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2018 50 Book Challenge

Discussion in 'Entertainment, Culture, and Sports' started by edinatlanta, Dec 23, 2010.

  1. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Distinguished Member

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    1. Kangaroo
    2. South of the Border, West of the Sun
    3. 19Q4
    4. An Elegant Young Man
    5. Throne of the Crescent Moon

    5. Throne of the Crescent Moon

    Set in a fictional world that's a riff on the Middle East/India this novel is a fairly simple fantasy story that's made interesting by the shifting away from European mythology/settings and institutions and to an Islamic point of view. There are pious volunteers harassing people in the streets, corrupt Khalifs, zealous military orders, etc, etc.

    Abdoulla is a ghul-hunter and he is old, wants to retire and stop fighting, but most people think he's just a fraud - talking about problems that don't exist - he feels indebted to his city, but sick of it all. He faces some serious threats in the novel - and through this doesn't over come his tiredness of his life, but certainly overcomes the self-imposed rules that have been preventing his happiness.

    It's a good story, not a great one, that relies heavily on the Islamic-ness to make it charming. I felt that more could have been made of the protagonists essential question of when to give up, it seems cheap to throw a larger threat at him to push aside that question, but I think there's more there.

    This is supposed to be the first in a trilogy but, despite being released in 2012 the next installment is nowhere to be seen, so I doubt it'll happen.
     


  2. Foxhound

    Foxhound Distinguished Member

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  3. California Dreamer

    California Dreamer Distinguished Member

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    8. 80s Redux, by Mike Hipple

    * I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy of this book. *

    This is an interesting piece of photojournalism from Mike Hipple. An avid fan of 80s music, Hipple meets up with a clutch of his musical heroes and does portraits of them as they are today, along with commentary about what each one of them is doing, now that fame has passed them by.

    Hipple largely avoids the obvious big names (although the B-52s, OMD and the Cure appear) and showcases quite an eclectic range of musicians and genres. Indeed, some of these people were in bands that I was not aware of, or had totally forgotten.

    It's heartening to see that the creative juices still flow in most of Hipple's subjects, although they have been redirected in many cases. There were no big egos on display, and nearly all the interviewees were happy to have had their time in the limelight, and have now moved on.

    This is quite a short book, and I would have liked to see the articles accompanying Hipple's portraits fleshed out more in a larger volume. In almost every case, his brief encounters with this array of interesting people left me wanting more.
     


  4. Geoffrey Firmin

    Geoffrey Firmin Distinguished Member

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    6 The Body Snatcher by Patricia Melo

    Brazilian Noir is not something I have read perviously and this is quite an interesting tale. Over all the style is in the first person with no voice of god intrusions into the narrative. Melo writes in the tradition of hardboiled noir which is set within a regional middle of nowhere shit hole.

    A plane crash, a dead pilot a kilo of cocaine the summer heat all set the scene and ratchet up the tension for an interesting and psychologically insightful tale of extortion which has IMMO a very interesting ending.

    Worthwhile to see if other books of hers in translation are set in a more urbane environment.
     


  5. Geoffrey Firmin

    Geoffrey Firmin Distinguished Member

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    7. 1947 When Now Begins by Elisabeth Asbrink

    Europe is still in ruins, the walking dead of the war seek refuge and a new life. The fascist vermin who have melted into the landscape are in hiding and trying to get away from justice. Enter Per Engdahl a Swedish Nazi is seeking to rekindle antisemitism, European racial superiority by offering safe passage to honourable men who fought the good fight against Communism and European Jews, as for the Shoah it never happened. And Argentina is more than happy to take ex SS and Nazi officials. The only change in the ideology is that now Culture is the vehicle for expressing their contemp for those of differeing races.

    A rancher in New Mexico claims to have found the remains of an Flying Saucer. The British in Mountbatten words fuck up the creation of an independent India and Pakistan. And then their is the British and their ineptitude in Palestine.

