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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Currently reading

Into The Water
Paula Hawkins, Laura Aikman, Sophie Aldred, Rachel Bavidge

The Time-Traveler's Wife

The Time Traveler's Wife - Phoebe Strole, Fred Berman, Audrey Niffenegger

I cannot bring myself to assign a star rating to this one, as I am somewhat conflicted about this book.  I'm a sucker for time-travel, I found the premise interesting, and I found myself pulled through the narrative wanting to know how everything resolves.  But there were also aspects I found troubling.


Like Kurt Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, Henry DeTamble comes unstuck in time.  It begins when he is quite young (age five), and he never has control over when it happens or where in time he goes.  He meets Clare Abshire when he is 28 and she is 20.  However, at that point, Clare has known Henry since she was six.  This is because when Henry is 36 (and has been married to Clare for five years),* he begins traveling back to Clare's childhood.  The versions of Henry Clare already knows at that point are ages 36 through 43.  From age-28 Henry's perspective, she is a beautiful stranger who is inexplicably drawn to him and unsettlingly familiar with him.  From age-20 Clare's perspective, it's been two years since her last "Henry" visit, and she has been waiting impatiently to find him in his own timeline.


So, one of the troubling aspects for me is that the many encounters between Clare (age 6-18) and Henry (age 36- 32-43) feel a whole lot like child grooming.  In the early years of her life, he's a friend who helps her with her homework, but he also lets slip that in his timeline they're married, so there is always this air of inevitability that he is her future husband.  I'm queasily reminded of Stephenie Meyer's concept of "imprinting" in Breaking Dawn, when Jacob Black  imprints upon infant Renesmee Cullen.  With imprinting, Meyer takes great pains to specify that in the early years, the relationship is not sexual, that the imprinter is everything the imprintee needs him to be--babysitter, tutor, best friend--before she's of age and the relationship becomes sexual.


Even though Henry insists on waiting until Clare is 18 before having sexual intercourse, Clare begins pushing toward a sexual relationship at a disturbing early-teen age, going for kisses and inappropriate touching  The Henry that she loses her virginity to is 41 years old, and I couldn't help thinking of this as cheating on the age-33 version of Clare.  This type of scenario--Henry having sex with other-age Clares--happens at other times in the narrative, as well.  And neither Henry nor Clare seems disturbed by it.  At one point, one of the middle-aged Henries worries that he might be shaping Clare's life.  No, duh.  Grooming.  I really wish the author had simply NOT had Henry traveling into Clare's childhood, and finding a different way for them to form their bond.


There are also the sex scenes themselves.  I will state up front that I am not a romance reader.  I usually don't enjoy graphic sex scenes, mostly because I think the majority of  authors don't manage to do them well.  In the case of this book, the tone and language of the sex scenes felt incongruent with the rest of the narrative, using porny words that didn't fit with the word choices of the rest of the book.


But despite my misgivings, I cared about the characters, wished them to resolve their problems, and actually got teary a couple of times.  Emotions!


Some other random observations:  The type of time-travel in the book is the sort where everything is already settled; the future has already happened, and nothing the time-traveler does alters what is going to happen.  All of his/her acts are already baked into the timeline.  This came out in interesting ways; however, I do prefer the type of time travel where it is possible to alter outcomes.


When Henry time travels, he cannot bring anything with him.  Therefore, he always lands completely naked, without money, and ravenous.  Much of his attention is devoted to getting clothes, money, and food, and because of that he resorts to pick-pocketing, lock-picking/theft, and other illegal acts.  There is a scene where an adult Henry teaches one of his childhood selves how to pick pockets.  (Yes, his various selves interact with one another.)


An aside particular to the audio narration:  In one of the scenes between middle-aged Henry and child Clare, Henry teachers Clare a phrase in French, noting that her French pronunciation is "already better" than his.  But the male narrator, when speaking French, has passable French pronunciation.  Much later, the female narrator delivers some lines in French, and her pronunciation is not good.  I had to struggle to figure out which words she was trying to say.  If being able to pronounce French well is a character trait, you need to do your audio-casting accordingly, if actually speaking French will be part of the performance.


