Book Log #6: The Glass Hotel

The Glass Hotel By Emily St. John Mandel

By the author of Station 11, which was fantastic.

This was a fine read. It had a story, but felt more like a collection of character sketches. I don’t mean that in necessarily a bad way, I stayed engaged throughout. The ending got a bit supernatural for my taste, in what was otherwise a very grounded novel.

The plot involves a Madoff-like Ponzi scheme and an isolated hotel, and the characters that inhabit both.

Worth a read, but try Station 11 first.

I liked it well enough to try some of her other works.

Book Log #3: The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel

The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia: A Novel by Mary Helen Stefaniak [Kindle, $9.99]

Loved this novel.

I came across it because I was taking an SAT practice test with my son, and one of the questions had an excerpt from this novel. The excerpt was probably the most amusing bit of writing I’ve ever seen in a standardized test so I needed to get the rest of it.

There’s some fun literary fugues going on in this book… a person tells a story about someone who then tells a story about someone who then tells a story and so on about 7 layers down. And then, when you’ve finished the book, you can visit the Baghdad, Georgia website, and go one level up from the novel. There are layers, people.

All in all, this is a rollicking, amusing, touching and well-written novel, probably my favorite this year.

I picked up the other couple works by Stefanick, and they did not disappoint either.

Book Log #2: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1) by Becky Chambers [Kindle, $6.99]

This was an alternative family sci-fi story, like Firefly. Put a bunch of different personalities in a small ship and watch them bond. There’s some decent world building going on here, but not enough that I needed to look for Book 2.

There is a decent message here about accepting different cultures, sexualities, etc.

Book Log 2019: The Year in Review

Books read in 2004: 21
Books read in 2005: 28
Books read in 2006: 40
Books read in 2007: 30
Books read in 2008: 41
Books read in 2009: 22
Books read in 2010: 44
Books read in 2011: 28
Books read in 2012: 31
Books read in 2013: 8
Books read in 2014: 13
Books read in 2015: 18
Books read in 2016: 52
Books read in 2017: ~24
Books read in 2018: ~28
Books read in 2019: ~24

Last year was my 15th year of logging books. Should have commemorated that, I guess. Perhaps a small party? No speeches. No long ones, anyway. Perhaps just a few words about the importance of reading. I mean, I guess I think it’s important. But I’ve also read (ha!) that learning to read causes you to repurpose the part of your brain that recognizes faces. And quite honestly, I could use some better facial recognition skills. It gets embarrassing.

It’s obvious I’m not tracking my reading like I used to. You can tell by the little approximation squiggles before the numbers above. It is because in 2016 I attempted the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge, and I just got burned out for three years?? Possible. That was a hell of a marathon, reading-wise.

I only have one non-digital book on the lineup this year. That is probably because I used my Amazon account to figure out what I read. If I bought something at my favorite bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, and read it– it’s lost to history.

A lotta series books this year. It’s just… easier. Finished one book? Well, here’s another just like it. Rinse, repeat. They weren’t great series, just fine.

Really, nothing on this list blew me away. Fall, or Dodge in Hell was probably my favorite, but I’m a Stephenson-o-phile, and I felt like this book redeemed the previous book with the same characters, REAMDE. Not that the stories had anything to do with each other, beyond using the same characters. Sortof. Anyway, I liked it.

I’m reading a couple of great book now, here in 2020. So the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades. Especially because of the harsh glare of my phone screen.

1. Down and Out in The Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow [borrowed]
I’d never read a Cory Doctorow, so I need to see what all the jokes in XKCD were about.

2. Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5) by Scott Meyer [Kindle, $4.99]
I like his universe he’s created, but I would really like him to get around to digging deeper into the obvious mysteries. I’m not sure he wants to.

3. The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish [Kindle, $10.99]
Good stuff with interplay between the past and the present. Not my usual, but nice.

4. Replay by Ken Grimwood [Amazon, $13.95]
Recommended by my boss, this is the first of two “people who live their lives over and over again” books I read this year. Both great, with very different takes on the same premise.

5. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [Kindle, $9.99]
The second of the “people who live their lives over and over again” books of 2019. This was my favorite of the two, probably because it was written recently and the other is like 30 years old.

6. Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas that Shape our Reality by Ben Orlin [Kindle, $14.99] – unfinished?
Interesting, but perhaps shouldn’t have been an e-reader. May need to try to finish it in paper form.

