Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Catching Up Before School Starts

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?
I forgot to post stuff last week, mainly because my reading Team Tapirs started doing really well, finishing with a wild flurry of challenges that brought into the top rank of teams. I kinda hope we slip back down so I can tame my competitive edge; I like to hang out with my kids on occasion as well as read near them. These last few weeks of summer are a good time for relaxing, slowly gathering thing together for the stress of the school year, and eating ice cream.

We've set ourselves a small movie goal -- we want to build up to the new Magnificent Seven movie by watching the precursors. So we're currently watching Seven Samurai, which we are stretching over several evenings, and then we're getting the old Magnificent Seven, and then we'll go see the new one. It's nice to have a family goal that we're all pleased with.

Oh, there is a long list of books in this post. Partly because it's two weeks long, and also because my Team Tapirs had a challenge to read short books and I may have gone a wee bit overboard.

The Book Date does a weekly roundup of what people are reading, want to read, have read each week called It's Monday! What Are You Reading and I'm going to sign up. There's also a version that is kidlit focussed, and as that is a particular interest of mine, I check in with either Teach Mentor Text or UnLeashing Readers for their version.

My pile of books for last week:

Blackbird FlyThe Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3)Flight of Magpies (A Charm of Magpies, #3)I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get ItMarch: Book Two (March, #2)Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)One False Note (The 39 Clues, #2)The Golden Princess: A Novel of the Change

Blackbird Fly, Erin Entrada Kelly. The next Cybils book. Girl makes mistakes, redeems them, finds friends she can trust. I wasn't overwhelmed, but it's not bad for a middle grade kid-matures book.

The Hollow Boy, Jonathan Stroud. Pretty girls are disliked by other girls. Yawn. I found this installment a bit disappointing, and and I hope the next book (surprise -- not a trilogy!)  avoids the tropes I dislike. Not every successful girl is jealous of other girls' prettiness, and it would be nice to have the boys' also account for their mistakes. Also, the series story is getting stretched rather thinly especially since the individual books repeat a lot of the same character beats.

Flight of Magpies, K.J. Charles. More excitement and danger for the dashing lord and his magical boyfriend, along with the men actually talking about their relationship and dealing with their problems. Fun, light-hearted, and smart, these historical romances are delightful quick reads.

I Could Do Anything..., Barbara Sher. I've had this self-improvement book on my shelves for years, and the need to read a book starting with the letter "I" for my team inspired me to actually read it. I found many of the ideas and exercises useful (well, I didn't actually do most of the exercises, but I felt they would have been worthwhile) and if I ever feel the need to do anything but can't get started, I'll have this book in reserve.

March, Book 2, John Lewis. Another Cybils book (YA Graphic). I enjoy these autobiographies of John Lewis for their description of the Civil Rights movement from an insider viewpoint. Lewis describes his work with the Freedom Riders and helping organize the March on Washington, with interesting hints of working with Bayard Rustin, subject of another Cybils book. And I thought interleaving pages about Obama's inauguration really brought home the dreams of the Riders.

Moon Called, Patricia Briggs. I suggested this book to my Friday Night book club because Briggs will be the next GOH at the Foolscap convention I help at.  (She doesn't show up on the web page yet -- that's one of the things I'm working on.) And she was very popular at book club -- most people had gone on to the third or fourth book in the series (I've read the 9th) so I felt all warm and fuzzy. These are strong paranormal-type books, with a mechanic named Mercedes who helps keep her town safe from the bad guys.

One False Note, Gordon Korman. This was the second in a mystery series that invited readers to solve the mystery along with the characters. It also featured a variety of popular authors instead of sticking to one writer. I like Korman, but I found this a bit flat with too many cheap shot being taken for laughs even when it made the characters seem implausibly silly. Probably most kids didn't mind that at all. I saw some clues go by but did not attempt to solve the meta-mystery because I am lazy.

The Golden Princess, S.M. Stirling. The latest installment in life after "The Changes," when technology stops working and powers of good and evil start infiltrating the world. In this one the daughter of the High King takes up her fallen father's mantle and makes friends with the Japanese Empress who is doing the same. They need to find another magic sword. So they have breakfast together and decide to set out. This takes several hundred pages, so I'll have to wait for the next book to see out this generation's quest will get along.

My pile of books for this week:

Jackdaw (The World of A Charm of Magpies)Rapture in Death (In Death, #4)Town in a Cinnamon Toast (A Candy Holliday Mystery, #7)Hour of the BeesStar Trek 2Afternoon of the ElvesThe Time Machine
Uncovering You 1: The Contract (Uncovering You, #1)The Man in the Brown SuitBrown-Eyed Girl (Travis Family, #4)Sweep in Peace (Innkeeper Chronicles, #2)The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)White Night (The Dresden Files, #9)

Jackdaw, K.J. Charles. Sometimes all your library holds come in at the same time, but in this case it worked well as this was a spin off of the other Magpie books, not a direct sequel, so it wasn't too much of a good thing. I like how the author made it a bit hard to like both protagonists -- they had major flaws that were overcome by their need to find a way to fit together, so thematically it worked. I like it when my light frothy books are laid over a foundation of good characterization and and a willingness to let the characters make good choices as well as consistent bad ones. And it's always fun to see characters you've known and liked from a different point of view -- Jonah's opinion of Stephen was a particularly good example of this.

