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Reading check ins 2020 > Week 20 Check In

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message 1: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 844 comments Mod
I can't believe it's week 20. This has felt like a year with no ending, yet also is going by so quickly. I guess it's a combination of having nothing to do but also nothing getting done. Can't do the trips we planned, can't visit people, events are cancelled etc so all the time is spent just waiting for things to be over.

As a reminder, questions are up for Space Opera if you read it and want to join in!

I finished:

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation - This was interesting. I never LOVE anthologies, seems like no matter what they just come off as ok. Even if i really like some stories, it gets diluted by the rest that i'm indifferent to. But it was interesting seeing science fiction approached by another culture, and how many touchstones appear to be universal. (Hitchhiker references, Turing). There were also essays at the back about the tradition of science fiction in Chinese culture, and also about Chinese fandom, which were interesting too. This is my popsugar anthology

Emergency Skin - was tyring to go for a book selected with my eyes closed. I had set my kindle to unread, and closed my eyes and mashed the forward and backwards buttons until i had no clue what the page was, and jabbed at the screen. This was just a short story, though, not a full book. So I read it, but not counting it. I liked it, NK Jemison is generally solid

The Bookseller - this is what i landed on for my actual book picked with my eyes closed. I think I got it on prime reading, thinking it would work for the book with a book on the cover. Ended up picking something else for that one. This wasn't very good. It was an easy read, i finished it in two days, but it just really annoyed me. I almost didn't finish, but i figured the challenge was to read a book you wouldn't have otherwise. Just picking until I found something I would probably read anyhow didn't seem to fit the spirit. The premise was kind of interesting, but it was just...really off-putting. The way racism was handled felt very "I'm a white person and of course I know racism is bad but this is a period piece so clearly I need people of color as servants, but I'll have my main character uncomfortable with it to show i'm enlightened" And the way the autistic child was handled was also very cringey. I get it was again, set in the 60s. but So much focus was "poor me, how do I handle this unruly child". Also the way the double life was resolved was really unsatisfying and again, kind of problematic in my mind.

Sadie - just finished the audio book up today while I was working. I really liked this! Most audio books i do because I couldn't find in another format, but I generally end up wishing I could read it physically. Or in some cases, I'll use the audio as a way to re-read without eating into my regular reading time. (especially if it's a re-read for a book club or something, where i'm not really re-reading because I want to re-read but just to freshen it up in my head) This started out that way, but honestly the audio presentation is SO GOOD i don't know if it would have been anywhere near as good reading. It was set up as an audio drama, full cast. It just really brought the story to life. It was framed as a podcast, it really sounded like one in those parts. It did center around abuse, but I appreciated that the abuse was handled very delicately. It was clear of what the nature of the abuse was, but nothing explicit was ever described. The focus was on the damage it caused and how the characters dealt with it. Counting as my popsugar book with the same name as a tv show or movie but unrelated. There was a movie called Sadie in 2018.

Currently reading:

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - almost finished, probably this evening. I'm counting it as my popsugar book with a pink cover. I am really loving this. Especially after just watching the two National Theatre Frankensteins. It looks like the original Frankestein is also included at the end of this, might go ahead and read it again just as a refresher. It tells the story from Elizabeth's perspective. It's a really great retelling, and i like the way the story is reframed. Gives Victor a more specific motivation than simply doing it because he wanted to see if he could. And Elizabeth gets to be more than just a sad tragedy along the way.

The Count of Monte Cristo - still plugging away, reading a couple chapters each time I finish a book.


sorry all, blanking tonight. I've had a migraine all day, making it hard to think. Anyone have ideas?

message 2: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 144 comments This was an off work week, but I spent more time internet-dithering and less time reading. I will try to fix that next time for my own benefit.

I read Space Opera, but I've left all my thoughts in the book club so I won't rehash them here.

