngster. He's been relaxing and not trying very hard until a woman shows up in front of his house - a fellow student from a dig in the middle east 20 years ago who is probably 'the one that got away'. The two get to know each other again as they explore this mystery of the area with the help of a couple neighbors who also are aware of a curiosity in the area.

Well, that is the setup of the novel that we go through for the first 30some pages. There is more than that brief summary that I leave out on purpose. What develops is that portals to the past are created on the property and Asa stumbles through one and finds himself up close and personal with a mastodon. Next stop, the Cretaceous and dinosaur safaris.

Time travel stories to the days of the dinosaurs etc are nothing new, something of a staple of the genre, but Simak wraps a story around this which he is an expert at doing and by the end it got a little crazy but if you just go with the idea he has for the story, it is a nice adventure. The story is a fantasy after all. I can't quite throw 4 stars at this.

154RBeffa
Editado: Ago 28, 2020, 6:59pm

49. Splendid Outcast: Beryl Markham's African Stories by Beryl Markham, Mary S. Lovell (Compiler), finished August 28, 2020, 3 stars



The stories in this collection originally appeared in magazines such as Collier's, Ladies Home Journal, The Saturday Evening post, etc in the 1940's. Beryl Markham's biographer Mary S. Lovell began putting the collection together prior to the author's death and after the success of the republication of West With The Night. The author passed away just before it was published. To someone familiar with Markham's life whether from Lovell's book, or Paula McLain's Circling the Sun or the television documentary in the late 80's 'World Without Walls' the first couple stories will fit in as pieces to what we have read and heard before. Lovell writes a very good intro to each story and notes where and when it was originally published. Lovell thinks these early stories were enhanced from real events and are not really 'true' stories but built from things in Markham's life.

There has always been a controversy over how much of Beryl Markham's stories were written by her. Lovell thinks that three of the last four stories of the eight here were written by her husband based loosely on ideas from Markham. They are apparently in a writing style similar to the husband and quite different from Beryl's other writings. These were all originally published under the name Beryl Markham. I found each of the stories interesting but the interest varied. Worth reading for those familiar with Beryl Markham but none of these wowed me. I was hoping for something much more.

155RBeffa
Ago 30, 2020, 10:36pm

50. Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume, finished August 30, 2020, 4 - 4 1/2 stars



I suppose it is not a coincidence that the publication of this new book coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing in August 1945.

In 1946 John Hersey visited Hiroshima and his subsequent story published in The New Yorker magazine and soon after as a book awakened the American public to what that big bomb really did.

This just published book reveals the story behind the story and if you ever had thoughts that big government cover-ups were a new thing, well, they are not. The author does a good job of describing the background against which Hersey and other journalists worked. Very interesting stuff.

There was a discussion of an Army Air Corps photographer who had been sent to Japan after the war film the effects of bombing on twenty Japanese cities. Hersey was told Hiroshima film footage was sent to Washington and would be classified for decades. I did a quick google and found one of the films:
http://www.openculture.com/2011/05/way_of_life_rare_footage_of_the_hiroshima_aft...

There is a rather chilling story about the film and filmakers here: https://whowhatwhy.org/2015/08/08/hiroshima-secrets-part-3-death-and-suffering-i...

What this new book does is put Hersey's 'Hiroshima' in a different light for me. It made me realize that Hersey saved the world from a future nuclear war by revealing the truth about Hiroshima when he did in 1946.

Recommended.

156RBeffa
Set 5, 2020, 9:29pm

Brodie mentioned this book some time ago and I picked it up. Wish I had read it sooner.

51. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers, finished September 5, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars



This novel from 1925 exceeded whatever expectations I might have had. The author takes his time introducing the reader to his characters and 1920's, briefly but well done San Francisco and then Honolulu, Hawaii. There's no rush. We meet people and follow them and see how we think they fit in to the puzzle. There is mystery from the very beginning. I thought the first quarter to perhaps a third of the way in was the best part of the novel. Did I guess whodunnit? No, I had considered the person only briefly.

The Detective Charlie Chan appears here. I wouldn't quite call him a major character but he plays a good part and I liked him more and more as the story went on.

I liked this quite a bit.

157RBeffa
Editado: Set 7, 2020, 2:22pm

52. Star Trek 12 adapted by James Blish and his wife Judith A Lawrence, finished September 7, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars



This was the twelfth and final book of short stories James Blish wrote based on scripts from the original Star Trek series. He died of lung cancer on July 30, 1975 before finishing and his wife wrote two of the stories included here. This collection has only five stories unlike the others which I think have 6 or 7 per book. What it does have is 2 appendices which show the screenwriters of each episode and which of the twelve books the story adaptation appears in.

Blish also wrote an early Star Trek novel "Spock Must Die" which I have not read. He may have written others in the Star Trek series, but is well known for several of his classic novels. I have read at least 4 or 5 of these Star Trek collections in the past and enjoyed every one. This is no exception. Reading this was fun.

Until 2013, I don't think I had ever read a Star Trek book before. Since then I have read 16 Star Trek books, including this one and have another 10-12 around the house to read. I think it was John Scalzi's "Redshirts" book that tweaked my slight interest and then I stumbled upon someone's donated collection in several boxes at a library book sale ( there were well over a hundred of them, probably 200+). On a whim I put a bunch of the ones that looked interesting into my bag and have been enjoying them ever since.

158RBeffa
Editado: Set 13, 2020, 9:20pm

53. Star Trek III, the Search for Spock by Vonda N McIntyre, finished September 10, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars



This is the novelization of the third film in the original Star Trek movie series. Last year I read McIntyre's story from the second film (The Wrath of Khan) and was amazed at what a terrific job she had done and how she brought Saavik forward in the story and created something much better than the movie. Like before, McIntyre expands and fills in details of events and characters that are not in the film and shifts things around a little, the result is to make the story richer. From the very first pages she is telling the story differently, giving us more about Saavik, but I think I prefer the movie beginning. This was a very good film and the novel is also very good, but unlike the prior book I don't think the book is better than the film. The two together complement each other. The story itself that McIntyre had to work from isn't as strong as the preceding Khan story and the characters of Carol and David (Kirk's son from Carol) as written by McIntyre are a bit unpleasant. I don't think Carol even appears in the third movie but she is here at the start of the book, basically reprising the Star Trek II appearance. Like the last book I think Saavik is handled much better in the book than in the film. Some aspects of the story come across much better on film, the visual effects especially, but the added details in this written version are still worth the read. Overall I was a little disappointed in this, but I think that is primarily because of my comparison to the prior book.

Hulu had the film available. So of course I watched it last night before I had finished up the novel this morning. The scene where the destroyed Enterprise falls across the sky still hurts my heart. After watching the film I realized how much more story had been added especially at the start and where some changes had been made. Part of this book serves as a bridge between the stories of the second and third Star Trek movies.

ETA: The film would have been a lot better if they had included some of McIntyre's material.

