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SheriC

Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

Carpe Jugulum (Discworld, #23)
Terry Pratchett
The Dry
Jane Harper
Flowers for Algernon
Daniel Keyes
Progress: 249/311 pages

Swan Song: 2%

Swan Song - Robert R. McCammon, Tom Stechschulte

This is really interesting so far, but I might have made a mistake in listening to the audio of this 1987 story of apocalypse & aftermath concurrently with reading Andromeda Strain, a 1969 story of an almost-apocalypse. Both feature federal government Cold War shenanigans, and my brain keeps mixing up the storylines. 

The Red Pyramid ★☆☆☆☆

The Red Pyramid  - Rick Riordan, Kevin R. Free, Katherine Kellgren

Boring with incredibly simplistic writing. Yes, I know it's middle grade fiction with children as the target audience, but so was the first Harry Potter and The Hobbit, which both offered immediately engaging characters, fascinating new-but-familiar worlds, and a sly humor that sucked me in immediately. This... didn't.

 

Audiobook via Audible. I gave it a full 30 minutes before I DNF'd.

A Tap on the Window ★★★★☆

A Tap on the Window - Linwood Barclay

There were a lot of characters to sort through and mysteries to unravel in this story, but it wasn’t too complex to easily follow along and guess at, even on audio. The clues were ambiguous enough to keep me guessing through at least two thirds of the book, but it was satisfying at the end to find that I was wrong on a few of my guesses, due to some successfully planted red herrings. There’s a lot of moral relativism at work amongst pretty much all the characters, so this is not a book for readers who want a hero to root for.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive using the Libby app. Mark Zeisler provides a good performance – he sort of disappears inside the story, so I honestly didn’t notice much about his reading style. Which I guess is a recommendation in itself.

 

Previous Updates:

7/14/17 – 18%

 

Dead Bolt ★★★☆☆

Dead Bolt - Juliet Blackwell, Xe Sands

This second book in the Haunted Renovation mystery series was a fun enough, but distressingly heavy on Romance and light on Mystery. There were still some interesting tidbits on historical homes, though. I’m going to try the third book, but if it continues to emphasize goofy love triangles and sexual “tension”, then I’m outta here.

 

Audiobook via Audible subscription; Xe Sands’ performance is excellent as usual.

 

The Andromeda Strain: 40/288 pg

The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton

In some ways, this is hilariously dated, but as the story is supposedly a 1968 recounting of true recent events, it doesn't detract from the story at all. It's fun reading, so far. 

A Tap on the Window: 18%

A Tap on the Window - Linwood Barclay

So far, very intriguing.  A lot of characters have been introduced, but not too many to keep track of. 

The Chemist (DNF) ★☆☆☆☆

The Chemist - Stephenie Meyer

Welp, I gave it my best shot and powered through 25% before giving it up. It wasn't really terrible, but it was remarkably boring for something in the thriller genre. The MC is eyerollingly stupid.

(I mean, she seriously jumps to the conclusion that the subject she's been told to torture must have a multiple personality disorder as the most likely explanation for his radically different affect and body language. It was apparent to me, long before she even tortured him, that it was most likely that the government agency that had been trying to kill her for several years had misled her about the subject, and the guy was an innocent body double or close relative/twin or something. You can't tell me that she's never tortured an innocent person, or one who has no real information, before. That's patently unbelievable.)

(show spoiler)

The strong elements of Romance being introduced were also pretty off-putting

(especially in the context of a professional torturer and her torture victim)

(show spoiler)

But mostly, it was something about the prose. I've tried to think through it, but I'm not a literature scholar, so I probably can't articulate it well. There was just a relentlessly mind-numbing focus on telling the reader everything. She looks like this, she went here, she did these things, she drove this car, this is her strategy, she's taking these precautions and this is why. The author tells you EVERYTHING. Nothing is implied. Nothing is left to the imagination. The reader's senses are not engaged. Everything is explained, except a few clues about an apparent mystery that's not very mysterious. It was like listening to a technical manual being read aloud. After a little over 4 hours, I found myself engaging in stalling tactics to actually avoid listening to this book. 

 

All I know is that I'm only 15 minutes into another book, also in the thriller genre, and the difference in listening pleasure is just night and day. 

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive, using the Libby app. Ellen Archer's performance is okay. 

The Chemist: 9%

The Chemist - Stephenie Meyer

Well, so far it's... not terrible. There's certainly a lot more exposition than I like in the first two chapters, but she's mixing it up a bit. 