Next was Love Poems for Married People. This was supposed to be funny, and I thought it would be about the less overtly romantic, warts-and-all sort of love that comes with a long-term relationship. Instead I think it should have been called Love Poems for Unhappily Married People Who Should Probably Divorce, which I didn't find amusing. I have really been striking out with the poetry lately and would welcome any suggestions. I like nature, food, and the kinds of relationships where no one is fantasizing about the other person's best friend.

I also finished up a reread (probably? did I ever actually read it in college?) of Discours sur le colonialisme, which is exactly what it sounds like, but it's short. I lacked the context for this one on several levels: I don't have much understanding of French colonial history; there were a lot of references to works either in the French canon or contemporary to this one that I haven't read; presumably at the time of this writing comparisons to Hitler felt more fresh and relevant than in this day of Godwin's Law. It was probably a good and necessary work at the time, but it was not written for a modern-day American.

For QOTW, I'll propose something I was thinking about recently: Have you ever reread a book and been surprised at how it either did or didn't hold up?

The example I was considering is Fahrenheit 451, which I read in 7th grade. It was Baby's First Dystopian Future and probably one of my first "adult" books, and it was thrilling. It popped up on Out of Print Clothing a while back, and I thought I'd reread it to make sure I wanted to wear it on a T-shirt. It turned out I did not! So much of the book was plotless philosophizing. I had remembered the mechanical hound and clandestine book-reading but forgotten the lecturing and misogyny.

message 3: by Jen (last edited May 15, 2020 10:13AM) (new)

Jen (piratenami) | 198 comments No finishes yet for me this week. Work got a little busy on me, and I wasn't able to get a whole lot of reading done.

I'm about halfway through Network Effect, the Murderbot full novel, and enjoying it so far. I love Murderbot so much. This will be my Popsugar book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character. I'm hoping I might be able to finish it this weekend.

QOTW: I can't think of any. For Rebecca's question, I used to re-read all the time, but I don't do it nearly as often anymore. I re-read most of Robin McKinley's bibliography a few years ago and was surprised that they held up as well as they did.

Considering what books probably wouldn't hold up for me now if I were to re-read them, I would guess Dracula. It's been at least fifteen years since I last read it. It used to be one of my favorites when I was going through my goth vampire teenage years, but I feel like it wouldn't hold up terribly well now that I'm past that.

message 4: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (midwinter) | 53 comments I had one finish this week - Gods of the Upper Air: How a Circle of Renegade Anthropologists Reinvented Race, Sex, and Gender in the Twentieth Century. It's a present-day look back at the beginnings of modern anthropology (specifically cultural anthro and the philosophy of cultural relativism). I usually find books like this as dry as sawdust, but this one had me riveted. I have a degree in Anthro, so it was fascinating to take an outside look at the people who founded the modern movement vs. reading about them through an academic lens. I was more familiar with the philosophies than the people, so this really brought some depth to the tidbits I already knew. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in cultural anthro. Also, PBS recently did a documentary on the 1920s eugenics movement (I think it was an episode of American Experience) that's a perfect companion to the book.

Currently reading Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs and Hokkaido Popsicle. The first is a collection of very short stories from famous chefs, and it ties in nicely with my recent binge-watching of Top Chef. The second is a sequel to a book I picked up at the Friends of the Library booksale several years ago. So far, so good on both.

QOTW: I recently re-read Kim Harrison's first Hallows book, Dead Witch Walking in preparation for reading the rest of the series. I remember adoring it the first time around, and recommending it to anyone who'd listen. I was surprised at how pedestrian it seemed on a re-read. I still love Jenks, but that was about the only thing that sparked my interest now. Maybe it was more groundbreaking and exciting when it first came out, and urban fantasy was just finding its groove, but it definitely didn't hold up. I slogged through the second book, then abandoned the rest. I know people adore this series, and I feel like I must have missed something that they all saw, but that doesn't change the fact that it just didn't work for me.

message 5: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 234 comments It IS hard to believe that it's week 20 of the year. All of the days are kind of blurring together, aren't they?

