April 2017 Books Finished

1. The Hill of Evil Counsel- Oz, Amos  – This is a short story collection, or novel in short stories, with 3 stories that could stand alone but that involve the same cast of characters from different perspectives as a small Jewish community in British controlled Palestine deals with the early stages of WW2. This was an English translation from the original Hebrew. Amos Oz is considered Israel’s most famous living author. (buy from amazon.com, NYTimes review, Kirkus review)

2. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them– Scamander, Newt – This is a cute supplemental book for Harry Potter lovers. There’s not much story, since this is more of a mini-encyclopedia about magical creatures. One could imagine this as a textbook for ‘first-years’ at Hogwarts, for their Care of Magical Creatures intro class. (buy from amazon.com)

3. Hawke (Alexander Hawke, #1)- Bell, Ted – This is the first book in the Alexander Hawke series, which seems so far to be a copycat series to Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt books. Hawke is just as sex-driven as Pitt, and the adventures and political connections both heroes enjoy are quite similar. But Cussler gave this book a favorable cover-blurb, so I’m reserving judgement till I read a few more. (Read about the series on the author’s website, buy on amazon.com)

4. Cat and Mouse– Grass, Günter – If you liked Demian, by Hermann Hesse, you might like this book. I didn’t really enjoy either. This is a book about school-boys in German-occupied Poland, so it was interesting as a perspective on life within Nazi territory that is less common in WW2 literature. I suspect that some of the symbolism was lost in translation, because this story seems like the sort one might analyze to death in college literature classes. (buy on amazon.com, NYTimes review)

5. The Man Who Knew Too Much– Chesterton, G.K. – This is a collection of stories, much like the Sherlock Holmes collections, mostly centered around an upper-class sleuth, Fisher. These stories reminded me a lot of Ngaio Marsh’s stories. (find on amazon.com, read more about this book on wikipedia)

6. The ABC Murders– Christie, Agatha – The TV series version stayed pretty true to this book, but it is still fun to read the book. Some details were of course different, but I don’t think either one is ‘better’; they were both well done. (buy on amazon.com, list of the Hercule Poirot series in order on Goodreads)

7. State of Siege– Ambler, Eric – This is a novel about a man who finds himself stuck on a small, fictitious tropical island that is overthrowing Dutch colonial rule. While the story is fiction, it does show how it might have been for people who found themselves in similar places during similar revolutions. This is a short novel, and an adventure story with a romantic interest and an unwilling hero, so it is not meant to be taken too seriously; for what it is, it was a good book. (buy on amazon.com, Kirkus review)

8. Dark Canyon– L’Amour, Louis – I think maybe this was set in Colorado, though it can be hard to tell in L’Amour books. In any case, the terrain is very much like that of Western Colorado and the surrounding area. In this story a young man leaves life as an outlaw to set up a ranch, as a retirement plan for his outlaw friends who are getting too old to live as outlaws much longer. (buy on amazon.com, buy on louislamour.com)

9. Hymns and Hymnwriters of Denmark– Aaberg, J. C.  (Project Gutenberg) – This is an interesting book if you like church history or music history, or if you want a different perspective on Denmark’s history and culture. (buy on amazon.com, find on Project Gutenberg)

*10. Last Chance to See– Adams, Douglas – If you like David Attenborough’s nature documentaries, P.J. O’Rourke’s travel stories, or Terry Pratchett’s Science of Discworld books, you’ll probably really enjoy this book. And, if you loved this book and haven’t tried Attenborough, O’Rourke, or Pratchett, you might check them out. (buy on amazon.com, also check out the follow-up book by Mark Carwardine on amazon.com)

*11. Snuff (Discworld, #39; City Watch #8)- Pratchett, Terry – One down, one more to go. This book dealt with a marginalized species, the goblins, and how Sam Vimes helped to get them recognition as a sentient species deserving equal protection under the law. You could think of this one as an animal rights or racial equality theme, depending on what you think of goblins, and how sentient you think cats and dogs and other animals really are. (buy on amazon.com, review from The Guardian)

12. The First Three Minutes: A Modern View Of The Origin Of The Universe- Weinberg, Steven – If you like physics jargon you will love this book. I really like cosmology and astrophysics stuff, but this book was slow-going anyway. There are ways to tell the stories of the early universe that make this subject fascinating even for people with no college physics background. This was not a good example of how one might tell such stories. Still, if you are prepared for the jargon and dry science writing, you might like this book. (buy on amazon.com,  read more reviews on Goodreads)

13. The Cat Who Played Post Office (Cat Who…, #6)- Braun, Lilian Jackson – I prefer big, fluffy cats over sleek Siamese cats any day, but these 2 cats are growing on me. I like reading about how they are training their human to provide them with their preferred standards of care. (buy on amazon.com, see the series listed in order on Goodreads)

14. With the Turks in Palestine– Aaronsohn, Alexander (Project Gutenberg) – This is another book set in Palestine, at the start of WW1 when the Ottoman Empire controlled Palestine. This account is from a somewhat different perspective of a Jewish man with US ties who is conscripted into the Turkish army. This author is more openly racist against his Arab neighbors, which is interesting when compared with the attitude in Amos Oz’s book set a generation later. (find on Project Gutenberg, read about the author on wikipedia)