I read a sampling of reviews for this book on Goodreads, and several reviewers of the text version complained that Henry and Clare "sounded" the same in their narratives.  This is certainly one advantage of the audio version--no mistaking the female "Clare" voice for the male "Henry" voice.


**Update:  I realize I goofed.  Although from Clare's perspective, the first meeting with Henry occurs when she is six and Henry is 36, from Henry's perspective, the youngest he is when dipping into Clare's youth is 32.  Which means he was only married for two when he started all that, which hits me as even ickier somehow.

Talking as Fast as I Can

Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between - Lauren Graham

I only sporadically watched The Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, but when I did, I enjoyed the shows and Lauren Graham's acting.  I even liked her character in the short-lived Townies (anyone remember that show--with Molly Ringwald and Jenna Elfman?).  Now that I've listened to this audiobook, I really want to borrow the DVD of the reboot of Gilmore Girls.


A couple of things that were fun for me are that we're the same age (born in 1967), so I get her references, and we both skipped a grade, which has some weird psychology you need to have skipped a grade to understand.


A light, quick read (or listen) from a friendly voice.  I'm now curious about reading her novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe.

Under the Dome (Downtown)

Under the Dome - Stephen King, Raul Esparza

Even though the audiobook was something like 35 hours long, when I got to the end, I didn't want this book to be over.


On a seemingly ordinary October day in the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine, an invisible dome drops down, cutting off the town from the rest of the world. This is particularly bad news for anyone operating aircraft or motor vehicles in the direction of the unseen barrier.


Just before the dome drops down, Dale Barbara, an army veteran and short-order cook, is hitch-hiking to get out of the town, after having gotten into a brawl with some local young men with an overload of testosterone and an underload of sense and intelligence. He almost makes it out, as a young woman driving a truck appears to slow down and consider giving the hitchhiker a ride before continuing along. If only she'd given him that ride. He would have escaped. Or perhaps the dome would have dropped right down on the truck, delayed because of the time it took to pick up Dale Barbara.


It is not long before "Big Jim" Rennie, a used car salesman and the town's Second Selectman*, begins scheming to use the dome to his advantage, to increase his own power and position. Although the town pharmacist Andy Sanders, as First Selectman, technically outranks Big Jim, in practice, what Big Jim wants is what happens. Strengthening Big Jim's power claims is the sudden, unexpected death of the police chief, Howard "Duke" Perkins, who discovers the hard way that pacemakers and the dome do not play well together.


Big Jim wastes no time manipulating the townspeople and weaving an "Us" vs. "Them" narrative. Dale Barbara, aka "Barbie," is a convenient emblem of "them" when U.S. Colonel James Cox and President Obama decide that the former Captain Barbara has been reenlisted and promoted to Colonel. The president has declared martial law and placed Colonel Barbara in charge. But how are the officials outside of the impenetrable dome going to enforce that if Big Jim doesn't want to let someone else be in charge?


The book has a huge cast and a large scope, but manages them all quite well. It's been a day since I finished, and I am still contemplating the book's commentary on the psychology of groups--whether they are town populations, thuggish 20-something hooligans, or kids practicing mindless cruelty as their friends egg them on. It's an engaging plot-driven narrative that sneakily gets deep.


*This is apparently a "New England" thing. Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:


Definition of selectman: one of a board of officials elected in towns of all New England states except Rhode Island to serve as the chief administrative authority of the town. First Known Use: 1635. See selectman defined for kids.


Under the Dome - Stephen King, Raul Esparza

Someday, when I go to shelve a book I am currently reading, it will already exist in Booklikes, and I won't need to choose between shelving an edition other than the one i am reading/listening to or doing the whole "add a new edition" yet again.  But today is not that day.  (Serves me right for choosing another brand new audiobook from 2014.)

