Audio Book Review: Basic Training

book review

Basic Training by Kurt Vonnegut Jr., narrated by Colin Hanks

He searched his conscience in vain for a grain of remorse to justify the desolating punishment the general had promised. When you punish somebody, you take away from them what they want, he reasoned. All I had in the whole wide world was my music, so that’s what I lost: everything.

A new old Vonnegut. I’m not sure you can go wrong with a novella by Kurt Vonnegut that’s narrated by Colin Hanks! This is one of Vonnegut’s unpublished stories, likely written in the 1940s, it seems. I haven’t come across it before today and was in the mood for a Vonnegut story. It’s a good novella, and follows a teenager named Haley Brandon when he comes to stay with a man who insists upon calling himself the General. I saw a few Salinger comparisons and I can see it. If you’ve read Salinger’s shorts, I totally get the same vibe.

I recommend the audiobook for sure! Colin Hanks is a great narrator and really brings Vonnegut’s words to life ♥

 

Mini Review Roundup

Mini Review Roundup:

Skinner Box by Carole Johnstone | available for free here. | science fiction, short story, romance, horror

Can a cognitive neuroscientist be fooled? Can an expert in the field of deep learning and AI evolution be unknowingly coerced? Can a genius be corrupted? Can a manipulator be manipulated?

Wow. This started out one kind of intense and then turned into a whole other kind of intense and I’m fairly darn impressed. Be sure to mind the warnings at the top, but I definitely recommend this! A very dark, riveting sci-fi short.

All Around the Watchtower by Ben Haskett | science fiction, short story

As soon as we awoke to those alarms, I just wanted to go back into the pod.

What a great sci-fi short!

And All the Trees of the Forest Shall Clap Their Hands in Uncanny Magazine by Sharon Hsu | available for free here. | fantasy, short story

War, it turns out, is the easiest thing of all to make anywhere.

This was utterly gutting, but so beautifully written.

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman | available for free here. | lgbt, graphic novel, romance

This is super cute and the art is wonderful. ^____^

 

Mini Review Round Up: Tor Shorts

Cold Wind by Nicola Griffith: It was one of the most pernicious fallacies, common the world over: old ways are best. But old ways can outlast their usefulness. Old ways can live on pointlessly in worlds that have no room for them.

A good dark fantasy tale about predator and prey.

These Deathless Bones by Cassandra Khaw: Bones do not lie.

Well, that disturbed me on EVERY. POSSIBLE. LEVEL.

A Fist of Permutations in Lightning and Wildflowers by Alyssa Wong: If I could knit you a crown of potential futures like the daisies you braided together for me when we were young, I would.

This had a really interesting premise and the prose was lovely, though I do wish there was a bit more detail.

Worth Her Weight in Gold by Sarah Gailey: Winslow Remington Houndstooth, creator of the best and rarest breed of hippo in the United States of America, notorious outlaw, handsomest heartbreaker in the American South.

I liked the hippo, but I wish there was a bit more to the story.

Into the Gray by Margaret Killjoy: I only led the foul men with filth on their tongues, the rich men who contrived to rule other men. I only led the men with hatred in their hearts and iron in their hands.

A quick, engrossing story about a thief, the mermaid she’s in love with, and the men they lure to the water’s edge.

A Forest, or a Tree by Tegan Moore: There was something awful, May thought, awful in the original sense of the word, about looking up.

The cover totally caught my eye, but I felt like the story itself needed more.

The Eighth-Grade History Class Visits the Hebrew Home for the Aging by Harry Turtledove: “We had to wear yellow stars on our clothes, with Jood on them. That’s Jew in Dutch,” Anne said. “We couldn’t use trams. We had to give up our bicycles. We weren’t allowed to ride in cars. We had to shop late in the afternoon, when there was next to nothing left to buy. We couldn’t even visit Christians in their houses or apartments. We couldn’t go out at all from eight at night to six in the morning. We had to go to only Jewish schools and Jewish barbers and Jewish beauty parlors. We couldn’t use public swimming pools or tennis courts or sports fields or—well, anything.”