7. Annabel Scheme by Robin Sloan [Kindle, $2.99]
I don’t remember this onen at all. I know Robin Sloan wrote a couple other entertaining books, one about sourdough.

8. The Quantum Magician (The Quantum Evolution Book 1) by Derek Kunsken [Kindle, $1.99]
Odd little sci-fi novel with some interesting world building.

9. Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari [Kindle, $14.99] – unfinished
Fascinating, except I stopped reading it. A friend also stopped reading it at the same point, and it was because the author made a weak argument about something, and I sort of lost faith. My friend had the same reaction. But I’ll eventually get back to it.

10. David Mogo Godhunter, by Suyi Davies Okungbowa [Kindle, $5.99]
Okay. A little claustrophic. I just don’t know Africa very well, and it was hard to get a feel for where I was. And a lot of mysticism, so the I couldn’t assess the stakes, couldn’t understand the dangers our hero was facing.

11. Fall, or Dodge in Hell: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson [Kindle, $16.99]
My fav of the year.

12. Beneath the Sugar Sky [Wayward Children Book 3] by Seanan McGuire [Kindle, $2.99]
Meh. Magical orphans from other universes.

13. Atmosphaera Incognita by Neal Stephenson [Kindle, $2.99]
Fine little short story by the master.

The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells

    14.All Systems Red [Kindle, $3.99]
    15. Artificial Condition [Kindle, $2.99]
    16. Rogue Protocol [Kindle, $9.99]
    17. Exit Strategy [Kindle, $9.99]

This series was entertaining mind candy.

Books of Raksura series by Martha Wells

    18. The Cloud Roads, Book 1 [Kindle, $9.26]
    19. The Serpent Sea, Book 2 [Kindle, $10.49]
    20. The Siren Depths, Book 3 [Kindle, $9.99]
    21. Stories of the Raksura: The Falling World & The Tale of Indigo and Cloud [Kindle, $9.99]
    22.Edge of Worlds, Book 4[Kindle, $10.49]
    23. The Harbors of the Sun, Book 5 [Kindle, $3.79]

I kept reading this series of half-lizard-people long after I should have stopped, probably. They are fine, and there’s some good worldbuilding. But a couple was probably enough.

24. This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone [Kindle, $7.99]
Can’t decide if I liked this one. A sort of epistolary novel, told half in letter form, about two opposing agents in a far flung future time war, each trying to shape the past to bring about their future. The style was a bit too poetical for my taste, but I liked the concept enough to stick with it.

Book Log #4: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North [Kindle]

Loved this book.

Claire North takes a cool premise and explores it wonderfully, with an engaging plot.

The premise: Some people live their life over and over. After they die, they restart at the beginning, remembering their previous loops at age 3 or 4. It gives a time-traveler-esque feel to the story line, and the conceit is well executed.

The butterfly effect is handled ok, but there remains the Grandfather’s Sperm Paradox* which, if considered closely, unravels some of the plot.

But, there is so much awesomeness in this one, I don’t mind a little hand waving.

*The Grandfather’s Paradox states you wink out of existence if you go back in time and kill your grandfather, but really all you need to do is bump him a little.

The only portrayal I’ve seen of this is in the very enjoyable movie “About Time”, where a man learns he can travel back along his own timeline and change his history. He discovers if he travels back further than the conception of his child, he ends up with a different child in the present.

Book Log #3: Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5)

Out of Spite, Out of Mind (Magic 2.0 Book 5) by Scott Meyer (Kindle)

Decent mind candy as usual. He takes a fun premise (a secret computer file that contains reality, and can be edited, so some people find it and make themselves magicians) and plays with it in amusing ways.

I’m hoping at some point that he starts cracking into the mystery of the file. But maybe he’s going to milk this for as many books as he can before a Big Reveal. Or maybe he hasn’t thought of the Big Reveal.

At any rate, if you like the first 4, you’ll like this one just fine.

Book Log #2: The Weight of Ink

THe Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (Kindle)

I stole this recommendation from a friend on Facebook who received it from someone I didn’t even know. I eavesdropped this rec.

And I’m glad I did.

This story jumps back and forth in time between some researchers who find a trove of writings under a stair and the people who wrote them right before the plague hit London. It’s a page turner, and a sharp historical fiction. Philosphy, history, wit… this book’s got it all.