159RBeffa
Set 16, 2020, 2:48pm

Reading this old paperback, "a genuine pocket book edition 25c" with Gertrude the kangaroo on the cover (did you ever know the kangaroo had a name?) Old paperback? Older than me anyway and I put the kiss of death on its binding and the poor thing fell apart as I read it. I wish it hadn't. Whoever last read it put a newsclipping in as a bookmark. The top of the clipping announced it was September 11, 1964. The weather would be fair tonight and tomorrow except high fog near the ocean extending inland tomorrow morning. Low tonight 46 to 52. Westerly winds 10 to 20 m.p.h. tomorrow afternoon.

Sounded like a nice early glimpse of Fall. I began reading this on September 11, 2020, 56 years after the prior person had it open. I plan to try and glue the binding back together and pass this along for someone else to find.

54. The Pocket Book Of Modern American Short Stories by various authors, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern finished September 16, 2020, 4+ stars



This is an outstanding short story collection that I really enjoyed. This was published in 1942 and showcased 19 stories written in the 1920s and 1930s. Top tier authors. The editor noted (in 1942) that these stories were already from another era that only lived in their memories. Nearly 80 years further on as I read this now it is like being in a time machine. Two of the stories I knew I had read before, and two or three others maybe, but most were new to me.

Among the famous names are William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eudora Welty and Carson McCullers. The two stories I have read before were Conrad Aiken's 'Silent Snow, Secret Snow' when I was in high school and Hemingway's 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro'. The latter is a painful story. More than ever, knowing more about Hemingway's life now, I was aware that Kilimanjaro felt like Hemingway was writing about a version of himself and how he rips the guts out of his real and perceived failings and throws them all over the pages. Oh this is a mean and pain filled story.

Speaking of Silent Snow, Secret Snow, I found it a little strange that I remembered a short story after 50 years. I think it was the repetitive image of the postman walking in the snow that kept the story with me. I do not think that way back when I realized what the story was about. As I read it now I rather quickly realized that the author had created a rather chilling description of a teenaged boy's descent into schizophrenia or some sort of dis-associative disorder. I didn't know about that sort of thing as a teenager myself. An excellent if slightly frightening story.

A couple stories in here were just too strange, like the Erskine Caldwell one, which keeps me from throwing 5 stars on this collection. But there are some excellent ones. I'm not a big fan of Sinclair Lewis but his "Young Man Axelbrod" rather charmed me. F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'Babylon Revisited' was another little treasure in here, a visit to Paris after nearly all the Americans had left it following the crash of '29.

Recommended if you can find it hiding on a friends of the library book sale shelf as I did.

160RBeffa
Set 17, 2020, 1:32pm

I am finally going back to the beginning of the Pendergast series and have started on the first book in the series, Relic. Reading the two latest books early this year has whetted my appetite.My wife has read the entire series and we have most of the books in the house which helps a lot in these library deprived days.

161m.belljackson
Set 18, 2020, 6:42pm

>159 RBeffa:

With your recommendation, I checked on Abe for Modern American Short Stories.

Hold onto your copy - the only 1942 one that came up is valued at $20,
with a shipping change over $17 - from France!

162RBeffa
Set 18, 2020, 8:25pm

>161 m.belljackson: My copy is in rather poor condition but my binding repair seems to have worked. I should probably hold on to it. Luckily there are many printings of this collection out there at reasonable prices.

163RBeffa
Editado: Set 20, 2020, 6:49pm

55. Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished September 20, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars



The first book in the Special Agent Pendergast series from 1995, now 25 years old, is an impressive debut. Overall I was pleased with this book and especially the character of Pendergast. But I'll confess up front that I'm a little cranky here. My wife is a big fan of the series but she thinks the problems with these books is because there are two authors, and the results often don't meld well, especially in regard to pacing.

The story begins in the Amazon basin in 1987 with a museum expedition in the midst of catastrophic failure. They've discovered something unique and apparently the leader and his buddy die, but not before they have managed to ship out some of their discoveries. (One hundred or so pages later we do find out that everyone died). I would have liked more of the book to have been set here because this intriguing start is brief. The authors chose to be less linear in their storytelling and give us chunks of the history of this expedition throughout the book. The storytelling has a few bothers and quibbles, the biggest one being the authors love of "cliffhanger" chapters, or just dropping off part of the storyline, which sometimes do not get picked up again until 50 or more pages later and endless other things have been going on because there are a few too many characters to keep track. I would have preferred a tighter story, less broken up. My other quibbles are relatively minor - there is too much museum bureaucracy infighting kind of stuff. I wanted more of some things and less of others, and also what turns out to be the cause of all the mayhem in the museum is highly preposterous, an extreme monster of the week episode of X-Files is what this is, but these outrageous ideas are what makes these sorts of books fun and was often enjoyable in the X-Files.

The behind the scenes of the Museum of Natural History in New York City is a mixed bag as a backdrop for this gruesome murder story, and one will learn things that most people I think would rather not know. This could probably be called a mild thriller. This is probably the 5th, maybe 6th, book I have read by Preston and Child over the years and I have enjoyed each one, but I consider this one a lesser one. I will read on in the series, in order.

This was adapted into a film in 1997 which I have not seen. It might be interesting to compare.

ETA: I forgot to mention the end. There's a twisty epilogue, six months later thing that is unexpected and oddly amusing. It might be a lead-in to the next novel. Or?

164RBeffa
Editado: Out 3, 2020, 11:57am

This is the sequel to the book I just previously finished, Relic

56. Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished September 24, 2020, 3 1/2+ stars



This is the second book in the Special Agent Pendergast series and begins 18 months after the main events in the novel 'Relic'. I'll note that the epilogue in the first book which took place 6 months after the main events turns out to be quite a clue and material to this story. Although there are some new characters, several of the surviving main characters from the prior book are here again. The fact that I already knew some of the people here made this book easy to dive into, and overall I consider this a better book than the first and despite what I say next I enjoyed reading this story. Parts of this are a hard to put the book down page turner, especially the latter part of the book where the action is almost non-stop.

Like I said about the prior book, much of this one could also be an X-Files episode of monster of the week, although maybe a two-parter would be needed. I learned more about New York City as well. There is something slightly tiresome about these two books. The bosses of various things in these two books generally fall into the bureaucratic idjit class who have risen to their level of imcompetence, with wanting things swept under the rug, don't rattle the cage, look for someone else to blame, get it solved yesterday, etc etc. Only our peeps on the front line have the smarts to take care of things. In the first book the Mayor of New York City takes a small but important place in the events and proves himself to be a smart leader. In this book, 18 months later, the good mayor is out of office.

There are many surprises here and the ending of this really took me by surprise. It almost jumped the shark. Well, they are the storytellers, and I'm just the reader. I need to catch my breath now.

165RBeffa
Set 24, 2020, 9:46pm

I went to the library late this afternoon and stepped inside for the first time in 7 months. I picked up a bunch of books. Most branches in the area around us are not open at all. The main one I went to lets 10 people per hour come in, by appointment. Not the best situation.

166RBeffa
Set 30, 2020, 12:06am

57. The Dry by Jane Harper, finished September 29, 2020, 4 stars



A word of warning: There is not any 'happy' in this book. It is sad and dark.