Rapture in Death, J.D. Robb. Our team was challenged to all (well, many) read the same book so we picked this one. It was fun to go back to the beginning of the Eve/Roarke story -- this one has their honeymoon, and Peabody is just promoted to work with Eve, and Mavis isn't famous, and Charles doesn't appear. Eve and Roarke are still figuring out what they mean to each other both emotionally and professionally, and it was a great trip back into the past of a still fun series.

Town in a Cinnamon Toast, B.B. Haywood. I noticed that this book was set in Maine, which I needed for my 50 States Challenge. And then my team needed a book starting with "T" that has flowers or something purple or something like that, so I grabbed it and read it. It's a well-established small town cosy mystery series, so I felt a bit in media res, noticing a lot of references flying past but not sure I was catching them all correctly. The characters seemed a bit nonchalant about the murders of several friends, and the police seemed rather inept. But I liked the main character well enough, and it wasn't hard to keep turning pages.

Hour of the Bees, Lindsay Eager. I forget why I checked this book out, but I'm glad I did. It's a lovely story about a family dealing with a grandfather's loss to dementia, but it's also about magic and taking chances and losing things. And about the value in a family's stories, from the small local ones to the grander story of their heritage. I've put it on my Cybil's recommend list for next year.

Star Trek 2, James Blish. We needed some short books, and this fit.  It also had some of the classic episodes in it -- from "City on the Edge of Forever" (Kirk must prevent McCoy saving Kirk's beloved!) to "Arena" (Kirk saves the day by defeating and then sparing a foe for the amusement of all-powerful aliens!) and "Court Martial" (Kirk is almost convicted of cowardice -- but he never!) and others that I recognize.

Afternoon of the Elves, Janet Taylor Lisle. Another reread for my team. It's quite hard to find short books that pass the word count limit! This is a children's book about a girl who makes friends with a fascinating neighbor who not only invents a miniature world of elves in the backyard but also is incredibly independent due to the poor mental health of her mother. Lisle does a great job of showing us the situation through the viewpoint of the young narrator, who doesn't understand the scope of the problem and mainly sees the pain her friend experiences when adult forces intervene to send her to safety, destroying both the elven home and their friendship.

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells. I sorta went overboard throwing myself on the "books between 100-125 pages" challenge for my team this week. However, I haven't reread this since I was a teenager, so I was glad of the chance to revisit classic SF while also comparing past-me reactions to now-me reactions. I'm more impatient with the sexism than I was as a youth, but also enjoy getting a wider view of the satire and reflections on economic theories and beliefs of long ago. I wonder if Hines's libromancers ever pull the working model of the time machine out for a special trick...

Uncovering You: The Contract, Scarlett Edwards. I read this for love of my Team Tapirs, but I didn't enjoy it much. It's the set-up book (about 100 pages) for a series about an evil guy who traps an idiot-savant woman (she seems foolish but apparently is smart enough to be a super consultant) in his underground lair, and makes her sign a contract agreeing to be his sex slave and promising that she's not sighing under any coercion or anything like that. I am unimpressed with his legal acumen (any contract that spells out that this is totally not like slavery so don't even worry about that pesky amendment to the constitution is not going to convince a cop, judge, or jury that kidnapping was not involved.

The Man in the Brown Suit, Agatha Christie. A frothy mystery story with a broke protagonist rushing off to South Africa on a cruise liner in the midst of diamond thieves, spies, double-crossing villains, love at first sight, and amiable friendships with other beautiful women along with danger and clever ruses and crocodiles. It was no hardship to stay up late to make sure my team had one more book with the word "Brown" in the title.

Brown-Eyed Girl, Lisa Kleypas. I've read and enjoyed some of Kleypas's historicals, but I also like her contemporary books. This one had good energy, fun dynamics between not only the love interests but between sisters and friends. I liked how her efficiency was clearly valued by everyone who mattered, and how she could weigh her career versus life choices without it being just a "your job or your man" kind of thing. And I liked how she fell for a supremely ugly dog along the way.

Sweep in Peace, Ilona Andrews. I bought this as a present for myself a few months ago, and finally figured out how to slip it into my team reading to give myself a chance to actually read it. It's another saga in our Innkeeper's efforts to win success and further her plan to have a career and find her lost parents, with maybe a chance at some nookie along the way. No nookie in this book, but she gets to juggle several interesting guests along with attempting to broker a peace among incompatible incorrigible fighters.

