Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cool Sci-Fi Novella

What I'm Reading Lately

I've been on a sci-fi reading binge, partly motivated by the ABC Reading Challenge on Habitica. That challenge isn't about science fiction at all but about reading books by authors with last names starting with all the letters of the alphabet. You'd be surprised how hard some letters are! But we'll talk about that another time. Because my passion is reading more books by women, I've mostly focused on female authors, and because I love science fiction, I'm mostly reading sci-fi, because I can.

I'm about 17 books into my 2017 reading and many of them have been part of the ABC Challenge [abc-read-2017 if you are looking for it on Habitica]. One of the cool things about doing these sorts of challenges it they nudge you out of your usual reading habits. I tend to read new-to-me authors when doing something like this, which means I seriously expand my repertoire of authors whose works I enjoy. What's not to like?

So far this year I've read books by female science fiction authors with last names starting with A, B, C, D, E, F, H, M, and ,W and perhaps another one or two I've forgotten for the moment. Occasionally, I can't help myself and get on a roll and read more than one by the same author - I'm looking at you Octavia E. Butler, indeed I am. Wow.

Sometimes I'm reading something recently published or about to be published (Amy DuBoff's sixth in the Cadicle series!) and sometimes it's something published in the past that I probably should have read long ago (Everything by Octavia Butler, of course) and sometimes I'm rereading something I love (Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells) because a sequel has come out (Remanence) and I want to work my way up to it.

Omega Rising by Jessica Meats

I just finished reading Omega Rising [Codename Omega #1] by Jessica Meats. She is a new author for me, although she's published several books. I was given this one to read via Net Galley.

This is an entertaining novella (just under 100 pages) with a likable and relatable protagonist who finds herself in very unusual circumstances filled with uncertainty and doubt. It's set in York, Great Britain. It's got some funky science-y things going on, and some awkward but so very normal interpersonal things going on, and it's unclear who the good guys are. The uncertainty is good, really.

I believe it's a good sign that I wanted it to continue when it ended. I'd like to know more about the main characters and what is really going on, which hopefully is or will be found in a sequel.

Since this was identified as #1 in a series, I sure hope there are more!

What's ahead?

More reading! More science fiction! More books by women! And some books that are neither by women nor science fiction, because who wants to be predictable?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Books for International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. The celebration of this day dates back more than one hundred years. Today we celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women, and we hope to raise awareness of the struggles of women world wide.

In yesterday's blog post, I suggested three books by women from three different walks of life with three very different sort of struggles. Today, I'm celebrating the diversity of women writers by suggesting three of my absolute favorite books ever, all of which address issues of immigration and change.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

9. Americanah [2013] by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [Available on Kindle and in other formats on Amazon and elsewhere - currently cheapest as an audiobook from Audible].

Americanah is colorful and tempestuous story about race, culture, immigration, family ties, finding oneself, and love, not necessarily in that order. The author paints with a kaleidoscope of words the feelings, thoughts, and actions of two young Nigerians and their families and friends, over many years. At once breathtaking, funny, extraordinary, and ordinary, it draws the reader/listener into a whole world, a whole culture, and then pulls through to the clash of cultures, and more.

It is a splendid book full of pulsing emotions and words of wisdom. The author reminds us that life is messy, decisions are unclear, and our paths never seem to go the way we expect.

I listened to the audiobook on Audible (Recorded Books company). The narrator, Adjoa Andoh, is lovely and talented, using a variety of accents and voices to convey the characters across three different countries and continents. In this instance I highly recommend the audiobook, which is under $5 at Audible right now.

If you haven't read this book, or listened to this audiobook, start now.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

10. Interpreter of Maladies [2007] by Jhumpa Lahiri [Available on Kindle and other formats on Amazon and elsewhere including Audible].

I cannot describe this book with too many superlatives... Splendid. Superb. Subtle. Serious. Silly. Sonorous. Significant. Sublime. Sensual. Sensible.

Without a doubt this is the most enjoyable collection of short stories I've read in ages. The beautiful writing describes places and persons I have yet to see, but still feel I know their thoughts intimately now. The glimpses of Indian and Indian-American culture are priceless and thought-provoking.

I listened to this book on Audible. My only complaint is the chapters of the audiobook do not correspond in any way to the short stories. Each ends in the middle of a chapter and the next begins. Nonsensical, that.  The narrator, Matilda Novak, is quite good, though, and I have not a single critical word to add.

