Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Two Kinds of Truth

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 22, by my count, which, again, is inaccurate, but we're still going with it.

YEEHAW, I am, once again, all caught up in Bosch's world, having read these last three books. Yeah, the Lincoln Lawyer is in these books, but that's kinda unsurprising to anyone who is growing older: the older you are, the more you want your family around, for whatever definition of family works for you. Why would a fictional detective be any different? Answer: he wouldn't be.

So, yeah, I'm caught up. And Harry (this Harry, anyway, there are four you know) seems to have found his place: a department where he's respected and wanted and, most of all, believed when the shit hits the fan.

Slight spoiler alert (but only slight, since I'm spoiling only the first chapter, so I don't think it really counts), but an old case is reopened when a guy Bosch put away thirty years before is petitioning for release on the grounds of false imprisonment based on new DNA data. The question becomes where did this new DNA that was tested come from.

I know, I know, you're thinking TUNNELS! and BAD COPS! but it actually wasn't (I'm shocked, too), AND I didn't get the "how was this new DNA placed in a sealed box" technique quite right. My solution would have worked, but it was far too elaborate for what actually happened. Dammit.

If you're a Bosch fan, these last three books have been fun. I've been sick, so they have been fun reads during my "I really can't do anything but lie here" convalescence. If you're not yet a Bosch fan, go ahead and start at the beginning, most of the books are fun.

He knew that there were two kinds of truth in this world, the truth that was the unalterable bedrock of one's life and mission; and the other malleable truth [that] a politician's charlatan's, corrupt lawyer's, and their clients, bent in order to serve whatever purpose was at hand.
Chapter 13

The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 21, by my count, which is apparently inaccurate, but that's my count, so let's go with it.

Fast on the finishing of The Crossing, I kept going on the Bosch books. I can think of no fictional person to keep me better company when sick than a guy named Harry, with this being one of the last three books about Harry {Dresden, Potter, Hole, Bosch} that I haven't read yet. Now that I think about it, there was that other Harry series with a surprise new book. Hmmmmmm....

As with the last one, I enjoyed this one, too. It is far more contemporary, and we have Harry less internally twisted about working on a defense case, and more with him solving a bad-guy case as well as a not-so-bad-guy-but-still-bad-guy case. The two separate cases, however, work well together, with just enough internal strife to keep them plausible as happening at the same time.

What cracked me up, no it didn't crack me up, was, however, and I really wish I could say I was spoiling this book for you by saying this, but I'm really not if you've read any of my other reviews, the book is classic Bosch: someone dies, a bad cop did it, tunnels.

Okay, okay, okay, not really. But a bad guy did do it. And there were tunnel references!

Anyway, I enjoyed this book, too. I, on my sick bed, immediately started the next one upon finishing this one.

The Crossing

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 20 by my count, which I've been informed is inaccurate, but whatevs.

A group of my friends were recently ranting about how they have to go through a number of pages, IF NOT DOZENS to get to the meat of the article they are trying to read, or the recipe they are trying to find, and how frustrating this is. Given my book reviews really are just my discovery of the book, and not really reviews, per se, hell, you could call these blog posts that I write when I finish a book, even, I'm good with my lack of book-reviewing-book-reviews.

What does that have to do with this latest Bosch book? Absolutely nothing.

I've been sick the last five days. Today, I read this book, start to finish, because doing anything else required too much effort. That said, I enjoyed this book. Yeah, it was a crossover with the lawyer dude, which is where I think my book count is off, with the books that have the half-brother in them, but the book is mostly Bosch, and it was a good detective adventure.

Unsurprisingly, BAD COPS! No tunnels, though. Odd that.

If you're a fan of Bosch or happen, like me, to have all twenty something books available and you're reading them, keep going. This was fun.

All of the patients Bosch saw leaving were women, all of them middle aged or older, all of them by themselves.

All of them probably trying to hold onto an image of youth, pushing back that moment they feared when men would stop looking at them. It was a rough and tough world out there.

This was the only part in the book that caught my attention. I was reminded about how much we need love, need attention, are willing to subjugate ourselves for the approval of another, how much we are willing to mutilate ourselves physically emotionally mentally for the illusion of a perfect love.


Book Notes

Okay, so, this was not the book I was expecting.

It is, however, the book I needed.

I knew vaguely about the outrage over Thiel's backing of Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. I knew vaguely that Gawker was a piece-of-shit website. I knew vaguely that Thiel was an asshat who backed Cheetoh. What I didn't know was all three were involved in a modern-day Machiavellian Power Struggle™.

I am very glad that Ryan Holiday wrote this book. I am very glad I read this book. The book won't change anyone's life, but this book is an incredible tale about power, conspiracy, and the brilliant long-term maneuvering of someone Doing The Right Thing™.

Before this book, I pretty much thought Thiel was the Bad Guy™. He's not, by the way.

Like the ™s? Me, too.


This book reads like Machiavellian case study. It is brilliant in its telling. Yes, one side was arrogant. Yes, one side messed up. Yes, one side was Wrong™. Yes, one side was whatever. Yes, yes, yes. But is it really ever "one side"? The brilliant, illustrative nature of this tale cannot be understated. I understand why Holiday had to write this book. I'm glad he did.

I strongly recommend this book. It may or may not change your life, but is far far far worth reading.

Our tendency to shy away from this truth creates a profound ignorance of how things really work, and what it means to be strategic, to be powerful, and to try to shape events rather than simply be shaped by them.
Location: 51

Seneca is the author you read when your life’s work has been destroyed,
Location: 131

The question of justice is beside the point; every conqueror believes their cause just and righteous—a thought that makes the fruits taste sweeter.
Location: 151

The existentialists spoke of ressentiment, or the way that resentment creates frustration which fuels more resentment. Philosophers might have said this feeling was pointless, but they knew it was a fearful force.
Location: 233

There is an old Scottish motto: nemo me impune lacessit. No one attacks me with impunity. Plots of revenge and justice plots both begin, in their own way, with a transgression, against a person or the whole. And then someone deciding that they aren’t going to take it.
Location: 381

They think someone should do something, but never them. Not me. It’s a classic collective action problem: we know things are bad, but they only affect each of us a little bit. So who is going to take care of it for us? Plenty of people believe in the theory of so-called great men of history, but who believes I am that great man?
Location: 437

Gawker reminded Thiel of the self-righteous people he had been railing against since he was a conservative polemicist in college: the people who claim the moral high ground, who claim to be about freedom of choice, but who bully everyone who doesn’t choose their way of freedom.
Location: 481

Twenty-five hundred years ago, Thucydides would say that the three strongest motives for men were “fear, honor, and self-interest.” Fear. Honor. Self-interest. All covered.
Location: 555

Eddie sees that Thiel’s main problem isn’t a legal one, it’s that he’s an outsider: not only does Thiel not like playing the game, he doesn’t even understand the game.
Location: 580

At eight, he has the look of someone who has already seen enough of the world to know what bullshit is, and to know that he’s smarter than most of the people he has met, including the adults.
Location: 633

Girard’s theory of mimetic desire holds that people have no idea what they want, or what they value, so
Location: 639

are drawn to what other people want. They want what other people have. They covet. It’s this, Girard says, that is the source of almost all the conflict in the world.
Location: 639

Or perhaps it was simply the traditional arc of the bully who becomes empowered the more he picks on others, grows to like the feeling it creates, and the longer he goes unchallenged, the more he comes to convince himself the status quo is tolerable for everyone involved.
Location: 647

One will come upon situations in life where it becomes increasingly clear that the normal
Location: 685

playbook will not work. No working out of differences. No backroom deals. We reach the point where we believe that the normal remedies will not be enough. Where we are significantly outmatched or unsympathetic. We reach a point where even the out-of-the-ordinary remedies will not suffice.
Location: 686

“Anyone who is threatened and is forced by necessity either to act or to suffer,” writes Machiavelli, “becomes a very dangerous man to the prince.”
Location: 697

The strategic benefit of adding a new coconspirator comes at the cost of substantially increasing the chance of getting caught.
Location: 801

While it’s dangerous to conspire with people who have a lot to lose, you can’t conspire without someone who is afraid to bet on themselves, who isn’t willing to take a big stake on something that very well
Location: 869

could fail. Where these two traits overlap there is often a sweet spot: the man or woman who has something to prove and something to protect, the strong sense of self-belief coupled with that killer instinct.
Location: 870

A start-up is, in Peter’s definition, “a small group of people that you’ve convinced of a truth that nobody else believes in.”
Location: 882

Just because you decide to operate along a line of interior ethics, however, doesn’t mean you’re stupid about it. You don’t have to disclose your intentions, for instance. No one said the fight needs to be fair, or that punches should be pulled.
Location: 959

Maginot Line.
Location: 1,000

The great strategist B. H. Liddell Hart would say that all great victories come along “the line of least resistance and the line of least expectation.”
Location: 1,005

No one knew if it
Location: 1,083

was actually impossible to beat Gawker in court. Gawker had taken this uncertainty to mean something else, too: that no one ever would challenge them, and that if someone did, the challenger was destined to lose.
Location: 1,083

and public
Location: 1,100

It has been the great collective self-deception of Silicon Valley, and perhaps of our age, that a person can engage in aggressive “disruption” of existing industries while pretending that they are not at least similar to the ruthless capitalist barons of the previous century, that there is not a drop of Carnegie or Rockefeller or Vanderbilt DNA in the whole business.
Location: 1,133

When someone categorizes something evil, as Sherman did, as Peter and Mr. A repeatedly did, he implicitly gives himself permission to do what needs to be done to destroy it.
Location: 1,207

choose your enemies wisely, he had been told, because you become just like them—but
Location: 1,240

No, fate sends to the conspirators of the world the best of its Murphy’s Law and entropy and crises of confidence.
Location: 1,690

Nick Denton is an inherently curious person, the kind of person who though he might not seek out such opportunities, when given the chance for a conversation with people who have radically different opinions from his own, he at least
Location: 1,836

likes to take advantage of it.
Location: 1,838

A few dopamine-filled seconds of catharsis turned into fingerprints that ruined his chances of a clean getaway.
Location: 2,113

Most conspiracies are not found out. They are betrayed. Or they collapse from within, a betrayal of the cause itself.
Location: 2,425

And though we’d like to think that planning and resources—or righteousness and worthiness—determine who wins and who loses, they don’t.
Location: 2,830

I have heard Peter Thiel say over and over again that in the trial, Gawker argued the law while Hogan’s case argued the facts. “You argue the law to show how much you know about the
Location: 3,155

law,” he would say, “but it’s not how you win a case in front of a jury.”
Location: 3,156

He had proven that “nothing you can do about it” is just what people who don’t want to do anything about it like to say to make
Location: 3,371

themselves feel better about their inaction.
Location: 3,372

Machiavelli warns conspirators that the most dangerous time is after the deed is done.
Location: 3,479

Loss inherently makes the loser sympathetic.
Location: 3,483

But like so many conspirators, they seem not to have stopped to ask, Okay, then what?
Location: 3,502

Cunning and resources might win the war, but it’s the stories and the myths afterward that will determine who deserved to win it.
Location: 3,526

The people who actually had to do the cleaning up, who needed to fight the war to a close, knew that this kind of language would only make the job harder. It had deprived Germany of a way to end the war earlier, it had united a collapsing enemy in desperation. Without a way out, tensions only increase and combatants have no choice but to fight on.
Location: 3,648

They worried that people would be less free to say what they think and feel for fear of being held accountable for it.
Location: 3,714

It would be a little more elegant if the reading public recognized their own contribution, that they get precisely the media that they click on and talk about.”
Location: 3,826

The Book of Joan

Book Notes

Warren Ellis has a weekly newsletter, in which he talks about writing, reading, and things of interest to him. In last week's episode, we found our intrepid hero talking about The Book Of Joan in a way that sounded fairly interesting, so I looked for it in the library.