This was probably the last book I purchased in February before the world shut down. It was strongly recommended to me by two friends of the library friends as an impressive Australian debut mystery novel, and I have to agree that it is a very good book. I had heard of the author and glanced at her most recent book, but I am glad I got the push to give this one a try. I'll put it in my top ten of the year so far list.

The story grabs your interest from the first two pages, and for me, I never lost my desire to figure out what Billy Joe McAllister threw off the Talla ... wait, wrong mystery. This mystery has a lot more to figure out. It is actually a two in one mystery.

The story is told in a somewhat unconventional manner. The story begins with the discovery of the death of a family in a small rural town in Australia in the midst of a severe drought. (Hence the title, 'The Dry'). Was it a murder/suicide or was it a revenge murder or something else? If not a murder/suicide, someone has gone to an awful lot of trouble to make it appear so. But there is just enough doubt among a few people to leave the reader wondering also.

People in the story have various reasons for not telling the truth, or not telling all of the truth. It is a small dying town with a lot of secrets and some not so nice people and we begin to realize it as we read along and the author inserts extensive flashbacks and flashback-like reveals somewhat piecemeal, and sometimes repeated as we look into the lives of people now and 20 years before.

I'm a little bothered by the pace of the story and the dual storylines of the present and twenty years ago running concurrently. I think most readers of murder mysteries will find a lot to think about when reading this. This book gets many rave reviews. I can't quite rave. I think I was bothered more than I should have been by the omniscient narrator reveals towards the end. Also numerous reviews I have just browsed say they could feel the heat, feel the drought or variations of that. I didn't feel it. Telling me and showing me things somehow didn't translate to me feeling a years on drought. And I have lived through extended droughts, tho none like the Australian outback has seen.

I'm not sure the author has played entirely fair with the reader but I won't spoil the story by saying why I think that.

167laytonwoman3rd
Editado: Set 30, 2020, 9:30am

>166 RBeffa: Interesting that you read this book just now. I had it in mind to read it a week ago, and have searched determinedly through my shelves and boxes, but cannot find the copy I KNOW is here. (In fact, I thought I knew exactly which shelf it was on...but no). I will defer reading your review until I can read the book myself. I already knew it would be dark and sad.

168RBeffa
Set 30, 2020, 5:20pm

>167 laytonwoman3rd: If and when you get to this Linda I would enjoy comparing reactions.

----------------

58. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata, finished September 30, 2020, 4 stars



Several years ago I read and greatly enjoyed several novels by this author and so I picked up this "short story" collection and have been saving it to savor. Short stories is a bit of an exaggeration as the majority of these stories are 2-4 pages long with a few longer. I counted 70 stories, the majority of which were written between 1923-1932 when the author was finishing up his university and then in his twenties, with the last one shortly before the author's death in 1972. My impression was that some of these could have been written after awakening from a dream and writing about it as a story scene. Others seem to be an idea that could develop into a longer story or even a novel, but what we have is a small scene to work with. In fact I was pretty sure that some of the little pieces I had seen before, and that could only have been in one of the novels I read. There is a bit of surrealism in here like a small bit of what Haruki Murakami would later do. There is also, without any doubt, set forth very matter of factly material that shows that one is reading about a very different culture where women are viewed quite differently from how I would. There are strange scenes and dark scenes amongst little bits of beauty. Little insights into people and a world of 100 years ago. The last story is a miniature version from the author's most famous novel, "Snow Country".

I enjoyed these a lot despite a few of the topics because they are done so well and they were great to read a handful at a time and reflect on them. However, I've noticed that Japanese writers of the 20th century have something of an obsession with prostitutes. That's a warning.

169laytonwoman3rd
Out 1, 2020, 10:16am

>169 laytonwoman3rd: As soon as I find it, Ron...it's become an obsession now.

170RBeffa
Editado: Out 5, 2020, 9:37pm

>169 laytonwoman3rd: My wife frequently asks me these days "What are you looking for now?" I rearranged some bookshelves earlier this year, putting certain authors together, selecting some read soon books, boxing some books up for donation, etc and invariably I go to look for a book "that sat here for 3 years" and now I can't find it. They usually turn up unexpectedly for me anyhow.

-----------------------------

I had not planned on reading 75 books this year, but it seems I am track with 58 books through September. These stay at home and inside days, first with the covid crisis and more recently with the unrelenting heat and wildfires here in California are an inducement to read all these books on my shelves and re-read a few as well. I have not made much of a dent on my TBR soon shelf. I've done my quarterly update of favorite books for this year:

The year 2020 through September. I could recommend every one of my top ten and the honorable mentions. I've had a good reading year.

Rated here mostly for how much I enjoyed the story, and the emotional impact and how much it has stayed with me.

Top Ten Fiction for 2020:

1. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
2. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
3. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
4. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
6. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
7. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
8. Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
9. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers
10. The Dry by Jane Harper

Honorable mentions:
Verses For The Dead and Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
The River by Peter Heller
The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Top Non-Fiction for 2020

1. Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume
2. Seven Days to Lomaland by Esther Warner

Five Favorite anthologies/ short story collections for 2020 (not really in an order of preference - all were very good):

1. The Pocket Book Of Modern American Short Stories by various authors, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
2. Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
3. The Best American short stories 2007 by various authors, and edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor
4. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
5. Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather

Honorable mention:
Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London
Men Against the Stars by various authors, edited by Martin Greenberg

Best fiction re-reads for 2020:

1. Daybreak 2250 AD by Andre Norton

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
2. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
3. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy

Best fun reads:

1. Mastodonia by Clifford Simak
2. Star Trek 12 by James Blish

171RBeffa
Out 3, 2020, 12:07pm

On the recommendation of friend I am midway through the sort of book I rarely read. I try a couple popular beach read or chick lit books a year and often don't get very far, 25 pages or so is often enough. I don't think I ever mention them here - the last one I gave up on the very first page! This one is different. 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand. It has a great hook of a beginning, a terrific sense of place on Nantucket and characters to invest in.

172RBeffa
Out 4, 2020, 2:34pm

59. 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand, finished October 4, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



I've seen Elin Hilderbrand's novels for years. They always have attractive covers and enticing titles but I was never tempted to give a summer romance beach novel a try. I think I got burned on a few too many popular novels that just aren't a fit for me. But sometimes I try one and luck out. On the fairly strong recommendation of a male friend I gave 28 Summers a try, Elin Hilderbrand's newest novel, and I lucked out.

The title is a bit of a misnomer. The story centers on a love affair that occurs every labor day on Nantucket island beginning in 1993 and it ends with a death in 2020. It is a "same time, next year' affair. This is not a spoiler. This is how the story begins and the book chronicles the years events somewhat randomly it seems from the start to the finish. I grew very attached, if that is the right word, to the main character Mallory.

This is a novel with strong characters and a wonderful sense of place is given to the setting of much of the novel on Nantucket island. I liked this a lot although there are a few too many characters and relationships to try and keep straight, and there are a couple of misfires in the book from my perspective that took my enjoyment (and rating) down a notch. Overall, however, this is very good. I felt like I was reading about a real person, Mallory Blessing and her life, something that is not easy to accomplish. Midway through the novel the focus of the story shifts a bit. And then it shifts more, and near the end it makes a rather dramatic shift into the political arena. Most of the story parallels real life but it begins to skew off into an alternate reality and for me it was the weak part of the story because the focus needed to be somewhere else. I wish there was more of what worked so well early in the book and there should have been a much better resolution of the romance long before the end. But the end itself, it was done very well.