Last week I had two finishes. I read Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty, which was sort of a murder mystery set in space - at first it suffered by comparison to the Hyperion books, which I'd just finished re-reading... Hyperion's use of language is so lush and beautiful that the contrast with a more prosaic, simpler writing style was kind of jarring. But once I got into the story I found it quite engaging. The concept is that it's a several centuries into the future society where cloning is rampant, and where individuals who choose to be cloned have "mind maps" made and stored so that when their current bodies die, they can just map their consciousness onto a new body and discard the old one. Lafferty did a really great job thinking through the implications that would have on a society, and the controversies that would arise. The murder mystery part is that the cloned crew of a generation ship are awakened 25 years into their journey with no memory of the past 25 years - their mindmaps were destroyed - and so they have to piece together what happened to them. I very much enjoyed it!

Next I read In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle, which was another that was languishing unread on my Kindle. It was short - almost novella length - and lovely. I would expect no less from the author of one of my favorite books ever (The Last Unicorn)!

Now I am about halfway through The Ghost Brigades.

QOTW: I'll roll with Rebecca's question! I've had both experiences upon re-reading - finding that a book doesn't live up to my memory of it (see: The Suck Fairy ), or alternately finding that it's so much better when read through a more mature lens. One that definitely did NOT stand up to a re-read was Dragonflight...I was so put off by the traditional gender roles and the...let's just say nonconsensual nature of some of the dragonrider relationships. I loved it as a teen and still do re-read and love some of the later volumes, but that first one - ugh. In contrast, there were definitely books that I didn't quite get when I first read them as a youngster that I came to appreciate much more as an adult. Some of Guy Gavriel Kay's work comes to mind... I read The Summer Tree in high school and didn't really understand a lot of it, was bored, and never bothered to continue the series. I rediscovered the book about a decade later and devoured it, finished the trilogy, cried, and immediately added it to my list of favorite books. I've read it at least ten times now and I'm probably due for another re-read soon :)

message 6: by Megan (new)

Megan | 236 comments Rebecca wrote: "Instead I think it should have been called Love Poems for Unhappily Married People Who Should Probably Divorce..."

That is spectacular. I haven't read Love Poems for Married People, but that's one of my least favorite genres, too - I realize that not every marriage is happy 100% of the time, but so many books (both fiction and non-fiction) are written by people whose attitude seems to be MARRIAGE IS AN ETERNAL SLOG OVER SPLINTERED TOOTHPICKS THROUGH THE BOWELS OF HELL CARRYING A RABID WILDEBEAST WHILE LISTENING TO SMOOTH JAZZ PLAYED BY 7-YEAR-OLDS LEARNING THE RECORDER but you should totally get married because you're a loser if you don't. I'd read so much of that over the years that I was actually surprised that getting married did not, in fact, ruin both my life and my relationship with my spouse. Given the number and variety of books with that theme, there must be a large group of people out there somewhere that enjoys them, but the appeal eludes me, too.

I've stayed happily clear of literary relationship drama this week. I finished Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers Who Helped Win World War II for IRL book club #3, which was great - well researched with one of the most thorough notes sections I've seen in a book for general audiences, but also written in a fun, witty style that helps keep the many similar stories straight.

I'm now reading Illuminae, which I've heard many good things about. I'm enjoying the format of putting the story together through emails, journal entries, etc. - particularly since that allows for the device of "redacted" profanity. There is no more foul-mouthed group than teenagers, so one thing about YA novels that often rings false is the complete lack of swearing - but I also get why it's problematic to market a book to 12 year olds that has the F-word 48 times per chapter (accurate thought that may be). This is the perfect compromise, but it wouldn't work in a more traditional book. It's been a fairly busy week, so it's taking me much longer to read than the length would suggest, but it's actually kind of nice to stretch it out and think about the events as they unfold.

