The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Brit Bennett can write.

She studied at Stanford, University of Michigan, and Oxford.

The Vanishing Half was #1 on the New York Times best-seller list June 2020.

But I read it as recommended for privileged white people trying to better understand the African American experience.

#BlackLivesMatter

Spanning nearly half a century, from the 1940s to the 1990s, the novel focuses on twin sisters, Desiree and Stella Vignes, who were raised in Mallard, Louisiana, a (fictional) small town conceived of by their great-great-great grandfather — after being freed by the father who once owned him — as an exclusive place for light-skinned blacks like him.

“In Mallard, nobody married dark,” Bennett writes starkly.

Over time, its prejudices deepened as its population became lighter and lighter, “like a cup of coffee steadily diluted with cream.” The twins, with their “creamy skin, hazel eyes, wavy hair,” would have delighted the town’s founder.

Yet fair skin did not save their father, whose vicious lynching by a gang of white men marks the girls irrevocably.

Nor did it save their mother from an impoverished existence cleaning for rich white people in a neighboring town, and it won’t save the twins from an equally constricted life if they stay in Mallard.

We learn in the first few pages that at 16, Desiree and Stella ran off to New Orleans, two hours away, but “after a year, the twins scattered, their lives splitting as evenly as their shared egg.

Stella became white and Desiree married the darkest man she could find.” …

‘The Vanishing Half’ Counts The Terrible Costs Of Bigotry And Secrecy

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

Excellent.

I despise the unhealthy over-attention garnered by American High School Football … yet loved Friday Night Lights.

I love this 2015 book too.

Working my way through Koryta’s books, I’m concluding that his greatest strengths of many are plotting and bad guys.

Kent Austin is the beloved coach of the local high school football team, a religious man and hero in the community. After years of near misses, Kent’s team has a shot at the state championship, a welcome point of pride in a town that has had its share of hardships.

Just before playoffs begin, the town and the team are thrown into shock when horrifically, impossibly, another teenage girl is found murdered. As details emerge that connect the crime to the Austin brothers, the two must confront their buried rage and grief-and unite to stop a killer. …

Amazon

The Oppenheimer Alternative by Robert J. Sawyer

I bought The Oppenheimer Alternative on Audible.

It’s a reimagining of the lives of those who developed the first atomic bomb.

Love the reading by Josh Bloomberg.. He’s a master of the many accents:

J. Robert Oppenheimer (American non-observant Jewish parents)
Albert Einstein (German Jew)
Richard Feynman (American atheist, but both parents were from Jewish families)
Edward Teller (Hungarian Jew)
Leo Szilard (Hungarian Jew)
Enrico Fermi (Italian … but with a Jewish wife)

The book was published June 15, 2020 for the 75th anniversaries of the Trinity explosion on June 16th.

It’s quite different than the many other excellent Robert J. Sawyer books.  But I really enjoyed it.

While J. Robert Oppenheimer and his Manhattan Project team struggle to develop the A-bomb, Edward Teller wants something even more devastating: a weapon based on nuclear fusion – the mechanism that powers the sun. But Teller’s research leads to a terrifying discovery: by the year 2030, the sun will eject its outermost layer, destroying the entire inner solar system – including Earth.

After the war ends, Oppenheimer’s physicists combine forces with Albert Einstein, computing pioneer John von Neumann, and rocket designer Wernher von Braun – the greatest scientific geniuses from the last century racing against time to save our future.

Sawyer feels neither bomb needed be dropped on Japanese citizens.  Especially the second.

Click PLAY or watch an interview with the author on YouTube.

Amazon

The Order by Daniel Silva

Book published July 14, 2020.

The new novel featuring legendary Israeli spy master Gabriel Allon is as good as any of the past 19 thrillers.

Silva was raised as a Catholic. Converted to Judaism, the religion of his wife.

This one takes place in the few short days between the funeral of a Pope. And the conclave to elect the next.

A shadowy Catholic society with ties to the European far right, the Order is plotting to seize control of the papacy. And it is only the beginning. …

I learned more about the history of Antisemitism in Christianity.

