Sunday, 31 December 2017

Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon



Book 78 is Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey.

My last book of 2017 and one of the most moving.

I started fearing dogs and exited trusting what I grew up with. Dogs have rules and signals just like people and I have to respect that.

Tonight (7th of January, 2018), I patted a Rottweiler X who was the sweetest bitch I've ever met. I didn't act afraid of her. I respected her strength and assumed her good will.

This book has made me reconsider my approach to both "aggressive" dogs and all people.

4 puppies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes please. It is for all the people who love animals.
What did I learn? My fear is manufactured and not based in reality. Don't discriminate.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Jacob T. Marley


Book 77 is Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett.

A book explaining how Scrooge became the scrooge he is in A Christmas Carol. The premise is good and it starts well but Marley goes from an evil jerk to remorseful soul on his death. The pivot is weak and the story goes down hill from there.

It was a quick read. Maybe someone can take this idea and do it a little better.

3 regrets out of 5.

Should I read this? At Christmas, before re-reading A Christmas Carol.
What did I learn? Yeah, yeah. Death makes you regret a shitty life lived.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Golden Son




Book 76 is Golden Son which is book 2 of The Red Rising series by Pierce Brown.

This series continues to challenge what I think is right and what is reality. I'd like to think I'd handle things better but I'm not sure if Darrow does what we all would: A mix of right and what must be done.

Still one of the best series to come true in the last few years. Coloured people, politics and entitlement all mixed in modern relevance.

4 betrayals out of 5.

Should I read this? If you want some philosophically challenging science fiction.
What did I learn? I would never be a revolutionary.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Gather 'Round the Sound



Book 75 is Gather 'Round the Sound by Audible.

With the byline "Holiday Stories from Beloved Authors and Great Performers Across the Globe" and a price tag of free, this was an enjoyable listen of just over an hour.

My favourites were An Aussie Night Before Christmas read by Magda Szubanski and The Signal-man by Charles Dickens.

If you have the time then do listen to this.

4 improv carols out of 5.

Should I read this? Read it just for the two I mentioned and everything else is a bonus.
What did I learn? Charles Dickens was scary.

The Hate U Give

Book 74 is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

GoodReads readers voted this book Best Debut GoodReads Author and Best Young Adult Fiction of 2017. That made this a must read.

Everyone has been talking about this book from the day it was release... or maybe even prior. It is a now book in the US with white cops killing black kids more often than you'd imagine and always without warrant.

When told from the mouth of a teenager, this book breaks you heart. Her family makes you smile. Her friends make you cringe. Her inner monologue makes you remember those young years you lived and how little fear you felt in comparison.

There is a reason for the hype around this very easy to read but very hard to accept story. The world shouldn't be like this but it is. Good books make you want to read them again. Great books change your entire world view. This is somewhere in between those two points.

Do read it.

5 dictator black mothers out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes, especially if you live in the racially charged USA.
What did I learn? I had an easy and safe childhood.

Blood Moon



Book 73 is Blood Moon which is book 2 of The Huntress series by Alexandra Sokoloff.

Having enjoyed Huntress Moon, the first book in the series 14 books ago, I was keen to get back to this series. It wasn't as easy as anticipated. I picked this up and then read one other book before picking this up again. The first chapter took me three passes before I could continue. It just didn't grab me to start.

It's good that I kept reading because with this book based mostly around the noir FBI Agent Matthew Roarke was more enjoyable than the first book. The first book is more of an insight in to the rationalised mind of a female serial killer. This was more complimentary maybe then "better" as such. Roarke ponders what made this killer while seeking the monsters he knows are in her head.

It's almost a collaboration between to broken people on opposite sides of a battle between good and evil.

This will be the last in the series that I read. The characters didn't hold on to me enough, although I did enjoy the first two books. It may not be my genre after all.

3 anatomies of a serial killer out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes to the first two books but it is up to you if you continue on through the series.
What did I learn? As we age, we perfect our art.

The Autobiography of Santa Claus



Book 72 is The Autobiography of Santa Claus which is book one of The Christmas Chronicles by Jeff Guinn.

Considering this is the guy who wrote The Road to Jonestown, I was not expecting such positivity but this is fictional. Of course, anything about Santa is fictional but this is told in Guinn's non-fictional tone and that added to the enjoyment of it.

