Friday, August 01, 2014

Books Read: July 2014

Below is a listing of all of the books I read in July. All links would go to my reviews, but I was out of town for two weeks in the middle of the month and never quite got around to writing any.  Sorry, folks.

1. Nexus, by Ramez Naam
2. The Wall Around Eden, by Joan Slonczewski
3. Warbound, by Larry Correia
4. King's Dragon, by Kate Elliott
5. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
6. Civilwarland in Bad Decline, by George Saunders
7. The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez
8. The Risen Empire, by Scott Westerfeld
9. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
10. A Dance With Dragons, by George R. R. Martin

Best Book of the Month: Everyone should read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Period. This is the multi-faceted story of the titular woman whose cancer cells were taken and used without permission (which was very much the norm then, and potentially still now) and which led to numerous medical breakthroughs. So, the story is of Henrietta Lacks, her family (who only found out about how Henrietta's cells were being used until decades later), the science behind the HeLa cells and what came from it, and how this all ties together.  It's really good.

Disappointment of the Month: George Saunders had been recommended for years as being one of America's top short story writers, and a friend with good taste also recommended this collection in particular. My wife read Tenth of December from Saunders and wasn't impressed, but I had a copy of Civilwarland sitting at home. I took it with me to San Diego...and I just could not engage with the stories. There's a chance if I read this when I was twenty and working with post-teenage ennui that I would have loved this, but I'm in a very different place now and I just couldn't deal with what Saunders is doing. 

Discovery of the Month: I'm not sure I should call a book that has been on my radar for fifteen years a discovery, but when I finally read it and find that it is exactly as good as I had hoped it would be, it sort of is a discovery. This would be King's Dragon, the first of Kate Elliott's Crown of Stars series. If you like the epic fantasy stuff, and want something gritty and real, you really need to start with King's Dragon.

GRRM of the Month: I finally finished A Dance With Dragons a couple of days ago. It's good, I enjoyed it, but I also felt like it was pretty much just setting things up for a really awesome sixth book than it was telling a great story on its own. It felt a little disjointed, more so than A Feast for Crows did. 

Worth Noting: I feel that The Book of Unknown Americans is about to become required reading in the next couple of years. A) It's really damn good.  B) It provides the modern immigrant experience of why people are still coming to America from Mexico and Central America, and it does so by simply telling several stories that interlink, with some interstitials filling in more immigrant stories from minor characters in the novel. C) Also, it's really damn good.

Gender Breakdown: Half of the books I read this month were written by women. Not a bad month.

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