Saturday Miscellany – 5/19/18

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Release that I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • How It Happened by Michael Koryta — Just reading the pitch for this — and knowing what Koryta can do with suspense — makes me think about doubling up on the blood pressure medication the day I start this.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Sritha Bandla, James Remmer and moviewarden for following the blog this week.

Advertisements

Saturday Miscellany – 5/12/18

So, as Bookstooge commented yesterday — I seem to be in a bit of a slump — “meh”ish books and “meh”ish posts. Even the book I liked this week didn’t get my real best writing. Not sure what’s up with that. Better books to write about next week (mostly) — that should help. I’ve read two things this week that knocked me for a loop, looking forward to writing about them. Anyway . . .

Whoops! Going into this post, I thought I had a pretty good selection — turns out that it was mostly variations on a few themes. Most of which I ended up bailing on, so I can present to you only the most interesting of odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye — even if it is a short list. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • For Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay — an awesome looking Tartan Noir crime novel.
  • Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah A. Hoyt — Lewis and Clark in an alternate-history/fantasy novel. Looks pretty cool to me.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to jstlouise for following the blog this week.

Gables Court by Alan S. Kessler: A Character Looking for Love, a Novel Looking for a Plot

Gables CourtGables Court

by Alan S. Kessler

Kindle Edition, 268 pg.
Black Rose Writing, 2018
Read: May 8 – 9, 2018

Ugh. Just…ugh. Why? Why would anyone bother publishing this?

I like liking things. I want to enjoy books. But every now and then, too often lately, I come across a book that I can’t find a redeeming feature in. This is one of those.

It is impossible, simply impossible, for someone to get through Law School (and the requisite undergrad program) and come out as naive as Samuel Baas. I would think that’d be particularly true in the 1960’s. If, if Baas had been sheltered his entire life and escaped/was released at age 24, many of his conversations would have been appropriate. But for someone with his education? Nope. Conversations at any age, on personal or professional topics.

I use the word “conversation” loosely — primarily, his conversations are monologues with a little bit of interaction between those involved tagged on.

There are several attempts at plot lines, but Kessler doesn’t seem to commit to them wholly — or for long. The novel seems listless, bouncing around from idea to idea, trying out this thing and then another and another — like a college freshman deciding on a major. I’m not suggesting any of these ideas were interesting or well-executed, but there were a lot of them.

There’s no ending to this book, it just stops. Baas has learned nothing — any epiphanies he’s had or changes he’s made evaporate faster than dew in the desert. To say I was frustrated by the ending is an understatement.

There’s part of me that wants to go on and pick this apart — but why? No one wants to read that — maybe if I was more annoyed by it and mustered up some funny comments, but I just don’t care enough to. This book induced apathy and a general sense of ennui. Gables Court was aimless, listlessly written, dull and an utter waste of time.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author, clearly my opinion wasn’t influenced by that.

—–

1 Star

Reluctant Courage by Rica Newbery: I just can’t muster the energy to excoriate this

Reluctant CourageReluctant Courage

by Rica Newbery

eARC, 234 pg.
BookVenture, 2017

Read: May 5 – 7, 2018

When I don’t like a book (yes, it’s going to be one of those posts), sometimes I’m tempted to describe all the problems I had with the book. And some deserve it. But generally, I don’t want to do that — it seems mean, a lot of this is subjective anyway, and someone poured themselves into their book and why kick them?

So I’ll keep this short and vague.

We’re in Oslo, two years into the Nazi occupation. One thing that’s easy to forget is that even under oppressive governments, life goes on — people love, get married, have kids, go to school, have affairs, abuse substances, and whatnot. Sure, you’ve got to be careful about it — you don’t want to attract the attention of the oppressors or anything, but hey, into each life family turmoil must fall.

Maria and her three daughters (and sometimes her husband) spend so much time bickering and fighting with, or just hurting, each other that it’s almost like they forgot there are Nazi soldiers walking the streets. Sadly, throughout, the antagonism and outbreaks of anger, or sadness, or what have you, don’t feel organic, but rather the results of authorial need. Their lives are filled with poverty, hardship, disease and bitterness — and more than a few attitudes that don’t seem genuine for anyone living tat that point in history (with or without Nazi soldiers on the streets).