This book is simply awesome.

Out of Africa by Karen Blixen as Isak Dinesen

11. Out of Africa [1937] by Isak Dinesen (Pen name of Karen Blixen) [Available on Kindle and in other formats at Amazon and elsewhere].

This is one of my favorite books. I have read it many times. The author is able to paint a landscape and a diversity of persons with beautiful words. She is a consummate storyteller. She lived in a time of upheaval and change that was extreme, requiring her to marry for convenience, move to another continent, learn new languages and cultures, and work just to survive the changes around her she could not have foreseen and could not control.

It is beautifully written and a wonderful chronicle of a time both harsh and amazing.  It is a reminder that even money couldn't not assure equality.

Go Forth and Read

So go forth and read some women's history books, or books my women historians, or just books by women, period! If you want to friend me on GoodReads, you'll find me here: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/25156813-amelia

Monday, March 7, 2016

Memories and Memoir

It's Women's History Week, so let's read about some women who made their own history. Today's blog post highlights three memoirs or autobiographies from three very different women, all strong women but living and writing world apart, and suffering in totally different ways.

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

6. The Story of My Life [1902] by Helen Keller [Available on Kindle for $0.99 and in other formats on Amazon and elsewhere].

Hellen Keller's first memoir describes her first twenty or so years, written whilst she studied at Radcliffe. Learning about her unique process of learning and of studying is fascinating. Her ability to turn a descriptive phrase, her acquaintance with famous and interesting people, and her love of nature and literature are nicely intertwined in an enlightening narrative.

Although I had no idea this would be a book about books, Keller so frequently refers to books she has read and enjoyed (or not) that it really is that, as well.

Given I have known a few folks who are hearing or sight impaired, this book only deepens my respect and love for them.

Wild: From Lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

7. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail [2012] by Cheryl Strayed [Available on Kindle and other formats on Amazon and elsewhere - actually cheapest right now on Audible as an audiobook].

What a fantastic real story. Cheryl Strayed did what most people will never even think of doing, she set out to do something amazing and difficult about which she knew very little from the outset. She illustrates determination and hard work, and, occasionally, stupidity. The story of her childhood and young life is interwoven with the story of the hardships and joys of hiking the trail. It's gritty reality but it is also beautiful. Definitely one of the most interesting memoirs I've read in quite some time.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

7. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban [2013] by Malala Yousafzai [Available on Kindle and in other formats at Amazon and elsewhere].

What a precious and determined young woman! What a lesson (or three) for us all!

We need to read books like this because we need to understand the struggle of people different from ourselves.

Ms. Yousafzai represents the best sort of young person living in perhaps the worst sort of situation. How marvelous and miraculous is her story? How horrible and inconceivable are the behaviors of the taliban? Yet, she focuses on what is good and worthy, as we all should.

While the author is a young person, she is also very astute. The mixture of deep thinking and childish occupations is a reminder that children should be able to be children and the horrible tragedy is so many children never really have a proper childhood.

Read this book (or listen to it as I did) and then contemplate how you can sow love and peace.  It's a short read and worth your time and attention.

I listened to this book on audible. The narrator, Neela Vaswani, was very good.

Go Forth and Read

So go forth and read some women's history books, or books my women historians, or just books by women, period!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

World War II History Written by Women

While some parts of military history seem to be overrun by male writers, excellent books by women also chronicle this period.  I read three books chronicling WW2 history during the past year and they were all enlightening.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

3. Unbroken: A World War II Book of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption [2010] by Laura Hillenbrand [Available on Kindle and in other formats on Amazon and elsewhere].

Epic. How many times can that word be appropriately used to describe a book? A true story?  A life? this book is not only a fascinating multifaceted view into parts of Pacific WWII history, but also into the human condition, and into Louie's own journey through victory, despair, loss, hope, and redemption.

This book will make you feel all the emotions. ALL THE EMOTIONS. Anger. Happiness. Hate. Love. Hilarity. Despondence. This book is about evil, love, torture, redemption, death, and life...

More importantly, this book is about history, a period in human history so full of awfulness and daring and amazement, that it is almost impossible to fathom for those (like me) born long afterward.  However, gaining some small understanding of these major events is important to our understanding not only of modern history, but of the human condition in all its beauty and ugliness.

Every person should read this book. Yes, every person. Go. Read it. Now. You'll be glad you did, while also horrified by much of the events it describes. Read every word, including the footnotes, which contain some of the most horrifying and also some of the most beautiful details.