    An interesting year no doubt but I have read other more detailed accounts of when now begins for example 1956 or 1959 for that matter.

    A mix of personal narrative, the authors father is a refugee at one stage of the year, politics and art, Bird and Bebop lives. It makes for a stimulating presentation and minor analysis of the year but in the end I think its an unsubstantiated thesis for when now begins. Its strongest point is the emergence and growth of European facism under a different guise.
     


  6. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Distinguished Member

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    1. Kangaroo
    2. South of the Border, West of the Sun
    3. 19Q4
    4. An Elegant Young Man
    5. Throne of the Crescent Moon
    6. When Gravity Fails

    6. When Gravity Fails

    This is a classic novel from cyberpunk - although it's little known - and it's a great novel. It manages to paint a fairly relate-able world but one where:
    1. Nation states have disintegrated
    2. Most people have brain implants - some just for extra knowledge and the other type completely change someone's personality

    In this novel the main character, Marid, is basically a fixer in an Arabic city, though culturally Muslim, Marid is from Northern Africa so his character has an aloofness that lends the narrating a lot of strengths - his reflections and confusions and deliberations in being an outsider make it natural for the reader to learn about the city.

    The plot is also relatively minor, which is nice. Marid is hired to do a job, which ends up complicating things, which ends up complicating things and by the end of the novel he's in a very different place. It's a bit neo-noir (murder, PI-like character, femme fatales) with some very futuristic twists (modifications, plastic surgery, gender fluidity).

    I've tried hunting down the sequels in libraries for years and no luck so I just purchased them. This novel was better than I remembered - it's nearly mundane, it had a vision (the gender fluidity is especially timely) and it manages to contain itself without becoming too 'epic' or over-wrought.
     


  7. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Distinguished Member

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    1. Kangaroo
    2. South of the Border, West of the Sun
    3. 19Q4
    4. An Elegant Young Man
    5. Throne of the Crescent Moon
    6. When Gravity Fails
    7. The Choke

    7. The Choke

    Sofie Laguna's first novel, Eye of the Sheep, is still one of the most affecting, well-written and original books I've read, and I often give people copies for their birthdays, and recommend it to anyone who can listen. So her second novel, The Choke, had a lot to live up to, and boy did it.

    Many things are the same between these two novels: coming of age stories about people with disabilities in working class (or I guess poorer than working class) families of hard men and trying women. Laguna's prose is also stylistically comparable, and she has an incredible skill with rhythm and extended metaphor, which pairs really well with the more taciturn dialogue.

    Ok, what what's The Choke about? Well, basically Justine begins the novel as a young girl (9 or 10) - living with her Grandfather, her Dad a petty criminal and a thug who is absent more often than not. He returns for a a few weeks and things become very charged at home. Eventually Dad ends up in jail and things look up for Justine, but the ending of the novel is crushing.

    When I finished the book I had trouble sleeping - it's incredibly affecting (for me anyway) and Laguna is not afraid to really devastate. I didn't love the pacing of the ending, but it's fine, it's 'The Choke' so the pacing matches that reference to a part of a river.

    10/10
     


  8. Geoffrey Firmin

    Geoffrey Firmin Distinguished Member

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    @LonerMatt check out the Crash Course trilogy by Wilhelmina Baird hardcore Cyberpunk from the early 90’s
     


  9. Foxhound

    Foxhound Distinguished Member

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    Picked up Sapiens this morning as per Matt’s recommendation.
     


  10. Foxhound

    Foxhound Distinguished Member

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    1. Taipei - Tao Lin (3/5)
    2. This is how you Lose her - Junot Díaz (4/5)
    3. The Hunt for Red October - Tom Clancy (3/5)
    4. Sam Fishing in the Yemen - Paul Torday (1/5)
    5. American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis (4/5)

    6. The Disaster Artist - Greg Sestero (3/5)
    7. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (3/5)

    8. The White Tiger - Arivand Adiga (2/5)
    The 2008 winner of the Man Booker prize left me ultimately disappointed, and I could tell from just a few pages in that I was not going to enjoy the book.

