Category: Uncategorized


by Edward F. Murphy

This is a book set in the decade I was born in – the 60s. So if you are as old as I am, its an option for Book 36. A book set in the decade you were born
It tells the story of the first battle of Khe Sanh, also known as “the Hill Fights”, part of the seventy-seven-day siege of Khe Sanh.

The author is a Vietnam War historian, and this book is based on first-hand interviews and documentary research.

And I found it
Harrowing
Frightening
Very very sad

I cannot image the horror and terror of being engaged in battle and having your weapon jam and refuse to shoot, of having to hunker down in a hole in the ground randomly throwing grenades at anything that makes a noise outside because your fellow marines are all dead so any noise is trying to kill you, of using poor stock because the army cut corners, of running out of ammunition mid battle.
As if war is not bad enough, to be fighting a battle poorly equipped must be unfathomable.
But that is what these men did – they fought, they hung on, and they won.

That these youngster were fighting this war in the first place is horrendous, and then that they were expected to do with such rubbish support should surely be criminal.

I am glad that books like this exist, for while he war was questionable, the courage of the men sent to fight it was not.
Sadly, it will probably and up in the ‘least we forget’ pile of things we seem to have completely forgotten already

When will we learn?

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by Christopher Andersen

I just read this book because I needed a book that included a royal wedding for another challenge and could not force myself to read some trashy romance involving a princess, however short it promised to be (the read, not the princess). However, it could fulfill criteria  48. A microhistory.

I quite liked this book, slightly to my surprise
The beginning threw me a bit because it imagines a future that has happened yet, and it made me question how accurate the rest was. But as soon as I started recognising events covered, I got into the factual basis of the rest of the books.

It does cast Camilla and Kate as ruthless and mercenary, along with Kate’s mother. Bagging a rich husband seems to have been a pretty one tracked plan for them. Apparently Kate and her sister were called the Wisteria Sisters because they were “highly decorative and terribly fragrant with a ferocious ability to climb”.

Camilla is particularly painted as nasty and manipulative. I do wonder if she is or if this is just how we like to view women who wield any power they have, even if it is over the future King of England.

That the British Monarchy has had to deal with some real upsets, and make huge changes just to continue exiting, is covered in detail. And that these three women have a great deal of power over where it goes it evident.

Whether the monarchy is even needed any longer is a separate question, but this book was an interesting look at these three role players.

by Daphne Du Maurier

This is my book for 23. A book about time travel.

In this time travel tale a man hops back 600-odd years in time to the same place, geographically, he is in modern times. Dick Young has left his job and is unsure of his next step in life when a friend uses him as a human guinea pig testing his time travel potion.

As Dick returns to the reality of the early 1300s he becomes involved in the lives of the people then. He cannot engage with them at all, but rather is an invisible viewer – and sometimes a rather frustrated one.

In addition to two narratives which are both engaging, this story also looks at how moving between time might disrupt the traveler’s connection with their own time. The futility of the interest Dick has in people who have been dead for 600 years is interesting to watch. Not dissimilar to how people get obsessed by fictional characters, Dick finds himself wanting to spend more and more time in the past, at the expense of his present day relationships.

Personally I loved the way the changes in geography were described. I love the idea of the streets I walk in once having been fields, or homes; sites of monumental events and mundane life. The dangers in walking in the geography of 600 years ago while actually physically being in the now has its perils though – where fields once were may now be roads, rivers and dangerous drops.

I was much more invested in the modern time story but have read reviews where others readers felt the past time story was more engaging. I don’t think it matters which hold the readers attention as together they are a finely crafted story.

2054

by Wijeratne, Lawrence, Werbeloff and Rice

I read this collection for 42. A cyberpunk book

What a wonderful collection of independent story stories that give a gentle nod to each other.

In Deep Ocean Blues by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne we are dropped into a world far beneath the surface of the ocean where perceptions of the self are questionable, and the beeps of machinery seem like legitimate emotions. Wijeratne manages, very quickly, to create a sense of loneliness and a sense of aloneness in the reader that the protagonist Parul must have felt too. It is because of this empathy with her that the event of the story are believable to the reader.
Deep Blue Oceans left me feeling sad and a bit adrift.