I might have a go at another of Hildrebrand's novels. If I do, Same time next year around labor day would be very appropriate.

173RBeffa
Editado: Out 10, 2020, 1:04pm

I rarely give a book 4 1/2 or 5 stars.

60. The Fatal Impact : The Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead, finished October 9, 2020, 5 stars



I read a 1987 expanded edition of the original book published in 1966. This later edition is lavishly illustrated to coincide with the text Moorehead wrote. I think I read every single word of the captions to the illustrations, paintings and add-ins as well as every word of the book itself. Don't laugh. Non-fiction books can get tedious.

The author is a skilled writer in bringing together various memoirs and events to show the effects of European exploration and contact in the Pacific Ocean, focusing in three parts on Tahiti, Antarctica and Australia. Primarily built around Captain Cook's three voyages. So much was recorded and collected and this book brought it forward in time. I knew bits of this but I found the narrative completely engrossing. Journeys of discovery and the end of the world that was.

As sad as it is for the indigenous peoples of Tahiti and Australia the worst world devastation to come was because of Cook's exploration of the Antarctic region. He found countless millions of seals, sea lions, penguins, sea birds, whales and other creatures living in a balance with their world. When he returned from his trip the whalers and others of the world set out from England and La Havre and Nantucket and elsewhere to kill and destroy relentlessly. It is sickening.

174RBeffa
Editado: Out 16, 2020, 12:33pm

The blurb on the cover of the book under the title declares: "GO TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD ..." Well, I was just there with Captain Cook so let us go again.

Reading about Cook's voyages in the last book and the despoiling of the Pacific, Australia and Antarctic by subsequent visitors put a bug in my ear. I have another book on Captain Cook at the ready and I may read it soon, but I also hope to read some more books set in or about Australia and Antarctica and possibly the Pacific islands before the year is out. I guess reading The Dry a couple weeks ago and then the Cook book has tickled my interest. I have some Nevil Shute books set in Australia but first I decided to read a book partly set in an area that Captain Cook visited near Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, and that was 'The Ice Limit' which I just finished.

61. The Ice Limit by by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, finished October 14, 2020, 3 stars



This is an early novel from Preston and Child, first published in 2000.

I was a little disappointed with this compared to the other books I have read by the authors. After reading the first 5 pages of the book, the 'surprise' cliffhanger ending in the last few pages and sentence was more or less expected and the end should have been the beginning of the rest of the story. I wanted to read that story. As it turns out the authors wrote the rest of the story in a new novel several years ago.

The story we do have was a thriller about the retrieval of a huge buried meteorite at the very bottom of South America, near Cape Horn.

This makes 5 Preston and Child reads this year. Time for something different maybe?

But first ... I almost forgot

It is October and time for some spooky stuff and more to the point at least one Ray Bradbury. So that should keep me busy. I have been reading Bradbury every October for a number of years now.

ETA: Although I had just started a Bradbury, a couple of ebook holds from the library have come in so we will see how it goes.

175RBeffa
Out 20, 2020, 7:08pm

My latest read leaps into the top spot of my best reads of the year.

62. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay, finished October 20, 2020, 5 stars



After reading some interesting and very favorable comments about this book by author Robin Hobb and other reviewers I requested it from the library.

" ... isn't it also true sometimes that the only way a person survives after they die is in the memories of others?"

I think that excerpt from the book is the essence of what this story tells us.

I have wanted to try one of Guy Gavriel Kay's novels for a long time. This recent novel (2019) sounded interesting. It far exceeded whatever expectations I had. It is a historical fiction and a slight fantasy because it is set in a fictional place, although it bears a strong resemblance to what renaissance Italian city-states must have been like. Despite the resemblance this place does have two moons. So it is not Italy. This book is so richly drawn with characters the reader is drawn to, that I was easily immersed into this world and pulled into these imagined lives.

It can be a bit of a chore with books like this to initially sort out relationships between characters. The author here lets us learn them through the story and does it very well with multiple viewpoint characters. There are also names laid out at the start of the book along with a map to reference to help at the start.

The story is so intense, full of insight, and so well told that I will have to read more stories by this author. The tale does lag just a little in a few places as it builds story arcs and I preferred the first two parts of the book (roughly the first 60%) the most, I think, but this is a journey through life. And death. Your heart will be ripped.

It is also a mature, reflective work, and I appreciated that.

176ronincats
Out 20, 2020, 7:17pm

I will have to try this one. My personal favorite, for all that it chewed me up and spit me out emotionally, is The Lions of Al-Rassan--SO good!!

177RBeffa
Out 20, 2020, 7:46pm

>176 ronincats: Well this one will chew you up in places Roni. And the Asharites are just across the sea from most of the main events here. Several of his books seem loosely linked.

178RBeffa
Out 24, 2020, 6:30pm

Each October I try to read at least one book by Ray Bradbury.

I bought this book new about a dozen years ago. We were visiting my daughter at college and they had a nice Barnes and Noble bookstore - I'd actually call it lovely inside and outside, as I remember. I ended up buying an armful of books, including this one. It would be Bradbury's last book.

63. Now and Forever: Somewhere a Band Is Playing & Leviathan '99 by Ray Bradbury, finished October 24, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars



The physical book itself is lovely, as books sometimes are, and as ebooks never will be. Having just finished a long ebook (that I loved) to go to a nicely put together hardback book with deckled edges was a pleasure. The book is two novellas with introductions to each story by Bradbury about how they came to be. The first story 'Somewhere A Band is Playing' I thought quite lovely in a Bradbury sort of way, but it sputtered somewhat towards the end. I'd give that one 3 1/2 stars. The second story 'Leviathan '99' is a retelling of Moby Dick (in space). Bradbury tells us how it was repeatedly revised from a radio play 30 years before. I was disappointed. Bored mostly. That one comes close to a fail, let me give it two stars. There are several good reviews here on LT for interested readers.

179RBeffa
Out 26, 2020, 1:55pm

At the end of April I read the first book in the Borrowers series. I wanted to read the second one sooner than now since it fits in with my desire to read several children's books as well as books from the 50's. But here it is, from 1955. I rated the first book 3 1/2 stars (probably should have given it a +, close to 4 stars) and this one I give 3 1/2 stars also, although I think the first was slightly more enjoyable, but this is almost as good unless one is bothered by gypsies.

64. The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton, finished October 26, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



The author does a very good job of bringing the reader back to the Borrower's world. We meet Tom as a very old man now, who was "young Tom" in the first book. I very much enjoyed the beginning here and this serves as a way to hear the further adventures of what happened after the Borrowers were forced to flee to an uncertain future at the end of the first novel. I really enjoy these books. The illustrations scattered through the book add a lot of charm and this is something that adults can enjoy as much as children.

