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Year end summary for 2019

According to LibraryThing, I read 45 books.  I have three still in progress that I started in the last month or so, but am likely only to maybe finish one (Gideon the Ninth).  Several were the Sean Kennedy Micah Johnston novellas, which I liked fairly well.  The highest rated books were City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty, which I loved (although I felt kind of meh about the second book of the trilogy); Knife Children by L.M. Bujold; and Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone.  Honorable mentions to Alderman’s The Power and Sujata Massey’s The Satapur Moonstone; and Aaronovitch’s German Peter Grant offshoot, The October Man.

Theater and film:  Just film this past year, plus one opera.

  • The Magic Flute – loved the scenery, which was done by Maurice Sendak
  • The Favourite
  • Captain Marvel
  • Rocketman
  • Men in Black
  • Avengers: Endgame
  • The Hustle
  • Downton Abbey
  • Terminator: Dark Fate
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Travel

  • Phoenix
  • Las Vegas
  • Dallas
  • Boston
  • Terceira (Azores)
  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh

NWHL – all the Riveters’ home games for the end of the 2018-2019, including the home playoff game.  The home 2019-20 games (only a couple so far).

NHL – an embarrassing number of games, but no playoffs – was in Terceira during the first round, when my team was swept.  [I was surprised by the sweep but not by the series loss; they were utterly disinterested in playing defense all season, and it caught up with them in the playoffs.]  Went to games in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.  Was in Boston during playoffs but not when Boston was playing at home, so TD Garden is still on my list of venues to visit.

For baseball, there were just two games:  Detroit and Rays.  The Orioles were SO BAD.  It was painful.  And it was absolutely reflected in attendance.  Weekend game, gorgeous weather, maybe 10,000 fans in seats at the most.

Museums and cultural events:  the Walters, the Heinz, Fallingwater, Polymath Park, loved the Phipps Conservatory, many lovely chapels on Terceira, the MFA in Boston, the Isabella Gardiner Stewart Museum (favorite).  Enjoyed both the Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum, adored the Lego art exhibition at the science museum in Dallas.  Went to the Dallas Book Depository because it was very highly recommended.  It was fine?  I mean, I’m glad I went, but it didn’t really speak to me.  Kinda meh about the Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which felt kind of rah rah about law enforcement.

Music – to Boston for Lost Evenings III, four nights of shows at HOB with Frank Turner, all with different themes, opening acts, and set lists.  Heard “Balthasar Impresario” live, so all my FT boxes have been checked.  Also saw FT and the Sleeping Souls at the Warner Theater for the No Man’s Land tour, which was different – a venue with seats – and a little weird.  The music was good but it was literally the first time I went to a non-general admission FT show and sat the whole time.  Loved “Kassiani” and “The Lioness” live.

Professionally speaking, eh, I’m doing things I’m not really interested in or trained to do: I’m a lawyer by training, not a technology project manager or a contract manager.  This is not the best deployment of my skills.  But I do what my director wants done.

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Summer reading list

I’ve managed to do a fair amount of reading this summer, primarily because the library’s renovation ended, making the stacks accessible again!

Non-fiction

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting, and Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas – there are a lot of books about the lives of the people he painted, but it seems like there are fewer biographies of Sargent himself.

Fiction

Sean Kennedy’s GetOut novellas – nice to revisit characters from the Tigers & Devils books, Young Adult-ish.

Two new(ish?) Aurora Teagarden mysteries by Charlaine Harris.  They were easy reads, although I’m not sure I would have cared for them if they had been published close to when she first wrote the series.

The last two CS Harris mysteries – these, like the Teagarden mysteries, are like cotton candy – essentially gone/forgotten immediately, although I do like the main characters better here.  (I find Roe Teagarden to be reminiscent of a lot of small town “nice ladies” in a very unflattering to her way.)

The Widows of Malabar Hill and The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey – mysteries set in early 20th century India with an Indian woman who is a lawyer as narrator.  Very well done, felt atmospheric, although I do not know enough about Indian history or culture to be an accurate judge.