The Time Machine and Other Stories ★★★☆☆

The Time Machine and Other Stories: Library Edition - H.G. Wells, Ralph Cosham

I haven’t read HG Wells since I received a collection of his stories for my 16th birthday. Of course, what I mostly remembered was The Time Machine, and being fascinated by the Eloi and Morlocks but bored by the rest of it. This particular edition is an audio collection of 10 stories of various quality, including The Time Machine. I expected that my experience with TTM would be entirely different as an adult, but was surprised to find that once again, the section following the encounter with the Eloi and Morlocks was a snoozefest, this time with a little eyeroll over the giant crab things. The difference is that I felt a little sorry for the Morlocks this time around, rather than sharing the narrator’s visceral disgust. I was much more interested in the author’s theories regarding the evolutionary outcome of the current (late 1800s Britain) political, social, and economic climate. I wonder why it never occurred to him that the oppressed industrial workers would revolt and take over as the balance of power shifted with the ruling class becoming increasingly weak and ineffectual with indolence and soft living?

 

The remainder of the short stories were mostly entertaining. Standouts were The Country of the Blind, The Man Who Could Work Miracles, and The Flowering of the Strange Orchid. The Cone was satisfactorily gory.

 

Stories in this collection:

  1. The Time Machine
  2. The Country of the Blind
  3. The Diamond Maker
  4. The Man Who Could Work Miracles
  5. Aepyornis Island
  6. The Flowering of the Strange Orchid
  7. The Cone
  8. The Purple Pileus
  9. The Truth About Pyecraft
  10. The Door in the Wall

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library. This is the first time I’ve borrowed a book in the playaway format, and I didn’t like it. For one thing, I had to supply my own battery. For another, the rudimentary playing controls made navigating through the short stories somewhat difficult. And lastly, I’m just plain old spoiled by reading apps on my phone, and appalled by how quickly technology becomes obsolete. It wasn’t that long ago that we would have been delighted by an audio coming already loaded in a (sort of) portable digital format, rather than having to keep inserting the CDs into our heavy Sony Walkman/Discman.

 

Ralph Cosham provides a very good performance. His somehow old-fashioned stylings really fit the stories.

The Chemist: 0%

The Chemist - Stephenie Meyer

I have very low expectations for this book, but perhaps that's my inner book snob coming out, because I'm prejudging this book on my prejudice toward the author, whose other books I've never read. I find book snobs laughable on principle, especially those who pass judgement on books and authors they've never read. 

 

So here we go. I put this on hold half a year ago, because my best friend, who reads voraciously but who doesn't at all share my taste in books, enjoyed this one very much and insisted that I try it. It finally came available last night, so I'm trying to suspend all judgement and dive in. 

The Good Guy ★☆☆☆☆

The Good Guy - Dean Koontz, Richard Ferrrone

Now I know how it is that I found this book in my Audible library, purchased in 2012, with neither any notation in my GR catalogue nor any memory of ever having listened to it. I can only conclude, after listening for an hour, that I was so bored by it that I forgot about it as soon as I listened to it the first time. So now I’m leaving a record of it, so I don’t make this mistake again in another 5 years. DNF at 10%, after giving it a full hour.

HP's BL-opoly - 10th Round

I hadn't realized how slow I've gotten with actually reading bound books, until I really started tracking my time on them with this game. Audiobooks are so much faster, since I can multitask while listening. Still, it's been good to make myself just sit and read for a while, if not every day, then most days, for at least half an hour. And I've gotten back into the habit of reading while eating meals, instead of surfing the net. Plus, I'm making room on my bookshelves for more books!!

 

Round 10 (July 8-?, 2017)

Dice Roll: 8

Square: Tomorrowland 33: Read a book set in space or tagged SciFi on GR or a book that includes robots or cyborgs

Book Read: The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton (paperback)

Pages: 288

Payout: $6

The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton

This is going to be fun! I love reading old stuff, and although it's hard for me to think of anything published during my lifetime as classic anything, I think this falls into the category of classic sci-fi. At least I was still in diapers when this one came out, so I've never read it, and never seen the movie, but its existence is still part of my pop culture consciousness. 

 

It fits the Tomorrowland 33 square because it's been shelved on GR as Science Fiction by 2156 users and as Thriller by 710 users, putting both on the first shelving page.

 

 

Round 9 (July 5-6, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR

Book Read: Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King (audiobook)

Pages: 368

Payout: $6

Ending Bank: $68

 

Posts

9th Round pick

9th Round book review

Round 8 (June 23-July 4, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 4

Square: Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover.