This was an amusing read and one of escapism and nonsense. The historical characters effected by the Forrest-Gump-like Santa Claus were a nice idea... badly executed. This was unfortunate because reading the synopsis had me hoping for something a little more like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure through history with a little Christmas magic. It wasn't.

This could be aimed at children and people with little knowledge of history. The historical figures becoming so subservient to Santa was not convincing or explained well by Christmas magic.

This was a flop. Although it is the first of a series, it will be the only one I read.

2 Huns out of 5.

Should I read this? No. There is little that redeems it. Go for Dickens instead.
What did I learn? The Dutch are the reason for the name Santa Claus.

Monday, 11 December 2017

LEGO: I Love That Minifigure



Book 71 is LEGO: I Love That Minifigure by DK Publishing.

This was a must read for me since I collect female Lego minifigures.

There is so much information about rare minifigures, cool collections and reasons behind why certain characters were chosen.

A great reference book for Lego collectors and fans.

4 Minifigures out of 5.

Should I read this? For the Lego collectors and fans, for sure.
What did I learn? Lego gets very very expensive when rare.

The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple



Book 70 is The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn.

After Helter Skelter, I have been seeking similar styles of books which give insights in to famous situations. This is the first I've found that was as interesting. It is not as well written but it is hard to put down.

This book takes you through Jones' life from his childhood with his disturbed delusional mother on to his marriage and building of the church to the final Kool-Aid (it wasn't that brand actually) mass suicide in French Guiana.

The Jonestown Mass Suicide

It was not so hard to see why people followed him. He just wanted to be followed and sold a left leaning charitable view of his church which seemed to help people. He then isolated and controlled his flock.

We look back and wonder why governments would let this happen but I'm sure no one expects Jonestown. I wouldn't have.

4 miraculous fake healings out of 5.

Should I read this? It's interesting. So, yeah.
What did I learn? I always thought the mass suicide took place in the US. Now I know it was South America.

Hunter




Book 69 is Hunter by Mercedes Lackey.

Another fantasy book with an interesting premise and a strong independent heroin. Her hounds of hell are vicious but kind, a little like she is.

The competition is a little too easy for the main character. She wins everything, with so much power at hand. The Hunger Games balanced the competition a lot better than this book does. It is still enjoyable and I may continue to the series.

3 hell hounds out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it's entertaining and enjoyable if you like fantasy and strong female characters.
What did I learn? I do not want the gates of hell to open... ever.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Wishful Drinking



Book 68 is Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher.

Having just read everything about her after her detail last year, I knew most of the stories she had to tell. The Paul Simon stories and song were new and very light. I may have to read a biography of his to get the gritty details... if I ever feel I want them.

This is a very light book. Short and sweet. Very much written to make money but not much value to the reader.

Maybe Postcards from teh Edge will be better.

2 princesses out of 5.

Should I read this? Don't. There are many better autobiographies.
What did I learn? I love Carrie Fisher's characters but I'm not sure I love her character.

All These Worlds



Book 67 is All These Worlds, which is book 3 of the Bobiverse series by Dennis E. Taylor.

Rarely have I liked a trilogy this much. There were tough moments but all in all, this was an original and wonderful idea.

The only other time I have seen this idea of alternate selves was in ultimate dimensions. Taylor solves this with one dimension and the idea of slight differences in instantiations of the same person.

You know Bob 0 is no longer around.

A brilliant series worth reading, despite the slow middle bit.

4 Bobs out of 5.

Should I read this? For all modern sci-fi fans.
What did I learn? White middle-class male entitlement may persist hundreds of years into the future but at least I'll be dead.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

For We Are Many



Book 66 is For We Are Many which is book 2 of the Bobiverse series by Dennis E. Taylor.

This has absolutely been an original and thoroughly entertaining series for me and one I shall continue to read.

The thing that became painful in this book specifically, was Bob's ego. It's fragile like an entitled white male geek boy from San Francisco. I had to actively try to avoid thinking of how whiney and weak he was while he constantly found he was impressed with himself. I guess replicant evolution doesn't evolve passed white male entitlement... or maybe it is the author.

Nonetheless, after finishing this I have skipped right on to the third and final book of the series.

