Saturday, June 12, 2021

We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep

We Shall Sing a Song into the Deep by Andrew Kelly Stewart, 168 pages

Remy is one of a handful of choristers on the submarine Leviathan, the only safe place for the faithful in a post-nuclear world. The "Topsiders" are all at war, fighting for resources, and the crew of the Leviathan must survive on the few things they can gather from the ocean, or steal from military ships above. Or at least, that's what Remy's been taught. But there are also secrets aboard the Leviathan, including the fact that Remy is a girl — the only one on board, brought because of her angelic voice — and as she learns more, she begins to doubt the stories she's been told.

A blurb on the cover of this book refers to it as "claustrophobic suspense," which I completely agree with. While the plot is something that can easily be compared to suspense and even dystopian young adult novels, the submarine aspect lends to a tighter sense of being trapped (both mentally and physically) than I've read in a long time. It's an intriguing story, and well worth the short time it'll take to read it.

The Hour of the Witch

The Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian, 405 pages

In 17th Century Boston, unhappily married women have very few options when it comes to divorcing their husbands, particularly when the man has not been unfaithful or deserted her. But that's exactly what Mary Deerfield would like to do after five years of increasingly violent outbursts from her much-older husband Thomas. The final straw comes when Thomas takes one of the newfangled three-tined forks (meant for eating, not carving, and imported by Mary's father) and stabs it through her hand. But even with an injured hand, the divorce trial is difficult, particularly since so many of the Puritan magistrates see the weapon as "the Devil's tines" rather than an eating utensil. Mary must walk a fine line to seek an end to her marriage without bringing a charge of witchcraft down upon her head.

This is a fascinating exploration of the limitations upon women in the 1600s, as well as a pointed look at how little things have changed over the past 400 years. It's well-researched, well-written, and has a compelling plot that moves it along much faster than your average 400-page historical fiction novel. No wonder it has so many people waiting for it at UCPL!

Act Your Age, Eve Brown

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert, 375 pages

As the youngest Brown sister, Eve is also the flightiest, hopping from one career path to the next, living off her trust fund until her parents cut her off, claiming that the time has come for Eve to settle down and apply herself. In a fit of frustration, Eve climbs in her car and drives off, stumbling across a small B&B that is holding open interviews for a chef — so OF COURSE she gives it a shot. While B&B owner Jacob is not impressed by her casual manner, he's also desperate, and after initially rejecting her, he chases after her, only for her to hit him with her car. Somehow, she still manages to end up working at the B&B, sparks fly, etc etc

Only now, while writing that summary, do I realize how ridiculous this whole book is. I absolutely loved Hibbert's first two books in the Brown sisters series, and I had very high hopes for this one. While the presence of an autistic main character in a romance novel is refreshing, it's not handled particularly well (more stereotypes than anything), which also causes problems. Read the first two Hibbert books (Get a Life, Chloe Brown and Take a Hint, Dani Brown), leave this one on the shelf, and keep your fingers crossed for her next title.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Slough House

Slough House by Mick Herron, 301 pages

Slough House is known among British spies as the bottom-of-the-barrel, punishment-assignment office for those who have royally screwed up in the more legitimate spy offices. But it seems that someone is tailing the current members of Slough House and killing off what former members still survive. It's possible that these actions are retaliation for the assassination of a Russian spy in Moscow, but why would anyone go after the bottom of the barrel? Throw in some alt-right agitators and some questionable back-office dealings with the media, and we've got a simmering stew that's ready to boil over.

Slough House (both the book and the office) is full of...oh, let's go with "vibrant"...characters, and the plot, once you get into it, is wonderfully topical and twisty. But this is the seventh book in a series, which is definitely not the point to jump in. If you do that (like I did), you'll spend the first 75 pages or so flailing around in your attempt to figure out who's who and guess at backstories. Learn from my mistake and start with book one, Slow Horses.

Arsenic and Adobo

 Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala, 336 pages.

Lila Macapagal's life is starting to look like a rom-com. After she catches her terrible fiance cheating on her in the big city she moves back to her tiny hometown in Illinois to help her aunt save her failing restaurant. She also has to deal with meddling, match-making aunties and old and new crushes. Of course her food-critic ex-boyfriend being murdered in her family's restaurant throws a wrench in the genre. 