QOTW: I hardly ever reread, because I'm afraid of the experiences everyone else has cited. I'd rather hold onto my happy but inaccurate memories if there's no reason to change them. There are certainly many books whose concepts I feel differently about now than when I read them, but that's part of the aging process and the changing world around me - but I still don't seek them out.

message 7: by Sarah (last edited May 15, 2020 04:56PM) (new)

Sarah Pace (space1138) | 127 comments Yep, this spring is definitely all blurring together! Rumors of my library re-opening abound, so hopefully new reading material soon, and perhaps a new job following that.

This week:
The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers I really loved this! Knowing Mr. Rogers' story and thought process added so much nuance and depth to my memories of his show, and made me really appreciate just how ahead of his time he was throughout the entire run.

Queen's Shadow I'd heard great reviews of this recent Star Wars novel following Padme after Episode I, but wound up being really disappointed. In two words: nothing happens. There is no conflict and thus really no plot among the endless descriptions of what everyone is wearing; it just sort of meanders from Galactic senate hearing to committee meeting, and back again.

How to Stop Time Forgot this one was tucked on my Kindle until I did some random browsing. I really enjoyed it! Definitely some plot holes, and the ending was rather abrupt, but overall it was an interesting take on the everyday realities of being immortal (or at least having a multi-century lifespan).

I get this way more with re-watching older TV shows than I do with re-reading books. This may be because my taste has changed very little over the years, or because sci-fi and fantasy seem to age and date themselves a bit differently than other genres do.

message 8: by Dakota (new)

Dakota | 20 comments Hey everyone! I kind of dropped out for a while because with everything going on, I couldn't get into reading there for a while. I finally decided that I needed to finish one of the library books that's been sitting on my shelf for almost three months (not sure when they're going to call for getting library books back again). That sort of kicked off a spate of reading again.

This week I read:

The Other Boleyn Girl I've had this on my kindle for ages and finally decided to just read it. It was okay. The writing was decent, which is always a huge point for me. And I don't have the hate for it that a lot of other reviewers seem to have concerning historical inaccuracies or how much of it revolves around the characters' sex lives. But, that being said, the repetitiveness of the manipulation and the characters' actions got stale.

I also went back to some old standby favorites, The Gates of Sleep and Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey. These are basically comfort reading for me... I enjoy how she spins the tales and I've read them several times over.

It's funny that Shel mentions Guy Gavriel Kay above, because I read The Lions of Al-Rassan earlier in the week. Unfortunately, while the writing is good and I get invested in the characters in and of themselves, there's just something about the way he draws out a story that I don't enjoy. This particular book felt like one long endless war, and I think I'm not in the right headspace right now to tolerate that. Definitely epic though!

The library book that I finished up was Pilate's Wife, about the wife of Pilate, who "washed his hands" of Jesus' sentence and crucifixion. It follows her life as a young girl all the way through her marriage to Pilate, and how she becomes intertwined with the fate of Jesus (although that is not the main concern of the book). I found it interesting and a smooth read, although I wished that she'd had a more constant character!

QOTW -- I think the most memorable reread that didn't hold up for me was Harriet the Spy. I picked it up a few years ago for my older son, and then decided to reread it myself. I remembered it being pretty interesting as a kid, but all I could think about as an adult was how much of a "mean girl" Harriet is!

message 9: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 844 comments Mod
I’ve been re-reading the Hallows this year. I still like them, but don’t LOVE them like I used to.

I agree with Dragonflight, though others in the series hold up more. Love the Harper hall ones still, and the master Harper of Pern.

Piers Anthony is a bit tough for me now. LOVED him growing up. As an adult I’m realizing how often his love interests are teenagers, and quite a few have teenagers and much older adults. Kind of feels creepy now.

message 10: by Daniele (new)

Daniele Powell (danielepowell) | 162 comments Two finishes this week:

The Tetradome Run, which I picked up for free from BookBub. What started off as a retelling of The Running Man later sprinkled in enough swerves to make it a quite enjoyable read. Used for Ravenclaw/Sapphire/book with a blue cover.