There is something about the idea of the Bobs that I love. It is the many instantiations of their evolution or their exaggerated biases. I don't know. I simply enjoy them all.

4 growth opportunities out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes to Star Trek explorer kinds of sci-fi lovers.
What did I learn? I am glad there is only one of me in the world. Facing my many versions would be very confronting.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Hidden Bodies



Book 65 is Hidden Bodies which is book 2 of the You series by Caroline Kepnes

I found the first book from this series intriguing since it was told from the point of view of a serial killer. Since then, I've read a few books in this style and a lot of them are better.

This book read less like a driven sociopath and more like a childish sociopaths. Not how I enjoy my sociopaths but I will read the next book in the series when it comes out and see if it improves.

The certainty of the killer as he is in the first book was more interesting. The chaos and devolution feels out of synch with this, especially considering the random stressors.

3 self-centered thoughts out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe. Depends on if whether you like being in the mind of an entitled fragile little serial killer.
What did I learn? I know people who don't kill people but do process the world this way.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

We Are Legion (We Are Bob)

 

Book 64 is We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor.

I read this because it had been recommended a thousand times. The reason I hadn't picked it up was because it sounded like it was about some Silicon Valley frat boy type who cryogenically froze himself and came back to save the world.

Truth is, it kinda is but he is likeable.

The philosophical questions got me through this whole book. His righteous confidence and entitlement made me cringe but I rubbernecked it like a true human.

An interesting and unique concept.

4 Bobs out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. No bobs about it.
What did I learn? Is AI nature or nurture.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry



Book 63 is Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

So many great facts. Much angst against the anti-science crew. Absolutely worth the time.

I listened to the audio book, read by the author and he had me glued through the whole book. Usually I will listen and do other things but I stopped for this book.

You don't need a science background. You only need a mind craving discovery.

4 spaces between galaxies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. No buts about it.
What did I learn? I miss the science I studied. Must read more and in more depth.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Around the World in Eighty Days



Book 62 is Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne.

This is the 11th book Verne wrote in the Extraordinary Voyages series and one that I am shocked to not have read yet, considering I know the story so well.

What surprised me about the story is that there is no hot air balloon travel at all. Not a single mention of it.

Phileas Fogg is one of the least penetrable yet most interesting central characters I've ever read. He is the central pivot point in the story with the world made up of interesting characters, situations and exceptions rotating around him. I would never have seen that in a movie version.

The twists and solutions are intelligent although sometimes contrived but it all fits together perfectly.

You must remember that time this was written to not cringe at the cultural insensitivity and sexism.

I must read the rest of the series now. And no, order does not seem to matter.

4 idiot travel buddies out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Read it to your kids or to yourself. You'll enjoy it.
What did I learn? I want to travel around the world in 80 days now but only five star.

Scarecrow Returns



Book 61 is Scarecrow Returns from the Shane Schofield series by Aussie Matthew Reilly.

This is book four. I accidentally missed book 2 for some unknown reason but it hadn't made too big a difference. The author re-explains where all the old characters came from and how they have been damaged by books past.

Those constant recaps is why this is an airport book. You can pick up any one in the series at an airport and read it without any real commitment to anything but the story in front of your face.

This series is why I know a lot about military aircraft and also why I have a very rational fear of killer whales. This particular book is better than the last with more humour and less self pity which is what you want from a stuff blows up and science is stretched a little further than reality.

A fun romp through a radioactive mutant polar bear infested acid island full of a killer mercenary cult. Oops spoiler! But then you could just read that on the back of the book.

3 stereotypical characters out of 5.

Should I read this? Sure, it's fun.
What did I learn? I now know that an osprey isn't just a bird.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life



Book 60 is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

This book is a best seller and an enjoyable read. Manson is witty and straightforward, as you can guess from the title.

Nothing he said was new, if you've read enough self help books but he tells it differently in that he insists you take responsibility for your own life, thoughts and outcomes.

As someone who values the idea that happiness is intrinsic and that you don't always have to be happy, I enjoyed the way he brought those two ideas together.

This book felt very aimed at people who wouldn't usually be seen dead reading self help books and I'm a little too old for that "too cool for school" attitude.