I do want to stress that everything that happens is plausible, is possibly based on fact — I’m not commenting on that. It’s the frequently melodramatic way this novel depicts it — it’s just not well-written. Shallow characterization, poor pacing, and strange organization are what dooms this.

There’s one scene that comes out of nowhere that gave me a little hope for the book when someone (who’d basically be depicted as a horrible person) risks life and career to save some Jewish families from arrest. It’s a long time before anything comes from that one scene. I didn’t dislike and/or get put off by the whole book, there was a point that I breathed a sigh of relief — something interesting was finally happening. It was page 148 when I noted that. Sadly, most of what followed (at least the parts that had to do with that event) was hard to believe — and was shoehorned in with a few other storylines for the last 80 pages.

Dull, cliche-filled, aimless, and difficult to believe. Don’t waste your time on this.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

—–

1 1/2 Stars

Book Blitz: A Time to Burnish by Radhika Nathan​

~ Book Blitz ~
A Time to Burnish by Radhika Nathan
About the Book:

“Not too long before we can get as many of them 3-D printed.”

That pretty much sums up Josh Winslow’s feelings about classic artifacts. As a man of science and technology, he couldn’t care less about old bronze idols. Unfortunately, his brother Tom has just made one such idol his problem.

Vidya Thyagarajan, a young banker from Chennai, didn’t expect to chase the origins of old idols either. But her friend Tom has just entangled her in one such chase.

Along with Vidya, Josh reluctantly embarks on a journey to India to track the origins of a Chola bronze idol. Through the urban maze of Chennai, dusty roads of small towns in deep Chola territory, they discover clues that confounds them every step of the way.

During a short span of a week, the quest quickly becomes personal as the shadow of the past challenges their outlook toward life and love.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Read an Excerpt:

“What is my area of expertise, Josh?”
Recognizing the question for what it was—an opener—Josh bit back a groan. Tom reminded him of an old modem in a slow network; the connection light had to get steady before the data light started blinking in a measured pace.
He replied, “You know I can answer that question in my sleep! Growing up, it was all that residue hippie stuff, all that ghastly sitar music, thanks to Mom and Dad. Then you had to go pick India as your area of interest.”
There was no answering smile on Tom’s face, just an abrupt headshake of a refusal to rise to the bait.
“What specifically in India?”
“South India.”
“Your brilliant grasp of the specifics never ceases to amaze me,” Tom said with the same maddened note that crept into his voice when dealing with Josh’s indifference toward his profession.
He poured out the warm saké from the flask and took a delicate sip from the cup.
“For the zillionth time, my area of specialization is the Chola Empire, covering roughly the ninth to the thirteenth century.”
“I know,” acknowledged Josh, sensing this was not the time to say “whatever.” He made an effort instead. “The rise and fall of the Cholas, with special focus on that dude who was a great warrior and visionary—Maharajah Chola.”
“You mean Rajaraja Chola.”
“Yes, of course, what was that paper you wrote? ‘The social order under Rajaraja and the later Cholas’,” Josh said with pretentious nonchalance. Tom produced many such papers and was either a member or a fellow or some such on various societies.
Tom laughed for the first time that evening. “There may be some hope for you after all.”
Josh grinned.
Tom rubbed his eyes slightly and then, leaning forward, started talking about the Cholas with the passion and intensity that usually marked him.
“At its peak, the Chola Empire covered the bulk of South India, parts of Sri Lanka, touched Maldives, and even Malacca. The medieval Chola kings were great patrons of art and literature, they made major strides in governance and foreign relations, and they were builders of magnificent architecture… Let’s just say, the height of the Chola Empire, especially the time of Rajaraja, can be thought of as a golden age. Think Italy during the Renaissance.”
“Must I?” Josh muttered, fidgeting a little. Tom ignored it.
“You know, as part of my job, I work on acquisitions of relics of rare value?”
Yes,” Josh nodded. What was it that Tom had acquired the previous summer? Wasn’t it a manuscript of some sort? He wished he could surreptitiously pull his iPad out and do a quick search on his email.
He needn’t have troubled himself. Tom continued, almost ignoring his answer, his brows furrowed.
“My limited budget hardly allows for anything major. A piece of an intricately carved wooden door, an old silk sari, a palm leaf book, those are the kind of things I usually go for. A Chola bronze icon is in a whole different league. You could even say it’s the top artifact of the period. These bronzes are typically delicate, sensual icons of the gods and the saints or occasionally royals. They still make bronze icons in south India, but the Chola bronzes are Yes,” Josh nodded. What was it that Tom had acquired the previous summer? Wasn’t it a manuscript of some sort? He wished he could surreptitiously pull his iPad out and do a quick search on his email.
He needn’t have troubled himself. Tom continued, almost ignoring his answer, his brows furrowed.
“My limited budget hardly allows for anything major. A piece of an intricately carved wooden door, an old silk sari, a palm leaf book, those are the kind of things I usually go for. A Chola bronze icon is in a whole different league. You could even say it’s the top artifact of the period. These bronzes are typically delicate, sensual icons of the gods and the saints or occasionally royals. They still make bronze icons in south India, but the Chola bronzes are antiques—they could be millions of dollars’ worth.” Tom paused for a moment, his face troubled, full of worry.
Josh raised his brows and whistled lightly. “Millions, huh?”
“Yes, millions. Josh, in my enthusiasm, I have made a grave mistake. You have got to help me. I have no one else to turn to.” Tom’s voice took on a strained, and nervous quality.
Josh raised a hand.
“Hang on! What are you talking about?”
Tom sat back, grimaced, and then enunciated slowly. “I need you to help me track a Chola bronze.”
“What do you mean track?”
“Find all the information there is about a particular Chola bronze. I believe I have in my possession an antique bronze that has come into the UK likely through illicit art trafficking. My gut says there has been a major art theft, and if I don’t act now, I am going to be an accessory.”