Now Lila has to solve the crime before she, the prime suspect, goes to jail for it. Luckily, the tight-knit Filipino community in Shady Palms, Illinois is ready to help, and Lila will meet a really fun cast of diverse characters in the course of her investigation.

I don't read much in the cozy mystery genre, but I really enjoyed this book. It was really funny, and I loved Lila's voice throughout. I also really appreciate the recipes in the back, and there's definitely some I want to try (if only I could stand the smell of bananas enough to make banana bread!). I'm definitely looking forward to the second book in the series next year!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Project Hail Mary


Project Hail Mary / Andy Weir, 476 pg.

Hell YES, Andy Weir is back!  Author of The Martian returns with his third book after a middling second book and all I can do is say Hail Mary!  This book is great. Our protagonist wakes up on a space ship on his way to save the world.  He can't remember much after being in a coma for several years of travel, unfortunately his fellow crew members did not survive.  Out there by himself, he is trying to find a solution to the problem of our sun being eaten.  In so many ways, the next sentences could be a spoiler.  Instead, I will tell you that there is a lot of fairly plausible science and a heart warming friendship in this story told in present day with flash backs to how we got there.  Fascinating stuff!

The Premonition


The premonition: a pandemic story / Michael Lewis, 319 pgs.

Hmmm, I wonder how this story will end up?  A book by Michael Lewis is always a treat. He can bring the humanity to anything terrible and there is plenty of terrible here.  No, this isn't a big expose of the previous administration or individual failure, it really shines a light on the system that was supposed to work but is set up to fail.  Public health is is the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. There is a system in the U.S. and it is not impressive.  It is poorly designed and poorly funded, and yet there are people out there giving it their all.  The perspective is interesting.  The gaps are wide.  How are we going to fix this?

The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, 256 pages

Just after receiving a prestigious prize for her work on cloning, Evelyn learns that her ex-husband, Nathan's, new wife, Martine, is pregnant. While this would be upsetting for many, Evelyn's particularly angry because Martine shouldn't be able to get pregnant, as she's a clone. One that Evelyn's ex made and based on Evelyn (but without the "disagreeable" parts, of course). But when Martine accidentally kills Nathan during an argument, Evelyn grudgingly gets involved in helping Martine cover up the murder, risking her career in the process.

Clone novels always introduce an element of ethical debate, and The Echo Wife is no different. What makes this one stand out, however, is the multiple layers of ethics up for debate. Are clones people or tools? Can a woman who was programmed to want a child and be subservient to her husband really make an autonomous decision to have the child? Can a clone be blamed for the crimes of its source human? Gailey is an angry person, and in this book, their anger crystallizes into a wonderfully told, taut drama solidly based in science fiction. This will make a wonderful book group title.

May totals

A bit late, but here they are!

Christa 9/2507

Jan 5/1522

Kara 12/3979

Linda 3/1002

Regan 11/2607

Total: 40/11,617

The Guest List

 The Guest List by Lucy Foley (2020) 313 pages

Jules, a successful online magazine publisher is set to marry Will, an up-and-coming reality television star. Their opulent wedding is to take place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, at a castle-like estate owned by Aoife, a wedding planner, and her husband Freddy, a chef. The members of the wedding party and the guests include Jules's half sister Olivia, Jules's best friend Charlie and his wife Hannah, Will's best man Johnno, and the four ushers, all of whom went to boarding school with Will and Johnno. Secrets abound in this group. And as happy as the beautiful bridal couple seem, Jules finds herself obsessing about an anonymous note she received, telling her not to marry Will, that he is a cheat and a liar.

The story is structured in a series of time shifts. It starts at the moment in the huge outdoor reception tent when a storm has caused the power to fail, and brings us back in time in certain characters' lives to set the stage, and then advances the plot until we're back at "now." We know from the beginning that someone will die and someone is a murderer. (It's not a spoiler; it's on the book flap!) As the story and the suspense build, it's clear that the victim and the murderer could be anyone!