The author does redeem himself by showing vulnerability but he never quite stopped me thinking that his cockiness made me want to listen to him less.

Still worth the read.

4 truths out of 5.

Should I read this? Anything that helps you pull back from over-indexing on introspection and gives solid tips for how to change you thinking is worth the read. So, yes.
What did I learn? I can spend more time facing my challenges.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Huntress Moon



Book 59 is Huntress Moon which is book 1 of The Huntress series by Alexandra Sokoloff.

This book is published by employer but the opinions here are my own and unrelated to them.

At work each day, I walk past a poster of this book. I finally decided that I had to read the book about the female serial killer with the long winding road. That was about all I knew about it when I picked it up.

I am very glad I did pick it up.

The two characters that take turns bringing the story together are a disturbed young woman with clear rules to her world that have her honing in on a specific night; and a noir style FBI agent who spots the huntress in a second and begins to hunt her. He looks back in her life as she focuses forward.

It is well written with the unravelling of her purpose and the construction of her past. Nothing feels formulaic and there are those moments when you accept that you didn't see that coming.

I have already bought the second book in the series and will be getting to it soon.

4 bad bad men out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes for all the serial killer fans.
What did I learn? Dangerous women are twice as dangerous because no one expects a woman.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Finnikin of the Rock



Book 58 is Finnikin of the Rock which is book 1 of the Lumatere Chronicles by Aussie author Melina Marchetta.

My friend Vicky recommended I read this when we were randomly discussing fantasy books and I am so glad she did. With a solid trilogy already published, I see this distracting me for hours.

As always with female authors (and not surprisingly), the female characters are strong, multi-layered and interesting to read. So are the men. I really wish male authors could start doing this well.

The main character is a young man who doesn't whine or whinge about slights to his entitlement. The female lead plays his second, yet holds a higher standing to him.

This is well written and the world well imagined.

5 girls broken but strong out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you like fantasy. If so, then YES.
What did I learn? I am learning to pick the kind of fantasy I like better and wasting less time on rubbish. Recommendations help now that people know what I like.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

La Belle Sauvage



Book 57 is La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman.

Having never read The Golden Compass, I picked up this book because everyone was excited about it. Yes, yes, I didn't ask why they were excited.

This is obviously a very well established and thought through world and that came across in this famous prequel. I didn't feel I was missing anything except maybe nostalgia in picking this up first.

On of my next series will have to be His Dark Materials, for sure.

5 spirit animals out of 5.

Should I read this? This would suit most ages and fiction appetites, so yes.
What did I learn? I need to read the children's classics that I missed.

Caraval



Book 56 is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

I love love loved this book.

Initially put off reading this by the idea of the girls being trapped on an island was wrong. That is a small part of this phantasmagorical story.

When I thought I'd never find another book like Night Circus, I was sad. This is that book and it is a series! Although it isn't released yet, I'm excited to continue in this world.

There is too much to explain and most would give away the mystery.

It is magical. It is mysterious. It is a game. Or is it?

5 twists and turns out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. No matter who you are, yes.
What did I learn? I love magic, beit real or not.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Turtles All The Way Down




Book 55 is Turtles All The Way Down by John Green.

It is rare for me to like a John Green so I can't for the life of me work out why I picked this up.

To clear things up quickly, I didn't like it.

It's the typical pattern or quotes from other people, teenage angst-love-heartbreak and Green summing up the whole point of the story in the last two chapters.

I'd wonder like to ask if he writes the end of his books first and then fills in the justification for them because it all feels too rushed and doesn't always fit.

Even the title of the book is hollow in its use in the story.

These books are for teenagers and having not been one for many years, I can happily say that this book may appeal to other when it did not to me.

2 predictable twists with dead parents out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are under 20 years old, maybe.
What did I learn? I'm over 20 years old.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life



Book 54 is A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen.

I go through self-help book phases during the year and the one problem that brings is that you can read something amazing next to something less amazing and falls short.

So, I must ask: Does it fall short because something else read so recently was better?

Not in this case. A lot of this is fairly obvious stuff that you'd see posted on facebook as an image with a background of the Grand Canyon. I see why it would be good for a speech given to youngens starting out in their lives and careers but all I got was validation.

Maybe validation is enough. You're doing it right. Keep doing that good thing.