180RBeffa
Editado: Out 27, 2020, 11:19pm

This is quite possibly the saddest, darkest book I have ever read. I could not read this straight through and needed frequent breaks.

65. Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski, finished October 27, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



An extraordinarily sad memoir. It is almost unbelievable that the author survived his childhood and young adulthood. The amount of bad stuff that happened to the author and his family is almost unbelievable. Domestic violence and child abuse and cat killings is a huge thing here, so avoid if you are sensitive to the subject. I'm sensitive and this was very hard for me to take. As dark as this is, the ultimate message is that one can survive.

My main reason for picking this book was Babylon 5.

There are a number of in depth reviews available.

181RBeffa
Editado: Out 30, 2020, 11:09am

This is a "young adult" book published last year that had some positive buzz.

66. A Boy and his dog at the end of the world by C. A. Fletcher, finished October 29, 2020, 2 1/2 stars



There are lots of end of the world books. Long ago Harlan Ellison wrote a dystopian future story called 'A Boy and his Dog' which was made into a film with Jason Robards and a young Don Johnson. This isn't that story. But they do share one thing. They know what love is. A boy loves his dog.

Initially I wrote a few comments about the story that were mostly positive. But as the hours passed before bedtime I realized I was angry. The author wrote a clever story with a multiple surprise ending. I thought this was a good story, although more than a touch overwritten and our narrator was overly dramatic and not quite reliable. There are a few glitches along the way that bothered me a little.

The author asks readers not to tell about things: "It’d be a kindness to other readers—not to say this author—if the discoveries made as you follow Griz’s journey into the ruins of our world remained a bit of a secret between us…
C.A.F." Well, screw that.

There's a couple surprises towards the end of the book. One of them, for me, it wasn't a surprise. I had been expecting it since about a third of the way in. Another surprise was a genuine surprise. That happened because the author turned out to be a highly unreliable narrator. However, in trying to create this super surprise ending where what we had been told before repeatedly was not true, the author blew it.

More than a glitch. Here's a biggie. Tell me how Isabel took a photograph in this future dystopia. I won't go into more, to keep the author's secrets. Hah.

182RBeffa
Editado: Out 30, 2020, 7:07pm

I started this about 2 weeks ago as a library loan, but then put it on pause. I restarted.

DNF. Snow by John Banville, abandoned October 30, 2020



An atmospheric murder mystery in 1950's Ireland. Part homage to Agatha Christie mysteries and part historical fiction. A catholic priest is murdered and castrated in a protestant's house. If I had know in advance that this was about sexual abuse, and a heavy dose of it, I would have skipped this book.

As it was the rare library book, I didn't want to bail but I decided to for my own mental health.

183RBeffa
Editado: Nov 3, 2020, 8:26pm

I have been trying to read a Nevil Shute book each year. They have never disappointed. This novel, set in Australia in the very early 1950's also fits in with my wanting to read more about Australia and novels from the 1950's.

67. The Far Country by Nevil Shute, finished November 2, 2020, 4+ stars



I'm not sure what I'd call this beyond an historical fiction. A family drama with a romance. Post World War 2 life in Australia and a dissatisfaction with English socialism and rationing that I have encountered in Shute's novels before, but not quite this strongly. The book does go on a bit of a rant against post-war Britain vs the opportunity available in Australia (the 'Far Country'). The author himself had emigrated from England to Australia. Hard working for a new life for those who would try it. The new angle here is that there are a lot of 'New Australians', post War resettlements from across Europe who go there on work programs. Life isn't always easy for them.

A lot of good history in here. I thought this a very good story. It becomes very intense and engrossing. Beyond that, the Australian slang and way of speaking circa 1950 had me chuckling.

This portrait of a prosperous Australia of 1950 is quite a contrast to the drought damaged Australia of 2016 painted in Jane Harper's 'The Dry' that I read a month ago.

As an aside, a small part of the novel is set in Ealing, West London with a lot of attention to detail. Ealing happens to be Nevil Shute's birthplace. For those who care about such things, there is a very strong, well written female lead character.

Recommended

I'm thinking it may be time before year's end to read another of Shute's novels, or re-read "A Town Like Alice".

ETA: After I finished the book I realized that I didn't see a single mention anywhere of aborigines.

184RBeffa
Nov 3, 2020, 6:45pm

68. Malorie by Josh Malerman, finished November 3, 2020, 2 1/2 stars



A disappointing follow-up to the novel Bird Box, one of my favorite book reads of 2019. I think my biggest problem is that I don't care for the author's writing style and his storytelling style. Very repetitive, scenes stretched way out, and I quickly tired of it. The basics of the story are OK - it is just, as I said, the writing style. However, if you were looking for the answers to the questions from the first novel you won't find them here.

I almost regret reading this. Kinda took the shine off the first book.

185RBeffa
Editado: Nov 5, 2020, 7:15pm

This was DAW books #432

I thought I would get back to reading a couple more science fiction and fantasy anthologies before year's end. I read the 1982 edition of this series a year ago. I always expect these to be better than they are, considering they're 'The Best', but I do seem to find a few that make it worthwhile.

69. The 1981 Annual World's Best SF edited by Donald Wollheim and Arthur Saha, finished November 5, 2020, 3 stars



As is usual for his annual World's Best collections, Wollheim selects 10 of the best stories of the preceding year, 1980 in this case. This series ran for 26 years (1965-1990) until the editor's death.

The included stories are:
vii • Introduction • essay by Donald A. Wollheim
1 • Variation on a Theme from Beethoven • novelette by Sharon Webb
30 • Beatnik Bayou • novelette by John Varley
64 • Elbow Room • novelette by Marion Zimmer Bradley
81 • The Ugly Chickens • novelette by Howard Waldrop
105 • Prime Time • short story by Norman Spinrad
119 • Nightflyers • novella by George R. R. Martin
181 • A Spaceship Built of Stone • short story by Lisa Tuttle
199 • Window • short story by Bob Leman
217 • The Summer Sweet, the Winter Wild • short story by Michael G. Coney
230 • Achronos • short story by Lee Killough

Waldrop's 'The Ugly Chickens' is a "cute' story I have read before. Zoological science fiction. It won the 1981 Nebula award for novelette. I wouldn't call this a strong year for science fiction of science fantasy stories based on this collection. I did like the first story pretty well. Sharon Webb speculates on the death of the arts and artists when immortality is achieved for humans in the future. The solution that humanity came up with is presented here. A young boy needs to choose between music or immortality. I don't think this story has appeared anywhere else but this anthology since the early magazine publication in 1980. Varley's 'Beatnik Bayou was a flop for me. I didn't even bother to read the last couple pages of that story. I skipped the Marion Zimmer Bradley story. The other stories were OK and I think my two favorites were 'A Spaceship Built of Stone' by Lisa Tuttle which was an old-fashioned romance science fiction story with a subtly creepy edge about the Anasazi people in modern times and what looks to be a silent invasion. Then, Bob Leman's 'Window' was odd but good also. It completely twists and turns into a nightmare at the end. This story was adapted into an episode of a TV series in 2001 and starred Bill Pullman! Although not exactly the written story, you can watch it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aAY57plRYQ The actual story is better than the television adaptation, but I think it is kinda cool that it exists at all.