*15. Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy, #1)- Hobb, Robin – I finally finished this book. It was great, but I started it as an ebook, and I still dislike ebooks. Once I got a physical copy and started over with that version, it went much faster. I’m still frustrated with Fitz’s attitudes and actions- he reminds me of Harry Potter a bit, never telling the adults what he ought to when bad things are happening, never asking questions or exploring his own abilities for himself (If I had magical powers as a kid I would be exploring them carefully on my own regardless of what any adults said.) . But he’s getting better by the end of this book. I am looking forward to reading more about Fool, too. (buy on amazon.com, read more about this book on wikipedia, see the series list on Goodreads)

16. Fifth Grave Past the Light– Jones, Darynda (GG) – I was not sure about this book. I have read a lot of romance novels for the fact that I generally dislike them. I don’t mind a well-written, steamy sex scene or 3 or 5 in the books I read, but it is rare for romance novels to focus on the right details with the right wording for my taste in sex scenes. And many romance novels seem like they are really just 6-10 pages of sex with 100-200 pages of filler to space out the sex. This book was at least not just filler. Charley, the female main character, is about as sex-obsessed as Cussler’s Dirk Pitt or Bell’s Alex Hawke, so every time an attractive man entered a scene he was checked out as thoroughly by Charley as Dirk Pitt checks out the breasts and butt of his female costars. The fantasy element in this book is a bit like Aimee Agresti’s Gilded Wings series, a magical fantasy system based loosely on Christian theology. In Agresti’s books angels and demons are essentially varieties of vampires, while in this book they are more like the people in Sanderson’s fantasy worlds who are born with the right genes to have extra powers, only in Jones’s books those powers are linked to a heaven and hell of sorts. I’d have to read a few more books to be sure what I think of this fantasy system, but it seems to work pretty well. (buy on amazon.com, see series list on Goodreads)

17. The Heike Story: A Modern Translation of the Classic Tale of Love and War– Yoshikawa, Eiji – Classic Japanese historical fiction. This is an epic about a clash between major houses in feudal Japan. It felt long, but it was readable, and more enjoyable for me than War & Peace.  This is a translation from Japanese of a modern retelling of a much older compilation of classic historical accounts. (buy on amazon.com,  read about Eiji Yoshikawa on wikipedia, read about the original Tale of the Heike from pre-1330)

18. Huerfano Valley As I Knew It– Owens, Robert Percy – Local Colorado history self-published in 1975, interesting reading if you live in the area or are doing local history research on this region.  (buy on amazon.com)

19. The House of the Seven Gables– Hawthorne, Nathaniel – If this book came out now, it would be just another novel, but since it was more unusual when it was first published I suppose it makes some sense that this is a classic. I find it amusing that no one really investigated the murder that starts out the story of this house. It seems pretty obvious who killed the guy, and I’m sure any decent detective could have figured out who the murderer was. (buy on amazon.com, read about this book on wikipedia, read on Project Gutenberg)

20. Liar’s Bench- Richardson, Kim Michele  (GG) – This is a novel set in the South in the 1970’s, in a small town where its slavery days still set the tone for race relations. In this setting a White teenage girl becomes involved with a boy in her class who is mixed-race, Black and Crow Indian. The girl, Mudas (I had issues with her name, but ok, maybe girls in rural Kentucky would be named Mudas, and Muddy seems believable enough as a nickname for a rural kid of any gender), is also poking around trying to investigate her mom’s supposed suicide. The KKK gets involved, but the book does have a happy ending. (buy on amazon.com, read more reviews on Goodreads)

*21. Leah Mordecai- Abbot, Belle K.  (Project Gutenberg) – This book is about a Jewish girl in the early US, who runs away to marry a non-Jewish boy after her stepmother conspires to push her out of her home. I thought this story was more ‘classic’-worthy than The House of the Seven Gables. The writing could have benefited from more professional editing perhaps, and I’m betting it didn’t get such treatment because the author is a woman writing a story about a girl growing up, as opposed to all those classics written by men about boys growing up. I definitely recommend this book if you like YA, or classics. (find on amazon.com, read more about the author on wikipedia, read this book on Project Gutenberg)

I was hoping to finish closer to 30 books in April, but 21 isn’t too bad. I finished 2 books from my stack of books I’ve won through Goodreads giveaways (marked GG) and 3 books in the A section of author-sorted books on Project Gutenberg.  My favorites from April are marked with a star (*).  I am currently reading a small stack of books still, despite my half-hearted notion to finish all the books I was ‘currently reading’ so I could start fresh. I did finish several books I had been ‘reading’ for a while, though, and I started some new ones. And, perhaps I will post another grand end-of-the-month list like this in about 30 days, with more books to consider for your own TBR stacks.

About Ravenmount

Independent science nerd/writer/music blogger/arts enthusiast/theorist currently in Colorado.
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