Book #1 (DNF): The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon

Book #2: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Book #3: Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie

Pages: 394

Payout: $3 (corrected $6)

Ending Bank: $50 (corrected $62)

 

Posts

8th Round Pick

8th Round 1st book DNF

8th Round 2nd Pick

8th Round 2nd book reshelved

8th Round 3rd Pick

8th Round book review

Round 7 (June 7-23, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover

Book Read: On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

Pages: 256

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $50

 

Posts

7th Round Pick

7th Round book review

 

Round 6 (June 3-4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 4

Square: Mystery 8: Read a book that is tagged mystery or has a title that begins with any letter in the word “CLUE”

Book Read: The Fold by Peter Clines

Pages: 384

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $47

 

Posts

6th Round Pick

6th Round book review

 

Round 5 (May 25-June 4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 6 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Frontierland 2: Read a book with a main character who knows how to handle a gun, or where someone is shot

 

Book Read: Shane by Jack Schaefer (paperback)

Pages: 432

Payout: $5

Ending Bank: $44

 

Posts:

5th Round Pick

5th Round book review

 

Round 4 (May 23-June 1, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Paradise Pier 30: Read a book with a twist, or that is tagged “suspense” on GR, or that has more than 555 pages

 

Book Read: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (audiobook)

Pages: 582

Payout: $5

Gift from Ani’s Book Abyss $5

 

Ending Bank: $39

 

Posts:

4th Round Pick

4th Round book review

 

Round 3 (May 11-May 22, 2017)

Dice Roll: 10

Square: Adventureland 24: Take the Jungle Cruise. Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover

 

Book Read: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Pages: 276

Payout:$3

 

Ending Bank: $29

 

Posts:

3rd Round Pick

3rd Round book review

 

Round 2 (April 19-May 11, 2017)

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Additional Task 15: Read a book where someone gets married, with jewelry on the cover, or where any character is a millionaire/billionaire!

 

Book Read: The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Pages: 512

Payout: $5

 

Ending Bank 5/11/17: $26

 

Posts:

2nd Round Pick

2nd Round book review

 

Round 1 (April 17, 2017)

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Fantasyland 9: Read a book that is tagged Genre: Fantasy or Fairy Tale on GR

 

Book Read: Dream Weaver by Michael Hague and Jane Yolen

Pages: 80

Payout: $1

 

Ending Bank 4/17/17: $21

 

Posts:

1st Round Pick

1st Round book review

 

 

Start

Bank 4/17/17:  $20

 

 

Player Bank Posts

6/1/17 balance

6/4/17 balance

6/23/17 balance

7/8/17 balance

 

Full Dark, No Stars ★★★☆☆

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King, Craig Wasson, Jessica Hecht

Four novellas/long short stories on a theme of secret second or inner lives: the horrible person under the affably smiling member of your family or community. Overall enjoyable, as SK always is, but it didn’t suck me in or stick with me later the way his best stuff does. Although, I got into a conversation with a friend, who was insisting that she believes she would recognize evil in a person, that she doesn’t believe it could be concealed. I pointed out that Ted Bundy fooled everyone he worked with in his “public persona” from law enforcement to professors to politicians, and even his many girlfriends, until it all fell apart and his secrets were out. But anyway, I did reference the stories in this book as we argued about it, so there’s that.

 

1922: Just weird, but with SK-style graphic goriness that makes it worth reading. One of the things I love about SK’s style is his use of all five senses in his descriptions of action, scenes, and characters. It’s really immersive.

 

Big Driver: Disturbing for sure. It's a revenge tale, and as the main character notes in her inner monologue, those are always a satisfying fantasy. But the ending is, well, not very satisfying. Not believable. Seems like a copout.

 

Fair Extension: Shorter than the others, but it's a fun little tale of revenge (again) but this time for perceived injustices, where Envy is thoroughly exercised to its logical conclusion. It's fun, and sort of funny.

 

A Good Marriage: I think this is the best of the four stories. It's creepy and plausible to start, because of course there have been killers whose mask is so good, even their close family and friends have no idea. The ending was less plausible and a little weak.

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by Craig Wasson and Jessica Hecht are excellent, especially Wasson’s. I read this for the 2017 Booklikes-opoly challenge, for the square Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR.

OH NO. Book coupons!

Why oh why did I sign up for that Half Price Books mailing list? They just sent me coupons for 20-50% off one item for every day next week... and my office is down the street from their flagship store. 

 

Dang it. And I was doing so well at getting through all the TBRs on my living room bookshelves. 

Good Kings Bad Kings ★★★☆☆

Good Kings Bad Kings - Susan Nussbaum

Proponents of privatizing public services argue that, by managing operations like a private business, these services can be provided much more efficiently. So what is the natural outcome when residential/custodial care is outsourced to a corporation whose board demands a healthy profit, and profits are driven by keeping as many beds filled for as little cost as possible? The goal is certainly not to try to support families with disabled children, to keep them at home instead of in residential care. It’s not to prepare those children for living as independently as possible when they reach adulthood, becoming contributing members of society. Oh, and if that same company holds government contracts for residential psychiatric care? Perhaps there’s a profit motive for assigning psychiatric diagnoses to children with behavioral problems?