Overall for 40 year old stories I can't complain. There are some good and interesting ideas in here, although most of this is quite forgettable.

186RBeffa
Editado: Nov 9, 2020, 2:19pm

70. Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin, finished November 9, 2020, 4 1/2 stars



A character study that is told in little pieces back and forth across time, a jigsaw puzzle that the writer and reader put together, from his life as a Jewish boy in Germany to the present time of the novel (2000) when he is a 78 year old man trying to connect with his first grandchild as well as his son. This is a novel but it also can be seen as a number of short stories broken into even smaller vignettes that tie the pieces of the man's life together. There are little puzzles and mysteries in here.

What a portrait Ethan Canin has painted here in a unique way. An excellent book that resonated with me. This will be in my top ten books of the year. I may have to expand that list to 12 or 15. So many good reads this year.

187laytonwoman3rd
Nov 9, 2020, 4:36pm

>186 RBeffa: I'm glad to see this positive review. I haven't read Canin, but am considering him for inclusion on the American Authors Challenge next year.

188ronincats
Nov 9, 2020, 8:42pm

Hey, Ron! Just getting around the threads starting to catch up.

189RBeffa
Nov 9, 2020, 10:33pm

>187 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, I wouldn't want to make the selections for next year while the covid shutdown continues. People won't have access to the library I imagine. or many stores. Most of the libraries around me are still shutdown or operating under very reduced services. Makes it hard to scout books for the challenge. Maybe try to come up with something with more popular and accessible authors? Ethan Canin would be a good choice tho, I think. He's been writing short stories since at least 1985 and has a number of well regarded novels. His latest was 2016. This one might interest you:

Pompeii : Echoes from the Grand Tour
by Ethan Canin and Jim Nisbet and Jay Parini

Pompeii: Echoes from the Grand Tour is a collection of fifty-three photographs of Pompeii, never before published, shot by the master photographer Mimmo Jodice. This book includes unique images--visions conjuring up a long-lost past tradition--coupled with texts by Ethan Canin, Jim Nisbet, and Jay Parini. Photography and the art of narration come together in this book to celebrate Pompeii and its renewed splendor.

This would have been our big bag of books sale weekend for the Friends of the libe, but the monthly sales and the friends book nook are still on shutdown with no sign of resumption. I am so glad to have a big backlog of reading material, plus a friend who gave me several bagfuls of books at the start of the year to paw through.

>188 ronincats: Thanks for stopping by Roni. Thinking of you every time I visit LT and often when I'm not.

190RBeffa
Nov 10, 2020, 12:23am

I think this was the last Earthsea story written by Ursula Kroeber LeGuin, many years after the novels and published as an ebook in 2014.

71. The Daughter of Odren by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished November 9, 2020, 3+ stars



This is set in the world of Earthsea, but as far as I could tell there are no characters from previous books that tie in to this short story. The story was well told.

191RBeffa
Nov 12, 2020, 10:12am

I picked this up from the friends of the library book nook shop at the beginning of the year, a few days after the author's death. I had never read one of Beaton's mysteries and decided I should fix that this year.

72. Death of a Liar by M. C. Beaton, finished November 12, 2020, 2 1/2+ stars



This is the first Hamish Macbeth mystery I have read, although this 2015 release is the 30th book in the series. I had no trouble at all stepping into the world. The story seemed cute for about 15 minutes. Then some things got tiresome, especially character behavior. I did like a bit of the murder mystery puzzling and the descriptions of Scotland, but I can only consider this at the low side of an OK read. I hope her other books are much better, but I doubt I'll read another soon.

192laytonwoman3rd
Editado: Nov 15, 2020, 3:45pm

>189 RBeffa: You're right about the difficulty of accessing books during this pandemic, Ron. It has affected the participation in this year's AAC, I'm sure. Our libraries are open here in PA, although some do have limited services. Most at least have curbside pick-up, but booksales have been suspended, and I know that's where a lot of MY picks for challenges have come from.

The Pompeii book looks intriguing, and Jay Parini's name on it clinches the deal for me. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

193RBeffa
Nov 15, 2020, 2:36pm

>192 laytonwoman3rd: I suggested it Linda because I know you like Parini. I have the book in my wishlist to remind myself to look for it one day.
--------------------------

I noticed several people recently enjoying this book. Moi? comme ci comme ça.

73. A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny, finished November 15, 2020, 3 - 3 1/2 stars



A good piece of fantasy and mild humorous horror for the Halloween season, a story told entirely from the viewpoint of a dog. A somewhat short novel with illustrations by Gahan Wilson (pretty creepy ones) that is very easy to read in small bits at the beginning, although some later parts of the book went on too long. The whole Dreamland sequence will appeal to some, although I would not be one of those some. Some parts are very good. Zelazny has been hit or miss for me in the past, and this one is both hit AND miss, but more hit and I'm glad to have read it.

194ronincats
Nov 15, 2020, 10:45pm

>190 RBeffa: Thanks for this. It's one I'd not read but I knew where to find in, in my deluxe edition of The Books of Earthsea and so now I've read it. There is one more story there after it, Firelight, which Wikipedia says was written 4 years later.

I do enjoy A Night in the Lonesome October for what it is, so I'm glad it came out overall on the positive side for you.

195RBeffa
Nov 15, 2020, 11:03pm

>194 ronincats: Someday I'll treat myself to that deluxe illustrated edition of Earthsea. I was unaware of Firelight. Thank you. I found the first part of it here, and it looks like a real Earthsea story!: https://www.theparisreview.org/fiction/7176/firelight-ursula-k-le-guin

196RBeffa
Nov 22, 2020, 9:57pm

This was an unplanned and rather long read. I was browsing the new ebooks available from our library and I noticed a new book by an author my daughter likes. I mentioned it to her and she said she had seen a lot of positive reviews. I looked at the premise and it sounded interesting so I started reading the book preview which was rather large (something like 60 pgs or more) and before the end of that I decided to check it out for myself to read.

74. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, finished November 23, 2020, 2 stars



I'm a bit unsure how to rate this on the stars scale. I really liked the initial premise (and promise) of the story idea and started reading this with a great deal of enthusiasm. I still like the idea of the story but I am not all enthusiastic about how this was presented. It got boring. Parts of the story went on and on ... and on ... going over same and similar things for little purpose of the story - it felt to be more so the author could play with endless literary flourishes of descriptions. Not quite what I would call purple prose but heading that way many times. The idea that a young French girl age 23 in 1714 would live 300 years in a Faustian bargain would give us a lot of room to work with, a lot of history, but the story just spends a lot of time with a few places and a few people. There were several times I thought the book would step up and do something really interesting at moments in French history, but most of those times it did not rise to the challenge.

I seriously thought about giving up after the first quarter of the novel - I could chop out about 35-40% of this book and enjoy it a lot more I think, but I persisted. Things do pick up. Then they crash again. I even thought of bailing after 500 pages. Somewhat ridiculous storytelling for my taste. This had a lot of potential, but overall I'd call this a fail. For me. Not my kind of book. Eventually I did give up. DNF with perhaps 20% left to go.

