Weirdo is about a British cold case investigator in 2003 looking into a witchcraft-connected murder from the 1980s. The story jumps between the two timelines so we see these teenagers’ lives in a tourist town get disrupted in the buildup to the big crime while we watch the modern investigators try to unravel what actually happened. It’s not too bad.
I came across Cathi Unsworth as an author in a list of “women writing noir” which I was very interested in, since noir fiction is so male-dominated. Weirdo, however doesn’t feel like a noir book. It’s a fine mystery, but didn’t have the je ne sais quoi I was hoping for. Maybe it was just the witchcraft angle (which is handled well) that put it more in the realm of Carrie or the X-Files for me.
Breakout was my first (non-graphic) novel I’ve read starring the badass criminal Parker. I’ve read some Parker stories in Darwyn Cooke’s great graphic adaptations, but never one of the Richard Stark (Donald Westlake) originals. This is what I imagine the James Patterson machines/Lee Childs of the world are wishing they were writing.
Parker is a badass (I may have mentioned this already). The book opens with a heist going bad and Parker being arrested. He immediately starts making a plan to break out of jail, but he needs a crew. So he makes one, but to get one of the people he needs he has to agree to a job later, which leads to… well a plot that just keeps on ticking over. Even if things don’t feel uber-realistic they feel very appropriate for the story. The sentences are simple and the action is clear, never super subtle, but it’s just somehow so much better than an Alex Cross story.
If you like crime stories, you should really give one of these a try (and the Darwyn Cooke comic adaptations are also great).
I found Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief in the course of helping a library user learn how to download ebooks. I grabbed it as a random example from our Mystery & Thriller category and the blurb intrigued me. It’s a three-timeline story about 1) a vet home from Afghanistan trying to find an old gambler friend of his father’s in 2003 Las Vegas, 2) a homeless teenage grifter looking for the poet who wrote a book he’s desperately trying to understand in 1950s California and 3) an alchemist in 1500s Italy arranging the theft of mirror-making artisans for the Hakemi Sultan in Constantinople.
The three settings (the Venetian, Venice Beach and Venice) felt distinct in style of story and language, but connect reasonably satisfactorily. It wasn’t mind blowing but it was entertaining.
The Break by Katherena Vermette is a multithreaded novel about a crime that takes place in Winnipeg. A young Native woman is attacked in the February night. There’s a witness who calls the police. So it’s a story about a crime, but it’s definitely not a procedural.
We get to know the family around the incident through a number of different viewpoints, including a couple of outsiders (a girl who’s escaped detention and a police officer). The story mostly takes place over less than a week, but is filled with flashbacks that give it a lot more depth than that.
It was a great book.
I often talk about how for me, the practical reason for reading fiction is to build empathy. If you get into the heads of people who are different from you, you help expand what your world can be, and it makes you better at understanding and helping people with different experiences from you. The Break is totally going to be my go-to example for that. Vermette gets us into heads really deftly and her descriptions were incisive and made me shudder. We feel for the weaknesses and we feel the strengths everyone shows.
It’s great. You should read it.
The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is Matt Taibbi’s book about how economic inequality affects the American judicial system. How if you have huge amounts of money you will never go to jail but if you have no money you will be hounded by the police for walking down the sidewalk. It was incredibly depressing, but a good read (especially as a companion to Piketty’s Capital which was talking about how the wealth gap grows).
I don’t have the experience of getting thrown in the back of a police van for walking home from work as part of a commercial fishing approach to policing. I also don’t think that the laws should turn away from companies that steal and commit fraud just because there might be collateral consequences to the economy (which is something the Obama administration argued and has become part of banking prosecutions such as they are in the U.S.).
Part of the most depressing part of this book is that it was written in 2014, so pre-Trump. All the deportations and massive fraud investigations and fuckups that hugely and disproportionately affect poor americans, that was under Democrats. Trump deporting people isn’t new. Obama deported thousands and thousands by letting states use traffic stops to get immigrants into Immigration’s clutches. Yes the jackbooted thugs are ever more fascist, but it’s not like America has been a good place for non-white people before 2017-01-20.
I know my book reviews were never very in-depth or insightful, but they were here and were some content for the site for a big chunk of its existence. I don’t know exactly why I stopped doing it, but obviously, I did.
There’s part of me that feels a bit bad about not reviewing each book I read. These days it feels a little bit too much like my only purpose for reading is to consume content rather than letting things affect and change me. The sitting down and at least making a paragraph about each book does help to consolidate thoughts I have. But it takes so much energy, and I probably have another book a flick away at on my screen.
I could argue a big chunk of my “making stuff about library adjacent topics” energy went into the radio show over the last year, but I’d let the reviews trail off well before that. Now with the new job and not doing the radio show any more, maybe there’s room to come back at this again.
In any case, I have been studiously tracking what I’ve been reading even if I haven’t been spewing my thoughts on it at whatever reading audience I still might have. Here’s the list of books I read in 2016. I might finish another Dark Tower book and this little treatise on crime in Canadian football before the year is up but whatevs. (formatting key: ebooks comics rereads)
- Elric of Melniboné (The Elric Saga, #1) by Michael Moorcock
- Delta Green: Dark Theatres by Benjamin Adams (Ed.)
