Saturday, June 30, 2018

The 2018 Reads, so far

Just a quick recount of what I've been reading this year, which is half over.  It seems like a bigger number than usual, but it's really just shorter books, and driving a little more.  A lot of audiobooks on this one this year, so far....


Death Without Company       by Craig Johnson

Johnson turns a good phrase.  This is the second Longmire book, and I've got an itch to go ahead and read the third....

Reading Stephen King      edited by Bryan James Freeman

A collection of Essays from Cemetery Dance.  I'd bought an autographed copy in 2017, and later in the year, had bought a grab bag from the specialty publisher, and another copy was included in that grab bag....

The Strain         by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

I did not like this one.  Seems like a few vignettes imagined by del Toro pieced together by Hogan.  Apologies if that's unfair.  This one was a mess.

Lamb:  The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal    by Christopher Moore

I have other favorites by Moore (Lust Lizard, Coyote Blue), but this one likely shows the most heart, and is probably his strongest novel.  I would call this one recommended reading....

Night Shift     by Stephen King

I'd had a New Year's Resolution to try to read a short story a day in 2018.  That fell apart pretty quickly, but I did read through Night Shift in the early part of the year.  Also part of my attempt to read through King's work in roughly chronological order of publication.  Lots of good stuff in Night Shift.


Hail to the Chin:  Further Confessions of a B-Movie Actor      by Bruce Campbell, Craig Sanborn

Light reading, but Fun.  Campbell's my kind of weird.

Fire and Fury:  Inside the Trump White House      by Michael Wolff

I didn't include this one in my Facebook list, mainly because I didn't feel like policing shitty comments.  Fact is, it's not a good book.  I agree with much of what was written, but was surprised by very little.  Wolff seems to be looking to build a Brand, which is unfortunate, since it's the prevailing criticism of the grifter sitting in the Oval Office.  I read wishing for a stronger read, perhaps from Bob Woodward....

The Long Walk      by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman

Continuing my project.  Still one of my favorites.  Bleak as hell.  Though much about this one, as the week I read it, I was working a ridiculous 70-hour week.

The Civil War: A Narrative, volume I: Fort Sumter to Perryville     by Shelby Foote

Good read, even if it adheres a bit too strongly to the "Lost Cause" narrative for the South.

Eileen      by Otessa Moshfegh
..As much as anything I've read this year, this one keeps popping back.  Bleak.  Sad, and funny.  Manages to hide what was a pretty simple curveball quite efficiently in the narrator's narcissism.  Kudos.  Well played.  I'll be looking for more from Ms. Moshfegh

The Man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin    by Masha Gessen

I'd been wanting to read this one for a while, as it had popped up recommended on a couple sites, Sheila's among them.  Interesting, frightening read about Putin's taking power.  Something to take notice of, especially this:  you may believe in the demagogue, but the demagogue does not believe in you. 


The Left Hand of Darkness    by Ursula K. LeGuin

A re-read, following the death of LeGuin.  I went through a six- or nine-month phase when I was about 20 reading just about everything I could get my hands on by LeGuin, and then maybe a book or two since.  Just a special writer.  And deserving of mention among this country's greatest.

Whale Season    by N.M. Kelby

Goofy fun.  A Christmas gift from my buddy Micah.  Reminds me of early Carl Hiassen, with a mix of Christopher Moore thrown in.....

The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard      by David Goodman

The Kindle lunchtime read.  I wanted something I could put down without feeling too bad about having to leave it when I got called away.  Not bad, even if it stretches a little too often to reach out to some famous stories not specifically involving Picard in the mentioned canon of the show....

The Right Stuff      by Tom Wolfe

Great read.  I'd read maybe all of this over the course of my life, but never from front to back.

Ready Player One     by Ernest Cline

I wanted to re-read (or re-listen, in this case) to in advance of Spielberg's flick this past spring.  Pure dorky escapism.  The criticisms leveled of its being derivative (it's a grail quest, guys), nihilist (yeah, a bit, but that may be why I like it) and sexist (yeah, it is, and there's not a lot of defending it) are valid.  I like it anyway.  To this point, I consider Cline a one-hit-wonder.  His follow up Armada?  That's one you can really hate on....


The Hunger      by Alma Katsu

I loved this one.  Amazing period horror piece.  Unfairly compared to Dan Simmons' The Terror.  This one is vastly superior, if only becasue it doesn't slobber over its wordcount.  It manages to keep you off balance, uncertain for the cause of events nicely through most of the book.  It's not often that a book's atmosphere and isolation suck me in so completely.  Well done.

Deadwood    by Pete Dexter

I started this once in December of last year, and because it was the busiest time of the year, I didn't make it far.  I tried again in April, and I dug this one.  Great turns of phrase.

The Dead Zone    by Stephen King

Continuing the project.  This was one of the first King books I went through in the early 1990's, after I initially read The Shining.  I'd forgotten vast chunks of the book, but remembered odd things with startling clarity...the kicking of the dog; the wooden toys; the sawed-off pool cues Stillson's thugs carried in their pockets; the way Stillson's rallies were molded....the last one rang especially true with how Trump's rallies still proceed.....

Dear Committee Members     by  Julie Schumacher

An odd epistolary novel.  It made me smile, though it hasn't popped to mind once since I read it, I'm sorry to say.