197karspeak
Nov 24, 2020, 6:42pm

>196 RBeffa: I completely agree that the Addie Larue book dragged on and on...

198RBeffa
Nov 25, 2020, 12:28pm

>197 karspeak: I just found your Club Read page Karen and read your reaction to the book. You seem to have had nearly the exact reaction I did. I look at most of the reviews of this with people gushing all over the book and I go "huh?" Glad I'm not alone!

199jnwelch
Nov 25, 2020, 5:16pm

Hi, Ron. So much good reading!

I'm glad Pax worked pretty well for you. I remember liking that one a lot. You've identified another Clifford Simak I need to read, Mastadonia. I probably should just set aside some time to read only those Simak books I haven't read yet.

As Roni said, I liked A Night in Lonesome October for what it was. No biggie. I loved his Amber books and Lord of Light, among others, back in the day.

Thanks for the link to your other photos of John Lewis. Calling you brother - a memory for a lifetime.

200PaulCranswick
Nov 27, 2020, 6:27am



This Brit wishes to express his thanks for the warmth and friendship that has helped sustain him in this group, Ron.

201RBeffa
Nov 28, 2020, 1:52am

>200 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul.

202RBeffa
Editado: Nov 30, 2020, 11:49am

As Joe said on his thread, how do you review a book like this? I can't.

75. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, finished November 29, 2020, 4 - 4 1/2 stars



This fantastical mystery is stranger and stranger. I was trying to puzzle it out at first, but then just went with it and was amply rewarded, and pretty much enjoyed it all the way.

Very cool. Very satisfying end also.

203FAMeulstee
Dez 1, 2020, 6:32am

Congratulations on reaching 75, Ron!

204drneutron
Dez 1, 2020, 10:05pm

Congrats! And such a good one!

205ronincats
Dez 1, 2020, 10:11pm

Congratulations on hitting the 75 book mark, Ron!!

206RBeffa
Dez 4, 2020, 9:50pm

>203 FAMeulstee: >204 drneutron: >205 ronincats: Thank you Anita, Jim and Roni. Nice to have that mark met.

207RBeffa
Dez 5, 2020, 11:48am

As I started reading this I felt pretty quickly that I was not going to enjoy this book, story or writing. Got to the end of a chapter at 60 pages and put it down.

DNF Finding Moon by Tony Hillerman

--

76. V2 by Robert Harris, finished December 5, 2020, 3 1/2 stars



Robert Harris is among my favorite authors and a real favorite of my wife. This book however was something of a disappointment. Other than being aware that V2 rockets showed up late in WWII, I knew next to nothing about them. This book fixed that admirably. The story is told from both the German and the UK side and covers a very short span of time. The details of operations are the plus side of the book and Harris weaves them into the story with the skill I have found in his other books. The downside for me was the characters here and feeling that Nevil Shute could have written them much better in this setting.

208laytonwoman3rd
Dez 5, 2020, 11:56am

>207 RBeffa: Wow...two duds in a row....that's too bad, Ron. Onward to something that will please you, I hope!

209RBeffa
Dez 5, 2020, 1:47pm

>208 laytonwoman3rd: V2 wasn't quite a dud, but it was a disappointment from Robert Harris, partly because I have high expectations with his works. There are two main characters, one a German engineer who is written quite sympathetically and the other is a British WAAF whose story I did not care for. The history of the German rocket program that began quite early long before Nazi's with Werner von Braun dreaming of being the first man on the moon that is threaded through this story was quite interesting to me.

I had tried Finding Moon quite a few years ago but held onto it and thought I should give it another try. Just not a story for me. I did not really care for the first two Leaphorn stories - I hope you like Blessing Way more than I did. I enjoyed The Hillerman Country book he did with his brother. I had forgotten about that one and I also read excerpts from his memoirs book at the library. I may have a go at Listening Woman before the month is out.

210PaulCranswick
Dez 6, 2020, 9:25am

>202 RBeffa: Definitely one I need to go and pick up based on the consistent acclaim in the group, Ron.

Have a great Sunday.

211RBeffa
Dez 6, 2020, 12:57pm

>210 PaulCranswick: Piranesi is a unique book Paul and probably not for everyone, but it is probably safe to think you will appreciate it. I was just glad it was available as an ebook from the library. Sometimes bookbuzz fails me such as the Addie book at >196 RBeffa:, but this time it paid off.

212RBeffa
Dez 11, 2020, 9:24pm

I was browsing my bookshelves for what to read next, despite having a couple of 'in progress' books already, not knowing what I wanted and somehow this stayed in my hand.

I bought this tattered paperback about 4 years ago when it was John Steinbeck month for the American Author Challenge, because I thought it a Steinbeck story collection that I had never read (although I knew I have read a couple of the stories within it). I ended up reading or re-reading 6 Steinbeck books in 2016 but this didn't become one of those. As it turned out, I decided I must have read this collection long ago because all of the stories had a sense of old familiarity to them.

77. The Long Valley by John Steinbeck, finished December 11, 2020, 4 1/2 stars



Very good story collection. The edition I read includes 'The Red Pony' novella added at the end. The original publication in 1938 had eleven short stories dating from 1933 so this was pretty early material for Steinbeck. These stories have hurt and pain in them. You read these one at a time, then take a break. It starts with 'The Chrysanthemums' and if I read this before I doubt I appreciated the story as much as I do now. Then, like the first story, 'The White Quail' starts out seemingly bright and slowly heads straight to bleak.

The third story 'Flight' begins simply enough with a widow and her three children living a hardscrabble existence above a cliff, probably at the upper edge of the Big Sur coast. The oldest child, 19, is sent on an errand trip to Monterey and thus we begin a journey into darkness. And so these stories go. A dark look at the early hard days in California, and the even harder existence for those of Mexican ancestry.

The story 'Snake' is creepy and uncomfortable in multiple ways and I am pretty sure I read this one long ago. On the other hand, to break the darkness we have 'Breakfast' which is a little slice of life bittersweet picture of migrant cotton pickers in 1930's California. Other strong powerful stories like 'The Murder'. Saint Katy the Virgin is unforgettable as is 'The Red Pony' which finishes up this collection. Dark and twist stuff in here through all these powerful stories.

213RBeffa
Editado: Dez 16, 2020, 10:02pm

Our Costco magazine had an article about this new release that piqued my interest. I was pleased to see my library offered it as an ebook upon release. John Lennon died, was assassinated, murdered, killed, taken from the world 40 years ago on December 8, 1980. Not coincidently I am sure this book was published December 7, 2020.

78. The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson and associates, finished December 16, 2020, 2 - 2 1/2 stars



The opening of this story packs a punch. I have never had a desire to look inside the head of a killer. It is unsettling how the author reconstructs thoughts and actions.

I lived through the times of The Beatles, I've read a bit about the Beatles, seen numerous films including Ron Howard's recent one and 'Backbeat', the story of the early days with Stu Sutcliffe, so I was familiar with much of the story and Patterson gives the reader a compressed view of how Lennon and McCartney came together, and their early life.