And there it was!

Well, if this isn't the world telling me to read this book, I don't know what is. Okay, maybe the world is telling me this book isn't in high demand, or that it was at one point and the library has excess copies.

Anyway. Ellis' book description is much better than I would have done. It reads differently than I expected the book to read, but his description is spot on. The way Yuknavitch weaves history into the story (uses history as a template?) is just wonderful.

Trying to figure out where I put it on my scale, it's definitely "fan" or above, but would I recommend it to a friend? It was interesting, so I'd have to say it is worth reading.

How’s that for a cosmic joke of the ruling class? The meek really did inherit the Earth. And the wealthy suck at it like a tit. There’s no telling how many meek are left.
Page 6

And anyway, I’ve got that gnawing human compulsion to tell what happened.
Page 9

No one on Earth was ever literally white. But that construct kept race and class wars and myths alive.
Page 11

Everything in a life has more than one story layer. Like skin does: epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous or hypodermis. My history has a subtext.
Page 12

We are what happens when the seemingly unthinkable celebrity rises to power. Our existence makes my eyes hurt.
Page 14

People are forever thinking that the unthinkable can’t happen. If it doesn’t exist in thought, then it can’t exist in life. And then, in the blink of an eye, in a moment of danger, a figure who takes power from our weak desires and failures emerges like a rib from sand.
Page 14

We consume and become exactly what we create. In all times.
Page 14

Men are among the loneliest creatures. They lose their mothers and cannot carry children, and have nothing to comfort themselves with but their vestigial cockular appendages.
Page 17

This is perhaps the reason they move ever warward when they are not moving fuckward.
Page 18

But people will make belief out of anything, especially if it comes with a good story, and despite my cynicism and age, I want to believe in her. Like the way old people on Earth used to turn to a story we made called god.
Page 19

But not all legend becomes history, and not all literature deserves to become legend.
Page 20

His voice and words make my whole body ring. He makes me laugh. Sometimes I think that’s the deepest love of all.
Page 30

There is no place to hide or run to in a closed system.
Page 34

I don’t care which careful slice of history you choose to cling to, there is no part of being human that does not include the death spectacle: the resort to killing, through war or “justice” or revenge.
Page 41

The fastest way to drive living beings mad, then as today, is to confine them to a small, stimulus-less place and deprive them of any interaction with their species.
Page 42

Maybe we were always meant to come to this part of our own story, where the things we thought we created were revealed to have been within us all along, our brains simply waiting for us to recognize the corresponding forms of space and technology “out there” that we dumbly misread as distinctly human organs.
Page 44

Joan took her T-shirt off. Her jeans. “You’re gonna freeze your ass off!” Her brother laughed, but his clothes came off, too. They were siblings, after all.
Page 58


There wasn’t time to educate the children. As in medieval times, and during other world wars, children simply had to learn to live within the miasma of violence. Pick up this weapon. Don’t think. Act.
Page 74

When the first nuclear drone attacks erupted, for a while, and counterpart drones returned fire, the War was waged almost without soldiers. But all agon eventually reduces itself to human violence. It was almost as if humans couldn’t bear their distance from the killing. The drama. The theater of war.
Page 76

The rhetoric of protecting children from war, shielding those most vulnerable from our most horrific truths, was always a hypocrisy designed to protect the illusions that adults carry that we care more about our children than we do about ourselves, until finally that pretense, too, fell.
Page 76

To be human, the film suggested, was to step into the full flurry and motion of all humanity: to bear the weight of circumstances without flinching, to surrender to the crucible—to admit that history was not something in the past but something you consciously step into. Living a life meant knowing you might be killed instantly, like one who wanders into the path of a runaway train.
Page 82

Inside of war, or dream, or memory, a warrior emerges.
Page 83

If we look at history—those of us who study it, who can remember it—we understand the reason why those who come to power swiftly, amid extreme national crises, are so dangerous: during such crises, we all turn into children aching for a good father. And the truth is, in our fear and despair, we’ll take any father. Even if his furor is dangerous. It’s as if humans can’t understand how to function without a father.
Page 99

But Joan knew one thing we never learned: to end war meant to end its maker, to marry creation and destruction rather than hold them in false opposition.
Page 105

Terrorists, she thought, laughing inside. When they own languages, she thought, we are terrorists. When we own them, we are revolutionaries. People who turn over the earth.
Page 107

On his side, there lived a hatred for what humanity represented with its diversities and differences, and his pathological desire to abandon the planet, to re-create humankind in a different image. His own.
Page 108

On her side, there was a hatred there, too, if she was being honest with herself: for what we had made of ourselves, for the fictions we consistently chose that forced our own undoing; for our fear of otherness; for our inability to conquer ego, our seemingly tsunami-like thirst for never-ending consumption at the price of the planet.
Page 108

Once there was a girl from France. She heard a song and became a warrior for her country, but her country lost its shape and aim in the Wars, as all countries did, and then there were just combatants and civilians, and then just civilians gone brutal against one another, endless violence. Then the girl made a choice.
Page 116

In the dark, a person’s shadow is nothing. Like the past losing its light.
Page 121

She didn’t believe him, but she did believe in letting him have his story. To have a story was to have a self.
Page 128

In death, adults reveal some of their childhood selves. The eyes and cheek muscles going slack, back in time to a face without history.
Page 178

It isn’t that love died. It’s that we storied it poorly. We tried too hard to contain it and make it something to have and to hold.
Page 192

Love was never meant to be less than electrical impulse and the energy of matter, but that was no small thing.
Page 192

The stuff of life itself. Life in the universe, cosmic or as small as an atom. But we wanted it to be ours. Between us. For us. We made it small and private so that we’d be above all other living things.
Page 192

At the heart of torture there is a brutality beyond inflicting pain. It is the brutality of stealing an identity, a sense of self, a soul. The pain-wracked body is only a symbol of a deeper struggle that is bodiless. It is the struggle to be. Not just to cling to consciousness, but a kind of radical compassion to exist as a self in relation to others. The torturer attempts to murder that desire for compassionate relationship. To erase even its possibility. The tortured body is the opposite of the newborn. Instead of a will toward life and the stretch to bond with an other, there is a brutal will toward death and the end of that longing. When torture succeeds, that is.
ree > Page

To be human. What if being human did not mean to discover, to conquer. What if it meant rejoining everything we are made from.
x > Page

"One life is all we have, and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are, and to live without belief—that is a fate more terrible than dying."
ven > Page

I’m weeping again.
o > Page

Always crying. It has become a state of being rather than an emotionally isolated experience.
o > Page

Do Not Disturb

Book Notes

Why did I pick up this book? It's book two of the Deanna Madden series (there are currently three books in the series).

I didn't think I liked the first one enough to warrant reading the second one, but the GoodReads reviews were consistently "This one is better!" so I went with it. That, and, other than the sex part, I like the Madden character.

This one still doesn't have any suspense. We know all the actions of all the characters. It does, as the first one, have a fast moving plot. There's an attempt at suspense, but it lasts like 4 pages, so it wasn't a great success. Again, a fast moving plot.

Nothing to write home about, nothing to rave about. If you're looking for a mindless distraction, this'll do.

Never had the hot, wet sensation, vibrating suction, the delicate play of a talented tongue against pleasure-packed bundles of nerves.
Page 23

I am like my clients—on the edge of danger, playing with the fire of fantasy and hoping I don’t slip. Hoping I don’t fall over that dangerous edge and act out on my desires.
Page 83

VILLAINS COME IN all shapes and forms.
Page 104

I bet he’s a good hugger. A good, responsible hugger who makes you feel like he is taking some of your worry with the embrace.
Page 149

A lot about human nature, how caged humans, despite our upbringing, drug habits, or skin color, are all the same. We want to fuck, to eat, to live. We want freedom, we enjoy control, we want to kill.
Page 230

She stands, a twinge of jealousy moving through her. Realizing, as she stares into his eyes, that he, by kicking her out, by closing the laptop, is protecting Deanna more than her.
Page 293

He doesn’t know why he loves her. But does anyone know why they love? We don’t love people for their traits—traits are common. We love them for their unique ability to tug at our soul, to connect to us in a way that no other person can. Love
Location 3610

I am being hunted. And, in the face of that danger, am releasing all constraints. War has no room for indecision.
Page 250

We don’t love people for their traits — traits are common. We love them for their unique ability to tug at our soul, to connect to us in a way that no other person can. Love is unexplainable, unpredictable, and often unreasonable. It doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t care to explain to us its thought process. He hears is unexplainable, unpredictable, and often unreasonable. It doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t care to explain to us its thought process.
Location: 3,612

His eyes squint a bit as he focuses on me. “Just because we are in love doesn’t mean you have to share all your secrets.”

“You might not love me if you knew all of them.” I smile sadly.

He pulls at my hand, tugs my mouth to his. “I will always love you,” he whispers.
Location: 3,770

Rage Against The Dying

Book Notes

Okay, much like The Girl in 6E, I picked this book up because it was the listed on-sale in the Audible "First In A Series" Sale for $5 a book. I checked the book out from the library instead of purchasing the book (yay saving those funds for priorities), and read it that way.

This book is pretty much take Kay Scarpetta or Kinsey Milhone or any other rough and tumble PI, and age her thirty years. Add in the Case that Broke Her, and and you have this book. While the book says "age her twenty years," Brigid Quinn is in her late fifties, I have to say age her thirty years, because anyone who has the history that Quinn has is not going to be the aged woman described in this book. The only way the late fifties woman could be that frail is if she stopped being who she was, and the rest of the book indicates she had not.