- A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
- Delta Green: Through a Glass, Darkly by Dennis Detwiller
- The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson
- Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
- Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
- The Weird of the White Wolf (The Elric Saga, #3) by Michael Moorcock
- The Vanishing Tower (The Elric Saga, #4) by Michael Moorcock
- Stormbringer (The Elric Saga, #6) by Michael Moorcock
- The Bane of the Black Sword (The Elric Saga, #5) by Michael Moorcock
- Trashed by Derf Backderf
- This Census-Taker by China Miéville
- Slade House by David Mitchell
- Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed
- The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
- The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
- The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
- Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1) by Connie Willis
- The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson
- Schild’s Ladder by Greg Egan
- Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1) by Neal Stephenson
- How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
- The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2) by Neal Stephenson
- Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
- The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, #3) by Neal Stephenson
- This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
- The City & the City by China Miéville
- Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt
- Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift by Meredith Gran
- Buddhism in Chinese History by Arthur F. Wright
- The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
- The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
- Thirst: A Novel of the Iran-Iraq War by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
- Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
- The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
- A Hanging at Cinder Bottom by Glenn Taylor
- The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga, #1) by Kameron Hurley
- The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
- Joe Golem and the Drowning City: An Illustrated Novel by Mike Mignola
- Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
- The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami by Matthew Carl Strecher
- The Quarry by Iain Banks
- Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier
- Wicked and Weird: The Amazing Tales of Buck 65 by Rich Terfry
- In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
- Two Brothers by Fábio Moon
- Writing for Radio by Christopher William Hill
- Bone by Jeff Smith
- The Dharma Punks by Ant Sang
- Beef With Tomato by Dean Haspiel
- Batman: Ego and Other Tails by Darwyn Cooke
- Dracula: The Company of Monsters Vol. 1 by Kurt Busiek
- Dracula: The Company of Monsters Vol. 2 by Kurt Busiek
- A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
- A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction by Terry Pratchett
- The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
- Going Postal (Discworld, #33; Moist von Lipwig, #1) by Terry Pratchett
- Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
- A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims
- Descender, Volume One: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire
- How to Be Both by Ali Smith
- Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 2 by Warren Ellis
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
- H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror’s Influence on Modern Occultism by John L. Steadman
- Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński
- The Starry Rift by James Tiptree Jr.
- The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1) by Stephen King
- Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
- The Player of Games (Culture, #2) by Iain M. Banks
- How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 by Eric Hobsbawm
- The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
- Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
- Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
- Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga, #2) by Kameron Hurley
- The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead
- Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
- Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
- The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
- Jaws by Peter Benchley
- Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue DeConnick
- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
- The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy by J. Takakusu
- Hunter’s Run by George R.R. Martin
- Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
- The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
- Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
- A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
- The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin
- The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2) by Stephen King
- The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3) by Stephen King
- The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1) by Liu Cixin
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2) by Liu Cixin
- Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3) by Liu Cixin
- The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss
- Sunshine by Robin McKinley
- Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4) by Stephen King
- The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2) by N.K. Jemisin
- American Utopia by Fredric Jameson
- Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling by Tom Babin
- Sex Criminals, Volume Three: Three the Hard Way by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
- The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
- The Revolutions by Felix Gilman
So yeah, I read 110 books this year. There are fewer comics on here than I feel is usual for me but there’s a fair number of re-reads. Those both kind of inflate the totals if you’re looking at this as a numbers game.
I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction and I think that kind of shows up in the list. I’ve also been trying to read more books by women, but as the list shows, I haven’t been successful at that (a quick perusal shows only 18 or 19). Under a bit of duress I’ve been buying fewer books than is my wont (only 6 from this list are things I purchased this year) but as my partner tells me, I do work in a library.
That’s been my year. I also read too many tweets and articles about politics and celebrities dying. Fuck 2016.
Every so often I get far enough behind in my book blogging I just declare bankruptcy and start fresh. This is one of those times. Here’s what I’ve read since my last book review:
- The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: Good post-apocalypse stuff. Realistic but not too depressing.
- Time and the Batman by Grant Morrison: Kind of bullshit. Can’t remember why.
- Zoo Station by David Downing: A cold war spy novel set in Berlin. I think I’ve now conflated an article I read by LeCarre into the plot, but I liked it.
- Lost Dogs by Jeff Lemire: Good rough early work, but man is his current stuff ever better.
- Poor Yorick by Ryan North: Good, but not as crazy as To Be or Not To Be, which is gonads-out amazing and will get its own review.
- 20th Century Boys by Naoki Urasawa: I loved this 22 volume manga, even if the end is a little abrupt.
- Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin: It took me forever to read this book, but that’s just because it’s oppressive and painful like the history it’s based on.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: Really good. Different from Mechanique, more grown-up, but I can’t hold that against it.
- The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno: Not as Encyclopedia Brown grows up as I wanted deep in my heart, but still more than decent.
- The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling: Kidbrarian confession time. Before September I’d only read the first Harry Potter book and only knew the rest of them through Wikipedia. I have rectified that (and think the Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite) (and was a little chagrinned that my MBTI says I’m Hermione when I wanted to be Sirius Black).
Harry Potter MBTI – makani.deviantart.com | simbaga.tumblr.com
- The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter: The earlier stuff was more interesting before it got to the states.
- The Dewey Decimal System by Nathan Larson: A sort of post apocalyptic noir thing in a similar vein to Gun Machine, but not quite as good. Still decently readable.
- Sorry, Please, Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu: Very good George Saunders-esque short stories. Highly recommended.
- Penguin: Pride and Prejudice by Gregg Hurwitz: A comic depicting Gotham’s Penguin as a tragic villain. Much better than I expected, but not amazing.
- The Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge: I love love love the Tines (pack mind aliens. The story was fine but the politics got me angry. Totally worth it if you’ve read A Fire Upon the Deep.
- By the Balls: Jim Pascoe & Tom Fassbender: Noir stories set in Nevada in the late-90s. Good pulpy stuff.
The last book I read is one I really liked and will get a full review later this week.