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal – modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan.  Enjoyed this a lot, although I found the modern version of Lydia and Wickham to be OTT.  I’m not sure if that is because their shallowness/selfishness was worse in a modern setting or what.

Under Currents by Nora Roberts.  Her voice/style is still appealing.  And yet.  This book felt recycled and poorly edited.  It was kind of episodic, with clunky pacing and cardboard bad guys, and just straight up had factual errors about things like the medical and legal professions that could have been corrected with a minimum of research.  Also: I get that NR loves gardening/landscaping, but it’s not really engrossing to read about for people who do not.

 

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Recently read/watched

Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch – I enjoyed this a lot, although it created at least as many questions as it answered.  The copy editing was poor, which is disappointing but no worse than it has been for the other books of the series.  The very ending was pretty ~meh~ to me, but it won’t stop me from reading whatever comes next.

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King – biography of Fred Rogers.  I’m not sure I can emphasize what a formative influence Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was for me as a child.  The documentary released earlier this year (not the bio-pic in production) impressed me and made me want to know more about him, and this biography is does not disappoint.  I had not realized how influential and formative women were in his life; the women in his family, sure, but the professional women he worked with also.  And it has been a relief to read without having Rogers be diminished.  Of course he was human and flawed but very much embodied kindness and thoughtfulness toward children in a way that didn’t infantilize them or discount their fears and feelings.

Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women is up next, as is Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad.

 

The Widows movie was good, but possibly not properly marketed.  I did not see the twist in the middle coming at all.  Now I want to read the book it was based on because I feel like there was backstory and possibly other plot that was edited out of the film for run-time.  And also, hey, Chicago, I haven’t seen you in awhile.

The new Lisbeth Salander movie was face-paced and interesting.  I have only read the first book of that series, so I can’t critique from an adaptation perspective.  It was a thriller with fast cars, some guns, and creepy villains, filmed in a very noir or dour palette.  I liked it enough that I may actually go back and try to read the series.  Also, Claire Foy as Salander was excellent.  One review I read after the fact complained that Salander was too flat and the film wasted her backstory, reducing the plot to Bond-like action.  Eh, that is pretty harsh, but also: what’s wrong with having a Bond-like film with a woman as protagonist? Maybe dudes are tired of seeing Bond, but women seldom get to see a female Bond-type, and why must a female Bond-type be more developed than male Bond ever was in the films?

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Summer and fall reading 2018

Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau – recommended by someone on Twitter, liked the premise in theory and found the book readable, but didn’t care about the characters at all.

Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois Bujold McMaster – nice to circle back to the Vorkosigans but nothing groundbreaking here.

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews.  Painful retconning to make Hugh D’Ambray a palatable protagonist.  I didn’t really care about the romance, and would’ve been more interested in Hugh as villain adrift without the retconning.

The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy.  Very interesting and extremely readable for non-linguists.

Provenance by Ann Leckie.  Interesting, but not as gripping as the Ancillary series.

Jane Austen, the Secret Radical by Helena Kelly.  An interesting mental exercise, but it seems a little strange and speculative to interpret backward based fiction texts; one could just as easily have selected much more conservative positions and defended them using different passages from the same texts.

Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews.  Andrews writes very readable books.  As I read them, the plot holes and worldbuilding inconsistencies don’t matter.  It’s only after I’m finished that I think, well, that doesn’t really match up with prior texts.  The denouement was…predictable, I guess.  With lots of other series bait.  And more retconning for Hugh D’Ambray.

The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It by Tilar Mazzeo.  Picked this up on impulse while at the Battery Park Book Exchange; it seemed appropriate in light of their extensive champagne menu.  Fascinating if a little speculative about some of the widow’s early life/experiences, given lack of primary sources.

Leverage in Death by JD Robb.  DNF.  I’ve mostly stopped reading this series, but a copy of this was on an end cap at the library, so I borrowed it on impulse.  I’m so sorry.  Look, if Roarke is a bazillionaire capitalist and investor, he probably in theory should understand how markets are regulated, and if he’s also a brilliant reformed criminal he should understand civil and criminal authorities engage in manipulation investigations. Maybe Robb could have done some research before building a plot around it; it reads as sloppy and lazy.  Not impressed.