The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer

2. The Nazi Officer's Wife [2012] by Edit Hahn Beer [Available on Kindle and other formats on Amazon and elsewhere].

Edith tells a moving, horrible, touching, incredible story - her own. At times amazing and at times terrifying, her survival story of World War II, first in Austria and then Germany is well worth reading. I am afraid to say much more, lest I spoil the story for future readers. This, however, is not the stereotypical Jewish story of surviving the death camps miraculously. As is obvious from the book's title, it is a totally different sort of holocaust survival story but no less compelling and certainly more complex than a reader might think from just reading the title. Read it and ponder the good that can be found in bad people and the bad that can be found in good people, and all the shades between.

Helga: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany by Karen Truesdell Riehl

2. Helga: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany [2014] by Karen Truesdell Riehl [Available on Kindle for $0.99 and elsewhere].

This book contains a disturbing but enlightening narrative of a young girl growing up in Hitler's Germany and being taught to be a Hitler devotee. It's chilling but worth reading, if only to know what to avoid in our own time.

Go Forth and Read

So, go forth and read some women's history books, or books by women historians, or just books by women, period!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Women Writing About American History

So, my first list of recommended books for reading during Women's History Month focuses on history. How original, eh? My first two recommendations mostly concern the pre-revolutionary history of the USA and how it affects us so many decades later.

The Specter of Salem by Gretchen Adams

1. The Specter of Salem: Remembering the Witch Trials in Nineteenth-Century America [2008] by Gretchen A. Adams [Available on Kindle and in other formats on Amazon

Dr. Adams weaves a fascinating chronicle of Salem's effect on subsequent events, American politics, and the events of a nation. Salem is cited in myriad ways with various results in the political history of the country, not always accurately nor fairly. Nonetheless, the evens of 1692 and following continue to intertwine with later events and movements.

Her writing is superb, the e-book (which I read on Kindle) was mostly well-presented, the whole reading experience is both fascinating and fraught with new ideas and meaning.

This book is good reading for anyone interested in the early history o the US, the use of metaphor in political suasion, and in the continuing history of the country and how it is shaped by the past.

I am no historian, of course, but I really enjoyed reading this book.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

2. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States [2015] by Sarah Vowell [Available on Kindle and other formats on Amazon and elsewhere, including Audible].

Sarah Vowell provides a complete, detailed, and sometimes hilarious depiction of the life of General Lafayette, the French aristocrat who had a passion for American independence from an early age. The author's style is detailed and humorous with a thick layer of sarcasm and the occasionally strange digression to talk about her experiences while doing the research.

I enjoyed this book but did not particularly like the audiobook narration. I find the author's voice too deadpan and annoying. I do know others who have loved the audiobook, though. I will definitely read more of her books, but probably will not listen to audio versions.  The book about assassination looks interesting...

Go Forth and Read

So, go forth and read some women's history books, or books by women historians, or just books by women, period!

Women's History Month - let's make it read books by women month, as well!

So, it's Women's History Month. Rebecca Solnit's post [here] highlights the fact that most of our high school and college reading lists were full of books written by men, mostly white men, but I digress. So, how about this month making a concerted effort to read great books by women. I haven't read Rebecca Solnit's book yet, so I can't comment on it directly. But, trust me, if you have been reading mostly book by men, your horizons will be stretched in all sorts of interesting ways if you will make a concerted effort to read more books by female authors. I will post about some of the fantastic female authored works I have read in recent years to help you out. Watch this space!
  • Are you into literary fiction? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into science? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into science fiction? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into fantasy? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into self-help? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into general fiction? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into historical fiction? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into fan fiction? I have recommendations!
  • Are you into HISTORY? I have recommendations!
  • And so on and so forth.
Thanks for the post and inspiration, sweet friend Hilary Ashton!

More books by women have been read!

I let the blog die off last year because we started on our epic once-in-a-lifetime travel plans. I blogged about that elsewhere: http://teambaldtravels.blogspot.com. It was indeed epic and awesome and, no doubt, once in a lifetime, for sure. But I digress, as usual.

More relevant and more importantly, however, I did not stop reading books by women in 2015. In fact I read over 100 books by female authors in 2015, most of which were fantastic reads. I will eventually get the blog up to date with those reviews (which I have actually been writing and posting on goodreads, and sometimes amazon and/or audible as I finish each book).

So, watch this space!