For me, I'm not reading self-help books to fix anything but more to constantly improve as a human being. To be a better person to myself and to others. This book did not give me more tools and I am sure that is why I didn't rate it. Others may love it.

2 warm hearted quotes out of 5.

Should I read this? No. I don't think I'd recommend it to anyone at all.
What did I learn? There are too many self-help books sprouting nothing helpful. It's as though validating someone's life is enough. That's not helpful to me

Friday, 20 October 2017

Scythe



Book 53 is Scythe which is the 1st book of the Arc of a Scythe by Neal Shusterman.

Discovered this on GoodReads from a friend who had listened to the audio book. And boy, am I glad that I read it. This is some of the best sci-fi I've read in a looooong time. The series is my new goal.

This reminded me of the Torchwood mini-series where people stop dying. Death is important. There is a sequence to things. There is a pile-on effect to not culling the population. We see it in crocodiles in Australia and insects that thrive and get out of control.

So what happens when your job is to cull humanity?

What a great concept! This was well executed.

5 lives out of 5.

Should I read this? No matter what you enjoy reading, this is good stuff. Yes, read it.
What did I learn? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley



Book 52 is the 4th book of the Agatha Raisin series - Agatha Raisin and the Walkers of Dembley by M.C. Beaton.

This is my favourite in-the-middle series at the moment. It satisfies my Agatha Christie cravings in a very modern way.

The last book was lacking and that made me worry about persisting in this saga but this reaffirmed my enjoyment of this genre and author.

I can't tell you anything or I will spoil it. Read it but do read all the bits before.

4 fields of canola out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, it's fun.
What did I learn? Some people have far too much spare time.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette



Book 51 is Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Being set in Seattle, this book has been on my list and towards the top since I first heard of it. That was years ago now but I finally made it. It was such a good read that I regret not reading it sooner. The truth is, it may mean more now that I live in Seattle. All the references felt overdone but still so like home.

I understand the plight of Bernadette. I was once her. I would never want to be her again. At least not the pre-where-are-you-? time.

This book meant so much to me on so many different levels. I'm not sure it would to everyone but it did to me.

The writing is good. The reasons are good. The mystery is good. The daughter is amazing. The Microsoft bashing combined with the intersection rants are legendary.

5 way intersections out of 5.

Should I read this? If you have ever wanted to run away from you life then yes.
What did I learn? Some birds are not meant to be caged. Conformity is pain.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone



Book 50 is Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown.

To start, I adore Brene Brown, which makes it sad that I felt so judged by this book. The thing is that being judged always makes me stand back and ask myself why.

I think she touches or sore points and things that once I feel less defensive, I can improve on.

This is one of those times.

I've never fitted in, at least not in a conventional way. That was something that I adjusted too a loooon time ago. Maybe when I realised at 12 years old that I'd never be cool so why bother trying?

I have been contented since then :)

This is the kind of book that I must digest and then take from it what works for me. As always, she has me thinking.

4 screams in an empty room of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe if you are looking for some kind of peace, some kind of silence.
What did I learn? I'm a pretty healthy human in a lot of ways and that has been a long journey. I have less of a way to travel but still a journey awaits me. See you on the road or somewhere in the wilderness.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It



Book 49 is Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It by Kamal Ravikant.

I wanted to love his book like I love myself but it felt like a sales pitch.

Kamal did sound sincere and vulnerable but he also sounded like he was selling an inflatable version of self confidence. Not the fake self confidence but truly believing in yourself.

As a disciple of cognitive behavioural therapy, I know you can reset your pathways and think differently. He didn't even touch the science around that. It was more of a "I got dumped and now someone loves me" chant. I wanted to hear that he was OK alone, not that he was OK in a relationship.

Disappointed at every turn, all I can agree with is something I've always told people myself: Give yourself oxygen before you help others.

There are many better books on this subject. Don't waste a couple of hours on this.

2 sales pitches of 5.

Should I read this? Sadly, no. Grab Brene Brown or Trevor Noah. There are many better ways to the same destination.

What did I learn? No one else can complete you. Being able to fall in love and be loved back does not define you. Standing alone is done alone and then others may join. He failed to express this.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America



Book 48 is The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson.