Seems this book hit a nerve with Trumpers. 😀 There are all kinds of negative reviews online. I suspect most have not read the book as it had only been out a few days as they posted. 

I highly recommend The Order. The Gabriel Allon books are some of my favourites.

I only wish they’d hurry up and start filming a TV series based on the character.

The Secret Place by Tana French

I’m hooked on Tana French, an excellent author of crime fiction. Skilled and original.

On the other hand, this is the second Tana French book that I didn’t finish.

It mostly takes place at a rich girl’s boarding school in Dublin. It follows the inane thinking and dialogue of eight teenage girls, members of rival cliques.  I finally got fed up listening to these teens.

Too bad as I really like her character detective Stephen Moran who was also in  Faithful Place (2010).

 

 

 

The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World is a surprise hit.

“Captivating . . . The Book of Eels is, in the end, not really about eels but about life itself.”  – Wall Street Journal

The European eel has a lifespan of at least 80 years.

It’s a a critically endangered species.

Like Salmon, this eel has a crazy difficult method of reproduction. They must migrate all the way to the Sargasso Sea near Bermuda.

How do you feel about eels?

For reasons that aren’t the eel’s fault — its shape, color, lateral movements, nocturnal nature — you may feel the way I do, which is: Yuck.

Svensson is the most recent thinker to contend with what scientists call, I’m not kidding, the “Eel Question.” …

First, eels are fish, not aquatic snakes. …

Also, after roughly 40 million years on Earth, eels are mysteriously dying off at a rapid rate. Probably it is our fault.

What’s the Deal With Eels?

My iPhone SE 2020

Home button. Touch ID. Lightweight and future-proofed.

Comparatively inexpensive at US $400.

This is the iPhone for the rest of us.  🙂

My iPhone X was starting to die after 2.5 years.  Of various options, I decided to carry two phones for now:

iPhone X (no service) – photos and video

iPhone SE – phone, text, internet, audio books and podcasts, etc.

Having two should solve any end-of-day battery problems.

Rene Ritchie is my Apple guru.

Click PLAY or watch his review on YouTube.

Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta

Meh. 

This was the first book published by best selling author Michael Koryta when he was just age-21.

It’s OK.  But not nearly as good as the other 3 Koryta books I’ve read.

I might have been somewhat turned off by the reader,  Scott Brick, perhaps the #1 voice of audio books.  I’m tired of his over emotional voice.

This book introduces Lincoln Perry, a hotshot private investigator.  His older, crusty partner.  A couple of love interests.  Russian bad guys.  A likeable reporter named Amy Ambrose.

Personally I didn’t buy into the plot at any point.  Nor did I like the outcome.

I’ll skip the rest of his Lincoln Perry books in protest.

Koryta got much, much better later in his career.

 

 

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

I’m not the target audience for this book.

Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a dystopian action-adventure novel by American author Suzanne Collins. It is a spinoff and a prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy. …

Critics had a mixed overall reception …

The central character is the teenage Coriolanus Snow who would 64 years later become the dictatorial president of Panem as Donald Sutherland.

This book didn’t really work for me.  And the 10th Hunger Games were pretty horrible.

The only character of interest is Volumnia Gaul – The Head Gamemaker of the 10th Hunger Games.

Fans of YA fiction where teens kill other teens will probably love it.

Needless to say, a film version is in the works.

If She Wakes by Michael Koryta

If She Wakes is Michael Koryta‘s most recent novel. (2019)

Some feel it’s his best.

Michael Connelly calls Koryta the genre’s “best of the best“.

Certainly the plot is fascinating:

Tara Beckley is in a coma. Her brain is working perfectly, but she cannot move.  She has locked-in syndrome.

Tara knows that a visiting professor has been murdered, but can’t tell anyone.  Her family is thinking of pulling the plug.

Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator and former professional driver, is suspicious about the supposed accident

Meanwhile, two assassins have been dispatched to clean up the mess and recover a secret device. 

I did like the book and plan to read more Koryta.  Best character, for me, was Dax — son of one of my favourite characters from “Those who wish me dead”.