Three Wishes

Three Wishes - Liane Moriarty, Heather Wilds

Although this book was originally published in 2003, this audio edition came out in 2014.  Heather Wilds was the narrator.  Although Wilds was a perfectly pleasant and professional narrator, I couldn't help missing Caroline Lee.  I have come to think of her as the voice of Liane Moriarity's fiction, and she really adds a special element to Moriarty's work.


The narrative opens with a disastrous scene that takes place at the restaurant where the shared 34th-birthday celebration of triplets Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle is taking place.  Fellow diners end up telling and retelling what becomes a piece of viral gossip, as suddenly one of the triplets has stuck a fondue fork into the pregnant belly of one of her sisters.  The waitress who has served the sisters recounts the scene from her own perspective, and then the narrative backs up and lays out a string of events, from multiple points of view, that lead to the events described in the opening.


I enjoyed getting to know Lyn, Cat, Gemma, her parents Maxine and Frank, Grandma Kettle along with spouses, children, and other associates.  As one might expect, the sisters have complicated relationships with one another, with both positive and detrimental effects.  All are facing crises and dilemmas, as they try to figure out what they should be doing with the rest of their lives.


As an aside, I will mention that one of the elements to the book was unrelated, random people would have "vignette" type recountings of having witnessed the triplets in some situation or other (at various stages in their lives--six-year-olds, teenagers, young adults, etc.).  It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that these were random observers--rather than a character who had just been speaking a moment ago, in the prior section.  And I'd wonder why the triplet this character had just been talking to wouldn't jump in and say, "Oh, right, that was US."  I think this is one of those instances where a narrative device would have been much more obvious in print!


So, I do recommend this book--particularly for readers who already enjoy Liane Moriarty.  This was, I believe, her first novel, and she hadn't quite matured into the "Liane Moriarty" voice of books like The Husband's Secret and Big Little Lies, but this is a worthy read, nonetheless.

Review-Language Quirks

Tried this as a "General Chat" thread in the "Goodreads" Feedback Group, but no one cared.  Literally no one.  Hope I can find some readers who care here:


I have many quirks when it comes to language usage in general, and I have certain ones pertaining to book reviews, too. I am guessing many here have their quirks (and peeves), too.

One for me is that I become irritated when I see the phrase "put the book down" to mean "quit the book." Don't we all put books down in the course of reading them? To use the bathroom, make a meal, go to our jobs? Are these reviewers people who read every book in one sitting without ever taking a break?

Why not just write, "I quit/abandoned the book?" "I took a DNF (did not finish)?"

I'm not even sure why I find this as irritating as I do.... 




So, what are your quirks/peeves in book reviews?

Added This Edition

Three Wishes - Liane Moriarty, Heather Wilds

Just added this edition.  Because...  Again...  Of course.


After all, it's ONLY been out for three years, three months, and 21 days....


Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us) - Tom Vanderbilt, Marc Cashman



You are not stuck in traffic.  You are traffic.


Most drivers are not nearly as proficient as they think they are.  Many drivers, based on their inflated sense of their own skills, think they can drive just as well, even if they divide their attention between their driving and their phones.  But they are (at times catastrophically) wrong.


Measures designed to make driving safer can actually make it more dangerous, since they facilitate faster driving and less attention to surroundings.


Individual drivers make choices based on their own self-interest, but those choices are often detrimental to the entire driving system, with the cumulative effect of slowing down traffic flow.


I found this book, overall, interesting and informative.  Certain facts were downright counter-intuitive.  At times, I felt I was being bogged down somewhat with the density of some of the data, but I think it's a worthwhile read/listen.


Still skeptical that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians.  My own personal example is a roundabout at an intersection that is part of one of my favorite running routes.  Several years back, the roundabout replaced traffic lights.  In my experience, the traffic lights provided a clarity that has been removed.  The road that I have to cross now has a crosswalk meant to stop westbound drivers entering the roundabout and another for eastbound drivers who have just exited it.  There is signage indicating that drivers must stop to allow pedestrians to cross.  I can't even tell you how often drivers roll right through, apparently not even considering the possibility of stopping for lowly on-foot travelers.  Usually, my only hope of crossing is if no drivers are close enough to be a problem.

