#6 – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

#6 –  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

Alright.  To be honest, I didn’t love this book at first.  To be honest, I started it and then put it down for something else.

When I picked it up again and started reading it must have been the right time and the right place in my life as I easily overcame what I had thought I didn’t like the first time and quickly got into the meat of the story.

An interesting and engaging story about a man (and some of the others) who live their lives, die and then are reborn back into their previous life.  At around age 3 or so they begin to remember who they are and the life they lived before.  Sometimes it goes well.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Once the person is found by an organization of similar folks, their successive rebirths become easier.  But not necessarily their lives.  I was intrigued and very much liked the main character.  So much so that I got angry at him when he was a numpty.

But more than a good story this book got me to thinking.  About my own life.  About dying.  About what lies in store after… and could it be that I might die and be reborn back into my life once again.  An interesting twist to the age-old conundrum… If you could go back to 16, your 20’s or any other age, what would you do different?

Now, normally I skim through the book club questions that are becoming more and more prominent in the backs of books today.  Often they give me a chuckle, but more often they annoy the crap out of me.  Why on earth would you want to tear this story apart and over think all that as just happened?  This time, the very first question really got in the feels and I have been pondering it all day.  “Do you envy Harry in any way?  If you were destined to live your life over and over again, would you see it as a blessing or a curse?”  What I have come to decide, I think… for now… is that it would totally depend on how each life went.  Harry’s life was never quite the same.  Each time he would try different things and the people from previous lives never quite lived the same lives either, whether that be a linear life or a oroboran one.  I find that I would go to my death desperately afraid I would not have my beloved Beardface in the next one.  And what of my children?  Would I be able to go forward with different people?  Would I be able to watch Beardface go off and do the things he didn’t do because of our relationship and how we grew together?  I have a feeling that if I were to become aware of my past life as a child I would become a very quiet and withdrawn thing, afraid of never having the love the joy that I have had so far in this one.

And then… the devil on the other shoulder gives me a poke and points out all the adventures I didn’t have in this life that I could have in another if I lived it different….

Claire North you get a definite 5.  I will be looking for your other book “Touch” when next I go to the bookstore.  Very well written, very engaging and intriguing story.  Thank you for entertaining me and making me think.

#5 – A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

#5 – A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Snagged this beauty at a library sale of strictly science fiction and fantasy.  I think they were a dollar a book…  Beardface and I left there with almost the entire sale.  It was full of older sci-fi, a lot of it we had not yet read or did not have in our collection.  You can look forward to more of these gems as the year goes on!

Now I’ve read quite a bit of Mr. Clarke, but most of it was his more main stream works.  This one is nowhere near mainstream, and probably for good reasons.  It was enjoyable and fun, full of interesting science conundrums but nowhere near as insightful or prophetic as some of his bigger works, although he does make some interesting observations.

I love me the old sci-fi, but as I get older I realize just how sexist they are.  Yes I know it was a different era.  Yes I know it was a boys club back then.  But that does not make them any less difficult for those of us ladies who love the genre today.  I cannot read hardly any of Jules Verne.  Some of his things are so anti female you feel like you are breaking laws just by cracking the cover.  But anyway.  I digress.

Normally I am a fully submerged reader.  I don’t over think things, I just like to get into the story and run.  This book was the first that made me want to take notes.  I don’t like taking notes, but I did whilst reading this one and it actually added to my enjoyment of the thing.  Very weird for me.  Very.  I actually took a Coursera class a couple of years ago, thinking it would be fun.  It was a class about the history of science fiction and fantasy.  And it was fun.  But I didn’t make it through the entire class because I became exhausted with how hard the reading was.  It was soul sucking to me to have to take notes at the level required in order to answer the essay questions.  It was fun and interesting to get your classmate’s considerations on your essays though, I must admit.  But.  Again I get off subject.

The first instance I realized I wanted to remember something I’d read was when Mr. Clarke talked about tv censorship being set aside in the 80’s and the programming it led to.  Then I was giggly and a little over come by some of the “high-tech” devices of the world, teletype, paper print outs (on the moon where people live).  I decided one had to put oneself into a special mindset in order to read the very old science fiction or one could very easily lose the fun of the story by wallowing in the science the author got wrong.