 

 

 

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Done with In Death?

I’ve stopped buying the In Death books by JD Robb, and have transitioned to library borrowing.  But after trying to read the most recent iteration, Dark in Death, I think I might be finished with the series.  There was some really poor type-setting or copy-editing, which is sloppy but basically commonplace at this point in all levels of publishing.  The plots were getting repetitive, but I could forgive that in a comfort read.  But in this book Peabody slut-shames potential victims; Dallas initially reprimands her and then does the same thing.  And then Roarke joins the judgment parade.  For a series and character that is generally sex-positive, that was really disappointing.  When you add the victim-blaming on top of that?  Nope, done.

I’m kind of sad, since it feels like the end of an era for me.  I can remember when the In Death books first appears in WaldenBooks on the little cardboard display stands.  This was back before it was common knowledge that JD Robb was a pseudonym for Nora Roberts.  I started reading the first book at about the time the third one was published, after being hand-sold the series by a bookseller who said I would like them if I liked Roberts (*wink wink*).  I read the first one and then the next two immediately after, and then all new ones as they were published.  It has only been the last couple of years that I stopped pre-ordering to have the books on release day, corresponding to my reading slump.

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Checking in

Well, I have failed at reading Middlemarch.  Again.  But I’ve started listening to the audio book, narrated by Juliet Stevenson (whose Persuasion I enjoyed), so maybe I’ll get through it in that medium.

A couple of other books from the library have been slightly more successful.  About A Girl by Lindsey Kelk read as fluffy chick lit, a lighter version of early Marian Keyes.  It was fine; I probably would have really enjoyed it 10 years ago and gone looking for the sequel, but now it reads as pretty derivative to me.  Olivia de Havilland’s memoir, Every Frenchman Has One, was charming.  It was dated, of course, and narrated a lifestyle that seems as alien and distant to me as medieval England or China under the Han dynasty.

I ran across an interview with Lois McMaster-Bujold in which she talked about self-publishing her work as electronic rights became/become available, along with a Penric short story.  The story, Penric and the Shaman, was a lovely little adventure; it went over much better for me than her last full book.

Currently I’m reading one of Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries, and I’ve got a Le Carre novel up next; the one that has been turned into a movie recently (out this summer), its title escapes me at the moment.  There are a couple of library books sitting on the table, as well.  After that, who knows.  It’ll be time to pick out some beach reads by the time I finish all that up…assuming I manage to finish them.

Saw Love & Friendship, which was quite funny; I’d recommend it not only for the costumes and set decoration but for the acting and writing of the screenplay.

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The last Temeraire book

I managed to read a book!

Having said that, I finished it mostly so I could say I had finished the series rather than being really engaged.  League of Dragons felt like a let down to me; I just didn’t really care about or believe in the ending for Lawrence and Temeraire.  The series ending just felt…unsettled, to me, for lack of a better word.  The Big Conflict is under control [spoiler: Napoleon is exiled in the end] but all the social issues that supported the plot and story arc are not resolved.  Why bother to point them out or make me care as a reader if the series just stops with little or no progress on their front?

I’m on a bit of a roll, reading-wise.  After reading LoD, I picked up a couple of library books.  One is finished, A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev.  I recognized the name from reviews, maybe at Dear Author or elsewhere, but didn’t remember the substance of any reviews.  The book blurb implied (to me) a sort of Indian chick lit, but it read as a beefed up Harlequin Presents.  That’s not necessarily a negative; I’ve consumed a large quantity of HPs in my reading career.  It wasn’t really what I expected, but once I readjusted my expectations, the book was fine and entertaining, a pretty fluffy read, although I really didn’t care for the hero and didn’t buy the character revision or retconning at the end to make him appear less like a selfish jerk.  (He was a pretty typical HP alphahole.)

Now trying to read Middlemarch.  Some day I shall finish it.  I hope.  And I’ve got $50 and change in Apple rebate money burning a metaphorical hole in my pocket.

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