The basic plot: Glory O'Brien and her friend Ellie drink powdered dead bat in beer and end up seeing visioThis is a good book and I regret reading it.
The basic plot: Glory O'Brien and her friend Ellie drink powdered dead bat in beer and end up seeing visions of the future and the past. The future doesn't look so great.
A lot of this book is about being 17, about graduating from high school, about deciding to move on from the person you were in high school. It's about the weird traces of the past you can see in the present, and the way the future is born every day. It's about the people you choose to be with and the people you end up being with. I enjoyed all of that.
But, wow, reading a book with a suddenly terrifyingly plausible route to, essentially, a Handmaid's Tale near future for us -- this time, February of 2017, was not the right time to do that. Reading this made the anxiety of the present and the terror of the future more real for me, and that is pretty much exactly the opposite of what I want books to do right now.
So, hey, good book. I'm glad I read it. I found it compelling. And I will never read it again. I'm already enough afraid of the future, thanks. ...more
As a gardening method, Square Foot Gardening is pretty great. This book, though -- this book is not great.
Mel is a big fan of science and math, so leAs a gardening method, Square Foot Gardening is pretty great. This book, though -- this book is not great.
Mel is a big fan of science and math, so let me break down this book by the (estimated) numbers:
20% Discussion of how amazing Square Foot Gardening is, or how amazing Mel Bartholomew is 20% Actual gardening content 10% Weird and/or culturally insensitive stuff 10% Charts that don't render correctly in the ebook version 40% Repetition of all of the above
The book starts with a full chapter on the History of Mel and Square Foot Gardening. I will be honest: I don't care. I am glad Mel came up with this method, and I'm glad he's got all this experience teaching it and proselytizing (word used advisedly), but I'm here to read about gardening, not Mel or what was going on with Square Foot Gardening in the 1970s. But you can't just skip the chapter and skip this content -- like everything else, it repeats over and over, throughout every chapter of the book. (He even includes, in the text, quotes from random satisfied gardeners. They all look like this: "Such a great technique! I am definitely happy to be engaging in Square Foot Gardening." -- Jane, Texas. These do not add anything and get seriously old after a while.)
Then you start in on the actual gardening content. It's -- look, this part is kind of a victim of its own successs. When I started getting into gardening, this method is pretty much how everyone said to do it. This information is all over the internet. There are a few nuances you learn in this book, but honestly, you can find virtually of this, for free, online. And you get to read it without hearing about the greatness of what you're reading about. Additionally, this doesn't really go into enough detail -- you're going to need another source of information for your local area anyway.
Then comes the unfortunate viewpoints. Mel, uh, diverges a lot into things like "remember, we rest on Sundays" (I don't; I'm Jewish, and my sabbath day isn't Sunday), and he talks about how ladies are super bad at building stuff, and about how all poor people really need is a SFG, not a government handout. I don't really enjoy sexism along with my gardening tips.
I can't say much about the charts. I read this in ebook form, so I couldn't read them.
But the biggest problem with the book, for me, was how incredibly repetitious it is. Everything you read will be repeated dozens of times, in every section of the book. If you've been paying even moderate attention, this rapidly goes from annoying to boring to frustrating as hell. If all the repetition had been cut, there'd have been enough room to go into detail on climates and crop choices, and other stuff that's more important than being reminded yet again how much space SFG saves.
I love this gardening technique. It's the one I use (with modifications). But I do not at all love this book. If you're just starting out, google raised bed gardening and go with it. If you aren't just starting out, this book will be useless to you. Get an area-specific book and read that. But if you're mostly interested in the greatness and history of Mel Bartholomew, this is definitely the book for you.
This isn't the Wolfe novel you want to start with, since some familiarity with the supporting cast (I'm not sure why I'm trying to avoid spoilers forThis isn't the Wolfe novel you want to start with, since some familiarity with the supporting cast (I'm not sure why I'm trying to avoid spoilers for a fifty year old novel, but I am) really helps get you into it, but it is a good, solid late-series Wolfe story.
This has the great Wolfe and Archie interactions I love. It also has Julie Jacquette, one of my favorite one-book characters; she's cynical about romance, largely uninteretested in Archie, and impresses the shit out of Wolfe.
A good read, but only for those already familiar with the series. ...more
This book is a slow start, the snowball tipping off the side of a slope, picking up velocity so gradually you almost don't notice it, until it's the mThis book is a slow start, the snowball tipping off the side of a slope, picking up velocity so gradually you almost don't notice it, until it's the middle of the book and the snowball is now an avalanche racing toward the bottom of a mountain. At least, that's what reading it felt like to me. At the 48% mark, I was still going, yeah, it's readable, but it isn't *compelling*. But that's the last time I checked my progress in the book.
Overall, this is a fascinating conceit, a fascinating concept, played out fascinatingly. (And, no, this is far from the only novel featuring this idea, of someone leading a Groundhog's Day life, but this is one of the better uses of it, I think.) It's kind of a murder mystery and kind of a very weird friendship story and very much a thriller, all told out over centuries of time, multiple lives, and just one century of history.
Which isn't to say it's perfect. There are definitely flaws. But it's very gripping, and very satisfying.
The mystery in this one is not one of Stout's best -- very solvable, even for the teenager I was when I first read this, and with a motive that is mosThe mystery in this one is not one of Stout's best -- very solvable, even for the teenager I was when I first read this, and with a motive that is mostly a series of question marks. But the mysteries aren't really the point with Stout, and this book, on a character level, is nothing but fun.
Wolfe is forced to LEAVE HIS HOUSE for reasons of business. He's also forced to work both for a woman and on a woman; naturally, this is a great challenge to his composure. Archie encounters a button fiend. And there's a lot of great Archie moments and a nearly-acceptable level of Saul, including an excellent bit of Saul information.
This is not one of the very best Wolfe books, but it is one I reread pretty regularly....more
Is this the greatest Nero Wolfe novel? No. But it is in my top ten of Wolfe novels sorted by reread frequency. I admit that partly that's because I enIs this the greatest Nero Wolfe novel? No. But it is in my top ten of Wolfe novels sorted by reread frequency. I admit that partly that's because I enjoy reading this through my alternate universe queer lens (look, Lily Rowan always has attractive young women at her apartment, I AM JUST SAYING), but I also think this book is solid on the Wolfe formula. All the gears are perfectly oiled. The whole machine runs smoothly. And it's a delight to watch that happen, and to read about the way these famliar characters do their familiar thing.
I just really ENJOY Wolfe novels, is the thing. And this is very much a Wolfe novel -- no departures, no missteps. So I really enjoy this. ...more
Okay, so, I read this because it was available in Overdrive through my local library, and -- this isn't a book. It's an overgrown blog post. The conceOkay, so, I read this because it was available in Overdrive through my local library, and -- this isn't a book. It's an overgrown blog post. The concept here is that you get a list of the stuff you can grow in your garden (not just vegetables) that has the highest return on investment. The first chapter is how they calculated ROI for home-grown vegetables, the second chapter is their top ten and bottom ten list, and the third chapter is quick and mostly useless summaries about how to grow the stuff on their lists, plus some other stuff not on their lists.
Honestly, this is pretty pointless. If you're actually growing to sell, you're going to grow based on your local market, not per-square-foot ROI calculations. (And you're also a farmer, not a gardener, but whatever.) If you're growing to save money, you'll grow what *you* spend the most on -- the stuff your family eats, the stuff that costs the most in your area. Also, a lot of these plants can't be planted in all areas or at all times, so even if you do plant out your garden based on this book, you'll need another book to help you do it.
The one piece of advice that is useful here is basically the thing they say in every single intro to gardening book ever: start with herbs. They're easy to grow, they're very useful to have continually available, and you save a lot of money and/or add a lot of flavor to your food. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine what use this book could possibly be. ...more
This is one of my favorite Rex Stouts and a reasonably good place to start with the series -- one of the best of the first 15 books, and it features mThis is one of my favorite Rex Stouts and a reasonably good place to start with the series -- one of the best of the first 15 books, and it features most of the canon's main and supporting characters. Best of all, the relationships in this book are great. This series' charm and lasting appeal comes from the characters and the relationships between them, and this book has great interactions between Archie and Wolfe, Wolfe and Cramer, Wolfe and his client, and Archie and pretty much the whole group of suspects and one-book characters.