About the Author:
Radhika Nathan is a juggler, a meanderer and a rolling stone. She believes in the miracle of words and the rain. Her favourite pastimes include reading, listening to podcasts and gazing at monsoon clouds. Her taste in books is eclectic ranging from anthropology to old fashioned murder mysteries, and if pushed she would name Jane Austen as her favourite author for her believable, eternal characters. Travel is something she enjoys and has been to more than a dozen countries — for the love of meeting new people and discovering new cultures.
Radhika writes for her fascination of human beings, intrigued by their archetypal & atypical behaviour and the differences & similarities in all of us. Writing is a means that forces her to think and re-examine a point of view or a preconceived notion. ‘I grow as a person as I write’, she says and quotes ‘A well written sentence [a rare occurrence] is like soul chocolate.’
Radhika, believes in a spiritual approach to life that welcomes science. She believes in liberty, equality, personal responsibility and fair play.
Author Links:

Saturday Miscellany – 5/5/18

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Higginbotham Publications and Carla Alexandra Rodrigues (link removed for security reasons) for following the blog this week.

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub: A fun humor collection looking at family and life.

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog DiesLife Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies

by Barb Taub

Kindle Edition, 175 pg.
2018

Read: April 13 – 14, 2018

Barb Taub, a former Midwest newspaper columnist turned blogger, has released a collection of (I think) previously published and/or posted columns and blog posts around the family-related themes — kids, relationships, life, travel, holidays, pets, and death.

You know how there are hard-boiled mysteries, noir mysteries and cozy mysteries? This feels like cozy humor. (I’m sure there are better designations/genre labels, but I don’t know them). There’s nothing offensive, nothing boundary pushing, nothing upsetting — just amusing anecdotes, a slightly off-kilter look at life, and a way with words. Simple entertainment — pretty much what you’re looking for in a collection of humor, right?

I wouldn’t recommend sitting down and reading this cover to cover. Sample from it, a little here and a little there over a few days. Taub has a couple of phrases that she really likes, anecdotes that she returns to often (for different ends sometimes) — and I don’t blame her for doing so, when it works, it works. But when you read them too close together, it takes a way from the moment. But that’s a minor quibble.

This is a simple, straightforward, collection of amusing, occasionally heart-warming, pleasantly humorous pieces. I feel obligated to say something else about it, but I can’t think of anything else to say. Taub’s a funny woman, if you like reading funny things, you should read this book.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest opinion and this post. I appreciate it, but this simple act didn’t impact my opinion.

—–

3.5 Stars