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2017 Reading Challenge

Jill Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 150 books.
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Book Review: The Guide of Time by Cinzia De Santis

I was contacted by the publicist about this one – knowing my proclivity for books related to time, I was especially pleased to see it in my inbox. There is a great construct here – I really like the idea of “guides” whose job it is to make sure humanity stays on track and develops and advances throughout the timeline. This concept raises a lot of interesting questions about God/a prime mover, alternate timelines, predestination, historical integrity, fate, and choice that I find intriguing. I was immensely curious to see where the author went with the concept, and whether those questions would be raised directly or addressed by inference and interpretation. I dug right in as soon as I received the book, eager to see what would develop.

It took me a while to get into, I must admit. There are two distinct narrative tracks – one is a jump-skip through the highlights of human history and scientific development (starting with Ice Age man, a character you don’t see often in contemporary fiction, to say the least) and the other is a more traditional story about an orphan girl raised in a Maltese orphanage in the current century. I had a hard time with these as back-and-forth concepts for quite a few chapters. I’d just about get into one or the other storyline, and that chapter would end and the other track would kick in. It felt a little like reading short stories, of which I’ve never been a fan… I put the book down and picked it back up a number of times, before Ariane’s story finally developed enough to keep my interest through the historical interludes, and before I started enjoying said interludes purely for the information they presented (since they didn’t seem to be developing into an interlaced story line, beyond the consistent presence of a guide in each). I was clicking along, when suddenly it ended. Literally in the middle of the action (such as it is).

I hate that.
Continue reading Book Review: The Guide of Time by Cinzia De Santis

It’s Read an EBook Week – and Smashwords is Giving Books Away

So in the grand tradition of a day/week for everything, this week is apparently Read an E-Book Week – and Smashwords has a great promotion to celebrate, with free and deeply discounted e-books available all week. Check it out here – and happy reading!

Book Review: Of G-Men and Eggheads by John Rodden

I am fascinated with paranoia – it intrigues me to no end to learn about irrationality and the lengths to which fear drives people. One of contemporary American history’s most notorious paranoiacs is, without a doubt, J. Edgar Hoover. The man behind the FBI never met a conspiracy he didn’t see behind every corner… This fascinating treatise from the University of Illinois Press offers yet another set of proofs of Hoover’s paranoia in this tidy little analysis of the FBI’s treatment of three prominent left-wing intellectuals who were the lucky recipients of domestic oversight for decades.

John Rodden, author of Of G-Men and Eggheads, has published numerous books on the so-called “New York Intellectuals” – the group of writers and writing-adjacent liberal thinkers who tended toward Marxist-Socialist thought, while generally disavowing traditional Soviet-style Communism. The three subjects of Rodden’s current book fell firmly into this camp. Yet despite their fairly strong anti-Stalinist, anti-Communist theoretical and political leanings, all three were subject to domestic surveillance for decade after decade – primarily, it seems, because of misunderstandings of their positions or of an over-reliance on their early activities and group memberships without any attention to the actual philosophies they espoused in their writing. And if that wasn’t clear enough for you, let me try to say it another way: without any attempt to actually read what these three men wrote or understand what they actually stood for, they were deemed to represent a Communist ideological threat to national security, and therefore to “require” surveillance.
Continue reading Book Review: Of G-Men and Eggheads by John Rodden

Book Review: The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories

Right off the bat let me admit that I’m not a huge fan of short stories… Typically, I prefer my characters and plot lines more complex than shorts allow. That said, a number of my favorite authors seem to publish shorts in collections like this one frequently, so I occasionally pick the books up to get my interim fix between novels. That’s what happened with this one – I saw that there were stories by Neil Gaiman, Claire North AND Nnedi Okorafor in this one. That, coupled with the topic (which I haven’t seen as a focal point of a full collection before), caught both my eye and my interest.

I often read short stories in mish-mash order. I usually check out the authors I know/follow first. So step one: look up the Neil Gaiman, since he’s one of my all-time favorites. Well, the Gaiman story here is actually an excerpt from American Gods. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a fantastic book – but I’ve read it. So rereading this segment in here didn’t add anything for me…

After that I looked up the Claire North. I have a love/hate relationship with her – Claire North is actually Catherine Webb, who is also Kate Griffin. Weird as it sounds, I LOVE Kate Griffin, quite like Catherine Webb, and love the ideas of Claire North but generally hate their execution. So I was a little skittish about this one. I was surprised to find that it read like a Kate Griffin idea executed by Claire North – I’d have preferred it if it had been flip-flopped, since I prefer Kate Griffin’s writing style, but it was still an improvement over my usual readings of Claire North’s stories in that I actually finished it.
Continue reading Book Review: The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories

Book Review: Love and Gravity by Samantha Sotto – and a bonus Spotify playlist!

What a lovely story this was! I love stories with time travel and alternate or unusual timelines. I was a huge fan of The Time Traveler’s Wife – this one felt redolent of it for a while, although it wound up (much to my delight) traveling down a more original path than it suggested at first…

There’s a beautiful timeless love story, of course, but there’s also a fascinating exploration (although I don’t know how true – this is, after all, fiction) of Isaac Newton’s early years and a very original take on the inspiration for his major discoveries/theories. The characters really come alive in this one. Isaac himself is fascinating, of course – how could he not be, he’s Isaac Newton! But more interesting, I think, is Andrea. She’s a brilliant enigma, a girl of immense talent with immensely complicated relationships. She really brought the story to life for me. The ancillary characters (her father, Nate) were always present but were clearly set up in supporting roles (even though they were essential to the story)

There’s a twist – I will admit that I saw it coming, but that didn’t lessen the joy of the reveal for me at all. Instead it made it richer and feel like a coming-full-circle wrap up that tied things together nicely without feeling twee or too cozy. This was a very enjoyable and easy-going read, and I will definitely keep the author on my radar…

And, as a special bonus (since music is an essential part of this story), the publisher, Ballantine Books, would like to share this free playlist from Spotify! Enjoy, and see where the music transports you…

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