Clearly, the book wasn't written by someone active in her late fifties (just checked, yes, late fifties, so maybe not an athlete, not an active person, whatevs).

I sorta enjoyed the book. It was a fun read, but one I'd prefer to do on the beach or on a long plane ride, not one I'd devote any serious time to reading. The book wasn't bad, not at all, just not my style. I enjoyed this one, but won't be reading any further in the series.

Keeping secrets, telling lies, they require the same skill. Both become a habit, almost an addiction, that’s hard to break even with the people closest to you, out of the business.
Location: 156

“You shouldn’t have been there,” I said again, at the same time stalling and wanting to go, like the last friend at a wake.
Location: 801

He didn’t have to explain about going to the bottom. I understood, and knew I couldn’t follow him there.
Location: 804

She was right. You convicted someone for their crimes, not their nature.
Location: 1,007

I’m sure there are other people who have experienced The Moment themselves. The kind where you’ve been one sort of person up to this point in your life. Then you’re in a doctor’s office, or at home, or at work, and someone, someone you might have always trusted, walks into the room and makes what is likely an offhand remark they’ll never remember, but the comment rocks you at your deepest, unhinging whatever you had been. You think you’re so tough, never realizing how fragile you are until you break. It happens that easily, that quickly. Paul was one of the moments.
Location: 1,220

“You don’t look like FBI,” he said, explaining his shotgun. Privately I disagreed; I would have thought Coleman looked like FBI even if she wasn’t. But we both did that little side head tic that gets past the allusion to our not being male, and Coleman shot me an arch look that said, “I should have worn the black suit.”
Location: 1,714

Always tell as much truth as possible, but no more than necessary. Liars always want to embellish and it gets them into trouble.
Location: 2,041

Carlo listened without speaking, without trying to quick-fix things.
Location: 2,190

“I don’t think of myself as a Pollyanna, but I have to say I’ve seen blessing come out of pain before.”
Location: 2,193

“Trying to derive meaning from hardship isn’t exclusively Christian. There’s Viktor Frankl. And I like what someone once said: ‘there’s a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in.’”
Location: 2,196

“Sure. Sure, Mom.” I hung up, trying to get back the several decades of maturity I’d misplaced during our few minutes of conversation.
Location: 2,828


Always and forever my parents' daughter.

When someone has a temper, like my father for instance, you get used to the slamming and the shouting. It’s the calm and controlled people who unnerve you.
Location: 3,309

Here was Kitty (really Kitty, not Kathryn) Vaught, found June 30, 2001.
Location: 3,889


We didn’t speak much, hardly even looked each other in the eye; two people being alone in the same house only intensified the loneliness.
Location: 4,425

With more sadness than anger Carlo said, “Please put down your defenses, dear. Our marriage hangs in the balance,” and opened the door for me to go first.
Location: 4,524

If this was his show, let him talk. I was too depressed and tired to help him.
Location: 4,532

“What I mean to say is, when you’ve lived with lies for so long, it’s hard to know how to express things so that they can be trusted. It’s hard to know what the truth is.”
Location: 4,540

“You never wanted to know,” I said, hating the whine in my voice. “I just did what you wanted me to do.”
Location: 4,543

At first I hardly knew I was shot. There was that numbness that comes before the pain, when everything drains out of you in your shock.
Location: 4,553

“This is not a healthy relationship.”

“I’m beginning to see that, but in my defense, I’ve never had any other kind.”

“Maybe with a lot of honesty I think there’s a strong probability that I will not leave you, yes.”
Location: 4,587

Oh, to hear those words.

“Listen, we can go slowly on this, but for starters—and forgive the aphorism, but for the past twenty-four hours I haven’t been able to come up with a different way to say it—you have to trust the people you love. And you have to trust their love for you."
Location: 4,592

The raw exposure of a man in love is frightening, even to me.
Location: 4,604

“After young men see you they dream dreams without realizing why."
Location: 4,613

You Need A Budget

Book Notes

Okay, this is the book that goes with the YNAB budgeting website. Kristin recommended the site to me at some point in the last year or so, strongly recommended, and I have since recommended it to other people who have had some level of monetary stress (where "some level" is greater than zero). This book came out in December of last year, though I hadn't picked it up from the library until last week.

The website that describes the different approach to budgeting, and handholds you through the process is at with the guides at

So, you know that I'm not giving anything away by saying YNAB has four rules (since they are right on the website):

1. Starting with the money you have right now (not the paycheck coming up, not the invoice you sent, what you have right now), Give Every Dollar A Job.
2. Don't be all wishful thinking and hopeful and "this month I will be good with my money," Embrace Your True Expenses
3. Accept that you are human and that life is unpredictable, Roll With The Punches
4. See how long you can hold on to your money, make it a game, and Age Your Money.

The shift in thinking is goooooooooood. Doing the exercises, setting all of this up, is haaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. . I believe the process is worth it. I liked the chapters on budgeting as a couple and teaching kids how to budget, which is more than a bit ironic.

This book is everything that I expected to be, which is awesome. I believe adopting the strategies in the book will change your life. If you can't check the book out from the library (my library had a 14 week waiting list), let me buy you a copy.

You haven’t failed at budgeting, you’ve adapted with the best of them.
Location 270

That cruise is a pipe dream if you don’t know where you stand with the basics that make you a functioning member of society.
Location 568

Write down all of the places your money needs to go. Focus on payments you’re obligated to make to keep your life running. Think food and shelter, loans, school payments, and any necessary work expenses(for example, an Internet connection if you work from home, commuting costs, etc.).
Location 569

To start, make sure you’re separating honest-to-goodness obligations from habits disguised as necessities. It can be hard to distinguish between the two at times.
Location 598

So try this: Imagine your future self having done each thing on your list. Which feels better? Seeing the kids and their friends enjoying the yard? Bike riding through Amsterdam as a family?
Location 694

The sense of security knowing you’re helping with college? Or imagine your future self explaining to a good friend why you chose one over the other. Does it feel right?
Location 695

Maybe you spend more than the “recommended percentage” on rent, but you also don’t own a car and you bike to work. Boom: car insurance, car payments, fuel, and gym memberships have no place in your budget. This is just one way that cookie-cutter advice rarely works.
Location 735

Lifestyle creep is when the cost of your lifestyle rises in tandem with your income.
Location 820

Once a year (I like to do this in January), question every one of your expenses. Question the “givens” like housing, transportation, and insurance. Question the vacations you always take, the gifts you always buy, and the food you always eat. Every single item should be on the table.
Location 828

Rule One hierarchy: Take care of your immediate obligations first — a roof over your head, food, for you and your family, and bills like electric and heat that mean bad things if you don’t pay them.
Location 858

Then move to the true expenses. These are large, irregular expenses that surprise you(you know the feeling) but really shouldn’t.
Location 860

What are your highest priorities after your obligations?
Location 863

The question stops being "Can I afford this?" You can likely afford lots of things if you have the cash on hand, but that’s not the point. You’re now asking yourself, “Does this move me closer to my goal(s)?”
Location 977

You may not like the truth, but you’ll be better off.
Location 1062

Budgeting forces you to make decisions you’d otherwise avoid when you think you’re steeped in cash. You need this clarity on a variable income, or else the agony of your low-income months will be so much worse than the joy that comes with big payments.
Location 1062

Predictable expenses aren’t frequent but we know exactly when they’ll hit and how much they’ll cost.
Location 1102

Unpredictable but inevitable expenses are things like car repairs, impulse donations,
Location 1106

Whether you’re dodging blows or coming up with your game plan, you’re always strategizing, adapting, and working to accomplish a big goal. You wouldn’t think of just standing there. And like any challenging activity, you’ll do your best only if you take care of yourself in the process. That means being kind to yourself when you need it, sticking to your values, and staying focused on the big picture.
Location 1293

If a budget sounds worse to you than talking about money on its own, hang with me. It really does help. On a very basic level, it’s much easier to talk about your money when it’s through the lens of a budget. Now it’s not about your debt or my debt, my spending or your spending. It’s about how it all works within the budget. The budget is like a neutral third party that keeps the conversation grounded in reality.
Location 1558

If you’re struggling to convince your partner that budgeting is important, be sure you’re very clear on what you mean by “budgeting.” Nobody will be micromanaged or put on a leash. The point is to actually feel free and empowered. Budgeting together will mean you’re working together to achieve your shared goals — not your goals for your partner. You’re asking him to budget with you because you want him to have a voice in what happens with your money. Not the other way around.
Location 1579

Your idea of peace may involve freedom to order takeout most nights so you don’t have to worry about cooking. Your partner may look forward to cooking each evening as a way to unwind.
Location 1594

You can use your first budget date to explore Rule Zero in three ways: what’s most important to you as an individual, what’s important to your partner, and what you value together as a couple. These will evolve into your budget priorities, because when you’re budgeting as a couple, your budget will have three sets of priorities: yours, mine, and ours.
Location 1660

The only way to reveal all those priorities is to talk. Think big. Be open. Share your hopes and concerns. These conversations do end up looking a lot like first date material, only now you don’t have to worry as much about scaring the other person away.
Location 1663

Assumptions will get in the way if you aren’t clear with each other about what’s important to you as an individual, and which goals you share as a couple. It’s too easy to assume that your priorities are the same as mine. Or that our priorities are always more important than mine. These quiet assumptions are what make budgeting as a couple stressful when it absolutely doesn’t have to be.
Location 1675

You need these sessions to be a safe space where you can talk openly, listen to your partner, and compromise.
Location 1754

Before each of them started on their debt paydown journey, reaching the end seemed impossible. But they set their goals and put in the work every day, consistently, for a long time.
Location 1993

The hardest part of teaching my kids to budget was teaching myself to let go. Once the money is theirs I fiercely believe we should not try to manage or control it for them.
Location 2091

Usually a restart just involves putting away your old budget and starting a new one. Simply looking at all of your money as a clean slate, nothing attached to any jobs, is a powerful exercise.
Location 2479

The Girl in 6E

Book Notes

I want to say I don't recall where I picked this one up from, but, in reality, I recall that Audible was having a "First Book In A Series On Sale For Five Dollars" sale, and I looked through 54 pages of first-book-in-a-series books to see if any were interesting or of interest. This one, and Rage Against The Dying caught my attention, so I checked them out of the library.

For the record, I didn't know this was going to erotic suspense. Had I known, I likely would not have picked it up to read, and I really wouldn't have checked it out from the library.

That said, I read it in one sitting.

THAT said, I read it in one sitting partly because I was a captive audience. It was the only book I had with me on a four hour flight. I know, I know. How the hell do I have ONLY one book with me on a flight? Poor planning and frazzled attention, that's how.