I've seen this book on best seller lists, in bookstores and did want to read it but it took my upcoming trip to Chicago to push me into reading it now and quickly.

This is a thick book so I wasn't confident in finishing it within the week I had before leaving for for my long weekend in that city.

I'm glad I started it. I'm glad I had no idea that it was non-fiction until about halfway through when I googled it and found out it was based in truth... actual truth.

As I head to that city hoping I shan't meet a serial killer, I'm excited to see the city that hosted the 1893 World's Fair. The city with soggy ground, enclaves, a huge mix of different people, high standards in food and a history.

Mostly, that history.

5 dead wives of 5.

Should I read this? One of the best books I have read in a while and absolutely the best historical non-fiction I've read in a decade.
What did I learn? No Air BNBs.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Armada


Book 47 is Armada by Ernest Cline.

This is not a sequel or an equal Ready Player One but it is an enjoyable read.

The first half of this book had me thinking that this is what sedate geek boys who spend hours playing online games wish would happen and it made me laugh. Once I got past that, I enjoyed how it unfolded.

Yes, it was predictable in ways but there were enough parts I did not guess that made it enjoyable.

There are far too many sci-fi books written so they can easily be adopted by Hollywood. Cline is the father of this sad genre.

Despite that, it is an entertaining read.

3 drones on and on out of 5.

Should I read this? Only if you are waiting for Ready Player One and can't hold out long enough.
What did I learn? I don't dream of Bejewelled invasions.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Girl Walks Out of a Bar



Book 46 is Girl Walks Out of a Bar by Lisa F. Smith.

This book is the kind of autobiography that makes you sad, angry and shocked.

Sad because she was set up to fail from childhood and through genetics.
Angry because no one else saw it and people actually encouraged it.
Shocked because you'd think someone would die before getting this far.

Maybe addicts are just people who haven't managed to kill themselves yet because their bodies have a high tolerance for abuse. That makes me sad.

4 bottles of wine out of 5.

Should I read this? If you enjoy rubbernecking then yes. I do so it was finished within the same day I started it.
What did I learn? There are high functioning addicts out there and you may never guess it. Disturbing and sad.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener




Book 45 of 2017 is Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener which is book 3 of the Agatha Raisin Mysteries by M.C. Beaton.

Book 3 in the series continues in the same sleepy village with the same neighbours and dramas that Agatha has become part of.

This mystery wasn't too hard to solve but the character growth is fun to read.

So as not to ruin this or any prior books in the series, I won't say too much more.

4 murdered gardens out of 5.

Should I read this? Again, if you like a Ms Marple style murder mystery.
What did I learn? A nice series that breaks up some of the more serious things I read, is a good idea.

What Happened



Book 44 of 2017 is What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton.

It is rare that I read a book right after it is released but having stood in the middle of the storm that was the 2016 US elections as an outsider watching it unfold, I wanted to look behind the curtain.

There are two sides if not twenty to what happened in November 2016 but this was the one I wanted to understand. How did someone so qualified for the job lose to someone who wasn't? It made no sense to me.

On reading this, I have had some major realisations.

I respect Hillary Rodham Clinton for the strong woman she is and the inroads she has made for women all around the world.

Her politics are still too conservative for me but I put that down to her generation and age. She was born in a different time and a more conservative world than most people in America today. I have no doubt that was one reason people could not connect with her.

And lastly, women are losing well before they even start. To be the first at anything or the only woman in the race is harder than anyone can imagine. You are not judged equally because there are no women to compare you to. So instead, you are judged as not being a man. She articulates this much better than me.

The reason I recommend people read this book is because she gives hope where others use fear. She tries to stand back and work out what she owns in this journey but does not take all the blame. She gets angry and punches out and although it's not ladylike, it's awesome to see. Why must women bow out quietly when they weren't treated fairly in the situation.

You should read it.

4 insights out of 5.

Should I read this? If you lived through the election that Trump won and see it as the election that Hillary lost then yes, yes you should read this.
What did I learn? So much American political history from both sides of the fight.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Vicious Vet



Book 43 of 2017 is The Vicious Vet which is book two from the Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton.

After enjoying the first book, I've quickly returned to the second and can see myself dispersing the next 26 in the series between the books I read over the next few years. That is assuming the series stays strong and honours its Miss Marple roots.