I really did like this story though.  In it, a cruise ship that took tourists around a sea of dust on the moon gets sucked into a pocket and sinks.  The majority of the story is about the group of people in the ship and those that work to rescue them.  Suspense is held very well with more than once you are sure that the outcome will not be good.  While they were stuck, to keep moral up and to distract from imminent death, the passengers take to sharing the small amount of reading material they have by taking turns reading aloud.  One of the books they read is Shane, a western novel by Jack Schaefer, originally published in 1949, 12 years before A Fall of Moondust was published.  In the front of the book is a forward written for that republishing of somewhere in the 2000’s where spaceflight has been going on since the 1970’s.  It delighted and fascinated me.  It talked about space and cowboys and why the western went out of style until the frontiers of space opened up.  The author of the forward talks about new space being like the old west… and of course… all I can think about is Firefly… and space cowboys.  🙂

Anyway.  If you can set aside the idea that specific things did not happen on the specific dates that are now in our past, give this lovely book a try.  There are fun characters and an interesting solution to an unusual problem.  Arthur C. Clarke is a Grand Master for a reason!

… and just for visual reference.  Beardface and me aboard the Liberty Clipper enroute to the Bahamas… You wanna have fun?  Book a cruise on a tall ship.  Just saying.  Oh, and wear a patch.  Seriously.  Wear a patch.

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#4 – The Buntline Special – National Reading Day Popcorn Read!

#4 – The Buntline Special – National Reading Day Popcorn Read!

So today was National Reading Day.  I had things to do in the morning, but once all my chores were done I settled in to enjoy a lovely popcorn book by Mike Resnick.  Now, I’m not a huge weird west fan, but I do enjoy playing the RPG Deadlands which is set in the “weird west”.  It’s fun.  It’s cooky.  It’s deadly.  Gunslingers, cowboys, Native Americans, steam, clockwork, magic, weird science.  It’s awesome when you get a group of people together who don’t take themselves too seriously, but jump into a genre with both feet.

My favorite character is Lonesome Chapman.  She has become known as The Whispering Widow.  She was married to a Texas Ranger and together her and her husband were hanged by Pinkertons… as it turns out she was only partially hanged having been saved by her husband’s super smart horse.  However, her larynx is crushed and she can speak at a whisper, anything louder and it is a croak.  I love her.  She is so much fun.  But… I digress.  She is nowhere to be found in this book.

Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and John Ringo are however.  It’s a bit of alternate fantastical history that kinda sorta tells a story about the OK Corral… kinda sorta… it has Edison and Buntline in it working together to create really nifty gizmos.  In short it was a whole lot of fun.  No thought needed.  Just sit back and enjoy the wild bronc ride!

My favorite bit, I think were the appendixes, appendisese, appendix?… there are three.  The first one tells you about an alternate history where the US stretches from coast to coast, not stopping at the Mississippi as in this story.   The second is an actual bonefide article from a said alternate history’s newspaper.  It’s a hoot.  Don’t forget to read them!

So.  I hope you all had a lovely National Reading Day.  I hope you got a chance to actually DO some reading.  I would love to hear about what you are reading now!  Drop me a line in the comments!

 

#3 – Revolutionary by Alex Myers

#3 – Revolutionary by Alex Myers

Kinda funny this book would get chosen at random from the The Staircase at a time when women are marching for their beliefs again.  When I purchased this book I hadn’t realized all the implications behind the story or the author, I’m not sure which part of the back cover blurb caught my eye, but I was quick-shopping and this one made it’s way into my basket, so, imagine my delight when I read about the author and his realtionship (in more ways than one) with the hero(heroin) of the story and how their struggles are pertinent in today’s world… although it is kinda sad that we STILL have to fight for this crap.  No.  No politics here.  Just books.

Okay, just a little ‘splainin’…  quick-shopping is something I do on occasion to branch out and expand my reading base.  I avoid the sci-fi/fantasy section (although I hate that they have been lumped together… but that is another story for another time) and browse the front tables.  You know the ones.  They have catchy signs with wordings like Book to Movie or Employee Pick, or Dark Fantasy.. okay, that one probably will never happen, but you get my meaning and know exactly where I’m talking about.  I browse and pick.  I only allow myself the quick cover blurb, no delving deeper.  If the snippet on the back makes me go hmmm, it goes in the basket.  I stop at a preset monetary value, go to the register and check out.  No thinking, no debating, nada.  Is fun.  I’ve found some really cool books this way.  You should try it.

Anyway.

Alex Myers began life as a female, grew to know himself, and worked towards becoming the male he wanted, needed, to be.  Deborah Samson, the main character of the story began life as a female, changed herself as best she could to be a male, enlisted in the army and served during the last part of the US’s revolutionary war.  According to the bio, Alex is a descendant of Deborah.  Pretty cool.

