Marie’s Reading: “All Systems Red” by Martha Wells

all systems redAll Systems Red tells the story of a semi-organic security bot protecting a group of humans who are exploring a planet.  The SecUnit, who calls itself a “Murderbot” (due to its own unfortunate backstory) has hacked its own system so that it can act independently and not suffer punishments.  Most of its independent action consists of watching hours and hours of soap operas on its entertainment feed and trying to avoid interactions with humans.  But when a mysterious force threatens the humans, Murderbot reluctantly goes to help save the day.

I loved the first-person voice of the Murderbot.  It is snarky and funny, but also touching in its discomfort and other-ness.  Over and over again the Murderbot insists it does not care, wants to be left alone, etc., and yet its actions speak to how much it values the humans it sees as its duty.  The fact that Murderbot changes over the course of the story and makes a big decision for itself at the end speaks to its true character.

Wells uses the Murderbot to discuss identity, consciousness, and the definition of humanity, all wrapped up in a neat sci-fi adventure story with a complex and interesting central character.  Her world-building is subtle and puts you right in the middle of the action, without a lot of exposition.

This novella is the first in The Murderbot Diaries series, and I’m really looking forward to the next one!

–Marie

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Marie’s Favorites of 2018

Here we are at the end of another year of reading.  2018 was a wonderful year for me–my son was born back in June, and he’s such a sweet kid that he lets his mom keep up with her reading.

Below are my favorite books from the past year.  Click each title to go to the relevant blog post (or the Goodreads page, if I didn’t blog about a particular title).

Marie’s Favorites of 2018

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winnifred Watson

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic by Glenn Frankel

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Have happy holidays and here’s to a wonderful 2019!

–Marie

Halloween Read: “Strange Weather” by Joe Hill

strange weather

The four short novels in this collection are weird fiction at its finest–a little bit Horror, a little bit Dark Fantasy, a little bit Science Fiction, all creepy.  If you’re not a “scary book” fan but you still want something dark for the season, Strange Weather might be just the thing.

Snapshot tells the tale of a tattooed man with a Polaroid camera that can steal memories.  Aloft has an almost old-fashioned sci-fi feel to it–it’s about a man in a hot air balloon accident who winds up stranded on a cloud.  Rain is a more contemporary apocalyptic story, with the original idea of the end coming from nails raining down from the sky.

The most realistic story, and thus the most terrifying, is definitely Loaded–it’s an examination of our country’s relationship with guns, and it is one that stays with you for a very long time after you read it.

Every story, each with a different feel, is compelling.  They each pull you right into the action, and you just go with each tale’s flow until the disturbing conclusions.  I love Hill’s descriptive powers and the mood he’s able to create.

Definitely give this collection a try for Halloween!

 

We’ve Been on Hiatus

Hi readers!  The Camden Public Library’s Readers Corner blog will be on hiatus for a few months.  I’ve got an important delivery arriving around the beginning of July and won’t be available to blog.

I wrote these words on June 6th.  My important delivery ended up being expedited and arrived on June 19th, all 5 lb 5 oz of him.  Today is my first day back at the Readers Corner after a long and happy summer.

My apologies for the lack of new content over the past few months.   I have managed to do some reading, as it’s a great activity for when you’re trapped under a napping baby.  And Horror Month is just around the corner, so stay tuned!

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–Marie

Marie’s Reading: “Three Graves Full” by Jamie Mason

three gravesWhile working on his property, landscapers uncover human remains in Jason Getty’s yard.  Jason is horrified, but also confused–neither of these bodies are the one that he buried himself.

Years before Jason committed a murder.  He never reported it, and he buried the man at the edge of his property.  He thought he’d covered for himself pretty well.  But now detectives are swarming, and Jason just knows they’re going to find the third grave eventually.  So he has to decide what to do before his crime is uncovered.

 

There’s also the mystery of the identities of the two bodies eventually found in Jason’s yard.   A team of detectives, Bayard and Watts (along with faithful dog Tessa), are working to figure out what happened to them and why.  Watts and Bayard were my favorite characters in the book–they both come across as dedicated, kind guys who are good at their jobs and have great instincts, as well as being great friends with each other.  Their interactions are great to read.

Jason is fascinating as well.  I like how Mason crafts his mindset.  It takes a while to discover how off-kilter he really is, and it’s a nice build.

Three Graves Full reminded me of a darkly comic “The Tell-Tale Heart,” with some police procedural thrown in.  It’s a fast-paced read with entertaining characters and really well-done action sequences.  If you like mysteries with a slightly different angle with lots of threads that come together at the end, you should give this one a try!

–Marie

June Staff Picks!

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Every librarian here at CPL has great suggestions for your reading pleasure.  We all read different genres and have different tastes, so you’ll have a rich and varied list to choose from every month.

Below are our Staff Picks for June!