The Last Wish, Andrzeg Sapkowski. This was the July Sword and Laser pick, and also became our Tuesday night book club pick. It also was by an author recommend by my kids' stepmom, although I didn't find that out until later. I found it interesting, but with a relentless male gaze that kept reminding me that I wasn't the audience the author cared about. Also, I didn't not take Giralt as seriously as he seemed to take himself, in either love or war.

White Night, Jim Butcher. This was a bit of a tactical error. I thought this was the one where Harry's a ghost, but it's several books before that and I've already read it. I enjoy reading the Dresden books, but when I reread them I notice how annoyingly sexist the protagonist is (he knows it, but he's thinks it's OK because women and children are pretty interchangeable and he doesn't see why people object). The first time I read them I'm too busy racing along with the plot and catching all the reversals and setbacks so it doesn't bother me much. So as he charges about worrying about his brother and pretending to be gay and meeting up with his childhood sweetheart and oh yeah, tracking the serial killers who are preying on lightweight magic users, I kept tripping over his disrespect for women because I wasn't always distracted by the fast moving plot.

I started and am still reading more books:
Honor Girl: A Graphic MemoirSorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Cecelia and Kate, #1)Flash Gold (Flash Gold Chronicles #1)

Honor Girl, Maggie Thrash. Cybils YA Graphic Novel. I'm reading this so slowly, because graphic novels don't count for my team! So far it's a beautiful story of remembering life at summer camp, when suddenly a confusing love interest makes everything complicated. The girl is worried that she loves a girl, but I'm worried that she loves a counselor, which is (I assume) unacceptable to the camp for understandable reasons.

Sorcery and Cecelia, Patrica Wrede & Caroline Stevemeyer. Another cherished reread. I like to think of these authors writing this book by sending each other letters, although I suspect they met at the end and smoothed things over. I've got to hurry though because I also want to read the sequel and the library wants it back soon.

Flash Gold, Lindsay Buroker. I'm always glad to read more Buroker, but I only got a few pages in when I noticed that this is a novella, only fifty-odd pages, and was not going to count toward my beloved Team Tapir's requirements! So I had to sadly put it aside because I was racing a countdown clock.

Bookmarks moved in several books:

The Flowers of AdonisChanges (Valdemar: Collegium Chronicles, #3)The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires, #1)

The Flowers of Adonis, Rosemary Sutcliff. Sparta conquers Athens, and the Athenians are sad.

Changes, Mercedes Lackey. The next Reading My Library audio, after I ran out of time with the Kingsolver. Mags is a Herald Trainee with a lot of talents and friends, but also some enemies. For some reason, the hyper-skilled assassins who are trying to destabilize the kingdom also seem to want to capture him, apparently alive. This does not promote a calm learning environment, or even one in which he can peacefully develop his athletic talents.

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu. The Cultural Revolution was unpleasant for many academics, which sets the stage for the next generation's expectations.

The Aeronaut's Windlass, Jim Butcher. This did not win the Hugo, but I want to finally finish it anyway. Right now the strong male cousin is about to sacrifice himself to save some girls.

The next few books I'm not really reading, just dipping into between the books I'm trying to finish so that I can pretend that I'm going to read the books on my bookcases.

A Traitor to Memory (Inspector Lynley, #11)The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning, #1)KenilworthSammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen (Sammy Keyes, #9)Reading and Learning to ReadThe Quantum Universe: Everything That Can Happen Does Happen

A Traitor To Memory, Elizabeth George.
Emerald Atlas, John Stephens. The big sister has a terrible idea.
Kenilworth, Walter Scott. The lady flees although we aren't sure who pursueth.
Sammy Keyes and the Psycho Kitty Queen, Wendelin Van Draanen.
The Quantum Universe, Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw.
Reading and Learning To Read, Jo Vacca.

2016 Challenge Progress:
  1. Cybils 2015: 37 out of 82. Finished Blackbird Fly and March Book 2.
  2. Reading My Library:  On the final disc of Mercedes Lackey's Changes.  I have been neglecting the paper shelves.
  3. Where Am I Reading?: 38/51. Added Maine. On the lookout for Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii and Idaho.
  4. Full House Challenge:  25/25!
  5. Library Challenge: I'm at 159.  Why, the money I save practically paid for my cruise! 
  6. Diversity Challenge 2016: 12/12. 11/12. March gave me a memoir. Poetry will be harder. Started tracking religion for August. Most of my books seem to ignore it.
  7. Shelf Love Challenge 2016:  36. I keep finding my Tapir needs on my shelves.
  8. Grown-Up Reading Challenge 2016: 19/20.  Need Pulitzer.
  9. Eclectic Reader Challenge 2016: 12/12! Hour of the Bees was a very credibly 2016 debut.
  10. Surprise Me Challenge:  Ooh, time to pick the August book! Wait, I did that early and already read it. Okay, time to go back to the January book!
  11. Flash Bingo: Summer time! New bingo card! Stuck on the last few squares!
  12. Literary Exploration Challenge: 12/12. Now I'll work on the 36 challenge -- 32/36

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