I Read the Heck Out of This But Never Marked as Read/Rated/Posted

The Walking Dead Volume 21: All Out War Part 2 -

I know for a fact that I read this when it came out in 2014.  This was a BFD.  I can't believe I (a) failed to mark it was read (b) failed to rate it, and (c) failed to review it.  Somehow, I did.  And now it's been too long.  ::grumble::  I mean...  NEGAN.

Not actually about the book.

The Walking Dead Volume 29 - Robert Kirkman


I'm looking forward to reading this book when it comes out in 2018.  But that's not really what I'm posting about.  I've just finished marking this as "Planning to read" here on Booklikes and separately marking it "Want to read" on Goodreads.  LIKE A SAVAGE. Because my Booklikes to Goodreads sync stopped working.  And yes, I tried to disconnect the sync and then reconnect.  I was able to accomplish the first part of that.  But now when I try to connect again, I find that clicking the "connect" button does nothing.  The page pretends it is "processing [my] request," but that is a lie, and the stupid green "connect" button continues to sit there and look at me.  Like it doesn't know what I'm talking about.


[Yes, I am frustrated.  I posted about this in the "Bug Report" group, but no response.  Now I have posted there a second time AND sent a "support" email.]

Holy [Bleep]!

The Walking Dead Volume 28 - Robert Kirkman



A giant herd of zombies is headed toward the band of survivors.  They need to act fast and implement a plan to draw them away and destroy them.  Will they succeed?


Something BIG happens in this volume.  I am not happy about it, but it's the kind of thing that can be expected in the world the characters live in.  I don't want to say more about this, because I'd need to write a spoiler to do so.  And I want to keep this review spoiler-free.


I am going to be interested in the way the events of this book affect what happens next.  There have been some major shifts in this volume.  At this point, I foresee that I'll stick with this series as long as it continues.  But is there a payout in sight?

Pretty Girls

Pretty Girls - Karin Slaughter, Kathleen Early



I almost knocked this down to two stars because of some fairly graphic depictions of sadistic torture and the implausibility of certain nefarious goings-on that involved a wide-ranging conspiracy of well-connected people being involved in something very disturbing and complicit in covering that thing up.


However--I kept wanting to move forward to find out how the story resolved, and I cared about the main characters.  Proceed with caution, though, especially if the first part of my opening sentence sounds like something you feel you need to avoid.


More than 20 years before, a 19-year-old college student named Julia Carroll disappeared.  Her case was never solved, and local law enforcement seemed to be satisfied with the assumption that she left of her own accord, to quietly begin a life in some other part of the world, without notifying her parents, sisters, or friends.


Julia's disappearance shattered her family.  Her father Sam became entirely focused on solving the case, while her mother Helen moved between checking out altogether and deciding that moving on was the only way to fulfill the needs of their surviving daughters, Lydia and Claire.  Lydia drifted into drug addiction, while Claire became a people pleaser, focused on being popular but not standing out too much.  Lydia has been estranged from Helen and Claire since she made an accusation about Claire's then-boyfriend (later husband), Paul Scott.


As the book opens, Claire has just had removed the ankle monitor she has had to wear following an assault charge and plea bargain.  She and Paul, a ridiculously successful architect, are meeting in a bar to celebrate, but after he is uncharacteristically late, they are attacked in an alley, where he has exhibited unfamiliar behavior, and they experience an attack that leaves Paul dying as Claire watches helplessly.


Soon after the incident, Claire begins to discover clues that Paul had another side she'd been unaware of, and which aligns with Lydia's accusations years before.  As she begins to rethink everything she thought she knew, she contacts Lydia, who has a teenage daughter of her own, and has turned her life around since her drug-using days.  Neither is initially sure they can trust the other, but soon their sibling loyalty is reestablished. 


What might Julia's disappearance have to do with the recent disappearance of 16-year-old Anna Kilpatrick?  Are there clues to be found in the journals that Sam Carroll left behind?  What secrets about Paul will the sisters uncover?


