Saturday, December 31, 2016


Niceville was another weird one, but ended up being a great additional to my recent catalog of paranormal books. I'm thinking about many of the books I've read this year, which are all listed in "the books" tab at the top of the page. Niceville is a character driven crime or mystery story with a little bit of weirdness kind of creeping around the edges. In fact, the book probably would have read just as well without the weirdness, the paranormal bit was really just another sub-plot, that just as easily could have been jilted love, or spousal abuse. And both of those sub-plots were in there anyways.

Niceville is not so nice. Obviously the title name of this imaginary southern town, close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, is tongue-in-cheek, and is what drew me to the book in the first place. No one names a book Niceville, and then writes about how nice it is. It also happens, that Niceville is the first in the Niceville Trilogy. I bought this book used, but the book jacket nor the notes inside mention it being part of a trilogy, maybe Carsten Stroud didn't know that when it was published. But then, I'm not sure what goes on the book jacket is up to the author in most cases.

There is a huge cast of characters, and we get bits of the story from the viewpoint of many of them, all living their own lives, and up to their own deeds and thoughts, until their stories all begin to knit together. Its a story-telling technique we've all seen before, and takes some research in the form of cranking through the first hundred pages or so, until you've learned enough about these characters to see the patterns emerge. Being the first of a trilogy presumably means we won't have to do this again, and can take what we've learned into the next two books.

I'm not sure there is a main character or characters, I get the feeling this is cast driven thing, more like Game of Thrones. Everyone in Niceville seems to have a story, so I won't be surprised if some or all of these characters show up in the next books, altho I expect that some may not, and some new ones will probably appear as well. I'm not really expecting the dead ones to show up again, but who knows, there is that paranormal twist I mentioned right? To say nothing of the possibilities of stories from an earlier time period, which I guess is also possible.

Stroud's writing style seems aggressive, short. Staccato is a good term for it. His dialog is not as loose and slangy as Elmore Leonard's, but he does tell a lot of the story with the dialog like Leonard, which I like. I did notice that he used the same simile within a half dozen pages at one point, which struck me as odd, but maybe I missed the point of it. felt like a mistake in the text to me. meyh, what do I know

I'll keep my eye out for the next installment, but I'm not burning down the house to get my hands on it. It was entertaining, and I did find myself spending more time reading than I normally do, but then I've been sick all week, and laying in bed, soo...

the dispossessed

I'm trying to get down my thoughts on all of the books I've finished in recent weeks, but haven't had the time with the holidays, and being sick during the holiday week.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy New Year!

I still have a number of books from Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Cycle on my reading list, but I haven't seen them at my library and haven't had the time to bother asking for them to be delivered. This one however, I found in the library's book sale, apparently weeded from the collection. The Dispossessed is another of Le Guin's looks at society and its norms via SciFi. She has a knack for disassembling societal problems, winnowing them down to their core, and then rebuilding them in an artificial form so that she can examine them more clearly. In this case, she's created a twin world; two planets that revolve around each other--each the others' moon--one green and lush, the other dry and barren.

The green world, Urras, is much like ours, and 175 years ago, a band of dissidents who believe in freedom, and self rule, leave their home to colonize the dry world, Anarres, and build a new world of self rule, collective anarchy. Its a thought provoking look at pure social communism, with no centralized government, no rules, no currency, no ownership, and no laws, built around the believe that in order to be completely free, everyone must do exactly what they want, by agreeing as a society that part of what they want is to help and support one another. A collective anarchy.

After 175 years of this planet-wide experiment, Le Guin looks in at how a society like this might be faring, and compares and contrasts it with the world the anarchists left, and no longer have any contact with. The original colonists, and their children are long dead, and generations of people have been born and raised in this experimental society, completely untouched and uninfluenced by the governments and currencies of their home world.

One scientist from dry, isolated Anarres, decides that perhaps its time to re-connect with the people of Urras, and share what he has learned; the new science that he has developed. But Shevek finds that sharing and giving don't have the same meaning in a society based on currency and centralized governmental control. He also finds that having a new idea, which is normally celebrated in his own society, can be threatening, when that new idea includes reaching outside of that long closed society. Threatening to the isolationism that many on Anarres believe insulates them from the evils of Urras.

If you aren't interested in this type of outside look at anarchy, and what society means, this may not be for you, but if you can get past the preaching which underlies the story, the story itself is an interesting look at different ways of life. And some pretty hippy-dip space-time theory, which or may not, in some form, be actually pretty close to true.