The love interest bores me a little but that might be my dismissive-of-all-lovey-dovey-rubbish stage of life. Actually, that may be why I like the main character so much. She's secure, no-nonsense and independent, even when she has a love interest. The character that is her love interest bores me. Too British and reserved for my liking.

This series is worth the read if you have read every Agatha Christie book ever written multiple times and need something that you don't know the ending to.

4 suspicious neighbours out of 5.

Should I read this? For all the Miss Marple fans.
What did I learn? Not all crimes are planned out.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry



Book 42 of 2017 is The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson.

Having always said that medicine is not much of a science, the corollary for me has always been that psychiatry is random classification to justify shitty behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, I recommend CBT to everyone.

My problem with amateur psychology is that there is a push for people to belong and be normal. Having a label to associate yourself with makes whatever you are going through normal.

Normal is something I abhor. It is a control word. It is the essence of conformity. It is the way to strip someone of their individuality and say that's all ok.

People do need awareness. They need care. They need to know how to avoid bad influences.

This book made me challenge my normal idea that classification is the answer.

Read it. He is a story teller who makes non-fiction less of an effort to endure.

4 disorders out of 5.

Should I read this? If you are an amateur psychologist like me then yeah.
What did I learn? I need to challenge what I know more but not like a conspiracy theorist.

Daughters of Dragons



Book 41 of 2017 is Daughter of Dragons from The Legacy of Dragons series by Jack Campbell.

Consumed this as an audio book, read by the always enjoyable MacLeod Andrews. Yes, I'm now following him on Instagram. Must be something to do with being read to bed each night.

Didn't realise that this was about the daughter of the protagonist from The Dragons of Dorcastle which I read in mid-2015 and didn't love. This is about her whiny daughter who I can compliment on growing up faster than her mother did.

The one reason I like this more is the Earth connection. It's like reading a meta version of the previous series.

Don't go out of your way for this but if you like Young Adult novels, you may enjoy it.

3.5 stamp collections out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe if you like young adult lit and dragons.
What did I learn? Writers have a voice and accent.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Butterfly Effect



Book 40 of 2017 is The Butterfly Effect by Jon Ronson.

Still working on my audio book journey. I usually get distracted while doing other things and have to keep going back to listen multiple times. This book kept me interested through the whole three hours.

Something that I thought would be seedy and one-sided took a path of discovery and naturally resulted in no conclusion other than that tech changed the world.

This is very much worth the listen. Seven seasons in the style of Serial, executed with respect.

5 stamp collections out of 5.

Should I read this? Absolutely.
What did I learn? You may change the world and never realise how much is beyond just making money.

Soulless



Book 39 of 2017 is Soulless which is book one of the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger.

This book has left me wondering if I ever actually liked this genre. Vampire chick lit has been something I've always 'fessed to reading. After reading this, I'm very doubtful of liking this genre anymore.

The weird repressed sex scenes bored me. It's the kind of bodice ripping stuff that sex-starved housewives like, I think. Fifty Shades of Rubbish.

Can't work out why this series is a big deal.

2 bodices torn out of 5.

Should I read this? Nope.
What did I learn? I don't like the ripping of bodices.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype



Book 38 of 2017 is Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

This book was chosen because I friend mentioned it and we agreed to read it together. It was on my To Read list but not high in priority.

I wanted to like this book so much but I couldn't. It just felt like too hippy and motherly for me. The style was interesting with myths and the link to the authors ideas but it didn't use any data and I need data. It did make me feel ok for being a wild woman but that was about it.

This is not a book I would recommend.

2 wolf analogies out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe if you are spiritual.
What did I learn? I am not spiritual.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared



Book 37 of 2017 is The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.

This book has a great name and the reviews were not promising but I took the chance. This book is very different and I think that justified the negative reviews. However, I liked it and laughed a few times.

It feels like a children's book and maybe books about older people are.

Fun! Historical! Unethical! What more could you want from a book about a cool old guy?

3 world leaders out of 5.

Should I read this? Maybe. I liked it but it was a little long.
What did I learn? Small inputs can instigate large changes.

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Quiche of Death




Book 36 of 2017 is The Quiche of Death which is book one from the Agatha Raisin series by M. C. Beaton.