 

This was an interesting book with some interesting things to say. But it is grim reading, and I was outraged at the way the author chose to end it. I don’t expect or even want happy endings, especially in a book so determined to strive for realism. But there is no sense of resolution, no looking forward, no… anything. It just stops, like the author got tired of writing or the publisher refused to print more than 465 pages.  

 

Audiobook, purchased via Audible. The performances by a cast of readers were the best part of this book. They breathed life into the characters as each told his or her own story. This is one good exception to my dislike for first person present tense. The writing style, in this case, fit the story being told perfectly.

HP's BL-opoly - 9th Round

My game play is getting a little ahead of my reviews and posts, because I've already finished this one earlier today. But here we go!

 

Round 9 (July 5-6, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Adventureland 26: Read a book tagged genre Adventure or Thriller on GR

Book Chosen: Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King,Craig Wasson,Jessica Hecht   (audiobook)

Pages: 368

Payout: $6

Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King,Craig Wasson,Jessica Hecht 

 

 

I've been using this game to mow down my TBR pile, so this one is sort of a cheat, but not really. I read the hardcover back when this was published, in 2010, but for some reason also acquired the audio a few years ago, and it's been languishing unread on my TBR shelf ever since. So, I've read the bound version, but it's been long enough since then for the audio to be an entirely different and new-ish experience. 

 

It fits the Adventureland 26 square because 215 GR users shelved it as Thriller, which puts that shelf on the first page. 

 

Round 8 (June 23-July 4, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 4

Square: Cars Land 18: Read a book that was published in 2006, 2011, 2013, or 2014, the years of Cars and its sequels, or that has a car on the cover.

Book #1 (DNF): The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon

Book #2: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

Book #3: Don’t Look Down by Jennifer Crusie

Pages: 394

Payout: $3 (corrected $6)

Ending Bank: $50 (corrected $62)

 

Posts

8th Round Pick

8th Round 1st book DNF

8th Round 2nd Pick

8th Round 2nd book reshelved

8th Round 3rd Pick

8th Round book review

Round 7 (June 7-23, 2017)

 

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Trains, Planes, & Automobiles 14: Read a book that involves overseas travel, or that has a suitcase on the cover

Book Read: On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

Pages: 256

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $50

 

Posts

7th Round Pick

7th Round book review

 

Round 6 (June 3-4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 4

Square: Mystery 8: Read a book that is tagged mystery or has a title that begins with any letter in the word “CLUE”

Book Read: The Fold by Peter Clines

Pages: 384

Payout: $3

Ending Bank: $47

 

Posts

6th Round Pick

6th Round book review

 

Round 5 (May 25-June 4, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 6 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Frontierland 2: Read a book with a main character who knows how to handle a gun, or where someone is shot

 

Book Read: Shane by Jack Schaefer (paperback)

Pages: 432

Payout: $5

Ending Bank: $44

 

Posts:

5th Round Pick

5th Round book review

 

Round 4 (May 23-June 1, 2017)

Reading concurrently with Round 5 (one audio, one bound).

 

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Paradise Pier 30: Read a book with a twist, or that is tagged “suspense” on GR, or that has more than 555 pages

 

Book Read: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (audiobook)

Pages: 582

Payout: $5

Gift from Ani’s Book Abyss $5

 

Ending Bank: $39

 

Posts:

4th Round Pick

4th Round book review

 

Round 3 (May 11-May 22, 2017)

Dice Roll: 10

Square: Adventureland 24: Take the Jungle Cruise. Read a book set in Africa or Asia, or that has an exotic animal on the cover

 

Book Read: A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Pages: 276

Payout:$3

 

Ending Bank: $29

 

Posts:

3rd Round Pick

3rd Round book review

 

Round 2 (April 19-May 11, 2017)

Dice Roll: 7

Square: Additional Task 15: Read a book where someone gets married, with jewelry on the cover, or where any character is a millionaire/billionaire!

 

Book Read: The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Pages: 512

Payout: $5

 

Ending Bank 5/11/17: $26

 

Posts:

2nd Round Pick

2nd Round book review

 

Round 1 (April 17, 2017)

Dice Roll: 9

Square: Fantasyland 9: Read a book that is tagged Genre: Fantasy or Fairy Tale on GR

 

Book Read: Dream Weaver by Michael Hague and Jane Yolen

Pages: 80

Payout: $1

 

Ending Bank 4/17/17: $21

 

Posts:

1st Round Pick

1st Round book review

 

 

Start

Bank 4/17/17:  $20

 

 

Player Bank Posts

6/1/17 balance

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