Saturday Miscellany-8/24/19

Gotta make this quick, off to the Boise Library!’s annual Comic Arts Festival to hopefully not spend all my spare change.

After a blunder last week that probably caused a little unintentional offense, I’ve tweaked my template for this post (specifically, the placeholder text). Invariably, when I do that, something goes awry—if something looks odd, would someone drop a line?

A pretty eclectic mix this week, hope you enjoy these odds ‘n ends about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

*Yes, I threw that in just for Bookstooge’s reaction. To play along, watch the comments.

    A Book-ish Related Podcast Episode you might want to give a listen to:

  • Episode Eighty Five – Steve is Live from North Carolina with Adrian McKinty—I shouldn’t have listened to this at work, I probably got a couple of strange looks from laughing. It’s one thing to read Adrian McKinty’s story about The Chain, it’s another to hear him tell it. He is a riot (and, as usual, when Steve Cavanagh isn’t increasing my blood pressure through his prose, he’s laugh-inducing, too)

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

  • The Warehouse by Rob Hart—The Real Book Spy says: ” Set in the confines of a corporate panopticon that’s at once brilliantly imagined and terrifyingly real, The Warehouse is a near-future thriller about what happens when Big Brother meets Big Business–and who will pay the ultimate price.” and that it has ” has legit best-book-of-the-year potential.”

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Tammy (great site logo), Curled up with a good book, Kathryn Speckels and ChadeeMañago for following the blog this week.


Opening Lines—The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Head & Shoulders used to tell us that, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true for wearing dark shirts, and it’s especially true for books. Sometimes the characters will hook the reader, sometimes the premise, sometimes it’s just knowing the author—but nothing beats a great opening for getting a reader to commit. This is one of the better openings I’ve read recently. Would it make you commit?

Some teachers have a calling. I’m not one of them.

I don’t hate teaching. I don’t love it either. That’s also my general stance on adolescents. I understand that one day they’ll rule the world and we’ll all have to live with the consequences. But there’s only so much I’m willing to do to mitigate that outcome. You’ll never catch me leaping atop my desk, quoting Browning, Shakespeare, or Jay-Z. I don’t offer my students sage advice or hard-won wisdom. I don’t dive into the weeds of their personal lives, parsing the muck of their hormone-addled brains. And I sure as hell never learned as much from them as they did from me.

It’s just a job, like any other. It has a litany of downsides, starting with money and ending with money, and a host of other drawbacks in between. There are a few perks. I like having summers off; I like winter and spring breaks; I like not having a boss breathing over my shoulder; I like books and talking about books and occasionally meeting a student who makes me see the world sideways. But I don’t get attached. I don’t get involved. That was the plan, at least.

from The Swallows by Lisa Lutz

Saturday Miscellany—8/17/2019

I just had to mark 3 comments as Spam today, I’d like to thank those kind people looking for ways to make me money from the bottom of my heart (for reminding me why I moderate comments). How do people with real traffic on their blog handle it?

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

    • Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh—the U. S. release of Eddie Flynn dealing with a Serial Killer on the jury of his latest case. I raved about this a couple of weeks ago. You don’t have to know the previous novels in the series to appreciate this one, I should stress.
    • Hacked by Duncan MacMaster—MacMaster is one of the best at combining fun and great mysteries at work today. As I assume this sequel to Hack will demonstrate.
    • The Swallows by Lisa Lutz—A dark past comes back to haunt the woman running from it (one of Lutz’s specialties) as she accidentally kicks off a gender war at a New England Prep School. Last Saturday, I discovered I won a copy of this when it arrived on my doorstep. It’s been sitting on my desk since, calling my name…

    Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Kitty Marie’s Book Reviews Blog, rashidul.huda, Lashaan Balasingam @ Bookidote, Naba Kumar Garai, Psychotherapist ,Counsellor, Film Screenwriter,Playwright,Producer – LONDON.UK and Sonam Sangpo Lama for following the blog this week. (WHERE did you all come from!?)

    Classically Cool—Let’s Talk Classics!

    Last week, Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub posted Classically Cool- Let’s Talk Classics!, and it got me a-thinkin’, what Classics would I mention as faves?

