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Saturday, October 01, 2022
Everything I Read in September (in brief)
100. Sidney Nolan Foundation Collection by Peter Haynes; photography by Robert Little - The Sidney Nolan Foundation Collection is a collection of paintings by Australian artist Sidney Nolan, probably best known for his Ned Kelly paintings, although I might be projecting because the Ned Kelly paintings were the only paintings I'd seen by Nolan before I opened this book. The book is about the collection at Canberra Museum and Gallery, how Nolan started as a poet and became a painter, abandoned hopes of classical training in Paris during his time in the Australian military, and how the landscape and loneliness during his military years influenced his art. There's more, of course, and it was utterly fascinating. I asked my husband to buy me a book about Sidney Nolan's paintings because I knew he was going to be in Canberra, where the Foundation Collection is displayed. But, I knew little more than the fact that I liked the Ned Kelly paintings, which I admire for their vivid colors and sense of humor. While the art lingo sometimes slowed me down, I absolutely loved reading about Nolan's growth as an artist and his particular interest in Australian storytelling and landscape.
101. Spy x Family #7 by Tatsuya Endo - Yes, of course I had to squeeze in my monthly manga! I am still loving this series. I have one more pre-ordered. It's difficult to describe the installments because there are several stories within each installment but in this case the main story begins with the son of Donovan Desmond (evil bad guy whom spy Twilight is tasked with getting close to in order to learn his nefarious plans). He has a meeting with his father that Twilight intends to exploit. One of the hilarious recurring themes in the latter books is Yor's inability to cook, Yor being Twilight's fake wife, who is also an assassin. Everyone tries to get out of eating when she cooks. I've also loved the addition of the dog that sees into the future because it enables the telepathic child in Twilight's fake family to occasionally see what's about to happen by reading the dog's mind. Such a fun series. I intend to keep these for a future reread and am so glad my librarian friend recommended them.
102. Alan Cleaver's Hodgepodge by Alan Cleaver - This adorable book is handwritten (no typeset; it's all literally written by hand), hand-illustrated, and hand-bound. I somehow happened across it at Etsy and while it's a bit pricey, it is worth every penny. The author has illustrates various walking paths in Cumbria, UK, the sites of historical interest nearby, legends and history attached to these areas (including ghosts and fairies), and even where it's best to park and the level of walking strength required. For anyone considering a walking holiday in the area, it's a goldmine. Otherwise, it's a delightful read and the author is a gem.
103. They Want to Kill Americans by Malcolm Nance - As I said in a lengthy post at Goodreads, this book is scary as hell. It talks about the history of militias, how and why many of the groups with racist ideologies grew during The Former Guy's administration, who they believe doesn't deserve to live and why, and how people have already committed murder in the name of such beliefs. The hardest part to read is probably the bit about QAnon as it's effing nutso and just difficult to process how people can not only believe the false information they're being fed but feel angry enough about it to openly say more than half of Americans deserve to die. Most fascinating to me was the history of some of the false information they've been fed. The sex trafficking and drinking of the blood of children, for example, is a story that dates back to Medieval times and is based on anti-Semitic tropes that have been altered and regurgitated for hundreds of years. They weren't true then and they're not true now, but people continue to believe these stories in spite of the fact that absolutely none of Q's predictions have come true. Crazy, but nicely described if you can bear it.
104. Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King - A children's book (chapter book for older elementary, I'd say) about censorship, Attack of the Black Rectangles is about 3 friends who notice there are blacked-out words in their copies of The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen. Curious about why anyone would black out words, they seek out copies without the marks censoring them and find out the words someone doesn't want them to read, who did the blacking-out, and why they chose to do so. When they get answers, though, they aren't given the action they request. They want new copies of the book that are uncensored and are willing to confront those in charge in order to stop future censorship. A timely story that's thought-provoking. I found the children a little too wise and perfect but the way they were brushed off by those in authority definitely rang true.
105. Evie and the Animals by Matt Haig - Evie has always known she can talk to animals telepathically, some more easily than others. And, her father has always told her not to use this unusual ability, known as "The Talent". But, she didn't know why. Suddenly, things begin to change. Evie finds out she is not alone in having The Talent and that if it becomes known to a certain evil bad guy, she and anyone else who can talk to animals will be in terrible danger. I thought this book started out a bit slow but then it became tense and exciting. A children's chapter book with some wonderful illustrations.
106. Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen - Ever since I happened across a free ARC of Garden Spells at my former library I've been a fan of Sarah Addison Allen. In Other Birds, Zoey arrives at a condo belonging to her late mother on Mallow Island in South Carolina, where she'll spend time until her freshman year of college begins in Charleston. Zoey has an invisible bird named Pigeon and a cheerful personality. She sets out to get to know her neighbors and when one of them dies, her ability to not only make friends but unify the group turns them into a makeshift family. But, there are ghosts at the Dellawisp, someone is sneaking around unlocking doors at night, and all of the residents each have a past and ghosts of their own. A story of wounded souls, living and dead, and the healing power of friendship. I absolutely loved Other Birds. No surprise there.
107. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken - I love Al Franken. This is an older book, published in 2003 and focusing mainly on a handful of conservative personalities including Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt Gingrich as well as the then-president George W. Bush. Franken not only dissects some of their book contents but also goes into various lies that have been spread by the right-wing media and then unaccountably bled into its more liberal counterparts as they picked up stories without fact-checking them. Stories about Al Gore that are false were among the most interesting to me because at one point I believed them but had taken the time to look up the details and discovered in what way they were false and how they'd come to be distorted (like the "I invented the Internet" lie — Gore never said he invented the Internet; he said he was instrumental in funding the development of the Internet). I laughed, I cried, I got pissed off. A fascinating read and while dated because some of these people are no longer mainstream (one being dead), it was interesting to see that some lies from 20 years ago are being recirculated or revamped to fit the current times but still basically the same falsehoods. Franken is well-educated and a number freak, which I love, so he backed his words up with raw numbers.
108. 48 States by Evette Davis (e-book) - A dystopian novel set in a world in which two states have become corporate entities specifically with the objective of making the US completely energy independent after two terrorist attacks have killed off the President, VP, and some of the cabinet, leaving a lower cabinet member as the new President. River, a widow with a mother in child back in Idaho, works in "The Territories" as a trucker since the death of her husband left her in debt. An Army veteran who has had a rough life, River is tougher than the man she comes across one night on a dark road. Finn Cunningham is a hydrologist and he's found something fishy in the water of The Territories. Although he had permission to enter, someone has shot him and he barely survived. Together, River and Finn will go on the run to find the only person they think can help them. But, the oil company CEO who talked the new President into making the two states territories is greedy and willing to kill to get more land. A fun read with plenty of action but a little over-the-top, at times. I enjoyed it.
109. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson (e-book) - Formerly published under the name James Dawson, author Juno is a fully transitioned transexual. This Book is Gay is kind of a slog, if you ask me. I read it for Banned Books Week but it's graphic and goofy and sometimes just flat wrong. Having said that, it's basically a book that feels like sitting through 3 hours of one of those junior high assemblies (I'm old; I know it's middle school, now) in which wiggly pre-teens learned about their bodies. Only, in this case the focus is more on the LGBTQ crowd with a little of the + and I. It was kind of gross, at times. Do I think it should be banned? Absolutely not. Although anyone can read it, I'm sure the book must be especially reassuring to youngsters who are confused about their sexuality or gender or afraid to admit their realizations. I did have some problems with some of the author's advice and would recommend that if a child wants to read it, parents read along/ahead/after so that it can be discussed. I found it morally shady so I'd hate for either of my children to have read it without some sort of guidance as to our own thoughts.
110. Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright - Mostly a history book about fascists past and present, Fascism: A Warning begins with the lead-up to WWII and the author and former Secretary of State's own part in it as a Czech whose family fled to London before the war, returned, and then felt obligated to leave permanently after Czechoslovakia was absorbed into the USSR, the second time staying in the US and becoming permanent citizens. She talks at length about the rise to power of Hitler and Mussolini —where they came from, what influenced them, how they came into power and then immediately removed regular civil servants to replace them with loyalists, made it impossible to hold a fair election, and created a state press. She also goes into similar histories of Rodrigo Duterte, Victor Orbán, Kim Jong-Un and his father and grandfather, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump. The book was published in 2018 and Albright has since died but her concerns didn't even quite go deep enough, in my opinion. In fact, while she had personal experience with fascism and much of her family was killed in the Holocaust, Albright stays fairly neutral. But, she's very blunt about The Former Guy's mistakes in foreign policy and the danger of his cozying up to strongmen, isolationism, and abandoning allies and treaties. A fascinating read. Things have gotten both better and worse in the US since publication. Anyone who is concerned that the 2020 election was "stolen" should read this book to see how and why pretending an election was stolen and then actually stealing those of the future when one's power becomes unstoppable is a common tactic.
Not pictured was my single DNF:
DNF: Court of the Vampire Queen by Katee Robert - Probably the dirtiest book I've ever attempted to read, Court of the Vampire Queen was sent to me unsolicited by Sourcebooks and I decided to give it a go thinking, "I'll shake up my reading a bit!" Long ago, I enjoyed Colleen Gleason's Victoria Gardella Vampire Hunter series but few other vampire books have worked for me. The publicity information sent with Court of the Vampire Queen indicated that it was going to be pretty graphic and I generally skim graphic sex scenes because I don't think they typically contribute much to story. Well, golly. It was a lot more than I could handle. I made it to page 100 out of nearly 500. The storyline is that Mina is half human, half vampire. Her father has sent her to breed with a pure vampire as the purebred numbers are dwindling. But, the pureblood is trapped, like Mina. I kind of wanted to know what would happen but just couldn't tolerate the fact that the book is about 90% sex and the language was gross. Just not for me.
This was kind of an unusual month, heavy on the nonfiction. I guess that's just what called to me.
Updated to X out a book I did not read, this month. I was going to use that extra book within the stack in reverse to represent one of the e-books but then I decided to print out the cover instead and forgot to remove the book when I laid everything out. I've already loaned one of these to a friend so I can't retake the photo. Oopsy.