In The Memory Hacker, JT Lawrence looks at the idea of memory and whether losing and/or regaining them is necessarily something worth doing. If our memories make us who you are, do we lose something of ourselves if they are lost (or erased)? And if past you erased memories, would present you trust that decision enough not to undo it? These are the questions I was left pondering after this tale. When Talia is told she had given birth previously, but had no memory of it, she travels down a path many of us would probably follow.

Lawrence always manages to create futuristic worlds that feel so likely it is frightening.

Melting Shlemiel by Jason Werbeloff is a peculiar story combining religion, sexuality, and tough decisions in an odd future. When Shlemiel discovers a secret venue in which to reveal himself, both physically and emotionally, to others, it changes everything. When this sanctuary also becomes important to the nation as a whole, he has to decide whether to keep it safe for himself, or risk losing it by sharing it.

The premises of the story are unusual, but the quandary he finds himself in is very easy to relate to. We all think we would do right by the greater number of people, but if i were really in his position, I am not sure what I would do. To give up personal freedom for the freedom of others is truly noble and this story had me questioning my own nobility, or lack thereof.

The final story in this quadruple deliciousness is The Camille by Colby R. Rice. An interesting look at a world where nanotechnology has gone to the nth degree, where technology can do pretty much everything.
Besides the narrative (which is hard to discuss the narrative without spoilers) this story had me questioning how aware any of us are of the ultimate repercussions of anything. What seems like a good idea now, such a nanotechnology or any single personal decision and action, may spiral so far out of control as to create completely unexpected results. I felt that this story, of the four, was the most a cautionary tale. One we won’t heed.

All in all, a very good collection of stories, all really worth reading. And a good way to be introduced to these four authors if you haven’t already read them. In every single case, these stories will make you want to explore the author’s other works.

Rain

by Karen Duve
My goodness what a weird book. Good weird, mostly, but certainly weird.
The narrative is about a man who agrees to write the biography of a thug and to do so moves to a house with his young wife. It rains non-stops and everything is wet, all the time. When the writer, Leon, doesn’t do what the thug wants and expects, things go sideways.
And boy do they go sideways. Everything goes sideways.
 
Duve has a very interesting turn of phrase and I often found myself smiling (almost outloud) at the way some things are articulated. I have to assume that it is all Duve and that the translator just did an amazing job within Duve’s words, and didn’t add any quirk in of her own.
(If anyone can and has read this book in any of the other 8 languages it can be found – please let me know if this is the case.)
 
But alongside the sad cake women and perky pointer men, there are scenes in this book that had me rearing up away from the page. Duve can create a scene a little too well when it is a gruesome scene. But I guess that’s the price the reader pays for all the wonderful, well crafted images.
 
Although not the focus of the narrative, I liked the exploration of the relationship of Martina (Leon’s wife) with Leon and its parallels to her relationship with her father. Only that daughter would be this wife.
 
I am not sure I would blanket recommend this book because the challenging scenes may be too much for some more delicate readers. But if you think you can appreciate the bizarre and feel that if justice is served then you can stomach the evil, read this book.
 
One small thing – slugs are a character and metaphor throughout the story – and the cover art has snails on it! That annoyed me because it is a silly mistake so easily avoided. Slug and snail are the same word in the original German so I think this is a translation issue causing the new text not to match the existing cover. Oh well. I’ll pack my pedant away
 
a solid 4 1/2 stars from me

Murder at Midnight

by Marshall Cook

This was the book I chose for 8. A book with a time of day in the title. I listened to the audiobook of it.

It is a sweet cozy murder mystery with real small town tones. The small town lives of Monona Quinn, her husband and community members are so lovingly shared with the readers, we are drawn into the town with a warm embrace.
The characters are believable and flawed, and sometimes argumentative and snarky. Just like real people.

The murder in this story is of a priest and religion, faith and belief are all interwoven but only as characters and not in any kind of evangelical way. There are those who find the idea of religion literally stupid as much as there are faithful Catholics scattered through the book.

