January 31, 2020

Stanislaw Lem: A Masterpost

The first book by Stanislaw Lem that I read was The Star Diaries which I absolutely loved and it got me itching to read more from him. And thus I bring you 3 different books in one post. XD

Source: Amazon
Spoiler alert: I didn't find Solaris nearly as compelling as its predecessor. The premise is that a scientist is sent to Solaris (a planet with a space station) only to discover that the 3 inhabitants which he was meant to meet have been reduced to two. Our main character, Kris Kelvin, arrives hoping to crack the enigma of the alien ocean which comprises the whole of the planet (and which is sentient). Once he arrives, strange and disturbing things start to happen such as resurrection of the dead into corporeal beings. Is the entity aware of its cruelty? Is it conducting an experiment on the scientists like the ones that it has been subjected to over the years? Have they actually gone mad?! The overarching message that Lem seems to be making is that humanity continually seeks out new worlds and beings only to impose their own values and agendas to further their reach. (Think colonialism of other cultures and peoples.) He likens it to religion and the search for redemption. (Sci-fi and philosophy go hand-in-hand more often than not as most lovers of the genre will know.) For me it's a 4/10 as I found myself putting it down and grabbing other things to read instead.

I'm kind of obsessed with these covers, ya'll. [Source: Amazon]
Now The Cyberiad completely got me back on board the Stanislaw Lem fan train. It was absolutely hysterical. This is a collection of short stories all about the adventures (or rather misadventures) of 2 (in)famous constructors as they make their way across the universe. (These journeys are called sallies which is a detail I adore.) Our heroes, Klapaucius and Trurl, are constantly trying to one-up each other not only with their creations but also with their status as constructors and benefactors to the cosmos. These robots are constructed for all kinds of constructive and inane reasons like storytelling, poetry, making war, etc. And the words that Lem makes up! I'm trying to think of a better word than delightful to describe my reading experience but honestly it was a treat to read a bit of this every night before bed. (If you don't laugh at the depiction of 'palefaces' i.e. humans then you have no sense of humor at all.) An absolute 10/10 for me. (And wait til you read the twist. O_O)

Source: Prosecraft 
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub caught my eye simply for the novelty of the title and that bizarre cover. This book is difficult to sum up or even to rate as it truly has no discernible plot. Lest you dismiss it immediately because of this fact, let me assure you that there's much to recommend this title. The word play and circuitous path of our main character (who remains nameless) is satire at its finest. Espionage, counterespionage, and counter-counterespionage abound in The Building where our character has been given a very important Mission...if only he knew what it was. He is continually beset by obstacles in the form of bureaucrats, winding halls with nondescript doors, and instructions that keep vanishing. What would happen if humanity was forced to abandon its cities and move into an underground bunker? Would society, culture, and technology survive and continue to advance?  Lem weaves a provocative tale of paranoia, confusion, and ultimately betrayal. 5/10 but would have been higher had there been a plot to follow.

What's Up Next: Exhalation by Ted Chiang
What I'm Currently Reading: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 25, 2020

The quest continues

5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze by Mark Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boya Sun is the continuation of the series that I started back in December 2018. [Reviews for Book 1 and Book 2] It's such a fun read but because it's a collaborative project there's a long break in between publishing dates. Therefore, if you're waiting for the next book in the series you're going to be waiting until later this year for it. 😭 More of the mystery of what exactly Jax is becomes clear but with that revelation comes a threat to his very individuality and existence. Our heroes head to Yalta to light the red beacon but the Mimic is ready for them and banishes them to the Red Desert where they meet other magical outcasts. While the team is stranded in the Red Desert, Oona's powers are expanded and An Tzu discovers he has heretofore untapped potential. (I imagine this will be explored further in the next book.) All in all, a great continuation of a story which I wouldn't mind owning in an omnibus edition once it's completed. 10/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Stanislaw Lem masterpost
What I'm Currently Reading: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 15, 2020

When the past comes back to haunt you

Straight away I want to say The Invited by Jennifer McMahon was such a fun reading experience! The book opens in the 1920s with a woman named Hattie who lives in a small house in the swamp with her daughter Jane. There's already friction with the local townsfolk but a tragedy occurs which results in an act of cruelty that resounds through history to the present day (2015 to be precise). And that's where we're introduced to Helen (a young woman who moves to Vermont with her husband) and Olive (a young girl who just wants to solve the mystery of her missing mother). It turns out that Helen is a history buff and she decides that she wants to use reclaimed objects to build a house on their newly purchased land...which is in the swamp. Yes, she and her husband are occupying the same space that Hattie had once called home and when they start using objects that tie back to Hattie Breckenridge and her kin weird (supernatural) things start happening. The unfolding of the plot is divided by the stages of the house's construction which I thought was really clever and further helped to make the novel feel more cohesive. While it ounces between different points of view it's done in such a way that it doesn't detract from the flow of the novel (which you all know is a pet peeve of mine). McMahon really knows how to weave a supernatural thriller/mystery with lots of intricate details and a host of characters. While I felt like I had a vague idea where the book was heading she somehow managed to keep throwing curve balls to lead me astray. Mystery fans and/or those looking for a spooky supernatural book will really get a kick out of this one. 10/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: 5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze by Mark Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, & Boya Sun
What I'm Currently Reading: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 8, 2020

