It’s the end of the first half of the year, and so far my reading time has been reduced by having to do a lot more housework than normal. That happens when one spends more time at home. You live inside more, so you make more of a mess. However, now I need to plan for the next batch of books I’m going to read and review. Unfortunately, in the past six months, The Bear of Little Brain struck out with a couple of novels that she bought but couldn’t get herself to finish. So she hopes not to repeat those mistakes.
Unfinished and unloved
Agency, by William Gibson
I am a Gibson fan, bigly, to quote someone else, and had my order in for this a year before it was published. I started on it like a kid on Christmas morning with his huge new Lego set and found that it just didn’t grab me. It contains references to things in his previous novels and some just go straight over my head, and the main characters are an avatar which starts to show self-awareness and a very bland young woman who gets to test-drive said avatar. That’s how far I’ve got. I’m confused. And a confused Bear becomes a Bored Bear. So Agency is sitting on my bedside table waiting to be read. Sorry, Mr. Gibson, it’s not your fault.
Knife, by Jo Nesbo
I bought Knife, Jo Nesbo’s new “Harry Hole” thriller, early this year, though it came out in June 2019. When it arrived from Amazon I saw it was the large sized version for visually impaired readers, and every second word was bolded. It looked awful. Why did the publishers do that? I felt sorry for the other readers. It’s like being told what to focus on rather than letting the words speak for themselves. Ugh. Sorry, Mr. Nesbo. Not your fault. I’m never going to read that book unless I buy me another, normal copy.
12 Rules for Life, by Jordan B. Peterson
I broke my own rule to avoid self-help books by buying this one that came out in 2018. It was on sale and I though, wait a sec, he sounds interesting on his YouTube videos and he has obviously done a mad amount of research and he is very successful (against type, I might add) so why not. Here’s why not: recently the good Dr. Peterson’s life has taken a turn for the worst. Let’s not dig up old bones here. But with any self-help book it’s a case of “physician, heal thyself” first. And if the “physician” claims to know the “antidote to chaos”, yet his own life spirals into a drama of Wagnerian proportions, then I begin to lose my appetite for the book. Sorry, but there it is. I’m a hard sell.
On the to-read list for 2nd half of 2020
Here, in no particular order, are the books I’ve bought and which I’ll get through by the end of the year. As you can see, the list is long and I’m sorry if I cannot commit to reviewing more drafts, manuscripts or debut works that authors send to me. My pipeline is full.
The Forbidden Zone, by Jon Gliddon (Oct. 2020)
This will be the second novel by Gliddon after Break in Communication. As a retired Mining Engineer he has worked in exotic, remote places and can call on experiences that few other people have had. You can be certain that this novel will be thrilling and full of unusual settings and characters.
A Long Petal of the Sea, by Isabel Allende (English edition by Ballantine Books, Jan. 21, 2020)
I read Allende’s The House of the Spirits in 1982 and thought it was so wonderful that ever since then I didn’t want to read anything else by her in case it wasn’t as good and lessened my admiration of her. Of course, she has written almost 20 novels since then and her fame has only increased. Maybe I associate The House of the Spirits with my student years when I devoured authors from South America, Gabriel García Márquez in particular. Hold thumbs that this one does not disappoint.
Star Trek Picard – The Best Last Hope, by Una McCormack (Pocket Books/Star Trek, Feb. 11, 2020)
I’m a bit late with this one, but I missed so many episodes of Star Trek Picard that I’m now going to have to read the book. “Picard”, portrayed by the delightfully urbane and velvet-voiced Sir Patrick Stewart, is my second most favourite Captain after The Man Himself, the grave yet sexy “Captain Kirk”, the inimitable William Shatner. As you can see, I’m a Trekkie. Star Wars? Faugh. Give me the Enterprise and undiscovered worlds any time.
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home – A Welcome to Night Vale Novel, by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor (Harper Perennial, March 24, 2020)
The title says it all. Another weird “Night Vale” experience to indulge in. The only thing I wish is that the authors had simpler names. Good night Night Vale. Good night.
The Mirror & the Light, by Hilary Mantel (HarperCollins Publishers, March 10, 2020)
Hilary has only one “l” and Mantel only has one “l” too. I always get those wrong. And the title of this book has an ampersand (“&”) in it. Did you know the ampersand is a combination of the “e” and the “t” of the French word “et”, meaning “and”?
A random thought that seems appropriate for this novel, the third and final instalment in the Wolf Hall Trilogy. It’s set in England, about 1536, when the English and the French were still trying to kill each other. It’s a gob-smacking 912 pages long. It had better be good.
William Shakespeare’s Get thee…Back to the Future, by Ian Doescher (Quirk Books, April 23, 2019)
Back to the Future, written in iambic pentameter. It’s supposed to be humorous. We’ll see.
To be Taught If Fortunate, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton, Aug. 8, 2019)
Should there be a comma in that title? To be taught, if fortunate? Oh well. It is a novella so it won’t take long to read. Becky Chambers has been flavour of the month for a month of Sundays – since this came out in fact, so I’m looking forward to reading another novel by her. I thought her previous book, A Closed and Common Orbit, was very good.
Quantum Shadows, by L.E. Modesitt (Tor Books, July 21, 2020)
This is hot off the press. A brand new book by established and respected Sci-Fi author L.E. Modesitt. I have read too few of his books and am now catching up. This should be a real treat. I was charmed by the only other novel by him that I had ever read – rather embarrassed to admit it – which was The One-Eyed Man. I am waiting to be charmed again. Charm the socks off me, Mr. Modesitt!
Almost done. It is a six month list to the end of the year, after all.
If it Bleeds, by Stephen King (Scribner, April 21, 2020)
I have been reading rather a lot of difficult, strange novels of late. I am tired of taxing my poor brain. I want smooth, professional writing – and that would be Stephen King. I have not read anything by him since Misery in 2017, when I was positively nauseous with the creeps. I don’t often read horror novels, since my imagination is way too active. So let’s see if he can frighten the bejeezus out of me again with these short stories.
Parabellum, by Greg Hickey (due out Oct. 20, 2020)
I reviewed Greg Hickey’s previous novel, The Friar’s Lantern, and as I do with many authors whose debut works I read, or who are just new to me, I keep an eye on them and watch out for their next publication. So, you will be seeing a review of Parabellum as soon as it is out.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy (HarperOne, Oct. 22, 2019)
It’s a little work of art. It’s all written by hand and it’s only 128 pages. It looked so pretty in the store, all gold-lettered and with these beautiful end-papers like sheet music, and every page has an illustration on it. What would there be not to love? I’ll let you know. Maybe it will be come one of my favourites like Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney, and The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein. It seems like the entire English-speaking world is crazy about it.
The Man in the Red Coat, by Julian Barnes (Jonathan Cape, Nov. 11, 2019)
Barnes writes biographies that read like novels. This one is about Samuel Jean de Pozzi, a French surgeon and pioneer in the field of gynaecology. I am looking forward to reading it despite it being on the gross subject of gynaecology. Ew. Though I will not be taking this one lightly. You can’t do that with books by Barnes.
That does it for the list of books that are currently sitting next to my desk, staring at me and making me feel guilty. No, I shall resist re-reading old Terry Pratchett and Iain M. Banks books. (Though I slipped up this week and spent a few evenings rereading Banks’s The State of the Art. So very good.) I will not reread my collection of Punch Magazines from the 1940s. I will resist the Tintins. I will be a good reader and expand my mind, and write uplifting things on this blog. Cheers, until the next review.