So, how about this book? Well, "Dexter meets Fifty Shades" is the blurb. Having not read Fifty Shades, I can't comment on that part. The Dexter part, yes. The overt sex parts were, well, jolting. Upside of being able to read quickly? Being able to read even faster over the parts that are eyerolling.

If you are a fan of this genre, I suspect this is a good book. It's a fast read, to be sure. There is no mystery in the book, but there is plot and it is fast paced. The sex parts, well, they are anatomically well described, and the swooning parts well absurd.

It’s amazing how much people give away on their way from the elevator to their apartment. Sometimes people step out of their apartment for “privacy,” a fact I find hilarious. From my doorside seat, I hear the fights, the secret phone conversations, and the everyday normalcy that gives away so much about a person.
Page 17

For some reason, men feel more comfortable divulging their secrets when they are invisible.
Page 25

I’ve taken those drugs, and I don’t want the life they would bring. To have a free body but a caged mind? To stumble through the world in a zombielike state, never feeling anything, never conscious enough to really know anyone? I’d rather live my life as it is. Where I experience everything, even the horrific fantasies of my psychotic mind.
Page 96

I hate my former self; hate her selfishness and her lack of appreciation for her perfect suburban life. I had everything in the palm of my perfect, lazy hand and didn’t even realize it.
Page 100

He didn’t understand that despite her actions toward my family, despite the fact that she took away everything good in my life, I love her. She is my mother, and one night of hell doesn’t take away the seventeen years of memories.
Page 115

Self-pity. Millicent Fenwick describes it as a terrible squirrel cage of self. For me, it is a futile waste of time.
Page 178


Lonely? Yes. Miserable? At times. But that is what being content is. Comfortable enough with the situation not to prompt change.
Page 200

Thinking about a return to society is as dangerous as holding on to that scrapbook. Hope, in general, is dangerous. Hope can be the loose thread that pulls apart your sanity.
Page 200

“I haven’t asked anyone about this. You know this kind of thing, Carolyn. Once you throw it out there, the thoughts, the suspicion, never goes away.
Page 222

I am not afraid of justice. Justice is a good thing, even if I am on the losing end of it.
Page 256

Hope is dangerous. Hope leads to expectations, which lead to disappointment. Disappointment in others is tough. But disappointment in yourself is far worse. I’m not expecting others to disappoint me. No—I am my own dream killer.
Page 267

It is the first time, in as far as I can remember, feeling fear. When you are the darkest presence in the room, there is very little to fear.
Page 287


Book Notes

I have no idea how this book came to my awareness. If I had to guess, it was mentioned a number of times on Bookriot, causing me to go, "Hey, science fiction recommended by several people? Okay!" Or something like that.

I enjoyed this book. It had a number of eye-rolling technology descriptions, most notibly the "I can debug things that take mere mortals three weeks to debug, just be unfocusing my eyes and staring at the whole" idea of debugging. Good viruses take weeks if not years to decode, making the idea that someone can unfocus her vision and See The Bad Guy™ an absurd notion.

That said, I love the whole Black Swan aspect of the plot: that someone can glitch into the system with a hack, and end up being invited to the big leagues. I love the idea that merit is worth notice, that it isn't who you know or what hands you've bribed to get to the top. It appeals to the 12 year old girl in me.

I enjoyed the book. The ending, however, had me crying out, "No!" with its abruptness. I'll read the sequel, no way I'll be left hanging on this one. It's a cute Sci-Fi / Virtual Reality book.

Death has a terrible habit of cutting straight through every careful line you’ve drawn between your present and your future.
Location: 313

Everyone has a different way of escaping the dark stillness of their mind.
Location: 472

My contented mood wavers, and abruptly I have a sensation of unbelonging.
Location: 1,043

“I thought that was just some science fiction myth.” “Everything’s science fiction until someone makes it science fact,” Hideo says.
Location: 1,202

I bet I’ll be the last one picked.” Ziggy just gives me a good-hearted laugh and pats my shoulder. “What is that saying? Never say never?” she replies. “Besides. Do you remember one year when that player—Leeroy something—actually got drafted into the Stormchasers, even though he always just charged in and messed up his entire team’s play? My God, he was terrible.”
Location: 1,421

And no one goes into the Dark World unless they’re doing something illegal.
Location: 2,130

Hideo shakes his head. “I like to keep my home real. It’s too easy to lose yourself in an illusion,” he replies, nodding at his physical book.
Location: 3,118

His emotions crash against mine, roiling into one, and he is undone in this moment, the reserved, distant, proper version of him stripped away to reveal the part that is unthinking and savage.
Location: 3,194

I nod, as if in a dream, as if I can’t stop taking this drug. “Yes.”
Location: 3,215

“You remind me of myself from several years ago,” she says. “I always offered help—but I refused to accept any. My mother scolded me about that. Do you know what she told me? When you refuse to ask for help, it tells others that they also shouldn’t ask for help from you. That you look down on them for needing your help. That you like feeling superior to them. It’s an insult, Emi, to your friends and peers. So don’t be like that. Let us in.”
Location: 3,745

Why would anyone give up the perfect fantasy reality just because they have to give up their freedom? What’s the point of freedom if you’re just living in a miserable reality?
Location: 4,373

Rise of the Rocket Girls

Book Notes

I started reading this book because Caltech had a new alumni book club starting up, and this was the first book to be discussed. My timing in the reading, however, wasn't so great. I was all SQUEEEEEEEE about reading this book, and placed a hold on the book from the library. The book club started on February 22nd, my loan was due on February 24th. Which is to say, I read the book on the 23rd. As I do.

This book is about the math women at what would become, and is, Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena. The people who computed. The computers.

Of this story, of their tales, I have mixed feelings.

The strongest feeling I have is of anger that smart, well-educated, ambitious women can't be engineers because, and only because, they are women. "Let me do all these amazing calculations, but I'm not allowed to design these things, or if I can contribute, my contributions aren't even a footnote in history." Every part of the book about this, about the history of this, is rage-inducing.

A close second to this feeling is appreciation. That I would go to college was never a question, of course I would. The question was always, "Which one?" That I was able to go to Caltech is to me these days, somewhat stunning. At the time, my thought was "of course," but that's the arrogance of youth and my ignorance of the world. Probably a good thing on the latter, not so much on the former, because it leads to the third feeling.

Sadness. Sadness that this rich history was there, that these women had blazed the path I so obliviously walked. I wish this book had existed when I was at Tech. I might have appreciated where I was an the opportunities in front of me more.

Or maybe not. Arrogance of youth and all.

I enjoyed this book a lot. The girlie parts, however, were REALLY CONFUSING TO ME. So much so, I had to write notes down about them as I read. My first note was about all the fashion stuff. It bugged me. Is this a book about the girls or the rockets or what? I wanted the history of the rockets. And THIS, ladies and gentleman, is a defining feature of Kitt. And one of the reasons I ended up at Tech, and not, say, Pomona.

I found much of the random details strange. The fireworks fire was weird. At one point, we hear about the chocolate shake and croissant one of the "girls" had for lunch. Because you remember that detail for a specific day? Did the woman keep a food journal, and have it tucked away in case she was interviewed 40 years later about that day and could tell the author exactly what she had for lunch that day of that one event? Those details pulled me out of the narration a bit.

That said, this was a fun read. I am glad this book exists. I am glad these women were able to use their intelligence, interests, and education; that they were able to walk the path, even if they couldn't soar in the skies. This book is worth reading.

It seemed incredible that in the midst of her crumbling existence, the world kept spinning and people went on with their daily lives.
Location 669

I understand this. The hardest part about death is that life keeps going.

JPL was used to hard-won success born from repeated failure.
Location 755

It didn’t feel like a job; it was more like being part of a secret society.
Location 820

One of the features of the teams I like to build and be on is this element, that you are part of a high-functioning team working towards a common goal, without ego.

Careers were rarely a topic of discussion among the women. Their importance was seen as marginal in comparison to their social lives.
Location 901

See? Rage-inducing.

They couldn’t help but feel that if they were using their own rocket, they would have better luck with it, or would at least be in control of their failures.
Location 2045

Employers argued that too many women vanished after taking a leave. Instead, she would use her saved vacation time and sick leave to be home with the baby. When those ran out, she’d come back to the lab.
Location 2071

F'ing short-sided asshats. If you'd provide child-care and flexible hours, HEY, they would stay. See above, secret society.

The engineers viewed the IBMs with suspicion, while the women embraced the new technology, largely because of their hands-on experience in using the machines. The world of programming kept drawing them in, expanding in both complexity and scope.
Location 2147

Yep. Why did we ever relinguish control over this amazing technology?

Janet Davis was about to leave too. Fulfilling Dr. Gates’s prophecy, she was eight months pregnant and knew she would have to quit soon. She hid the pregnancy as best she could, wanting to work right up to the end.
Location 2233

When a person enjoys what she does, she'll endure a lot to keep doing it.

As Carl Sagan said, “Observation: I can’t see a thing. Conclusion: Dinosaurs.”
Location 2238

When the news anchor announced that Kennedy was dead, they held one another, in shock and sobbing. They knew that neither the country nor the fledgling space program they belonged to would ever be the same.
Location 2336

Debugging a program at JPL in the 1960s simply meant talking through the problems. Margie would sit with Barbara, and they would run through the programs one command at a time.

Each equation, each string of text, was thought through logically. As Margie described the program aloud step-by-step she would usually come across the error herself. Even if she didn’t catch it, her friend Barbara was there listening and would be sure to spot it. But while
Location 2563

So, rubber ducky debugging? This process still exists, btw.

Meanwhile, a manufacturing flaw meant that structural panels began to fall off the lunar module adapter.
Location 2575


Sylvia had always loved to travel. Even as a child she felt the lure of leaving familiar places.
Location 2588

Returning to JPL and her friends, she was thankful to have no feelings of guilt at leaving her children. Her psychologist had told her this was a medical necessity, and it also helped that so many of her colleagues were working mothers.
Location 2646

When Margie struggled with some parts of the program, she did what she had always done—asked the other women. She loved having her friends to rely on.
Location 2741

O. M. G. What is this craziness? An environment where YOU CAN ASK FOR HELP? Where you aren't shamed because you're human? What the f, people, can we have one of these f'ing everywhere please?

Helen enjoyed being a mentor to the women in her group and wanted more for them, so she came up with a simple plan. She would find intelligent women and get them in the door by hiring them as programmers. Then she would encourage them to get advanced degrees in engineering. While they went to night school, she’d teach them to succeed within the framework of JPL.
Location 2753

And this is how you keep women in STEM.

Between their aptitude and her guidance, a generation of female engineers would emerge in the lab.
Location 2755

Muller was a complainer. He whined that the women monopolized Cora, the IBM 1620.
Location 2788

Asshattery knows no gender, btw.

Unfortunately for Muller, the women had priority on Cora since they were responsible for 90 percent of the lab’s computer programming. The men were just beginning to dip their toes into the technology, and they lagged behind their female colleagues.
Location 2790

Writing the program was so much fun that Sylvia could hardly call it work. She came into the lab each morning excited to get started.
Location 2823

Sylvia’s programming made sure the ship swung in line with the movement of the planets it passed, so that instead of using fuel, it would simply be thrown from one planet’s gravitational field to the next. Each step of the elegant dance was carefully choreographed.
Location 2828

When Macie hired new women she had often told them, “In this job you need to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, and work like a dog.” In some ways, her advice still rang true.
Location 3090

"In some ways" I eyerolled here. In pretty much all ways, unfortunately.

While it was a mild day in Pasadena, in Florida the weather was unusually cold. However, after six delays, everyone was eager for the launch to go forward.
Location 3141

This whole incident is rage inducing, too, by the way.

After the craft had spent five years in storage, no one had thought to check the lubrication and coating on the antenna’s rib apparatus.
Location 3253

No one had thought...

“They’re always focused on the control room at JPL. The people really doing the work don’t get on TV,” she remarks.
Location 3476

In 2008, the fiftieth anniversary of her starting at the lab, JPL changed the rules and dictated that all engineers were required to hold advanced degrees. Because Sue never finished college, they took away her salaried position and switched her to an hourly rate. However, once administrators saw how much overtime she was getting, they made an exception and switched her back.
Location 3479

Dying laughing here.

The Girl In The Spider's Web

Book Notes

Why am I reading this book?

Eh, this is not Larsson's Salander. The names of the characters and locations are the same as the previous Lisbeth Salander books, but this is a fan fiction book. It takes all the interesting things about the characters, and smoothes out the rough spots, as if Lagercrantz is apologizing for Larsson's previous works, and wants to make the characters normal. The interpersonal dynamics between Berger and Blomkvist are "oh, woe is me I feel guilty for this thing I've been doing for the last thirty years, and which a part of my core, but woe" and apologies for it. The personality that gives Salander her edges are all "oh, woe is me, I'm a cola-guzzling, junk-food eating hacker who binge drinks alcohol and feels like crap" blandness.

The plot could have been good, but, geez, the writing and character destruction, blech.

Okay, apparently my review is going to be full of my groans I've been having while reading the book. Do we really need a description of the RSA encryption's origins? Or the dropping of the dragon tattoo? Really? This is such a crap fan fiction book. The origin of the book (Larsson's will wasn't honored so his thieving family stole his fortune and commissioned this piece of crap) also sucks.

Yeargh, and then Lagercrantz turns her into a comic book character? Gah!

This book is not worth reading, even if you're a Lisbeth Salander fan.

“They’re Grant’s recipe for creativity. By tolerance he means that you need to be open to unconventional ideas and unconventional people. Talent—it doesn’t just achieve results, it attracts other gifted people and helps create an environment that people want to be in. And all these talents have to form a team."
Page 60

You do know what the campaign against you is all about, don’t you? Your uncompromising attitude makes people feel pathetic. Your very existence reminds them just how much they’ve sold out, and the more you’re acclaimed, the punier they themselves appear. When it’s like that the only way they can fight back is by dragging you down.
Page 103

Most of them are just ordinary businessmen. They despise all talk of standing up for things that matter.
Page 105

Was it worth it, just to be able to say a few words? No, Balder wanted to shout out, possibly because he had always been prepared to do whatever it took to become a genius in his field. Anything but the ordinary!
Page 115

Almost absentmindedly he said to himself, “They’re after me.” He could see that it was not unreasonable, even though he had always refused to believe that it would actually come to violence.
Page 119

He had lost count of the number of criminal gangs in his home country that had gone under because they had resorted too often to violence. Violence can command respect. Violence can silence and intimidate, and ward off risks and threats. But violence can also cause chaos and a whole chain of unwanted consequences.
Page 157

Once, before he got to know her, he had suggested that she take up competitive boxing. The derisive snort he got in response stopped him from asking again, though he had never understood why she trained so hard. Not that he really needed to know—one could train hard for no reason at all. It was better than drinking hard. It was better than lots of things.
Page 178

She did not do grief, not in the conventional way at least. Anger, on the other hand, yes, a cold ticking rage.
Page 181

“Surely the great thing about life is that every now and then it springs a surprise on us.”
Page 262

“Ha, no, that it’s always the wrong people who have the guilty conscience. Those who are really responsible for suffering in the world couldn’t care less. It’s the ones fighting for good who are consumed by remorse.
Page 270

... all the jealous, twisted souls came crawling out of the woodwork again, spewing their bile on Twitter and online forums and in e-mails.
Page 305

With that tendency, if you operate in an unhealthy culture you risk becoming just as unhealthy yourself. Who knows, perhaps the will to please leads people to crime as often as evil or greed does. People want to fit in and do well, and they do indescribably stupid things because of it. Is that what happened here?
Page 317

He was reminded of an old riddle his mischievous cousin Samuel liked to put to his friends in synagogue. It was a paradox: If God is indeed omnipotent, is he then capable of creating something more intelligent than himself?
Page 322

"... no matter how highly our superiors rate our new mobile phone system.”

“They think it’s great because it cost so much to install,” Holmberg said.
Page 335

Hello, Psychology of Economics.

"We have many different loyalties, don’t we? There’s the obvious one, to the law. There’s a loyalty to the public, and to one’s colleagues, but also to our bosses, and to ourselves and our careers. Sometimes, as you all know, these interests end up competing with each other. We might choose to protect a colleague at work and thereby fail in our duty to the public, or we might be given orders from higher up, like Hans Faste was, and then that conflicts with the loyalty he should have had to us."
Page 336

Blomkvist was so worried about the boy and Salander that he had hardly slept.
Page 340

Okay, this is an example of the crappy writing in the book. Rather than show us the ways that Blomkvist is worried, demonstrate how he acts, what he does, what's changed in his behaviour, Lagercrantz just states it. Much of this book is like this, let me just tell you something instead of showing you the something.

Blomkvist knew better than anyone that if you dig deep enough into a story, you will always find links. Life is constantly treating us to illusory connections.
Page 343

“Powerlessness, Mikael, can be a devastating force."
Page 393

Broken River

Book Notes

Finally, a book I know exactly from where I have a recommendation, even if I can't find the exact moment Patrick recommended it. I placed a hold on the book from the library, and had three days to read it before I needed to return it, as the other books I was reading needed finishing first.

And so, from start to finish, less than 24 hours. That in and of itself is an indication that it is an engaging book.

The book has the quirk of the Observer character, the mentioning of which is a non-spoiler about the book, as it shows up in the first ten pages or so. I guess in the perspective of things (first person, third person, third person omniscient, and such), the explicit Observer isn't unusual, but being called out and personified is puzzling. I wanted something to happen with the Observer, some explanation beyond a vehicle for explaining different location and context switching.

I was also weirded out by the father's constant male references to his female family, "dude," "man," and the like. Don't call a woman "Dude."

It was a fun, fast read.

In an act of evident ecstatic abandon, the woman turns a slow circle in the living room, then strips off her clothes. Does the man appear reluctant at first? Alarmed, even? Never mind. He is soon naked as well, and they make love pressed against one of the freshly painted plaster walls. With this act, their faces and bodies seem to assert, we hereby claim this house as ours.
Page 19

...and if a day arrives when the idea of removing all your clothes in someone else’s presence does not horrify her, she thinks that she will not feel compelled to limit herself to one lover.
Page 25

There is also a spiral kitchen staircase with tiny steps you can’t even fit your entire foot onto, and Irina habitually uses it instead of the main one because it is weird.
Page 26

I understand doing things because they are weird.

She is discovering that, with a man’s name, she does not get talked to like the twelve-year-old girl she actually is. She just gets talked to.
Page 36

Which I love. I try very hard to do this, having learned years ago with Kim Wasson's kid. Don't. Talk. Down.

Why? Is this irrational? Is she just being moody? From inside the emotion, it’s impossible to tell.
Page 37

When potential customers walk in, see the crowd, frown, and march back out, Eleanor feels responsible. She wants to leave now in order to accommodate what she perceives as other people’s more pressing needs. But she has identified this quality in herself as a personality flaw, and she doesn’t wish to pass it on to her daughter. So she pretends she belongs here and deserves this table.
Page 43

I understand this need. I often consider it as "thinking wholistically" when really it becomes the subjugation of the self.

Irina lets out a noisy sigh and theatrically slams her book shut. She says, “I don’t think I’m good at reading.”

“That’s silly,” Eleanor replies, with a reflexive strenuousness that unpleasantly reminds her, every time, of her own mother. “You’re a great reader.”

“I start reading a paragraph and then something reminds me of something and by the time I get to the end I realize that I’ve been thinking of the thing in my head and not the thing I just read, and I have to start over!”
Page 47

Her instinct is to reassure, but the truth is that she agrees with Irina, she feels the same way about books: about everything, really. Your favorite things are never good enough. They’re idealized by nature; their favoriteness is derived from Platonic forms, perfect realizations that existed only once, usually the first time, if at all. No book, no meal, no sunny day ever equals the one in your head.
Page 48


He took two steps and gathered her into his arms. The feeling was extraordinary: like being picked up by a warm gust and deposited on some sunny, grassy hilltop.
Page 51

She figured one of these days the scans wouldn’t be clean anymore. And she did not want that day to come.
Page 52

She loves Karl, but her love never wrung her heart out or made her feel like she would die if it weren’t reciprocated. Of course, that kind of love doesn’t last—just read one of her dumb books—but maybe this kind doesn’t, either.
Page 60

She is aware that all of the things about him that presently vex her—his intensity, amorousness, and imperturbability—are the very things that attracted her to him in the first place.
Page 60

But Irina has already hitched the guitar up onto her shoulder and is pushing her way out the door and into the overcast and mildly stinky fall day. She feels bad for letting the real world seize and dispirit her so quickly.
Page 101

She is going to cry! She is looking forward to this aspect of childhood being over—this thing where you can’t control your emotions and they aren’t even about the things you really care about.
Page 105

The other understanding in her family, usually only spoken under the influence of drink, was that the over-recommended full mastectomy was an instrument of patriarchal domination, a means of controlling the sexual power of women. That in fact breast cancer itself was the world’s response to its poisoning by masculine striving. Men wanted to blame the breasts for getting sick, instead of themselves for polluting them. The full mastectomy was a gendered act of violence, a cowardly expression of projected self-disgust.
Page 157

“I’m so bored.”

“That’s your problem.” It is a philosophical tenet of their family that boredom is an ailment of a lazy mind and not the result of a lack of provided stimulation. It is the unsavory byproduct of bourgeois society.
Page 159

After a moment, Irina says, surprising herself, “Is this what life is going to be like now?”

It is into the chalice of his cupped hands that he mumbles the words “I sure as fuck hope not, dude.”
Page 190

Perhaps it can, in fact, influence events and objects: but how? And what actions might result in which outcomes? The Observer understands this as a problem of equal import and difficulty for the humans: the unpredictability of cause and effect.
Page 194

None of it matters—the coincidences, the connections. Things look connected because everything is connected in a place like Broken River. That’s why people want to leave small towns. Everything reminds them of some stupid shit they did or that was done to them. These people aren’t part of some grand conspiracy. They’re just some fucking losers living in a shit town, like pretty much everybody else on earth.
Page 197

Those are her thoughts. But she keeps them to herself, and Craig goes on talking, as men do.
Page 208

She can imagine how she must look to him right now—fatigued, depleted, disagreeable. Desperate. She doesn’t want to be this way, and neither does he. But here they are.
Page 211

She isn’t sure why she cares. Eleanor does not want to be the kind of person who can become unhinged by jealousy, never imagined that she could be. But maybe when somebody is ready, any available stimulus will do to effect the unhinging.
Page 213

But reading a book, man, that was work. Hours and hours, sitting in a chair or lying in bed, the eyeballs darting back and forth, line after line after line. It would have been an insane mental and physical endurance test.
Page 222

This. Is. Not. Me.

Reading is a joy.

Now, though, the excitement of midnight was gone. It just felt lonely here, lying in bed, being awake for no reason when the rest of world was asleep.
Page 227

“I had these ideas!” she cried; it was late and Father was out in the studio and Mother seemed uncharacteristically happy and relaxed there in her office, with a glass of wine. “And now I don’t like them anymore!”

“That’s because your book grew up while you were writing it.”

“But what do I do?” Irina asked, drawing out the ooooo in dramatic fashion.

“You fix it in the rewrites.”

“How long does that take?”

“Longer than the writing part, usually,” Mother said. “For me.”

Irina whispered, “But I worked so hard.”

“You needed to work hard, to get to the good ideas. The old ideas weren’t bad, they just weren’t what the book wanted to be. It’s okay to write a rough draft. That’s why they’re called that.”
Page 228

“If you’re going to be a writer,” Mother replied, “you’ll learn. Because the thing is, all of the stories we tell ourselves are wrong. All of them.”
Page 229

People come and go and do things impulsively, and they hurt each other and themselves. The outside world doesn’t understand. Do you get that?”
Page 233

“Life is very messy,” Rachel said, “and sometimes it is lonely and painful, but sometimes it is exciting and beautiful. You’re in a lonely part.”
Page 233

It is not necessary to be the way I’ve been, she thinks, as the nurses and doctors swarm and confer, as they ask her questions she hasn’t the slightest idea how to answer. I can be different.
Page 251

I can be different.

Over and over they come together, and if they fail to derive pleasure from these encounters, they find satisfaction in suffering. They are more attached, perhaps, to their suffering than to their pleasure. This stands in direct contradiction to their stated goals, which are those of comity, happiness, calm. But it is pain that gives their lives meaning.
Page 264

The beauty of Craig was that he appreciated everything that happened as it was happening and never betrayed any disappointment when it ended, whether it was a good meal or a professional relationship with one of his writers or half an hour in bed with a woman half his age.
Page 269

But it has understood for some time the folly of wishing to soothe the humans; they are built to feel, and there are feelings they crave, and no amount of information can suppress the emotions they torment themselves with.
Page 270

Stealing Fire

Book Notes

I wish I recalled where this book was recommended to me. I don't recall. Likely Tim Ferris, seems like something he'd be into, a shortcut to realizing human potential. I don't mean that in a bad way.

The fundamental theme in this book is that we are all pretty much attempting some sort of mind-alternation. The objective of the mind-alternation can be achievement or escape, depending on the person and the circumstances. And the "we" is pretty much all living, mobile creatures ("mobile" only because we don't have any meaningful way to communicate with the non-mobile living creatures).

The mind-alternation is an alternate state of consciousness where we are connected. And in the connection are we whole.

I really liked the writing in the book. I loved the idea of the book, that we can achieve more with less, even as I cringed at the points where my mind screamed, "But they didn't EARN that, they didn't suffer!" Is that really any different than the students in my classes being frustrated at my blowing the grade curve, again in elementary school, before I was lumped with the people who enjoyed learning? I don't think so, but the difference is that I recognize that "that's not fair" attitude, and accept that while we might be (on paper) equal under the law, we are most definitely not equal.

I read this book quickly. I recommended it to several people before I had even finished it. While achievement is important to me, it might not be to other people, so I'm not sure it was actually received with the enthusiasm I had for it. I strongly recommend this book, though I do wish it had more of the how (besides taking LSD).

Plato described ecstasis as an altered state where our normal waking consciousness vanishes completely, replaced by an intense euphoria and a powerful connection to a greater intelligence.
Page 11

“Grit” is the term psychologists use to describe that mental toughness—a catch-all for passion, persistency, resiliency, and, to a certain extent, ability to suffer.
Page 13

But researchers now know that the center of that target actually correlates to changes in brain function—like brainwaves in the low-alpha, high-theta range—and this unlocks all kinds of new training options.
Page 24

Instead of following the breath (or chanting a mantra or puzzling out a koan), meditators can be hooked up to neurofeedback devices that steer the brain directly toward that alpha/ theta range. It’s a fairly straightforward adjustment to electrical activity, but it can accelerate learning, letting practitioners achieve in months what used to take years.
Page 25

By using the tanks to eliminate all distraction, entrain specific brainwaves, and regulate heart rate frequency, the SEALs are able to cut the
Page 27

time it takes to learn a foreign language from six months to six weeks. For a specialized unit
Page 27

Without all the badgering, we get a real sense of peace. “This peacefulness may result from the fact,” continues Leary, that “without self-talk to stir up negative emotions, the mystical experience is free of tension.” And with tension out of the way, we often discover a better version of ourselves, more confident and clear.
Page 38

The pale that Valentine ventured beyond, call it the Pale of the Church, is an age-old barrier for the spiritually curious. It’s a divide between those who believe that direct access to God should be moderated by a learned elite and those who believe direct access should be available to anyone at any time. Top-down versus bottom-up.
Page 54

They’re suffering from apophenia, “the tendency to be overwhelmed by meaningful coincidence,” and detecting patterns where others see none.
Page 203

“I care not a whit for a man’s religion,” Abraham Lincoln once quipped, “unless his dog is the better for it.”
Page 212

Namely, there’s no
Page 216

escaping the human condition. We’re born, we die, and figuring out the in between can be brutal. As Hemingway reminds us, 25 “the world breaks everyone.”
Page 216

“[Ecstasis] is absolutely ruthless and highly indifferent,” wrote John Lilly. “It teaches its lessons whether you like them or not.”
Page 217

It’s in our brokenness, not in spite of our brokenness, that we discover what’s possible.
Page 218

Left Hand of Darkness

Book Notes

I wanted and want to like this book. Ursula Le Guin is this famous female science fiction author, and oh so many people like and love her writing and... and... and, well, I just don't. I recall reading other books of hers a number of years, okay, fine, decades ago, as a kid, and I didn't like those books then, and I'm not a fan of The Left Hand of Darkness now. I think Susan or Claire or both really like this book, which made me want even more to like it. I didn't. I am not a Le Guin fan, it seems. Even now, I wish I recalled what the other books were, so that I don't read them again. They were either A Wrinkle In Time or the Earthsea Trilogy, because, hey, they are considered Le Guin's kids books and I was a kid when I read them. Maybe I read both. I don't know, I don't recall. I do recall not being a fan of the story I had read, and that's fine.

So, this book.

Lots of terms that the reader is supposed to pick up from context (or, let's be realistic, search for the term on the Intarwebs these days) began to annoy me. There's a level of explanation required to properly world-build, and, eh, Le Guin errored on the too vague side. With an entirely foreign Envoy, surely explanations could be easier.

And the required suspension of disbelief that any sufficiently advanced planet wouldn't capture and kill any being who landed on their planet from the Void just boggles the mind. Consider our history, and, say, the Inquisition or the witch hunts or the level of blind violence in the last century? No, no interplanetary human, single or otherwise, would be allowed to live, much less have the freedom in the book.

Upside, the plot moves quickly, and is interesting. If only the words hadn't gotten in the way.

So, if a Le Guin fan, this book is worth reading. If a classic science fiction fan (this is the book that put Le Guin on the science-fiction map), this book is worth reading. If you're neither, eh, go ahead and skip, read Wrinkle or Earthsea instead.

But the very use of the pronoun in my thoughts leads me continually to forget that the Karhider I am with is not a man, but a manwoman.
Page 94

Okay, why must an entity who is both a man and a woman in our classically defined gender roles be a manwoman? Why is she not a womanman? I'm more than a little annoyed that the male gender comes first, even from a woman author.

Here man has a crueler enemy even than himself.
Page 96

An enemy, in Karhide, is not a stranger, an invader. The stranger who comes unknown is a guest. Your enemy is your neighbor.
Page 97

“I didn’t expect to see you here, Lord Estraven.”

“The unexpected is what makes life possible,” he said.
Page 120

... small cups of a fierce liquor were served, lifewater they called it, as men often do, and they asked me questions.
Page 134

Yep. Alcohol. Totally life water. :eyeroll:

If you play against your own side you’ll lose the whole game. That’s what these fellows with no patriotism, only self-love, can’t see.
Page 144

To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof. Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free.
Page 151

To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
Page 151

Here, the government can check not only act but thought. Surely no men should have such power over others.
Page 152

I felt that the truck was going east, and couldn’t get rid of this impression even when it became plain that it was going west, farther and farther into Orgoreyn. One’s magnetic and directional subsenses are all wrong on other planets; when the intellect won’t or can’t compensate for that wrongness, the result is a profound bewilderment, a feeling that everything, literally, has come loose.
Page 168

It is a terrible thing, this kindness that human beings do not lose. Terrible, because when we are finally naked in the dark and cold, it is all we have. We who are so rich, so full of strength, we end up with that small change. We have nothing else to give.
Page 170

Kindness there was and endurance, but in silence, always in silence.
Page 170

I was extremely ill after the last examination; the other, a middle-aged fellow, had some disorder or disease of the kidney, and was dying. As he could not die all at once, he was allowed to spend some time at it, on the sleeping-shelf.
Page 179

Imagine that. Someone dying, allowed to die.

I never had a gift but one, to know when the great wheel gives to a touch, to know and act. I had thought that foresight lost, last year in Erhenrang, and never to be regained. A great delight it was to feel that certainty again, to know that I could steer my fortune and the world’s chance like a bobsled down the steep, dangerous hour.
Page 190

Estraven asleep looked a little stupid, like everyone asleep: a round, strong face relaxed and remote, small drops of sweat on the upper lip and over the heavy eyebrows.
Page 201

I giggled at this one.

He lay in the tent, writing in a little notebook in his small, rapid, vertical-cursive Karhidish hand. He hadn’t been able to keep up his journal during the past month, and that annoyed him; he was pretty methodical about that journal. Its writing was, I think, both an obligation to and a link with his family, the Hearth of Estre.
Page 209

"You hate Orgoreyn, don’t you?”

“Very few Orgota know how to cook. Hate Orgoreyn? No, how should I? How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession. . . . Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.”
Page 212

Ignorant, in the Handdara sense: to ignore the abstraction, to hold fast to the thing.
Page 212

“A man who doesn’t detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a thing as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it.”
Page 213

“I’m glad I have lived to see this,” he said. I felt as he did. It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
Page 220

“Fire and fear, good servants, bad lords.” He makes fear serve him. I would have let fear lead me around by the long way. Courage and reason are with him. What good seeking the safe course, on a journey such as this?
Page 228

Tormer’s Lay had been all day in my mind, and I said the words,

Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.

Two are one, life and death,
lying together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.

Page 233

“We are dualists too. Duality is an essential, isn’t it? So long as there is myself and the other.”

“I and Thou,” he said.

“Yes, it does, after all, go even wider than sex...”
Page 233

I certainly wasn’t happy. Happiness has to do with reason, and only reason earns it. What I was given was the thing you can’t earn, and can’t keep, and often don’t even recognize at the time; I mean joy.
Page 242

Estraven meanwhile engaged in his customary fierce and silent struggle with sleep, as if he wrestled with an angel. Winning, he sat up, stared at me vaguely, shook his head, and woke.
Page 242

“Why did you come alone—why were you sent alone? Everything, still, will depend upon that ship coming. Why was it made so difficult for you, and for us?”

“It’s the Ekumen’s custom, and there are reasons for it. Though in fact I begin to wonder if I’ve ever understood the reasons. I thought it was for your sake that I came alone, so obviously alone, so vulnerable, that I could in myself post no threat, change no balance: not an invasion, but a mere messenger-boy.

"But there’s more to it than that.

"Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual, it is personal, it is both more and less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou. Not political, not pragmatic, but mystical.

:In a certain sense the Ekumen is not a body politic, but a body mystic. It considers beginnings to be extremely important. Beginnings, and means. Its doctrine is just the reverse of the doctrine that the end justifies the means. It proceeds, therefore, by subtle ways, and slow ones, and queer, risky ones; rather as evolution does, which is in certain senses its model...

"So I was sent alone, for your sake? Or for my own? I don’t know. Yes, it has made things difficult. But I might ask you as profitably why you’ve never seen fit to invent airborne vehicles? One small stolen airplane would have spared you and me a great deal of difficulty!”

“How would it ever occur to a sane man that he could fly?”
Page 259

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” I went on, “except acute chronic fear.”

“Fear’s very useful. Like darkness; like shadows.”
Page 267

“It’s queer that daylight’s not enough. We need the shadows, in order to walk.”
Page 267

On the blank leaf glued to the inner back cover I drew the double curve within the circle, and blacked the yin half of the symbol, then pushed it back to my companion. “Do you know that sign?”

He looked at it a long time with a strange look, but he said, “No.”

“It’s found on Earth, and on Hain-Davenant, and on Chiffewar. It is yin and yang. Light is the left hand of darkness... how did it go? Light, dark. Fear, courage. Cold, warmth. Female, male. It is yourself, Therem. Both and one. A shadow on snow.”
Page 267

We lay in the tent for three days while the blizzard yelled at us, a three-day-long, wordless, hateful yell from the unbreathing lungs. “It’ll drive me to screaming back,” I said to Estraven in mindspeech, and he, with the hesitant formality that marked his rapport: “No use. It will not listen.”
Page 268

His loyalty extended without disproportion to things, the patient, obstinate, reliable things that we use and get used to, the things we live by. He missed the sledge.
Page 269

Hunger can heighten perception, but not when combined with extreme fatigue;
Page 270

To those fishermen-villagers who live on the edge of the edge, on the extreme habitable limit of a barely habitable continent, honesty is as essential as food. They must play fair with one another; there’s not enough to cheat with.
Page 272

“Sometimes you must go against the wheel’s turn,”
Page 276

And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend’s voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?
Page 279

I did not know if I had done right to send it. I had come to accept such uncertainties with a quiet heart.
Page 280

I had not had in mind when I spoke the contemptibility of suicide to these people. It is not to them, as to us, an option. It is the abdication from option, the act of betrayal itself. To a Karhider reading our canons, the crime of Judas lies not in his betrayal of Christ but in the act that, sealing despair, denies the chance of forgiveness, change, life: his suicide.
Page 286

“Estraven would be a good man to pull with, on a crazy trek like that. He was tough as iron. And never lost his temper. I’m sorry he’s dead.”
Page 294

Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherf--king Sad

Book Notes

I'm not convinced this book needs a review per-se. It's an itty-bitty book. I picked it up when I was at Powells picking up a book I had already purchased online (mmmmmmmmmm... used books, such a wonderful, wonderful thing). As I was wandering around the bookstore (I think I was in the literature section, looking for nicely bound Hemingways or Fitzgeralds), this one caught my eye. It was on a carousel, along with a number of other small books, clearly set up for an impulse purchase. So I impulsively looked.

And subsequently bought.

I figured at the time that I was purchasing it to signal to the publisher that I wanted books like this to exist. Tonight, however, I needed this book. Today was a f--king crappy day. The score is 5-0, with my score being the zero, and that's a good thing health-wise, but the 5 hurts and it hurts a lot.

If you are in the grip of a depression, or even "just" a depressive episode, or really really sad, this book can help. It reminds you that you can get through this. It recommends ways to get through this. It tells you to keep going, because there's beauty on the other side.

If you are not in the grip of depression, this book is a rah-rah-rah. It reads like a rah-rah-rah-you-can-do-it. And that's okay, this isn't the moment for you to read this book. See the previous paragraph to understand when could be the moment for you to read it.

The book is short, less than a half hour read, even if you read slowly. It's worth reading, however, if you are in the moment of need.

How To Be Bored

Book Notes

I'm pretty sure I picked up this book during a moment of complete not boredom, but perhaps in a moment of known not doing. The title intrigued me, so I decided to try it.

The book is short, takes maybe two hours to read, but it isn't a fast read. The main message is, "Look, you're filling your life with busy-ness, and with that busy-ness comes anxiety because you aren't giving your brain enough time to process all the short events, enough time to relax. So, take time to relax, to be bored if you will. Here are some ways to do it."

What caught me off-guard was the different definition (than mine) of "bored." To me, bored is the tired feeling one has when one is unoccupied and uninterested in finding a stimulating activity. The book's definition is more the feeling of engagement one feels when in a state of relaxed concentration. Or maybe the nature of slowing down and being. In that state of being, you can still do activities, but you're not in my definition of bored, you're in that relaxed concentration state. In the slowing, you're taking time to let the brain engate with itself instead of being driven by the world.

The book is in three parts: the why of this book, the ways of being (book-defined) bored, and where being bored is important. The why is self-evident for anyone with any level of anxiety surrounding today's ALWAYS ON THE GO life. The ways include writing about the inner-self and reflecting, reading (yay!), going to see artwork and being with the art, not just rushing through to check off yet another box on the accomplishment list, and concentrated contemplation with activities such as painting, bird-watching, fishing. The where is also self-evident, pretty much everywhere in life, work, relationships.

The book has a list of another dozen or so source material and inspirational books to read, going into depth for the topics. I've read Flow, among that list, having been working in a bookstore when it was first published, and being fascinated by it even then.

That I exceeded the 10% limit of quotes from the book tells me that the book made a stronger impact than I realized it would when I read it. For this, I have to say, the book is worth reading.

Related: we are the first generation to banish boredom. This does not bode well for society.

The Song of Achilles

Book Notes

Again, I don't know why this book was on my reading list, or what motivated me to put it in my library request queue, but I'm glad I did. It is a well written, hauntingly beautiful retelling of the Achilles story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

With this book, I made the mistake of waiting until the last possible moment to start reading it. Most books take me three days to find enough time among Life™ to finish a book, at most a week. This book read slowly, so it took me the full three days to read, when I expected it to take me a day (which is about 4 hours of actual reading time, tops).

When I started reading, however, I didn't want to go my usual pace. I slowed down, because I wanted this book to move slowly. I wanted to be in the beauty of story-telling, to allow the story to unravel at its pace not mine. I stopped many times to look up characters, discover their story, learn a little more about Greek mythology.

Once I slowed down (threw my reading schedule out the window, actually), I really enjoyed this book. I strongly recommend it.

A hundred servants work for twenty days beating out the racing track and clearing it of stones. My father is determined to have the finest games of his generation.
Page 2

Our ragged alliances prevailed only when no man was allowed to be too much more powerful than another.
Page 13

“Yet other boys will be envious that you have chosen such a one. What will you tell them?”

“I will tell them nothing.” The answer came with no hesitation, clear and crisp. “It is not for them to say what I will do.”
Page 37

I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion’s tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not.
Page 44

I can smell him. The oils that he uses on his feet, pomegranate and sandalwood; the salt of clean sweat; the hyacinths we had walked through, their scent crushed against our ankles.
Page 63

Thetis sees many faults, some that are and some that are not.”
Page 80

The beginning of our studies, if it is possible to call them that. For Chiron liked to teach, not in set lessons, but in opportunities.
Page 82

“There is no law that gods must be fair, Achilles,” Chiron said. “And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone. Do you think?”
Page 84

“What will you answer?”

“I do not know,” Achilles said.

“That is an answer for now. It will not be good enough later,” Chiron said.
Page 90

Had she really thought I would not know him? I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
Page 134

She did not know that I almost asked him, a hundred times, to be a little kinder to her. You do not have to humiliate her so thoroughly, I thought. But it was not kindness he lacked; it was interest. His gaze passed over her as if she were not there.
Page 140

“The sons of Troy are known for their skill in battle, and their deaths will lift your name to the stars. If you miss it, you will miss your chance at immortality. You will stay behind, unknown. You will grow old, and older in obscurity.”
Page 164

And here we have the motivation in meaning. All of life is fleeting. Very, very, very few people are remembered even mere decades after their deaths. Immortality in the form of a song, a story? It will still die.