The Fairies of Sadieville      by Alex Bledsoe

The last of the Tufa books.  Alex's books have heart, and they write about a South that I know very well, and they do so without a wry smile.  I came to enjoy the sense of community in the Tufa books most, and this one is the strongest of the bunch.  Laugh out loud moment:  a favorite character rants about getting horrible cell service in his own driveway (preach!!!!), but getting five bars at the lip of a magical land.....

Jack-Rabbit Smile     by Joe R. Lansdale

You know, Joe's got my loyalty.  If he hadn't, I'd be back again on the strength of likening a truck collision to heaven blowing a bean fart.  Hap and Leonard back at it.  This one might be some of my favorite Leonard Pine since Savage Season.....


The Girl with All the Gifts     by M.R. Carey

A gift from Shyam.  I enjoyed this one, even though I'm feeling very real zombie fatigue.  Surprisingly sweet.

The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels   by Jon Meacham

A Commute listen.  A good read, even if it is Meacham's most mission-oriented book.  A look at the Presidency as the Conscience of our nation.  Focuses largely on the administrations of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, with looks at Lincoln, Eisenhower, JFK and Reagan who all had periods where facing down Populism, Fascism and Terrorism, and not always in ways associated with the philosophies of their persons, or political leanings....

Dead Mountain:  The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident  by Donnie Eichar

Another commute listen.  I'd had this one on my periphery for a while.  The old Coast-to-Coast listener in me was familiar with the story, and with a few of the theories.  I was pleased with the theory presented as a cause for the "madness" by the author.

Strange Weather: Four Short Novels  by Joe Hill

Four novellas, presented with something of a Tales from the Crypt vibe.  Fun.  Hill's response to having just published two word-heavy tomes (N0s4A2, which I liked; and The Fireman, which I did not).  He wanted to streamline, keep it lean.  I dug a couple of the stories very much, especially Loaded, which had me leaning into an okeydoke pretty far, and left me swearing at the end....


Noir     by Christopher Moore

I've read a lot of Moore, and enjoyed nearly all of it.  This one made me feel very much like the first couple of his I read (Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove and Island of the Sequined Love Nun).  Funny.  Silly, in a time when we need a little silly.

Circe      by Madeline Miller

An extremely well put together book.  I tend to dig stories about people (or immortals, as it were) finding themselves....

Kitchen Confidential:  Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly   by Anthony Bourdain

I'd owned a copy of this for a while, and never read it.  Bourdain passed.  I went through it.  I think my favorite bit is the entire chapter Bourdain devotes to contradicting everything he's said to this point...a literary "so what the fuck do I know?"

Rowdy:  The Roddy Piper Story    by Ariel Teal Toombs and Colt Baird Toombs

A Kindle read, and one I'd been wanting to get to for a while.  Piper's own autobiography, a weird, skitty read that seemed just like a worker wanting to keep working the crowd, was apparently disappointing even to Piper.  In the last years of his life, he'd been compiling notes to do a better job, but was limited by a life lived hard, and perhaps a little bit of head trauma.  His kids put together a fun, infinitely readable tribute.  I dug this one a lot.

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark   by Carl Sagan

I read this one once upon a time, a couple decades ago, borrowing my roommate's copy.  It was interesting then, and gave me a couple things I'd carried with me since then (especially my stance that we, the richest nation in the world, have the ability to spend a literal fortune on every kid in this country in the name of education, but choose instead to spend the money on missiles).  Reading it this time around hit me a little harder, and scared me a little.  Especially since I've spent much of the last 2 decades working with the public, and seen the lack of functional literacy in a great many of our folks, as well as the lack of critical thinking skills and skepticism in even more of our population.  It also disappointed me in myself, a bit, for my own gullibility a handful of times.....

Tales of the Callamo Mountains    by Larry Blamire

This had popped up on somebody's feed.  Short stories.  Bleak.  Isolated.  A wilderness containing more than the wild.  I enjoyed this collection.....

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Three Deaths

I'm not a big believe that things happen in threes, but it still grabs my attention when it seems to happen.

Three small parts of my life passed in the past 24 to 36 hours.

Woke up this morning to find out Koko the Gorilla had passed.  It actually hit me a little hard, and it got dusty in here for a second.  I remember seeing Koko on Mr. Rogers, way back when.  And anytime a news piece would show up, I'd watch.  This segment with Flea always makes me smile.  The bridging of the gap between the animal kingdom and the human world sometimes reveals the childlike best in humanity.

Yesterday, woke up to the news that Leon White, the man they called Big Van Vader, had passed due to complications from congestive heart failure.  Man, that WCW run for Vader in the early 1990's was one of my favorites.  I always appreciated their ability to maintain the man as a monster for an extended run.  And I resented the hell out of Hulk Hogan for just turning him into another big man for him to defeat, when he wandered over to Turnerland.  I wish Vader had hit the WWE in 1993 or 1994, rather than the couple years later that he did.  And I wish we'd gotten a really, really killer Undertaker/Vader feud.  I think it'd have been epic.

Here's a cool match between Vader and Mick Foley, from the WCW Saturday Night era.  I have seen this match, but I don't know if I saw it on a compilation or on the Network (most likely), but it gives me a feeling of nostalgia that makes me wonder if it wasn't one I watched at a friend or relative's house.  We grew up in the woods with no cable or any wrestling I saw from pretty much 1988 to 1995 was through a friend who did have cable....

Lastly, it was announced that John Ward passed away last night.  As the voice of the University of Tennessee sports, he was a ubiquitous presence.  When I play announced football games that we played as kids, there would always be the countdown by fives and the announcement: "Give Him Six!"  In fact, I still play that in my head, from time to time.