Relevant and necessary

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo is the kind of book that will have you really thinking about your actions and the way that they affect others. When I finished this book, I immediately passed it onto my manager to read because I wanted to continue the conversation. Oluo uses her own experiences as a person of color navigating our (you have to admit) white supremacist society here in the United States. So this is not only extremely relevant but also a necessary book about an incendiary topic. We (I speak as a collective here with a definite side-eye at my fellow white folks of privilege) need to do better and that starts with educating ourselves. Oluo uses this book like an instruction manual with vocabulary lessons on things like microaggressions, the school to prison pipeline, tone policing, intersectionality, cultural appropriation, and the model minority myth. It's full of talking points about how to successfully navigate uncomfortable talks about race, racism, and racial inequality. This isn't an easy book to read because the truth about our society and the way that we have been conditioned to act is a hard pill to swallow BUT it's important to face this head-on so that we can move on to all (hopefully) be better people. Lest you think this is directed solely at white people, Oluo also stresses the importance of people of color having affirmation that their feelings and hurt are valid. Basically, this is a great book that all people wanting to do better should read. 10/10

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
What I'm Currently Reading: The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 1, 2020

2019 Book Roundup

Hi there, friends! It's time to put together the list of the books that I read in 2019. I really thought I would break the cycle and get all of my reviews finished before the end of the year but I didn't take into account how much busier my new branch was going to be. [Spoiler alert: It's super busy and my reading really reflects that.] Once again, I'm going to list out the rereads and I'll try to get another post out about the books that I did not finish (DNF) of which there are quite a few (if I can remember their titles). Without further ado, here's the list!
  1. My Side of the Mountain
  2. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
  3. The Library Book
  4. Warren the 13th and the Whispering Woods
  5. Elfquest Archives: Volume 3
  6. Strange Magic
  7. The Thirteenth Tale
  8. I'll Be Gone in the Dark
  9. New Kid
  10. Remember, Remember
  11. Notes from a Small Island
  12. HiLo Book 5: Then Everything Went Wrong
  13. Once Upon a River
  14. Elfquest Archives: Volume 4
  15. Three Things About Elsie
  16. Adulthood is a Myth
  17. Big Mushy Happy Lump
  18. Herding Cats
  19. Excellent Books for Early and Eager Readers
  20. The Dreamers
  21. Dread Nation
  22. The Saturdays
  23. Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy
  24. Lumberjanes: Friendship to the Max
  25. Lumberjanes: A Terrible Plan
  26. Lumberjanes: Out of Time
  27. Lumberjanes: Band Together
  28. Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
  29. The Doll People
  30. Redwall
  31. Born to be Posthumous
  32. Toys Go Out
  33. Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems
  34. Locomotive
  35. Doctor Proctor's Fart Powder
  36. The Right Word
  37. The Birthday Ball
  38. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
  39. Amphigorey
  40. Amphigorey Again
  41. Amphigorey Too
  42. Ready Player One
  43. A Discovery of Witches
  44. Strange Sight
  45. The Hidden Witch
  46. The Witch Boy
  47. Our Uninvited Guests
  48. Stranger in the House
  49. When the Children Came Home
  50. Jambusters
  51. The Gods Themselves
  52. Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
  53. Cool Japan Guide
  54. Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates
  55. The Star Diaries
  56. So You Want to Talk About Race 
  57. The Invited 
  58. 5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze 
  59. Solaris 
  60. Exhalation 
  61. Will my Cat Eat my Eyeballs?
  62. Disappearing Earth 
  63. The Hunting Party
  64. We Were Killers Once 
  65. The Poet and the Vampyre (review pending)
  66. It Takes One (review pending)
  67. The 7th Victim (review pending)
  68. When Life Gives you Pears (review pending)
  69. Kindness and Wonder (review pending)
  70. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (review pending)
  71. The Toll (review pending)
  72. The Ride of a Lifetime (review pending)
  73. Miss D & Me (review pending)
  74. Fair Play (review pending)
  75. Inside Out (review pending)
  76. Cat Diary: Yon & Muu (review pending)
  77. When I Arrived at the Castle (no review - I just didn't like it)
  78. Cicada (no review - not my favorite by Tan)
And the reread books:
  1. 84, Charing Cross Road
  2. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
That brings our total count to: 79 books.

I've once again included the links for the reviews of each of the titles but you can always use the search feature to look up any genre, subject, etc. to find your next book to kick off 2020. :-) Happy New Year!!

**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **