Six degrees, from Scotland in the past to a dystopian England of the future

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here. How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.


This month‘s starting book is yet again one I haven‘t read…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, about a 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow. I don‘t want to follow the same trodden path and the amount of books dealing with unhappy childhoods on my shelf is pretty limited, let‘s go with the author‘s last name. Bizarre, but it worked out in the end and my six degrees settled on children, birth and growing pains in different settings…

The Future Is Nigh (Mass Market Paperback) by C. Stuart Hardwick
A collection of previously published short stories of winners of the Writers of the Future Contest. Length varies from 6 to 32 pages. Pretty decent collection. Three really excellent stories, one that didn‘t really do it for me and the rest was ok to fairly good. 4 stars overall.

My favourites: Martin L. Shoemaker, Today I Am Paul: My emotional winner. I want to hug this android so hard. / Marina J. Lostetter, Rats will Run: Great world building, imaginative flora and fauna. / William Ledbetter, Last House, Lost House: Great post-apocalyptic story with a nice twist.

Thinking about short stories, mothers and unhappy childhood led me to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Read the titular story, if you have the opportunity.

“A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.“

Lovely, truly lovely. And terribly bittersweet and sad. Can be read for free here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/read-ken-lius…

Ken Liu leads me to Ted Chiang almost without pause. And to another mother and child and what effects their shared history has on the world at large…

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Again, look at the titular story, if you can. It was the basis for the SF movie Arrival with Amy Adams in the lead role.

“Your father is about to ask me the question. This is the most important moment in our lives, and I want to pay attention, note every detail.“

I liked the story and the characters. I have seen the movie several times and like it a lot. The most interesting for me were the differences from the story to the film. Would I have liked the story more or less, if I hadn‘t seen the movie? Did I like it more, because I like the movie? Despite the differences? Probably. Would I have understood the story as well without knowing the movie? Maybe. Did the story add layers to the movie? Possibly.

Another books about mothers and children, at least peripherally, is The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison. Loved the stroy, although it depressed the hell out of me at times. The audiobook was extremely well done as well. The main character waking up in a hospital and figuring out that the world has ended is a pretty tired idea by now. Nonetheless, the book started on full throttle and was great from the get-go. And horrific. By chapter three I had goosebumps allover and was close to crying. The story had an episodic feel to it, as it follows the midwife on her trip across the country, chronicling her encounters with various other survivors. Very graphic, with a realistic feel to it. 

My final book is yet again about children in a fairly horrific, post-apocalyptic setting. And it brings us back to the island we started this journey on. England though, instead if Scotland… The Girl with All the Gifts (The Girl with All the Gifts, #1) by M.R. Carey. Here children end up in a very different world.


Six degrees of separation — From a redhead to a girl with a tattoo…

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here.

How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The initial blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

From “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler to…?

We start with Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler, which — again! — I haven‘t read. The only book by the author I have ever read: The Accidental Tourist. However, this was before the time I tracked my reading or posted any reviews, aka in the previous millennium. 1989 or 1990, after seeing and liking the movie adaptation…? I think it might have been a DNF or something I did not enjoy particularly. Which is neither here nor there for the purpose of this meme. So, anyway, Redheads… none to be found on my list of read books. However…

Micah Mortimer is a creature of habit. 

Blurb of Redhead by the Side of the Road

First degree: There is a Micah in my reading past…

Micah (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #13)
by Laurell K. Hamilton (Goodreads Author) 

Read in 2007 What can I say, this is definitely not literary fiction. There is some very good Urban Fantasy out there, but at this time in the universe of Laurell K. Hamilton, this was already moving into the direction of too little plot and too much sex. Still entertaining. I lasted up to and including the 20th book of this series. This year #28 will be published. Oh well.

“RAISING THE DEAD IS EASY. LOVE IS HARD…”

From the blurb of Micah

Second degree: The first „Dead“ on my read-list is…

Dead Souls (Inspector Rebus, #10)
by Ian Rankin (Goodreads Author) 

I read this in 2007, completely out of order, aka it‘s the only book of the series I have actually read. My parents spent most of last year reading the whole thing and love the series. I enjoyed the book back then and liked Rebus. He is a very well-drawn character, if a little depressing. The story was believable, there was enough suspense to keep me going and the ending did not offer any idiotic and off-the-wall plot twists making me go “Yeah, right, whatever!” Did not keep me up at night, but was a very good read.

Another series that my mum loved fiercely is J.D. Robb‘s In Death. And because she asked me to, I read the first book of the series…

Third degree: Another series loved by my mother…

Naked in Death (In Death #1)
by J.D. Robb

Read in 2016. Fairly stereotypical police procedural, with some futuristic gadgets and a love interest who is, at first, a suspect, as well as tall, dark, mysterious and the common alpha male of romance novels. I think the correct label is romantic suspense. The first book in the very successful In Death series by The Nora.

I did not really like the relationship much at first between Eve and Roarke. He definitely had problems accepting her wishes, which bugged me. If you do not mind his consent issues, he’s fine as a romance MC. 

The world building could have been better. The gadgets and some futuristic concepts were not explained, so if they weren’t self-expalantory, you were left to guess. However, they only play a very small part in the story. If you want to read sci-fi with suspense, hands off this book.

This is mostly told from Eve’s view, third person. There is the odd change of POV, mostly to Roarke and sometimes to others. These changes are not well done and jarred me every time. It could be the formatting (or lack thereof), the various protagonists do all sound exactly the same as well, though.

The mystery wasn’t very gripping and, at least from the second half onwards, pretty predictable. The romance and sex were not graphic. It was ok.

Fourth degree: J.D. Robb is Nora Roberts…

Three Fates
by Nora Roberts

Read in 2004, it was great fun! Roberts gives us low-brain-power entertainment, but with wit and a lot of humour, without getting too sloppy on the romance side of things.

This is what the story is about: Three siblings embark on a quest to re-unite 3 parts of a mythical statue. They are not sure that it even exists, but they are determined to find out and try. From Ireland they travel to Eastern Europe, Helsinki, New York, to follow clues and find romance, adventure and a deadly enemy…

When the Lusitania sank, one survivor became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—

From the blurb of Three Fates

Fifth degree: From a thief of statues to a smoke thief…

The Smoke Thief (Drakon, #1)
by Shana Abe

Read in 2007. Cute little romance with shapeshifting dragons and a jewel thief, set in a past London. The hero looks great, the heroine is all woman, beautiful and just independent enough not to be a dunce, opposition is feeble and success and a happy ending are guaranteed. Utterly predictable and no big surprises, but nice brain candy.

And finally, on the topic of dragons…

Sixth degree: From shapeshifting dragons to a dragon tattoo…

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)
by Stieg Larsson,  Reg Keeland (Translator)

Read in 2010. It was off to a slow, but not uninteresting start. Around page 200 I got a bit fed-up with the huge amount of details and the never ending repetition of all the facts and family connections. I skimmed for a while until the action picked up again and from that point onwards I could not put it down anymore. It was great, full of suspense and I loved it. I wish the first 200 pages could have been like the rest of the book.

There you are, a very arbitrary list this time around.

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION MEME

Welcome to #6Degrees. On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book. I am using this meme to work on my backlog, aka reviews that I haven‘t yet posted to my blog here.

How the meme works and how you can join is explained here. The blog post about this month‘s choice is here.

This month‘s book is:

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

No, I haven‘t read this book and don‘t plan to do so at the moment. I did listen to an audio version of The Tempest last year though and listened to Sir Patrick Stewart reading the sonnets on Instagram though. I read Hamlet a very long time ago, but never wrote a review.

So where does that lead me in this meme? To another historical novel and another child—although this one didn‘t die…

Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt, #1)
by Frank McCourt

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

From the beginning of the book

I read this a little while after it was published. Pretty sure I reviewed it as well, no idea where that review disappeared to. I remember liking this telling of McCourt‘s poverty-ridden and unhappy childhood in Ireland. I am pretty sure I read the sequel as well. Other than that my mind is a blank, unfortunately.

Thoughts on a grim childhood lead me to this:

Night
by Elie Wiesel

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God.

From the book blurb

Well written, very clear and stark prose. I found it a little hard to emphasize with the character, as his style was so sober, almost detached from the horiffic things happening to him.

A little less grim, if still not an account of a happy childhood:

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years. 

First paragraph of the book

A beautiful book! Just the ending gets a bit too frantic for its own good, I don’t think it quite fits with the rest of the book. But still, well worth reading and a lot more gripping than I expected.
The beginning is a fairly typical coming of age story and just when it all slowed down and I started to loose interest, something unexpected happened and we were off again to a new development in the storyline. That happened several times.
The beginning of the story is definitely the most poetic part, but I also loved the part with the weekly market and Amir meeting Soraya. What happens at the end is not a great surprise, but still very good! I was crying on page 299….

From Pakistan to Japan, the next not so happy life story is this:

Memoirs of a Geisha
by Arthur Golden

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sayuri’s story begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. 

From the book blurb

This one was not a winner for me. Very much a take-it-or-leave-it experience. My mother gave this to me as a present, shortly after it had come out. The story did not really interest me, so I was off to a bad start. It was just ok. Nothing really gripped me, it was predictable, average. I don’t understand why it was on the bestseller lists for so long. Watch the movie instead!

From one woman to the next:

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant

Rating: 5 out of 5.