    Dickens doesn’t do anything for me, ditto for the overwhelming amount of Shakespeare I’ve read, Hawthorne makes me angry, I don’t get Melville’s appeal (but I also kind of do…I just don’t want to put in the effort)…but by and large “The Classics” (aka the Canon) are Classics for a reason (not because some nameless, faceless group of (now-)Dead, White Males exercised hegemonic powers to impose their tastes, either).

    Still, there are some favorites:

    Starting with The Oresteia (for chronology’s sake), this is the only existing example we have of a Greek dramatic trilogy. This series showing the fall-out of the Trojan War for Agamemnon and his family/kingdom and is pretty impressive.

    Call me silly, but Beowulf has always really worked for me. I don’t know how to rank the various translations, I’ve read a handful and don’t think I ever knew a single translator’s name. I’ve meant to try the Haney translation since it came out, but haven’t gotten to it yet—the same goes for Tolkein’s. From about the same time (a little later, I believe, but I’m not going to check because if I start researching this post, it’ll never get finished) is The Dream of the Rood, a handly evangelistic tool (one of the better written ones) in Old English.

    Moving ahead a couple of centuries (I’ll pick up the pace, don’t worry, the post won’t be that long) and we get Gawain and the Green Knight, which is fun, exciting and teaches a great lesson. Similarly, we have that poet’s Pearl, Patience, and Purity. I don’t remember much about the latter two, beyond that I liked them, but the Pearl—a tale of a father mourning a dead child and being comforted/challenged in a dream to devotion—is one of the more moving works I can remember ever reading.

    I want to throw in Tom Jones (technically, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling) by Henry Fielding here, but I’ve never actually completed it. Which says more about my patience and how distracted I can get than the book—which is an impressive work. I’ve gotta get around to actually finishing it at some point.

    I can’t remember the titles for most of the Robert Burns poems I’ve read—”A Red, Red Rose” and “To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest With the Plough, November, 1785” (one of the best titles in history) are the exceptions—but most of them were pretty good. And I’m not a poetry guy.

    Skipping a few centuries and we get to Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers. If all you know is the story from movies, you’re in for a treat when you actually read this thing. I’ve read it a few times, and each time, I’m caught off-guard at how fast-moving it really is, how entertaining and exciting it can be. It’s not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but I feel compelled at this point to mention that the book about Dumas’ father, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss is a must-read for any fan of Dumas.

    I don’t remember how Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott ended up on my bookshelf (I think whatever relative took me to the bookstore said I could get something silly and trashy (in their view) if I got a Classic, too). But a few years later, I finally got around to reading it at about the same time that another kid in my class (we were High School sophomores) was reading it—both of us talked about how it was pretty good, but too much work. Until we got to a point somewhere in the middle (he got there a day before I did, I think) and something clicked—maybe we’d read enough of it that we could really get what was going on, maybe Scott got into a different gear, I’m not sure—and it became just about the most satisfying thing I’d read up to that point in my life.

    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is one of my favorite books, probably belonging in the Top 3. Go ahead and roll your eyes at the idea of me saying that about a romance novel, that just means you’ve misread the book. This tale about integrity, about staying true to what one holds dear, what one believes and to what is right despite everything and everyone around you is exciting, inspiring, fantastically-written, and so-memorable. And, yeah, there’s a nice love story to go along with that 🙂

    Speaking of love stories, we now get to my favorite, Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. I steadfastly refuse to learn anything about the actual figure, because I don’t want anything to ruin this for me. When I first read the play in junior high, I considered the best parts the lead-up to the duel in Act I, and Christian’s trying to pick a fight with Cyrano the next day. Now I know the best parts are Christian’s realization in Act IV and Cyrano’s reaction to it and then, of course, Cyrano’s death (I’m fighting the impulse to go read that now instead of finishing this post). And don’t get me started about how this play’s balcony scene leaves any other romantic balcony scene in the dust.

    I can’t pass up an opportunity to praise, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s tour de force. Satire, social commentary, general goofiness and some real heart. This book has it all.

    I’m not sure that Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictdionary is technically a “Classic.” But I’m counting it as one. It’s hilarious, it’s incisive, it’s a great time for those who like to subtly (and not-so-subtly) play with words. Yeah, it’s cynical—but it’s idealistic, too (as the best cynics are). If you haven’t sampled it yet, what’s wrong with you?