Despite the title, this is more or less a bio of John from 1957 onward and his interactions with the other Beatles and the world. For a mini view it seems to have been done well enough, but as I read through the book it should have resonated and plucked all those nostalgia chords ... but it didn't. There's a strange vibe to this, an emphasis on the unstable genius of Lennon and almost a putdown of the other Beatles, and I'm guessing here, but it seems the authors are trying to set this up as some sort of predestination thing. The storytelling is too often disjointed, dropping things in and coming back to them later as if trying to create 'Aha!" moments, or whatever.

There are some nice pictures tacked on at the end of the ebook. I learned some things about John's later life. Surprisingly, much of the latter part of the book is uninteresting. A few good bits, but otherwise this book is a disappointment and quite skippable if you already know the Beatles story.

214RBeffa
Dez 23, 2020, 11:10pm

George Clooney's new film Midnight Sky came out today on Netflix, so I watched it and enjoyed it (as much as one can enjoy the end of the world). Now I want to read the book which is Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

215RBeffa
Editado: Dez 24, 2020, 2:48pm

Probably my final novel of 2020. I may finish a short story collection before year's end.

79. A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman, finished December 24, 2020, 3 1/2 - 4 stars



This was a re-read; I think I originally read this in 1998, when I read a couple Hillerman novels. It was long enough ago to enjoy as a somewhat fresh read. I originally liked this years ago because of the ancient Anasazi elements to the story as well as interesting characters in a then unfamiliar setting. Of the several Hillerman novels I have read this would be one of the best.

A good mystery with a satisfying wrap-up.

216Berly
Dez 24, 2020, 6:05pm



Ron--Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
May 2021 bring you less need for masks, loads of peace and joy, good health and, of course, books!

217PaulCranswick
Dez 25, 2020, 11:42am



I hope you get some of those at least, Ron, as we all look forward to a better 2021.

218RBeffa
Dez 25, 2020, 11:41pm

>216 Berly: >217 PaulCranswick: Thank you Kim and Paul. Good hopes and wishes there for all of us this coming year.

219RBeffa
Editado: Dez 26, 2020, 10:46pm

I see people are starting their 2021 year threads. I'll probably wait a few days more for that.

First the year of 2020. I've had a very good reading year. One of the most satisfying reading years I can recall. 79 books so far, maybe even 80 by New Year's Eve. I can recommend every one of my top fifteen and the honorable mentions (and many of the others I have read this year. I had only a few disappointments)

Rated here for how much I enjoyed the story, how well I thought it was written, the emotional impact, and how much it has stayed with me. Comments on the stories can be found up above.

Top Fifteen Fiction for 2020, loosely in order:

1/2 tie. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
1/2 tie. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
3. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
4. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
5. The Far Country by Nevil Shute
6. Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin
7. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
9. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
10. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
11. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
12. Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
13. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers
14. Verses For The Dead and Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
15. The Dry by Jane Harper

Very Honorable mentions:

The River by Peter Heller
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Top Non-Fiction for 2020

1. The Fatal Impact : The Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead
2. Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
3. Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume

Five Favorite anthologies/ short story collections for 2020 (not really in an order of preference - all were very good):

1. The Pocket Book Of Modern American Short Stories by various authors, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
2. The Long Valley by John Steinbeck
3. The Best American short stories 2007 by various authors, and edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor
4. Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather
5. Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London

Honorable mentions:

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
Men Against the Stars by various authors, edited by Martin Greenberg

Best fiction re-reads for 2020:

1. The Long Valley by John Steinbeck
2. The Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
2. The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton
3. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
4. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy

Best fun reads:

1. Mastodonia by Clifford Simak
2. Star Trek 12 by James Blish

220RBeffa
Editado: Dez 31, 2020, 12:04am

Well, let's finish 2020 off with an Australian science fiction story for the kindle. It had the great advantage of being free and short (shorter than I expected!)
This was first published in Andromeda Spaceways magazine, "Australia’s home of awesome speculative fiction."

80. The Ship's Doctor by Charlie Nash, aka Charlotte Nash, finished December 28, 2020, 1 1/2 stars

The story is told in a short, sharp style with a tough badass woman Doctor of ships (she of the book's title) who unsettles all the men who she seems to view with contempt at best. That is, when she's not lusting and checking them out, which seems to be all that she can think about. It struck me as a little silly with its horndog Tuffgirl posing. And the hissing. Enough with the hiss. Seriously.

The contemporary references set in a far future space base across the galaxy repeatedly bumped me out of the story (e.g. a Dr's leather bag that smelled of Listerine. Really? you get the idea)

Nuff said. Seriously not my style. I found the last part very confusing. Not worth the time and not recommended.

221RBeffa
Dez 31, 2020, 12:03am

The year of 2020. I've had a very good reading year. One of the most satisfying reading years I can recall. I can recommend every one of my top fifteen and the honorable mentions.

Rated here for how much I enjoyed the story, how well I thought it was written, the emotional impact, and how much it has stayed with me.

Top Fifteen Fiction for 2020:

1/2 tie. A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay
1/2 tie. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst
3. The Sea of Grass by Conrad Richter
4. The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
5. The Far Country by Nevil Shute
6. Carry Me Across the Water by Ethan Canin
7. Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
9. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
10. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
11. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
12. Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn
13. The House Without a Key by Earl Derr Biggers
14. Verses For The Dead and Crooked River by (Douglas) Preston and (Lincoln) Child
15. The Dry by Jane Harper

Very Honorable mentions:

The River by Peter Heller
28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand
The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Top Non-Fiction for 2020

1. The Fatal Impact : The Invasion of the South Pacific, 1767-1840 by Alan Moorehead
2. Becoming Superman: My Journey From Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski
3. Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Lesley M.M. Blume

Five Favorite anthologies/ short story collections for 2020 (not really in an order of preference - all were very good):

1. The Pocket Book Of Modern American Short Stories by various authors, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern
2. The Long Valley by John Steinbeck
3. The Best American short stories 2007 by various authors, and edited by Stephen King and Heidi Pitlor
4. Obscure Destinies by Willa Cather
5. Tales of the Fish Patrol by Jack London

Honorable mentions:

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang
Men Against the Stars by various authors, edited by Martin Greenberg

Best fiction re-reads for 2020:

1. The Long Valley by John Steinbeck
2. The Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman

Favorite Young Adult or Children's reads:

1. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
2. The Borrowers Afield by Mary Norton
3. Pax by Sara Pennypacker
4. The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charlie Mackesy

Best fun reads:

1. Mastodonia by Clifford Simak
2. Star Trek 12 by James Blish

I'll start my 2021 thread in a couple days and will drop a link here. I'll probably have a slow start as the family has gotten into jigsaw puzzle mode and having fun.

222weird_O
Dez 31, 2020, 1:43am

Time to take out the trash!

223PaulCranswick
Dez 31, 2020, 9:56pm



Ron

As the year turns, friendship continues

224RBeffa
Jan 1, 1:29pm

>222 weird_O: >223 PaulCranswick: Thank you Bill and Paul.

My 2021 thread starts here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/328098#unread