That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father, Jacob, and the celebrated chronicle of Joseph, my brother. On those rare occasions when I was remembered, it was as a victim. Near the beginning of your holy book, there is a passage that seems to say I was raped and continues with the bloody tale of how my honor was avenged. 

From the first page of the book

Story of Dinah, Book of Genesis, daughter of Jacob, sister of Joseph. Dinah tells us the story of her 4 mothers and her whole extended tribe, including all those brothers, who will eventually sell off her baby brother into slavery to Egypt.

But this is really more about the life of all the women in her father’s camp. The Red Tent is the place where they rest during their menstruation and where they recuperate from their daily toil. Here they enjoy life, tell stories and show us how women fared in biblical times.

Definitely a book for the girls. I am not sure if a man would like this? I enjoyed it a lot.

And this, very weirdly, leads me to another woman‘s childhood and life, set also very far in the past. I know, this doesn‘t really fit the other books, but it‘s where I ended up:

The Clan of the Cave Bear
by Jean M. Auel

Rating: 4 out of 5.

…we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear

From the book blurb

I read this as teenager and I have been toying with the idea of re-reading it. I liked it. I remember the setting and Ayla‘s struggle to fit into her new tribe and the brutal conflict with the character set to become the clan‘s new leader.

So, that took us from Shakespeare‘s England to Ireland, Poland, Pakistan and Japan to biblical times and finally to the time of the Neanderthals, chronicling mostly bad experiences of children and woman in those stories…

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION Book Meme

I am not a big fan on memes (anymore), but this actually sounds like an interesting concept. Everybody starts with the same book and then you make connections to six more books. And as everybody does their own thing, you end up with wildly different books.

So, welcome to my #6Degrees. Please have a look at the link to see how the meme works or how to join. The post for December 2020 is here.

The book that starts the December Meme is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Which I have not read. I have heard the title, but that is pretty much it. So I went to Goodreads to read the blurb and look for inspiration for my first connection—similar books that Goodreads members also liked. And lo-and-behold, on that list was a book that I have read!

Holes (Holes, #1)
by Louis Sachar

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A fairly slim book for Young Adults. Good fun for grown-ups as well! I liked it, when I read it back in 2010 and enjoyed the movie with Sigourney Weaver as warden as well. The book won the Newbery Medal in 1999. Another book that won this price in 1972 and that I have read many, many times as a young adult and re-read in 2016 is:

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH, #1)
by Robert C. O’Brien

Rating: 5 out of 5.

During my re-read as an adult, the beginning was a little boring and the very traditional gender roles of the mice annoyed me a bit at first. But once Mrs. Frisby met the rats and they told her their story, the book picked up a lot. I had forgotten a lot of the storyline. Some parts were pretty exciting, others emotional. There was drama, angst, a good plot, suspense… A nice rollercoaster.

In the end I liked the story so much that I wouldn’t mind reading a sequel, to find out how the story continues for our heroes.

I loved this book so much as a young teen, I read it over and over and over. This is probably the book that started me off on my lifelong love of fantasy, together with Watership Down

Watership Down (Watership Down, #1)
by Richard Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Another one that I read many times as a teenager, pretty much once a year for a long time. It‘s been so long, I don‘t recall exactly what I loved so much about this book, perhaps it is time for a reread. It might have been the imaginative world building and the strength of the character developments…

Talking about classic fantasy for children and young adult readers can only lead to one book for me and that is The Hobbit.

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read The Hobbit for the first time as a teenager, over 30 years ago. When I finally read LOTR, after the first movie came out, I realised how little I remembered off The Hobbit. So I decided to read it again. I can not imagine that I liked it much as a young teenager. I don‘t remember, what I thought about it. Although it is intended to be a children’s book, I think it would be tough going for younger readers. I did like it now and it makes me want to read LOTR all over again… No, I am not going to list LOTR next or talk to you about another wizard aimed at young readers, named Harry… maybe another dragon?

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)
by Christopher Paolini

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is classed as Young Adult, probably because Paolini was 15, when he wrote it. I don’t see another reason for it – this is as adult as many other Fantasy novels I have read. Great book! Read it in two days, good fun. A bit heavy on Tolkien, even in some of the names, but if you don’t let that bother you, it is worth the read. Well developed characters, interesting story line, hard to believe that this was written by a teenager.

I am currently listening to the 33-hours long audiobook of his first adult Science Fiction novel. I am about halfway—I am the world’s slowest audiobook listener—and it‘s good so far. Not outstanding, there were no great surprises yet, but it‘s nice entertainment.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Audible Audio)
by Christopher Paolini

I will probably end up with three stars. But we‘ll see, I have about 16 hours to go…

So much for my Six Degrees of Separation. From Margaret talking to God to xenobiologist Kira Navárez, finding an alien relic beneath the surface of the world, that transforms her forever and will alter the course of human history.