    I feel strange dubbing anything from the Twentieth Century as a Classic, so I won’t talk much about The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, Winesburg, Ohio or Our Town (the best way short of having a dog die to make me cry is get me to read/watch Act III). But I do feel safe mentioning To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the ground-breaking, thought-shaping, moving, inspiring, and (frequently) just plain fun look at a childhood in the south.

    When I started this, I figured I’d get 4-5 paragraphs out of the idea. I guess I overshot a little. Anyway, that’s what came to mind when I read W&S’ post—maybe other works would come to mind if I did this another time, but for now, those are my favorite Classics. What about you?

    Saturday Miscellany—8/10/19

    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:

    • Comeback story: A new chapter for indie bookstores—”While their numbers aren’t what they once were, independent bookstores are reclaiming their place in society. Behind their surprise resurgence is renewed emphasis on fostering community.” Yeah, I’ve posted a variation on this story before, and I’ll keep posting them as long as they are written.
    • A #thread about #preorders.—A great thread about the business side of publishing.
    • The Radical Transformation of the Textbook—Textbooks aren’t really the kind of thing I tend to talk about here (although, I can think of a few that I could have, if this existed in the 90’s), but this is pretty fascinating.
    • Last Stand in Lychford—Paul Cornell announces (well, echoes Tor’s announcement) that next year’s Lychford novella will be the end. Which is a shame, but I never expected the series to, well, be a series. We got three or four more of what I expected, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he wraps things up (and what happens right before that, actually).
    • Megan Abbott on the Difference Between Hardboiled and Noir: In Conversation with the Author of Give Me Your Hand—I haven’t read a lot of Abbott, but I liked what I have—but this discussion about the distinction between hardboiled and noir is fantastic. I’m going to refer to it a lot (I should probably track down her dissertation).
    • Why Hacking is the Future of Crime Fiction—sure, it’s a bit self-serving, “hey, my novel is the future!”, but it’s a great point. And his book seems promising. But so often (on screen and in print) hacking in fiction is so . . . hacky?
    • Cartoonist Randall Munroe Will Be Your Answer Man—Not sure this book is for me, but I’ll probably try it, Munroe rarely disappoints.
    • Summer Flings – 5 Fantasy Standalones—cute idea for a list, at least two good books on the list (have heard good things about at least one other).
    • Classically Cool- Let’s Talk Classics!—I dig this post from the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub (incidentally, I don’t see that much sarcasm there — wazzup with that, pal?). I’ve been trying to find the time to write a similar post myself, but in the meantime go read hers.
    • Are books still relevant today?—Obviously, the answer is a resounding, “YES!”, but you should still read the post.
    • The Ultimate Summer Playlist to Inspire Your Summer Booklist—I’ve never heard (to my knowledge) any of the songs on this list, and probably wouldn’t like most of them. But, I thought this was a cool idea, so am passing it along. What songs/books would you add?

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

    • A Dangerous Man by Robert Crais—possibly Crais’ best since Suspect, loved this novel about Joe Pike running errands and stumbling onto a kidnapping. I’ll talk more about this early next week.

    Lastly, I’d like to say hi and extend a warm welcome to Vee Aozoraa, happytonic, Elizabeth Ruggiero and adiswings for following the blog this week.

    Library Haul 8/3/19, My Eyes are Bigger than My Stomach

    Sometimes it really hurts when most of your Library Hold list becomes available at the same time.

    Case in point:

    That’s my library haul for today. 1,654 pages of reading ahead of me—1,410 pages of which are due back on 8/17. Sure, that’s a very doable number, but at least a thousand of those pages are going to be slow work. Oh, and there’s the new Robert Crais book that should be arriving in my mailbox Tuesday (and you know I can’t let that sit around unread).

    Honestly, it’s not that big of a problem (and a great problem to have!), but man…I look at that stack and just feel tired. Anyone else ever do this to themselves?

    Saturday Miscellany—8/3/19

    A very diverse batch for ya this week, but there are some gems here among the 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 Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

    • Chances Are . . . by Richard Russo—this seems out-of-the-norm for Russo, but should still be worth the read
    • Dark Age by Pierce Brown—another installment in the Red Rising saga, this one is huge and looks good. A little daunting, really.

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