Another free book that has me hooked on a series. This series will take the place of me not getting to watch the BBQ regularly since moving to the US.

It is obviously a modern take on Agatha Christie's Miss Marple but done tongue in cheek through flowing prose.

Like Miss Marple, this all takes place in a sleepy little hamlet with nosey neighbours, helpful police one step behind our heroine and baking competitions of death.

With 27 books in the series, this will give me my Agatha Christie fix at regular intervals between other books.

4 baked goods from ovens other than the ones claimed out of 5.

Should I read this? For Christie fans the world over, yes.
What did I learn? Old habits die hard.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The End of Eternity



Book 35 of 2017 is The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov.

Wow, Asimov. Wow.

Every time I pick up a classic, I expect to be disappointed. Let me explain. Classics changed the world in their time and don't always travel through time well. I should have known that a time travel book would do so. Lesson learnt.

I picked this up this morning and was sad when I had to leave it with two chapters to go to head out to brunch with a friend. On returning, I consumed it fully and now can't recommend it more vehemently than this.

Read this book. For sci-fi lovers and book lover alike.

5 kettles out of 5.

Should I read this? Yeah, duh.
What did I learn? Asimov persists as one of the greatest sci-fi writers in history but does he have a time machine.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


Book 34 of 2017 is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō.

I am very undecided on this book. It has the salesmanship that makes you want to dive in and change your life but it promises disappointment in my eyes.

The one thing that has happened since reading this has been my ability to throw things out without remorse. That alone is an amazing step.

I can see how this could change your life. I don't know if it will change mine.

3 discarded items without spark out of 5.

Should I read this? Honestly, I'm not sure. Ask me in three months.
What did I learn? I can throw things out without guilt, as long as I don't tell anyone about it. This is freeing.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Closed and Common Orbit



Book 33 of 2017 is A Closed and Common Orbit by Beck Chambers.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series, I gifted e-books to two of my friends and insisted they read it. It was not as well received as I had hoped but that is ok. I really really like this series.

Despite the fact that the characters I became attached to in the first book were not major characters in this one, the established world and its species differentiation made this very enjoyable.

There were quite a few ethical challenges for me around artificial intelligence. I was uncomfortable a number of times with certain choices made but Chambers makes this easy to swallow.

If you start any series this year, start this one.

4 lines of altered code out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. A solid series to commit to.
What did I learn? I am human biased. I am not sure how to change that but I am thinking about it now.

Carve the Mark




Book 32 of 2017 is Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth.

Yes, THAT Veronica Roth. She wrote the Divergent series. And we all know I loved that series. Possibly even more than The Hunger Games.

Roth does not disappoint in this well written, philosophically challenging and original series start that proclaims are brilliant female protagonist. She has dimensions that don't make her complicated but instead make her relatable. That is what I love about this book.

My only complaint is that I read this before the next one was written. Amateur move, for sure. Now I'm hanging out for the rest of the series.

5 marks carved out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. You will enjoy it, no matter who you are.
What did I learn? I still don't like Hollywood endings. Challenge me and I'll love you.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg



Book 31 of 2017 is Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik.

My American friends have spoken about her so many times that I had to read something about this kick-ass female Supreme Court justice.

This was not what I expected. It wasn't a biased biography saying everything about her is perfect but instead a lot of facts, quotes and citations about a very smart woman.

It is great to have another strong, brilliant role model.

4 dissents out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Yes. Yes. She's a strong woman who lived a challenging life as she paved the way for women.
What did I learn? Times, they are a changin'.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Dwarves



This book does not count towards my Read Books for 2017 because after 427 of 733 pages (or 59%) and 7 months elapsed in which I read 30 other books, I am throwing in the towel. This is not a book that I can finish.

As a typical Tolkien fan, the blurb for this book appealed greatly. Reviews were good and even the D&D community were stoked at the series. I kept wanting to buy it but refused to pay the $40ish price tag that is the norm for 7-800 pagers.

I plowed through about 200 pages before it became monotonous and predictable. Chapter after chapter was the same and nothing made me want to persist other than my insistence on finishing what I start.

Alas, not this time.

This is not a good book and is one I will give one star too. I do not recommend it.