This story is an alternate WWII history tale that hit me like a punch. It’s such an important read. Let us never forget the past. Let us never forget what was done to innocent people who deserved life. But this story does something beautiful – rather than painting a grim future, this gives us such a lovely change to the past. In the best, most heartbreaking way. It follows an elderly woman recounting to school kids about how she and her family survived. And the twist will make you cry. I know I did.

This is one of those stories you really wish was real (and perhaps a heartbreaking side-effect of alternative history – all the things that should have been). You know that feeling of joy you get when you reach the end of Inglourious Basterds and just start cheering? It’s that sort of closure.

Selfies by Lavie Tidhar: In some cultures they believe that every photo takes away a little bit of your soul.

I wish there’d been a bit more in terms of detail and explanation, but overall I liked it.

A Kiss With Teeth by Max Gladstone: He wants to be her monster.

I really liked the way this story played out.

The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods by Maria Dahvana Headley: You stand at the mouth of your own cave, looking out over your own kingdom. You step off the cliff when you feel like it, and you spread your wings and soar.

This was just awesome.

Lullaby for a Lost World by Aliette de Bodard: You do not rest. You cannot forgive. You are not safe—you never were.

This really reminded me of The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas. The overall tone is quite depressing, though the writing was good. It’s really, really bleak though. 😦

The City Born Great by N.K. Jemisin: What good does it do to be valuable, if nobody values you?

Well, that was just badass.

_

**I really recommend Tor’s original fiction section. There are some truly good ones there!**

Top Books of 2019

type

The Lessons by Naomi Alderman | 5/5 | LGBT, Fiction

‘A man made of smoke.’

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster by Adam Higginbotham | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘If we survive until the morning, we’ll live forever.’

The Fever King (Feverwake #1) by Victoria Lee | 5/5 | LGBT, Fantasy, Dystopian

‘He didn’t plan anything. There was nothing to plan – he didn’t have contingencies, no connections in clandestine places who knew how to make a man disappear. All he had was impulse and the flash-fire certainty that yes, yes, this was the right thing to do.’

The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton | 5/5 | Nonfiction

‘We are surrounded by the conversations we didn’t have.’

Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moïra Fowley-Doyle | 5/5 | LGBT, Magical Realism

‘Maybe it’s more about firsts. Maybe every first is a loss.’

If We Could Go Back (Camassia Cove #6) by Cara Dee | 4/5 | LGBT

‘Everything was black-and-white until you grew up and saw gray everywhere. There were millions of rights and wrongs in our lives, and blame could be placed with all of us.’

One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America by Kevin M. Kruse | 5/5 | Nonfiction, US History, Politics, Religion

‘In 1954, Congress followed Eisenhower’s lead, adding the phrase “under God” to the previously secular Pledge of Allegiance. A similar phrase, “In God We Trust,” was added to a postage stamp for the first time in 1954 and then to paper money the next year; in 1956, it became the nation’s first official motto. During the Eisenhower era Americans were told, time and time again, that the nation not only should be a Christian nation but also that it had always been one. They soon came to believe that the United States of America was “one nation under God.” And they’ve believed it ever since.’

The Monsters We Deserve by Marcus Sedgwick | 5/5 | Gothic Fantasy

‘Yet every writer worth a good-god damn knows this too, for it is graven into each of us: no one cares for beauty. Not in fiction. Not on its own, not pure, untroubled beauty; not in fiction. It’s what we crave in the real world, of course; beauty, and you know I mean that in its broadest sense: the sense of kindness and wisdom and peace and joy: all the things in the world that are beautiful, and all the things we crave in real life, but which are not sufficient to count, on their own, for anything in the world of stories.’

Notes on Nationalism by George Orwell | 5/5 | Political Essays

‘The point is that as soon as fear, hatred, jealousy and power worship are involved, the sense of reality becomes unhinged. And, as I have pointed out already, the sense of right and wrong becomes unhinged also.’

We Will Not Be Strangers: Korean War Letters between a M.A.S.H Surgeon and His Wife
by Dorothy G. Horwitz (Editor) & Mel Horwitz | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Military History, Letters, Korean War

‘Men killing, destroying, sitting in cold and mud and filth. Do they really hate each other? I doubt it.’

Rule Breaker (Mixed Messages #1) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance

‘Tradition comes from something being so brilliant and such a good memory, that you try to recreate it every time that you can.’

