September 2021


Travel Time Equals Reading Time… Books Six to Thirteen, with pithy comments.

Finishing Geek Love (book number five, from my last report) took a bit of effort. Honestly, it was a struggle toward the end – at some point I decided had to finish it because I’d read two-thirds of it; at the three-quarters mark I thought to myself that surely I could do it; and ultimately I was glad it was over. The book clearly has legs and speaks to somebody, just not me.

After that I picked up the far more delightful Stoner. Stoner falls into the realm of academic novels (a la David Lodge, Richard Russo, or Tom Sharpe; to name three men. Janet Smiley’s Moo is a female author) that I usually adore. The novel was great, but it took awhile to ease into – the professor’s life, both at home and at school, was messy. For people in academia, this is a gem that is probably overlooked because it is a wee bit dated – published in 1965, but focusing on academia as it existed starting in the 1910s.

For something completely different, The Dating Game, was a nice gay romance novel – lighthearted and sweet.

From there I delved into Picture Me Gone, a teen novel focusing on the mysterious disappearance of the friend of a girl-detective’s father. Honestly, this was a nice, mindless, read somewhere on my last trip to America. It’s not left much of an impression on me.

Following that was Shirts and Skins, a collection of short stories all centered on the same character in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s an interesting watching Josh grow up, struggling with his family, his work, and his sexuality.

The worst book out of this set was Brightflame Accension – a fantasy novel, whose author seems to be under delusions of grandeur. It was clearly written by somebody who thought he could write the next Harry Potter series. What came out is an insipid book with some of the most stilted dialogue, unbelievable descriptions, and a plot that is about as exciting as watching grass grow. I kept hoping it would get better. It never did.

Perhaps I would have thought worse of Stepbrother Dearest had it not followed such a horrid book. I found Stepbrother Dearest to be surprisingly graphic (actually, really graphic) about a relationship that develops between a girl and her (completely unrelated genetically) stepbrother. It had some nice moments, but the writing was not always convincing.

While watching people board a plane in Germany, I saw somebody carrying a book entitled Scrum – so I picked a book named Scrum – and it turned out to be a gay romance of sorts set in Denver. This was completely mindless and saved from being the worst book of this set by the aforementioned really awful book.

Currently I’m reading The Fence And Then The Trees. It’s good. It’s very good – and the author, JF Smith, has a really good track record. I’ve read four other books that he’s written and all have been engaging. I actually put off The Fence And Then The Trees, both in buying it and then reading it, because it was set in prison and I tend not to enjoy these kinds of stories. This one has all the negative prison elements that one might expect, but the way it’s presenting is not grating at all. Yes, there’s prison rape, yes there are fights, and yes it’s not a pleasant place, but the story works. I’m just over halfway through… and I expect to finish it pretty quickly.

My next book will be a big one: Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries – some 400 pages of Berlin history, which only serve to bring my hometown alive.

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