Le Guin is still kickin' it at 87. She has recently released a collection of novellas entitled The Found and the Lost.

By the way, The Dispossessed is part of a series called the Hainish Cycle, but the order of this series of books, is a little loose, and from the way it sounds, not really critical. FictFact has it listed this way, why I'm not sure, as it seems to be in opposition to the advice from Le Guin herself on what order to read them in, if that is important to you in this case. For her advice, go here and search for the phrase "in what order should I read" or the word "Hainish."

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

everlasting nory

The Everlasting Story of Nory is an odd little book by Nicholson Baker. I picked this volume up at the book sale at a library I visited to do some work between meetings. I don't know a lot about Nicholson Baker, but from what I've read, he tends to focus on stream of consciousness storyline involving adults. Not the case here.

Eleanor (Nory) Winslow, is a nine year old American girl, whose family has recently moved to England. Nory tells her story of assimilating into English school culture, how she feels about bullies, and their victims, mixed in with her remembrances of life and friends in America. It seems as though Baker has tried to channel a 9-year-old girl when authoring this, so there are misspellings, tangential meanderings, and a fair number of tortured idioms throughout. Nory tells the story of her first year in her new school, how she made her way, what she had to put up with, and describes the differences between where she used to live, and where she now lives, all from her quirky, story-telling way.

It appears that Nicholson Baker has a pretty dedicated following, so if you're a Baker fan, you may enjoy this, but without knowing any more about him, I'm not sure I'd recommend this book as a starting point.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

fallen angel

Fallen Angel reminded me of The Bridges of Madison County. It's romantic. It's comes at a time of transition in the protagonist's life. There's a little mystery involved.

Its also completely absurd.

There is a certain amount of 'suspension of disbelieve' that a reader needs to bring to every book I read sci fi for pete's sake but Snyder asks us to go one further when he asks us to believe that people will act as he indicates in this one.

In this case, our guy is kind of a jerk. Left his childhood home in Maine to escape the life his parents--mostly his father--made for him, and scrabbles around in different jobs for years til he ends up representing talent in Hollywood. you know, that old trope of washing dishes until your a movie producer Now he finds himself at forty with nothing to show for it but a small pile of money, and then...drama.

So his earlier life reaches out for him and he ends up back in Maine rediscovering what he had run from all those years ago.

And it's Christmastime.

I picked this one up at the library book sale without knowing much about it, but I was surprised. The Christmas bit was a surprise too. It's not a terrific book, just sort of sweet and season appropriate. Don J. Snyder has apparently done this kind of thing before, I just haven't read them. If you liked Bridges, then this one is probably worth a read, otherwise don't bother. Or you can just check out the Hallmark made for TV movie, which probably ran at Christmastime. on the lifetime channel

yeah I made my little notes red and green on purpose

Thursday, December 8, 2016

gathering of shadows

It would have been really nice if it was more clearly indicated (read: indicated at all) on the book jacket that this is NOT the first book in a series. It became clear that something was up about 100 pages in, maybe earlier. By 200 pages, I was pretty cranky that I was clearly reading a sequel. As it turns out, A Gathering of Shadows in the second in a trilogy by V.E. Schwab. Schwab's other titles were listed in her credits, including a special note that the only other adult fiction she had published was something called Vicious. That is clearly not the case, the first book in the series* is titled A Darker Shade Of Magic.

So yeah, thanks Tor Books! imagine the preceding literally dripping with sarcasm

Anyhoo. That being said, this was a fun book. And the glimpses back at what happened in the first book, seemed to indicate that that book was probably fun too. Schwab has created a universe where magic is the norm, and presumably runs parallel to own our (less magical) world. This is a trope that we've seen before, from Narnia, to superhero comics, but its still got some legs.

There are a few main characters, that readers of the first volume will recognize, I'm sure. And I'm also guessing that there are some new characters here as well. Schwab does a nice job of bouncing them off one another as they try to come to some kind of understanding about each others' needs and wants, and how they fit into each others' lives.** This is the kind of stuff I would expect to see in some of this author's YA writing, so I'm not too surprised to see it here.

Notwithstanding my ire at Tor Books, and their obvious omission of part 2 in the series, or something similar, I will probably look for the first book, and if that's good I'll watch for part 3, due out in February according to the fictfact page I linked to above.

* The title of the series is 'Shades of Magic.'

** Corrected 17 Dec 2016. Check out Compound Possession.