As the book begins to unfold we learn of Deborah, her life, her discontent.  To be quite honest, I would have been pretty discontent myself.  I am not known for being meek or demure or subservient.  She dresses like a man and attempts to sign up for army service, but silly girl does it in her home town and gets recognized and caught.  Before she can be brought to trial she is attacked, attacks back and makes a run for freedom.  She has adventures and gets far enough away from home to try enlisting again, with greater success.  The book goes on to tell her tale as a soldier in the continental army.  There are times when I wonder and worry that the book is straying into what I call “preach it land” where the author’s ideals and principals take over and the story is lost in the message the author wishes to get out there, but it never actually does.  Alex does a very good job of portraying what he believed Deborah might have been thinking and feeling.  In the end, she discovers much about herself and returns to being a woman.  I have to say, her life did not end up the way I thought it should… but… that’s life for you I guess.

This was quick and engaging read that was fun and thought provoking at the same time.  I liked the way details of daily life were dealt with, sometimes in depth, other times glossed over as not necessary for the story.  My questions of how she dealt with her female body and its functions was answered a bit vaguely, but, to be honest, those details were not necessary to the story and probably strayed into the realm of serious speculation.

I liked this book.  Overall a rating of 3.

Oh… and here is The Staircase.  Do not be fooled.  It is not a to-read pile.  My entire library is a to read-pile.  The books found here have yet to be scanned and cataloged.  Every couple of months I set a day aside to scan, catalog and shelf… read or not.  Just so’s you know.  I don’t do to-read piles.  😀  I will say though, that all of these have yet to be read.  There is an even bigger pile on a designated bookcase that is still waiting for catalog.  I guess I really need to set time aside and do that.

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#2b – “The Iron Ghost” by Jen Williams

#2b – “The Iron Ghost” by Jen Williams

I read the first book in this series, “The Copper Promise” this past fall.  I spent the first quarter of the book feeling like I had missed a book.  I kept stopping to check to make sure I hadn’t begun a series in the middle.  It was maddening, but eventually I settled into the writing style, got invested in the characters and totally forgot to wonder what I had missed.  Until the end.  At which point I went online and pre-ordered the second one… which came just as I was digging in to Salem’s Lot.  I almost put Mr. Barlow’s adventures down to jump into this one, but, I was too afraid of retribution from the creepy blood sucker.

These two books are stand alone, but follow the adventures of three heroes.  Two of the main characters have a history that predates the beginning of the first book, but that’s okay.  The author gives you tidbits as you go along, almost like she is gently reminding you of what you read at the beginning of the series, without there having been a beginning book. There are events that happened between the two tales.  Those that are important are relayed well, those that don’t add to the tale are touched on to fill the gap but not dwelled upon.  The stories told in these two volumes are tidbits of time in the lives of the characters.  Sure there are more mundane things attentended to.  Other jobs that the sell swords did, just, none of them were quite the story that these two were.   I totally get why the author picked these tales to tell.

One of the things I adored about these books is that they read very much like many of our table top rpg session would read if someone were to put them into story form.  Not all choices were good ones.  Not all outcomes were beneficial, but they carried on, they held to their purpose and they made a difference in their little pocket of the universes.  Now.  Some of you might know that my hubby and I met over Dungeons and Dragons in the 70’s.  Yes.  I know.  I’m old.  Our love of role playing has been our entertainment since we first got together.  Some people go bowling, we have game night.  We have spanned the genres leaving D&D for other pastures, some of our favorites over the years are Powers & Perils, Role Master, Shadow Run, EarthDawn and now we are in love with the Savage Worlds system and are currently enjoying forays into Victorian era monster hunting.  Not all our game sessions are exciting.  Not all our game sessions go well.  But, if you were to piece together and cleverly narrate the good bits, this is the sort of story you would come up with.

I thoroughly enjoyed them.  The characters are real, fallable and have hearts.  The magic in this world is different and creative and although it is very powerful, it isn’t common.  The creatures are just plain cool and the demon you meet is a nasty piece of work just like a demon should be.

I give it a 4 simply because I’m told I give too many books 5’s and these did make me crazy wondering what book I had missed previously.  Nice job Jen Williams.  You have a new fan.