Monona is a newspaper reporter who accidentally seems to keep solving crimes – this is not her first. When her parish priest is murdered at midnight she gets all involved in the investigation against her husband’s advice. She also continues to work at the newspaper and guide interns towards being better reporters. We learn all sorts of little details about characters in this homely book – who has sugar in their tea and who likes well salted food. It makes everyone feel like friends.

Cook writes a very readable and enjoyable small town crime novel that is an easy read.

The Rainbow has No Pink

 

Indiscretions of the Queen

by Jean Plaidy
I picked this book for prompt 38. A book with an ugly cover. I have had a hard time meeting this criterion as I have not found a book with an ugly cover where the cover doesn’t improve once the book is read. This cover is not pretty but it is probably what the star of the book looked like. So that makes it right for the book.
However, I am going with that fact that is is torn and a bit dirty – and that makes it ugly
Indiscretions
Not my usual fare at all but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
It tells of the rather sad and lonely life of Caroline of Brunswick who was brought from Germany to marry the then Prince of Wales. He later became King George IV and she was Queen.
But that was in name only. She was sent to live in remote (for those days) castles, accused of all sorts of indiscretions her husband was most certainly committing, and kept from her child.
He seems a nasty little man who was in love with almost anyone rather than his wife, he seems to have made no effort to even get to know her, and treated her appallingly throughout their marriage. IN addition, he spied on her and attempted to ruin her reputation by bribing ‘witnesses’.
From what I have read. Plaidy sticks quite close to the historical facts in this historical fiction, and creates a likable character in Caroline.
That she is eccentric is not disputed at all – occasionally she seems quite unhinged.
But, I think, always rather delightful. She thumbs her nose at the behaviour expected from a family, with one except only, who treat her terribly. I probably would have done exactly what she did.
She DGAF.
Except she actually does. She is saddened by the emptiness of her life – she just chooses not to allow it to bring her down. Instead she dons pink tights and waves her bare breasts at the world.
An interesting look at a lessen know royal. and possibly the start of a little historical fiction run for me – I am off to see what else is available to me.
by Jon Snow
Another weather book – that had nothing to do with weather! I am not winning with this criterion (24. A book with a weather element in the title ) because I keep getting sidetracked with other book.
But I am counting this for now – who knows what other books with weather items in the title I will find that have nothing to do with actual weather
Maybe in 2019 I will make THAT my challenge
 
Anyway – I enjoyed this as an audiobook. Snow narrates it too which made it accessible and personal.
It is wonderful especially, if like me, you are old enough to remember some of the events he covered.
It is less of an autobiography than it is a wonderful session of story telling – only all the stories are true.
I often forgot he was reading as it really did sound like he was telling tales of his amazingly interesting life.
It is also a great way to get a highlights history of the last 30-odd years.
 
Highly recommend it
Oh, and how much must he hate GOT Jon Snow – I mean what are the odds of that unusual name being famous twice?

by Lisa See

I originally picked this book up at the library for criterion 24. A book with a weather element in the title. Only once I got going did I realise it is a Snow Flower not Snow – and Snow Flower is a character’s name. But I am including it because a) I will just read another and have two for this criterion, and b) someone else might like the sound of it and read the book. And everyone should. It is marvelous!

 

I think Lisa See weaves such beautiful and tangible worlds with her words. Sometimes these worlds are beautiful and elegant; sweeping silks and happy people. And other times they are worlds that make the reader shudder; broken toes bound under young feet, staggering women escaping up mountains on deformed feet, men beating women while others look away.

This story tells of Snow Flower and Lily and their lifelong friendship and connection. So many of the concepts included are completely alien to modern western readers, but See manages to educate and entertain in equal measure. I found the idea of having a best friend selected for one harder to accept than the idea of arranged marriages. A spouse is just a spouse, but a best friend is so much more. And yet this is what happened and this is how people actually lived, not that long ago.

I was completely caught up in the story, so much so that I was somewhat disappointed by the reminder in the afterword (which I read because I was not done with this book when it ended) that this is entirely a novel.
I had hoped, and even believed, that that the women were real. They were to me.

I am now very interested in life in China in the previous century as well as Nüshu – the secret writing women used to use. Any work of fiction that can ignite an interest in the facts behind it is an extraordinary book, in my opinion.

The story is not all beautiful, but it is all so very beautifully told.