    The author fails to make me care about the protagonist. The style of the book, a collection of letters written to the visiting Chinese Premier is only played upon for the first few paragraphs of each chapter, leading one to forget all about this concept until the chapter ends.

    The only place where the book succeeded was in making me angry and disgusted at the way the caste system in India (at least in this novel) allowed people to walk over one another and leave them in the dirt.
     


  11. SirGrotius

    SirGrotius Distinguished Member

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    Another fan of Sapiens here. I had saw that Bill Gates recommended it, and he usually has a good eye.

    The provocativeness of the book reminded me of another one I just read, 'Against the Grain' by James C. Scott. A very intellectual revisionist history of our usual perception of the rise of Civilization and the supposed benefits of agrarian society.
     


  12. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Distinguished Member

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    1. Kangaroo
    2. South of the Border, West of the Sun
    3. 19Q4
    4. An Elegant Young Man
    5. Throne of the Crescent Moon
    6. When Gravity Fails
    7. The Choke
    8. Heat and Light

    8. Heat and Light

    This book bored me so much that I really don't even want to review it.

    It's not bad, in fact I'm sure some people would love it, but it's not for me.

    For the curious it's essentially a series of short stories that are kind of connected (except when they aren't) that, more or less, trace the lived experiences of Indigenous Australians in today's day and age, except when they don't. A lot of is made of the same-sex attracted characters, which is fine but doesn't really go anywhere or say anything (and I feel if the characters' attraction is going to keep coming up it should at least have a point for all those words). There's a random fantasy story thrown in (why?) and it sort of meanders around too many different things and never goes anywhere.

    Anyway, I didn't hate it, but didn't care for it. I feel bad that any recently praised Indigenous writer just isn't for me.
     


  13. California Dreamer

    California Dreamer Distinguished Member

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    Looks like I leaned a little bit more on the positive side. i thought the fantasy bit in the middle was the best part; you seemed not to like that.
     


  14. LonerMatt

    LonerMatt Distinguished Member

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    I didn't like it, for a few reasons.

    The first is perhaps a bit unnecessary - it was a really random diversion. I prefer my short stories either cohesive or each one really different. But not both. Feels cheapend.

    Second I didn't really care for the story - like nothing really grabbed me. At best it seemed a fairly heavy-handed allegory for initial settlement/genocide but it wasn't very insightful or interesting.

    Just felt like it was a very vanilla read.
     


  15. California Dreamer

    California Dreamer Distinguished Member

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    9. Far From Land, by Michael Brooke

    * I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review a pre-publication version of this book. *

    Ornithologist Michael Brooke has put together a very readable and highly interesting book about the behavioural habits of seabirds. This has been, until quite recently, a difficult area for researchers. Given how remote seabirds are from researchers most of the time, there has been a fair amount of intuition and guesswork underlying much of the research.

    Brooke starts with a rundown of the technology breakthroughs that have allowed ornithologists to conduct much more comprehensive research than the simple tagging programs of the past.

    "Not only can trans-oceanic flights be tracked with startling accuracy, it is also possible to tell, to within metres, where a breeding seabird is, whether it is flying or swimming, whether it is at the surface or underwater. If it is underwater, is its dive shallow or deep? It is possible to monitor the bird's heartbeat, and when it gulps down food".

    Brooke canvasses the research that these technologies have enabled, going into breeding patterns, migrations, how and when birds feed, parental behaviour and much more. The picture that these new technologies allow researchers to draw is both interesting and, occasionally, jaw-dropping. Brooke mentions a shearwater that flew from Wales to Brazil in 16 days. Emperor penguins that can dive to a depth of 500 metres or more. Albatrosses that can scent food from 6 miles away. And much more.

    The book is beautifully illustrated with many photo-realistic drawings of the seabirds being discussed. For a bird lover such as myself this book is a real treat.
     


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