Added bonus: the mystery is built upon the dictaphone. I remember reading this book for the first time as a teenager and being utterly bewildered by the cylinders and the weird machine they need to read them (which weighs a mere 60 pounds! Practically portable). So, on top of a fun read, this book comes with a bonus history of technology lesson.
Overall, this is truly a stand-out Wolfe novel, well worth reading for those new to the series....more
This is one of the earliest Wolfe books that truly feels like a Wolfe book, and that definitely factors in to my rating. Honestly, this isn't a perfecThis is one of the earliest Wolfe books that truly feels like a Wolfe book, and that definitely factors in to my rating. Honestly, this isn't a perfect book. Like most of the early corpus, the sexism pretty much shrieks off the page here, and neither Archie nor Wolfe comes out looking like an untarnished hero (but then, that is not the point of either character, and especially not of Wolfe).
But. But. There's some solid Wolfe-Archie interplay, Cramer plays a fairly substantial role, and we get to see Saul Panzer actually failing at something, which is a once in a blue moon experience. This also has one of my favorite female characters in the series: Nancylee Shepherd, the ultimate teenaged fangirl. She's smart, almost smart enough to defeat Wolfe, and she's fun, fierce, and loyal as hell. I love her, and every time I finish this book I spend some time wondering who she grew up to be.
Overall, a good read and a solid entry in the series.
(Ebook note: my copy wasn't, apparently, actually edited, because half the mentions of a character named Tully call him Hilly instead, which I enjoyed. It was like a glance into a sex-inverted Wolfe universe. But, uh, buy this ebook with caution if you care about spelling errors.)...more
This was a reread, a palate cleanser after the rush of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, because:
1. There is never a bad time for Nero Wolfe, and 2. IThis was a reread, a palate cleanser after the rush of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, because:
1. There is never a bad time for Nero Wolfe, and 2. It's the rainy season in Los Angeles (January 18-28, roughly)
This book is one of my favorites in the series. It's sharp, it's got the usual moments of humor, it's got great Wolfe-Archie interplay (and for the Archie/Saul shipper in me, there's a terrific moment when Archie explains that Saul would totally be the best US President ever if you just upgraded his wardrobe), it's got a loathesome and intelligent villain, and it has one of my favorite female characters in the series. (Yes, I...I have a list.)
That female character is the redoubtable Mrs. Potter, a woman Archie admires for her brain and her sense of humor. She's great, and she never misses a trick. And she lives in Los Angeles. (And I guess Stout visited in January, because when Archie goes to LA to talk to Mrs. Potter, it's pouring.)
This is definitely one of the books on the Wolfe short list, and it wouldn't be the worst place to start with the series, either. ...more
This series is about how everything you do comes back to you one day: every action has an echo, every action casts a shadow. It's also about heists anThis series is about how everything you do comes back to you one day: every action has an echo, every action casts a shadow. It's also about heists and capers and twists and turns. And it's about building relationships when you've never really seen one and aren't too sure what trust even is. In short, it's about a lot of things I am super into.
The characters sold me on Six of Crows, and they sold me on Crooked Kingdom, too. I'm a suspense wimp, and I might have wimped out of this if I hadn't cared so much. (As it was, I had to put the book down a couple of times and back away.) But the thing is -- the heists aren't even the point. The twists and turns, for me, were pretty much the scaffolding, the skeleton. The body of this book was the characters, choosing their actions, choosing their futures. They were starting from painful places, and I cared about them, and so I was filled with joy every time they took a tiny step forward.
What I'm saying is that this is a well-told tale. It really is. And I'm glad I read it (and glad I stuck it out through the tense bits and the "what, again?" moments)....more