Brief Thoughts on a Bunch o’Books

Hoooo-BOY, my head is spinning!  The Girl and The Boy are currently involved in so many school-related and after-school activities that The Boss and I can hardly keep up.  We haven’t sat down for a family meal in over two weeks.  Shameful, I tell ya!  And I became so far behind on posting my thoughts on books I’ve read recently that I began to despair of ever finding the time to do so.  I’m already almost finished with one more audiobook, one more ebook, and one more book book, but here are my thoughts on the 5 I’ve most recently read or audited.  I already posted these reviews on Goodreads.  If y’all’re interested in reading any of the synopses, just click the linked titles below.  And if you’ve read any of the following, I’d love to read your thoughts in my Comments section.

Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4) by James S. A. Corey, audiobook version.  Rated 4 of 5 stars, “really liked it” and shelved as fiction, novel, sci-fi, series, & space opera on Goodreads.

This series gets better with each book. Even though it takes the series in an entirely different direction, Cibola Burn is the best one yet and turns the series on its head.

In Cibola Burn, mankind’s warring factions (Earthers, Martians, and Belters) colonize the first inhabitable planet outside Earth’s solar system and fight for control of first rights. Whereas in the previous 3 books most of the action occurred in outer space, this one is set largely on the planetary surface. Series hero Jim Holden, a crusader for justice and heretofore an outspoken advocate of maximum info sharing, is forced by circumstances to maintain radio silence even though he’s been sent to be the very public neutral arbiter of the two colonies’ dispute.

After suffering an apocalyptic series of catastrophic self-inflicted wounds and environmental disasters, the colonists must figure out how to survive on a planet trying to kill them while those left in orbit on their support ships and Holden’s Rocinante must figure out how to keep their ships from crashing into the planet after humanity’s antagonist, the mysterious ‘Protomolecule’, disables the ships’ fusion drives. All of this while various members of each faction continue trying to kill each other.

This book, this series, are just nonstop action and suspense paired with richly detailed, believable characters, terrific dialogue, generous doses of humor, pathos, and psychological insight and, best of all, a realistic, encyclopedically detailed universe. I can’t say enough good things about The Expanse. If you’re a fan of the SyFy t.v. series and you haven’t read or audited the books, you owe it to yourself to do so. I’m confident in saying they’ll blow you away.

As stated in my review of Abaddon’s Gate, I have come to realize that The Expanse deserves to be on my list of all time favorites along with The Lord of the Rings, The Dark Tower, Harry Potter, and other towering examples of their respective subgenres.

Montaigne In Barn Boots

Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy by Michael Perry, audiobook version.  Rated 5 of 5 stars, “it was amazing” and shelved as favorites, humor, inspirational, memoir, nonfiction, & philosophy on Goodreads.

Within 5 minutes of beginning the audiobook version of Montaigne in Barn Boots, read by author Michael Perry, I was in love. With Perry’s voice, cadence, humor, and delivery as well as the subject of the book itself. I don’t know how I’ve managed not to discover Perry until now, but I am ecstatic about having done so.

Although I’m sure we don’t have a whole lot in common, our lives parallel each other in several ways. We’re both middle-aged, white, American males ensconced firmly in the middle class in largely rural areas, and we’ve both had varied careers. But best of all, when Perry writes or talks about spirituality, personal philosophy, and the rules by which he tries (and Montaigne tried) to live, it may as well be me speaking. Except he’s a shitload funnier than I am.

Montaigne in Barn Boots is an excellent introduction to Montaigne’s philosophy, an interesting summary of his life, and a hilarious, poignant, enlightening trip through Perry’s own life & journey of discovery and copious amounts of research into Montaigne’s life & beliefs as expressed through numerous translators and biographers.

I enjoyed this book way too much and in fact fear I’ve developed a serious author’s crush. I’m going to devour everything I can find by this guy. If any reader out there has a free copy of Montaigne in Barn Boots, audiobook or printed version, just lying around unused, feel free to send it my way!

Being Super

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki with Joëlle Jones, penciller; Sandu Florea, inker; Kelly Fitzpatrick, colorist; & Saida Temofonte, letterer.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it” and shelved as fiction, graphic novel on Goodreads.

An entertaining and nicely-illustrated reimagining of Supergirl’s origin story and an empowering message for young women. The fact that the entire creative team consists of women is impressive and, in my opinion, shows they can put the boys to shame with ease. I liked it enough to get a copy for The Girl, who’s almost 13, and she enjoyed it as well.

The True Flag

The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire by Stephen Kinzer.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it”, and shelved as American, government, history, nonfiction, & political issues on Goodreads.

The True Flag is a thoroughly researched, well-documented, easily readable popular history of the origins of the USA’s debate over interventionism and imperialism. Despite its inclusion of plenty of endnotes and a brief bibliography, I hesitate to shelve it as ‘scholarly’ because it’s written in such plainspoken language. It includes several pages of photos of some of the key figures in the book as well as reprints of popular satirical comics from the time, a nice added touch.

I found Kinzer’s book to be timely, relevant, and informative. It really should be required reading for high school and college American History courses.  My only complaint: the subtitle is a bit of a misnomer.  While Roosevelt is an outsized player in this book, Twain features only rarely.

Violent Cases

Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean.  Rated 3 of 5 stars, “liked it” and shelved as fiction & graphic novel on Goodreads.

A very nice, slickly-produced hardcover reissue of Neil Gaiman’s & Dave McKean’s first collaboration, which marked the beginning of a decades-long beautiful friendship that has graced generations of readers with a remarkable and varied body of work and art.

Violent Cases is a dark but lushly-illustrated examination of how memory, circumstance, and time conspire to create the stories we tell ourselves about our past. The inclusion of several forewords by industry insiders as well as lots of extra art in the back matter make this slim volume worth acquiring for your own collection.

If you hung in & made it this far, friend, I thank you.  Please let me know what you think or just say howdy in the Comments down below.

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