Deal Maker (Mixed Messages #2) by Lily Morton | 4.5/5 | LGBT Romance, Comedy

‘Thank you for enquiring whether I do my own stunts. The simple answer is no. They tell me jumping a puddle is safe, but what would they know? I could slip and damage my face, and then where would the world be?’

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow | 5/5 | Nonfiction, Politics, Feminism

‘In the end, the courage of women can’t be stamped out.’

Horatio by T.J. Klune | 4/5 | LGBT Romance, Short Story | **freely available at the author’s site**

‘“What happened to free will?”

He snorted inelegantly. “Who knows? It’s one of the great secrets of the universe. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was nothing at all and we’re just two people in the middle of cosmic nonsense clinging to each other because we can.”’

The one I am currently reading looks like it will make a top list, too, so I’m adding it below. It’s giving me serious Firefly vibes so far which is always a good thing!

Adrift by Rob Boffard | Science Fiction, Outer Space

‘He really, really doesn’t want to die. Not by freezing, not by suffocating, not by anything, not ever. If he dies now, he’ll never fly a ship, never go to flight school […] He’ll never be able to help Mom and Dad stay together, and he’ll never get to tell Mal that he’s a giant dick for filming him while he was in trouble.’

There were so many good books this year! And my TBR pile remains taller than myself. 😉

A Trio of Book Reviews

books

Horatio by T.J. Klune: lgbt, short story; freely available at the author’s site.

‘“What happened to free will?”

He snorted inelegantly. “Who knows? It’s one of the great secrets of the universe. Maybe it was fate, maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was nothing at all and we’re just two people in the middle of cosmic nonsense clinging to each other because we can.” He waved his hand dismissively, almost hitting me in the face. “It doesn’t matter. Here you are. Here I am. And there’s no other place I’d rather be. You intrigue me.”

“You don’t know me.”

“I will.”’

I picked this one up at random tonight and put off cooking dinner until I’d read the entire thing. It was so quietly beautiful and haunting. It tells the story of two men facing the possible end of the world. The writing style is so lush and draws you in effortlessly. It’s definitely a story that will stick in your head for long after you read it.

I thoroughly recommend it to everyone! Lovely story.

 

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts: fiction

‘I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it.’

This is a belated review of a favourite book, actually. I mentioned it to someone the other day and it stuck in my head that I ought to actually review it. I’m actually a little shocked I never did, because it’s hands down one of my favourite books of all time, but I read it long before I joined Goodreads and started a blog, and sometimes finding ways to review your favourite book is impossible. How do you describe something that irrevocably moved you? A book that crawled into your mind and heart and soul. Even now, years later, when people ask me my favourite book, I can spew a monologue about this one. Funnily enough, it took me four tries to actually get past chapter one, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. The same thing happened with one of my favourite shows, Black Sails. A bit of a rough opener and then perfection.

After reading this book, I tracked down the newspaper article that documents his prison escape, just to see that it was actually real. It was. True, a good bit of the book is embellished, but the essence is real. And you know what? Even if it wasn’t based on a true story, this book would still blow me out of the water. It’s the kind of book that blends philosophy, adventure, action, crime and love into one intricate web of beauty.

Recommended for everyone.

 

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff: philosophy

‘The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.’

This is another one I haven’t reread recently, but felt like just writing a review for. I read this book on a lunchbreak when I was 13/14. I remember being in a truly horrible headspace at the time. Being a teenager is just so fun, right? /s

But then I found this book on a shelf at home and figured, hey, Winnie the Pooh, sounds groovy. And I can safely say that reading this book changed my entire perspective. I remember walking out of the library and feeling better, feeling less like a blackhole of doom and far more capable. I dunno. Maybe it wouldn’t have the same effect on me now, but back then, this book seriously helped me. I honestly think it philosophically kicked me in the butt and made me re-evaluate my perspective, which is fairly impressive for a book to do.

‘Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.’

I never fell in love with the sequel (I actually had to set it aside to keep from throwing it at the wall), but this one? This one was beautiful and something I very much needed at the time.

I recommend it for anyone who’s struggling through life and needs a new perspective.