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Amani is a girl from the sands in the guise of a boy.  Why?  She wants to be free; free from being someone else’s property, free to do as she pleases, free to shoot in the competitions, free to speak her own thoughts, free of Dustwalk. After meeting Jin, a handsome foreigner, and taming an immortal being, she becomes caught up in his secrets, his revolution, his war.  The Sultan’s forces are using people and the Gallan forces are toying with everyone, no questions asked and people are starving and dying.  Action packed, great characters and a 2017-2018 MSBA nominee. –-Amy

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
A stunning, gothic mystery of twins, ghosts, and the hauntings of a badly damaged family. Counterbalancing the spooky side is a wholesome dose of antiquarian bookshops, doting fathers, delightful new friends, and a wonderful cast of leading ladies. Highly recommended on audio.  —Cayla

How to Talk to Anyone : 92 Little Tricks for Big Success in Relationships by Leil Lowndes
Don’t judge the book by its title! While it may sound like a dry bullet point list of talking points for executives, this book is for everyone, and the advice can be applied to personal and professional interactions. How To Talk To Anyone is about relationships – your colleagues, your spouse, a first date, a stranger at a party, your dentist’s office receptionist – and the techniques introduced here can be applied in different measures to all. The book features a numbered list format, with each “little trick” featuring an example of how the technique can be used. Sometimes these stories sound a bit contrived, but they are effective in making a bullet point into a vivid and memorable illustration. There were some outdated references to technology – “a phone recording machine”, as well as some outdated terminology and slang in general, but surely anyone can take something helpful away from the 92 points in this book. My personal favorite – how to receive a compliment with grace whether you agree with it or not, “That’s very kind of you to say!” I am going to test that one out right now. Did you like my review? “That’s very kind of you to say!” Now doesn’t that make you feel special right back? —Olga

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
A 2013 non-fiction book about the rowing team from Seattle who won the 1936 Olympics. The book concentrates on the hardships of one particular team member. I really enjoyed the very descriptive narrative of this nonfiction tale, at times his descriptive style reminded me of some of the passages in David McCullough’s books. –Mary

A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume
A young artist named Frankie who finds herself unable to cope with life holes up at her late grandmother’s bungalow.  The language is beautiful and spare, very introspective.  It’s a character-centered story, following Frankie as she examines her present depression and anxiety.  Lovely lyrical, insightful writing about painful subjects. Marie

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve & Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
I recently read two new novels by popular authors with ties to Maine:  Anita Shreve’s The Stars Are Fire and Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible.  I don’t recall having read anything by Shreve, but this novel shows me why she is so beloved: she is a fine storyteller.  On the other hand, I’ve read all of Strout’s novels, and I always come away touched and dazzled—touched by the way she captures emotions and human connections and dazzled by the precision and originality of her prose.  (Just a heads-up: Although Anything Is Possible is not really a sequel to My Name Is Lucy Barton, there are multiple connections to the earlier book, so you might want to read  Lucy Barton first—also a beautiful book.) –Diane

Marie’s Reading: “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai

274050062016 wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Tom knows.  He’s from the way the future is supposed to be: a techno-utopia free of want and war, where all material needs are provided for and the only industry left is entertainment.  However, his life kind of stinks.  His mother is dead and his father is a jerk, and Tom himself is a hopeless schmuck.  It’s down to his really, really stupid decision to go back to the past that history changed, the technology never materialized, and the world is what we’re used to.

And wouldn’t you know: Tom’s life in the wrong 2016 is awesome.  Much better than what he left behind.  Swiftly his dilemma becomes whether his wonderful family and life are worth the countless billions who were erased and the society that never was.

Like the best science fiction, All Our Wrong Todays has plenty of social commentary and ethical questions. But it’s such a refreshing change from dystopian fiction.  Particularly since, in this book, the reality that we know is the dystopia.  We have to kill plants and animals for food.  There’s pollution everywhere and we just keep making more.  Every technology we invent seems to do more harm than good, despite our best efforts.  Tom is shocked when he sees the conditions of our 2016.  Even though his world had problems, they were not on so grand a scale.

Tom is a great narrator, a totally directionless screw-up who seems incapable of changing.  Endlessly self-involved and self-deprecating, Tom’s emotional and personal arc over the course of the story is a rewarding one.  He finds himself cast in the role of hero by the end of the story, commenting on the fact that he suddenly  has a purpose and a duty.  Besides, he’s pretty funny, so that helps the narrative along.

I also really appreciated the optimistic ending.  The future (and the present) is what we make it.  It can be whatever we choose.  We should make sure we choose well.

All Our Wrong Todays is funny and smart, action-packed and cinematic.  It’s also a slightly mind-bending romp through alternate realities and the fabric of time and space.

The Martian by Andy Weir would be a great readalike for this, as would Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  If you like the humor and cinematic writing style, you could try The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn.  You could also try The Man In the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, about a selfish time-traveler who has to solve his own murder.

–Marie