“I do not think I could bear it,” he said, at last. His eyes were closed, as if against horrors. I knew he spoke not of his death, but of the nightmare Odysseus had spun, the loss of his brilliance, the withering of his grace. I had seen the joy he took in his own skill, the roaring vitality that was always just beneath the surface. Who was he if not miraculous and radiant? Who was he if not destined for fame?
Page 167

The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death.
Page 168

Even into death.

“It’s not true,” I said. The blood in my face fired my voice. It rang loudly down the beach. Odysseus raised an eyebrow.

“True is what men believe, and they believe this of you. But perhaps they are mistaken."
Page 175

I watched them marching, rank on cheerful rank. I saw them dreaming of the plunder they would bring home, and the triumph. There was no such dream for us.
Page 187

"You can use a spear as a walking stick, but that will not change its nature.”
Page 207

If there was a rebellion against his authority, now would be the time. The very thought of it seemed to anger him, and his voice grew rougher. This was a frequent fault of his: the more precarious his position, the more unlikable he became.
Page 219

Our world was one of blood, and the honor it won; only cowards did not fight. For a prince there was no choice. You warred and won, or warred and died.
Page 220

Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. “No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.”

“But what if he is your friend?” Achilles had asked him, feet kicked up on the wall of the rose-quartz cave. “Or your brother? Should you treat him the same as a stranger?”

“You ask a question that philosophers argue over,” Chiron had said. “He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?”
Page 299

Priam’s voice is gentle. “It is right to seek peace for the dead. You and I both know there is no peace for those who live after.”
Page 350

She wears a cape, and it is this that undoes her—that allows her to be pulled, limbs light and poised as a cat, from her horse.
Page 351

"No capes!"

The Salt Line

Book Notes

Do not know why this made it onto my book reading list. Likely from some BookRiot post, if I had to guess. It dropped from the library, so I read it. And enjoyed it.

A large number of other book reviews (which I read when I was trying to figure out why I added the book to my reading list) commented that the ending was weak, which I don't agree with. The ending wasn't a large, hugely climatic, GOOD VERSUS EVIL ending, not at all. It was, honestly, what I would classify as a Life™ ending. Nothing huge, some parts good, some parts bad, all parts uncertain. I'm less interested these days in a nice, happy-ending, all-the-loose-ends-tied-up-with-a-bow type endings anyway. I was satisfied with the ending.

THAT all said, ugh, do I have a mid-book comment (with a slight spoiler, so ignore if you don't want that spoiler):

"Okay, so, you kidnap 10 people, kill one, then death-march the remaining 9, and are SURPRISED when one kills two of your own when escaping your captivity? Really? Really? #whowritesthiscrap?"

The writing / dialog along that part of the story was weird.

I enjoyed the book.

Edie, of course, was practically invisible among these people who saw their financial bounty as proof of their superior intellects and talents.
Page 13

Now her scalp was bristled with fine hairs, and she couldn’t stop running her hands across it, listening to the rasp against her dry palms.
Page 24

Love freshly shorn scalps!

He watched his mother and father carefully, listening to their desires and complaints, noting that so much of what seemed to aggrieve them in life was tied to money: how there was never enough of it to live as they wished, and how the culture of its use was abstract and unspoken, with rules that everyone was expected to follow without ever having been taught them.
Page 54

“It’s not right,” Mickey said. His face shined with tears. “You pay as much I did, you expect some things.”
Page 107

Why, instead of screwing around with the idea of virtues, hadn’t he been coming up with ways to let money do what it does best: create power? The key was to find the right vessel for that power. That was capitalism at work.
Page 109

What a pleasure, a luxury, to be carried to bed by someone you loved and trusted, someone with the physical power to move you gently and tenderly, to slide you between cool covers at the exact moment you slid back down into sleep.
Page 124

Even after you’ve heard Violet’s story, there’s a look in your eyes. I know it well. And all I can say to it is that what you want to hate about her—her ugliness and her meanness—you created. Yes, each of you. You’re complicit in the acts of evil that made her who she is. You’re complicit because you’ve let yourself be comforted by lies. You’re complicit because all of those comforts you have in-zone come at a price, and Violet is one of many of us who’ve paid the bill.
Page 177

Okay, this idea of original sin has always annoyed me. How can I be responsible for something when I wasn't even alive when it happened?

There's no f'ing way someone is complicit in these "acts of evil" if they didn't know, and had no way of knowing. You can't blame a person for ignorance, they don't know any better.

Willful ignorance, however, that's a different matter entirely. Blame all you want on those.

“Or maybe they’re driven by their ideals,” Edie said, thinking about June’s story. Thinking about Violet.

“That might be worse, honestly,” Wes said. “Ideals make people stupid. Believe me, I know.”
Page 186

But every so often, for weeks, months at a time, his dissatisfactions coalesced into an impenetrable fog, so that even his anger seemed pointless and small. These fogs had happened enough times that he recognized, from somewhere outside himself, the pattern. He could, for a while, tell himself: This will pass. This isn’t you. This is some stew of chemicals and hormones in your brain, translating stimulus into despair, and if you take these meds or do this exercise or spend this amount of time a day out in the sunshine, the recipe will change, and you’ll see clearly again. Wait for it. Just a little longer.
Page 214

“Far from it,” said Hakim. “What I’m asking of you is scarier. It would require you to live your life.”
Page 221

“I don’t think there’s any nobility in misery,” Hakim said. “There’s certainly no nobility in suicide. I was once like you. I saw the world and grieved. I didn’t see any reason for it. For existing. So much pain and so little point. Yet I had a life! This was a fact. It would one day end. This was also a fact. And I could end it whenever I wished. This was my reassurance. ‘I can always end it tomorrow,’ I told myself. And then I discovered something.”

"There was a large garden on the premises and helping with it gave me something to do. When I despaired, I weeded. I lost myself in the physical process, the repetition. I pulled and pulled, and one day I pulled myself out of my sadness.”
Page 222

Beth had been intrigued by his distance, he knew. More certain she wanted him because she was less certain she was wanted.
Page 227

Or the job she quit, because she thought she hated it, and she no longer needed it, only to discover that hate is relative—that when you have no money of your own, no outside force shaping your days, you might long for even some low-wage drudgery?
Page 235

The abortion wasn’t the great loss of her life, but it would probably always be the greatest mystery.
Page 235

Like many people who derive their sense of goodness from their religious affiliation rather than their actions, Teddy was able to soothe himself with the belief that this was part of God’s plan, and if the child were meant to survive, God would protect her.
Page 281

"Do you want kids?” “No,” Edie said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

“Well, you’re young yet. You may change your mind.”

“Women your age always say that.”

Marta laughed.
Page 352

Wes felt the moment coming when he’d have to do the decent thing again, the thing he could live with, even if it meant not living.
Page 347

Edie wouldn’t miss Andy, Berto, Ken. But she could put her arms around each of them, feel their hearts thudding against her own—proof that they all lived, still. Was that the point of a hug? Two human hearts thudding together, testifying?
Page 375

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance

Book Notes

Mom recommended this book to me after I finished A Man Called Ove. What I didn't understand immediately was why Mom kept recommending to me books where the spouse had recently died. Now, I'm pretty sure she's been recommending them to me because they are light, but they also show how there's more after the sorrow of that parting.

This book smacks of Defending Your Life (1991 movie starring Albert Brooks) with its telling of the life of Harriet Chance nee Nathan. The story-line bounces from current time, back to when she was a year old, and all the way through all the times she failed to choose herself during life. We hear of how again, and again, and again, Harriet's deferment to authority and others causes her to become smaller and smaller.

And you know what? It's is hard not to defer to authority. Some people can. Most people cannot.

The story is about redemption, how one can forgive, and how one can choose a different path, no matter when in life that choice is made. I found out this was the point of the story not through the story, but through the author's note at the end. And the study notes. Why do books include study notes at the end?

The book was cute, but I really couldn't get past the Defending Your Life ("NINE DAYS!") feel of it. I kept waiting for the trial at the end, or the movie screens, or an explanation about the Candidate and Chancellor stuff with Bernard. Didn't happen, seemed odd.

I don't recommend this book. If you're a fan of the author, sure. Otherwise, skip it.

Somebody to commiserate with. Somebody you can complain to. Somebody to listen to you without offering advice. How is it that you’ve so rarely managed to achieve this? Why is female fellowship forever so elusive to you? Are you different from other women?
Page 30

Sunny Acres promotes health and active living, but it nurtures dependence.
Page 32

Have you released your independence at long last? Have you finally stopped tracking the progress of that other incarnation of yourself, the one who didn’t bow to the expectations of society, the one who didn’t opt for the easy way out, the one who wasn’t going to have children until she was thirty? Or have you simply lowered your standards?
Page 53

Why does it always come to this between her and Caroline? As though they’re out of patience before they’ve even begun. It doesn’t seem to matter how firmly they resolve themselves to diplomacy or civil obligation, after the briefest of exchanges their relationship devolves into this prickly state of nervous exhaustion. They’re forever plagued by the same old pettiness, still stung by the same insults, still harboring the same old resentments.
Page 68

The fruits of self-pity were no less bitter at seventy-eight than they were at sixteen.
Page 68

And when I began to suggest we break off the association, new qualities emerged in my lover: Jealousy. Possessiveness. He became a tyrant with his opinions. He lowered my opinion of myself. And such was my guilt by then that I began to need this, too. It was as if by punishing myself, I could undo everything that came before. The less respect he paid me, the more I needed him to achieve balance. For here was the love I deserved, the love I had earned.
Page 104

You sometimes wish you could ask the other you for advice, or guidance, or clarity, or at the very least a little perspective on the life you’ve muddled so badly. If only that other you could take you by the hand and walk you back through the misbegotten paths of your life—the botched decisions; the cowardly retreats; the circumstances you might have controlled, avoided, or otherwise been spared—to the very beginning, where it all started going wrong. You sometimes wish the other you could tell your story.
Page 112

Be honest, Harriet: you don’t even know why you’re crying in the kitchen. You have zero emotional clarity at this moment. Your emotional self has no borders, no shape, no horizons. You can’t tell rage from sadness, anymore. You’re lost at sea emotionally.
Page 197

And lastly, there’s the truth, plain and shabby as a hobo’s trousers, that you believe yourself to be worthless, though you don’t fully know it yet, at least you haven’t formally acknowledged it.
Page 223

“What if it’s too late?” “There’s always that possibility. But don’t let it stop you from trying.
Page 232

It’s amazing the things we can talk ourselves into when we’re desperate for a result.
Page 276

If we’ve learned one thing digging up all these old bones, dusting them off, and holding them to the light, we’ve learned this: While the days unfold, one after the other, and the numbers all move in one direction, our lives are not linear, Harriet. We are the sum of moments and reflections, actions and decisions, triumphs, failures, and yearnings, all of it held together, inexplicably, miraculously, really, by memory and association.
Page 293