As suggested above, this book had me hooked on finding out what happens.  Although I started with the audiobook, I ended up switching to the Kindle version to progress faster.  I will say there is a twist I didn't see coming, and then I almost smacked myself on the head, because I've read enough thrillers where that kind of twist occurs.  But I won't say anything further about that (working to keep this spoiler-free).

Why Not Mindy

Why Not Me? - B.J. Novak, Greg Daniels, Mindy Kaling



If you like the idea of Mindy Kaling accompanying you on walks, runs, errands, etc., keeping you entertained with funny stories, you'll enjoy this audiobook.  I particularly enjoyed learning about why she and BJ Novak are "soup snakes."


Some bits of the book felt a bit filler-ish, but even those portions entertained me.  Mindy could probably read the Yellow Pages or classified ads to me and make me laugh.


Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges - Amy Cuddy



I am sucker for books about becoming or cultivating our best selves, so I had no choice but to be sucked in by this one.  After cursing at my alarm clock today, I spent two minutes with my arms up in the air, thinking, "I am going to conquer this day!"  I'm not sure I would go so far as to claim conquership, but my interactions with other people were satisfying today.  Assuming power poses--and the related strategies Cuddy describes--are simple, but I think they have merit.


I will note that I prefer the arms-up-in -the-air posture represented on the book cover.  But if you prefer the "Wonder Woman" hands on hips, go for it!


11/22/63 (Audio) - Craig Wasson, Stephen King



The past is obdurate.


The past harmonizes with itself.


I saw the mini-series based on this book before reading/listening to the book, so I was spoiled on much of the major developments.  Still I enjoyed this book--probably not any less than I would have unspoiled.  (I can't know for sure since I can't go back in time and read the book before watching the show!)


In 2011, Jake Epping is a high-school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine.  He is living a fairly ordinary, orderly life until Al Templeton, proprietor of Al's Diner, introduces him to a seeming impossibility.  The pantry of the diner has a portal to one specific day in the past:  Tuesday, September 9, 1958.  Al has Jake experience this phenomenon for himself rather than try to convince him that it's true.  Al has been visiting the past regularly for years, for varying time spans.  His visits account for his alarmingly fast aging, since no matter how long the stay in the past, only two minutes will have passed in the "present" time frame upon returning.  Changes made in that past affect the future (or present, depending on one's perspective); however all those changes are erased if that portal to the past is used again.  Al explains this as a "reset."


The extended visits to the past have taken their toll on Al's health.  He is dying of lung cancer and urges Jake to take up a mission Al had attempted and failed to complete:  go back to 1958 and stay in the past long enough to prevent John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963.  Jake, divorced and childless, doesn't feel particularly tethered to 2011.  But can he really prevent the assassination?  If he fails, he's five years older with nothing to show for it.


The two lines at the beginning of this review are lines our narrator repeats often during his mission to change the past.  It does not want to be changed.  Can you blame it?


While I was listening to and reading this book (I also got the hard cover from the library), I also watched to first two seasons of Twelve Monkeys.  I seem to be overdosing on time travel lately.  I guess I love this stuff.  If you do, too?  Read this book!

Talk Like TED

Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds - Carmine Gallo



I don't do all that much public speaking, but I work in continuing medical education, so making better presentations and determining how people best learn are recurrent issues.  And Gallo is not kidding that medical presentations are often quite boring!  I think this book has useful tips for people who want to improve their ability to plan and deliver effective, memorable talks.  While listening/reading I did make a point of seeking out some of the TED Talks that Gallo discusses.


My favorite parts of the book had to do with techniques that optimize learning/memory.  Like how learning something new and exciting causes the brain to release dopamine, which, in turn, promotes memory.  Same type of process for hearing something highly emotional.  I was much less engaged when he focused on optimizing advertising, marketing, or business pitches.


Ironically, I felt Gallo's narration style was less than optimal.  He mentions that the optimal speaking rate for narrating an audiobook is considerably slower than what is optimal for conversation and, by extension, for a TED talk.  But his speaking rate was so... measured...  I... wish... he'd... found... something... in... between... the.. two... rates.