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#1 – “Salem’s Lot” or how April likes to give herself the creeps every couple of years…

#1 – “Salem’s Lot” or how April likes to give herself the creeps every couple of years…

When I was a tween I had a horse that got into a fight with a barbed wire fence and lost.  She very nearly severed her near foot off.  The vet came and stitched her up, confident she would heal and be fine… but… silly girl would not stop chewing on the stitches.  Nothing we tried worked, so finally we wound up cross-tying her over night, but during the day I had to supervise her grazing.  My parents didn’t buy hay in the summer.  We had 15 acres for the horses and cows and it was fields aplenty during the summer.  So it was decided the best way to deal with this problem was for me to sit with her while she grazed.  All.  Day.  Long.  All.  Day.  It was tedious and horrible because one minute you would be listening to the crisp tearing of grass and the next the horrible squelching of teeth on flesh.  Yeah.  Yuck.  I thought my life was over.  I couldn’t ride.  I couldn’t play.  I couldn’t do anything.

Until.  One day a friend of my father came by and brought me a book.  Every couple of days he would bring me another one.  I spent that summer reading like I had never read before and I discovered that I really liked it and that there was so much out there to discover.  Inbetween the books he brought, my dad would share the books he was reading and thought I might enjoy.  I must have been a mature 12 year old because he thought it was totally fine to share his latest Stephen King novel.

I have to say I ate it up.  It was broad daylight and I was creeped to the max.  That tell tale sound of horsey lips on flesh still brings to mind vampires sucking blood and vice versa.

I don’t know what made me pick it up this time.  I closed out last year with a new author discovery gifted to me by a friend, Rosemunde Pilcher and her The Shell Seekers.  I had to let that one settle and unwind in my mind for a week or so before I was ready to read again, but when I was, I walked straight to Salem’s Lot.  According to the log on the back cover I last read it 6 years ago…. how long it was between that read and the previous I have no idea for this copy of the book was new to me, picked up in a charity shop in the UK… and a totally different cover than the dog eared and ratty copy I had owned before.  I don’t know where that one went.  I wish I did.  I hope someone is enjoying it as much as I did.

I am not sure why my brain thought starting the year with a horror story was a good idea, but I’m glad I did.  This old favorite never ever fails to deliver.

Now, I’m not a huge Stephen King fan.  But I adore several of his earlier works and Salem’s Lot is my all time favorite.  I think what gives me the chills and the creeps the most is that the story is relatively modern (it was quite modern when I first read it).  The vampire in the story is old and clever and creepy with the things he knows about his adversaries.  The way the vampire and his toady infiltrate the small town is so very believable and they slipped in so easily.  Sometimes I wonder why I watch my neighbors out my window and wonder what that new guy is up to, and then I remember Barlow… and I know… ever vigilant, I shall never let a creature like that infiltrate my life without a fight.

I hope.

… and I still never ever answer a knock on my door with “come in”… or look out of the windows after dark without first turning on an outside light… because you just never know.

So now I’m a little creeped out, which is delicious.  Totally glad my hubby is on day shifts so I’m not in the house alone at night, which is also delicious.  Ready to move on to something a little more light hearted.  A fantasy adventure me thinks.

 

 

 

Welcome 2017

Last year I did a book challenge.  I made it about half way through ( 26 books if I remember correctly ).. and then lost the will to live.  I missed my preferred genre.  I missed the joy of just browsing at the bookstore and in my own library.  I was exhausted.  From reading.  So I quit.

I did really enjoy stretching my legs and reading things I never would have read on my own.  I think it was the political memoir that broke me.  I will say I’m very glad I did the challenge simply for the one that told me to read a book recommended by a stranger.  I wound up asking our server at the local Smokey Bones.  She was a young 20 something and I thought it would be interesting… believe me it was.  I’m not sure what I expected, but once she wrapped her head around the idea of recommending a book without knowing what I liked to read she very readily suggested All Quiet on the Western Front.  I must say, of all the books I would not have read that one was very powerful and by far my favorite.  I had to take a break of almost a week to digest and let the thing settle in my soul before I could pick up and move on to the next selection.

I have tried Goodreads.  I used to use it a lot.  It got old.  I really don’t like giving reviews or critiques.  I don’t like analyzing what I read.  I like to let the story melt in my mouth like good chocolate.  Sometimes there is insight.  Sometimes the story is thought provoking and makes me consider a message, but mostly, to me, the story is the thing. So.  This year I have decided to put my readings down here.  I don’t know what will happen.  I don’t know if it will be more than a list of what I read.  But I’m hoping it will turn into more than that and give me an interesting look back on my year by what I was reading.

Let’s see what happens, shall we?