I picked up The Birds after hearing in a YouTube video that the Hitchcock movie was inspired by this Daphne du Maurier short story (about 30 or so pages). I cannot stress just how much better it is than the movie (don't get me wrong, it's a pretty darn good movie too!) It also has spot-on commentary on how authorities deal with an unexpected natural crisis, so quite topical. I enjoyed it tremendously. Used for Ravenclaw/The Tower/book set in England.


QOTW: I don't reread a whole lot, so what I do reach for I'm pretty sure holds up. In my eyes, at least, and despite all the flaws we can find in them if we view them through a 2020 lens.

message 11: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 234 comments Sheri wrote: "Piers Anthony is a bit tough for me now. LOVED him growing up. As an adult I’m realizing how often his love interests are teenagers, and quite a few have teenagers and much older adults. Kind of feels creepy now."

Piers Anthony is one that I never read as a kid, and I've heard that from enough people that I probably never will, and I don't think I'd give them to my kid (although if he finds them on his own then I'd probably want to read them too so we can discuss the parts that are problematic).

Ooh, and speaking of re-reading things that are problematic...I'm trying to figure out how to approach the Little House books with my daughter. She is 5. I just started reading Little House in the Big Woods to her and she's fascinated, so I'm sure we'll continue with at least the first few in the series for now...but there is so much glorification of colonialism, and unflattering stereotyping of native Americans, and she's not old enough for the later books yet but later on there is BLACKFACE, and...they are classic books and I have always loved them, but how do I share them with her and at the same time convey that those outdated attitudes are NOT OKAY? (sorry, maybe this is a question for the Parentbots group, but if you all have any words of wisdom I'd love to hear them...)

message 12: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 844 comments Mod
You could preface their reading with a warning, and have a discussion when they finish? Also maybe look up some other literature with better depictions of indigenous people. For a more modern example there’s The Absolutely True Diaries of a Part Time Indian, although I think there’s some allegations of assault against the author. But I just read the story earlier this year, it was funny and easy to read, while also making the conditions on reservations clear.

If your kids do video games, Never Alone is about an Inuit girl and fox companion, and as you play you unlock videos and information about their culture.

message 13: by Megan (new)

Megan | 236 comments Shel wrote: "I'm trying to figure out how to approach the Little House books with my daughter...."

I didn't think about it when I was originally answering the question, but those definitely fall into the category of Things I Enjoyed As A Kid That Haven't Held Up Well. I hadn't thought about them in decades until my book club read A Wilder Rose a couple years ago - I wasn't a fan of the writing style or pacing, but it definitely brought up how much of the Little House books was specifically made up to evoke nostalgia rather than documenting a true story. My personal opinion, which you can take or leave, is that if your daughter enjoys them and they get her interested in reading, they aren't any better or worse than many other books written in the same era - so if you treat them like any other books, with good (engaging writing style, relatable characters, good pacing for new readers) and less good (everything you mentioned) points, rather than Classics To Be Revered, that changes the context. Once her Little House obsession fades or you finish the series, you can steer her toward something set in the same time period but perhaps written more recently for an alternate perspective, which also helps to gently reinforce the idea that books have points of view, so you have to think about what you read in them. A few that I've heard good things about from friends with Little House-loving kids are:
Rescue on the Oregon Trail (which is the start of a series that goes into many time periods, so that might help with moving to a different topic if you're getting tired of covered wagons by then)
Understood Betsy (not more recent, but less sprawling and therefore involving fewer social issues)
Kirsten's Boxed Set, Felicity: An American Girl, and other historical American Girls series
Frontier House - not technically a kids' book, but it's the companion to the TV show that was on PBS a while back, which your daughter would probably also enjoy and I'm sure is available through some streaming service somewhere, and folks whose kids like the show have reported that their kids also like having a book version to look at.
Any of L M Montgomery's books - there are more than just Anne and friends, and they have a lot of the same appeal as the Little House books with less squick.

message 14: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 234 comments Thank you for the suggestions! I don't think she's quite ready for Anne yet, but it's definitely in the back of my mind. I'm not familiar with the others yet!

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