Friday morning coffee reads

Friday forenoon features for curious coffee connoisseurs.

  1. Portlandia is being blamed for the death of old Portland. “‘Portlandia was the moment something shifted and a new kind of person started showing up in Portland, who wasn’t the same kind of hearty doer, but more of a spectator who wants to be entertained by a city,’ said Carye Bye, a former Portland-based artist.”
  2. Remembering when artists had day jobs.
  3. When does a work of art violate the subject’s rights?
  4. Trade is not a job killer. “Fears of losing jobs to trade are inconsistent with our larger embrace of innovation and competition. More ominously, given that trade-induced job losses are a tiny portion of all job losses, such fears are wildly overblown — so much so that they now have America and the world on the brink of a potentially calamitous trade war.”
  5. The world’s best hitchhiker shares the secrets of his success.
  6. Amazon Prime’s streaming numbers are out, and they’re surprisingly underwhelming. You can dig deeper into the numbers in this Reuters story.
  7. Waffle House uses these secret emergency menus during disasters, when the power and water go out.
  8. This is all the data Facebook and Google have on you.
  9. The FBI agent who can’t stop thinking about Waco. “A quarter century after 82 Branch Davidians and 4 federal officers were killed, Byron Sage is still arguing about what happened.”

Review: Feast Days

Written in a brutally honest tone, Feast Days recounts the story of Emma, a young woman who moves with her husband from New York to Brazil, where he works as a financial analyst. While protests rattle the country, Emma tries to find where she fits in, immersing herself in the arts scene, lunching with other expat wives and volunteering to help refugees who are fleeing poverty and war.

Feast Days (Little, Brown and Company, digital galley) is so honest at times it feels like reading a personal diary. As the county boils around her, threatening to break, so does her marriage, and Emma seems adrift and uncertain of her future.

This eloquent novel by Ian MacKenzie offers a look at the social layers of Brazil and expatriate life. It’s a subtle examination of what constitutes a crisis versus what is simply the normal state of affairs.

Review: Sometimes I Lie

Amber Reynolds lies in a hospital bed, unresponsive and seemingly in a coma. But Amber can hear everything that is said around her.  She remembers an accident but has trouble unraveling the exact circumstances that put her in the hospital. As she listens to conversations and slowly begins to remember events, Amber becomes suspicious of her husband and others around her.

Sometimes I Lie (Flatiron Books, digital galley) moves between the present and past as Amber tries to piece together her story. But Amber’s narrative is often unreliable and, as the title suggests, everything she shares may not be the absolute truth.

Sometimes I Lie is author Alice Feeney’s debut and she and has many twists in store for readers of this thriller. Books with multiple twists can often be exhausting and frustrating, but Feeney handles the material adeptly and keeps the story moving to its unexpected conclusion.

Friday morning coffee reads

It’s time to settle down with a steaming mug of coffee, some interesting stories and begin putting off getting any meaningful work done today.

  1. A new view of how the moon formed.
  2. Against the Octopus. It’s not a crafty, soulful genius. It’s dinner. Of related interest is one of the best books I read last year: Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith.
  3. The oldest restaurant in the world has had the same fire burning for 293 years.
  4. What it’s like to transit the Panama Canal on a 43′ catamaran. Here’s another blogger detailing the same trip.
  5. An engineer’s take on working at major tech companies.
  6. Colossal family tree shows genetics explains only a small part of differences in how long a person lives.
  7. Is Spotify really worth $20 billion?
  8. Man jailed after stabbing his neighbour for ‘incessantly’ reciting poetry.

Review: The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

Kim Fu’s novel The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, digital galley) alternates between the stories of five young women who experienced a traumatic event at camp while girls. Unfortunately it reads as a disparate collection of unrelated stories, with the camp experience being the only thing connecting the women.

While each of the women’s future lives is interesting, it’s not clear what impact that camp event has had on the women, the drama is simply too subdued. Any one of the life stories would have been more compelling if flushed out as a full novel. But by combining the stories, all continuity is lost and just as we’re getting to know each of the characters their story is cut short for a flashback to camp.

Fu is clearly a talented writer and has a lot to say about relationships and how individuals deal with loss. The potential of this novel, however, feels unfulfilled.

Very short reviews of books

A roundup of very short reviews of books I recently read. Lincoln in the Bardo and Panorama are worth your attention.

Lincoln in the Bardo: This inventive, profound and humorous novel by George Saunders unfolds in unexpected ways and concerns the death of Abraham Lincoln’s young son, Willie. The audiobook features a cast of 166 narrators who portray the characters, living and dead, and I recommend it for the riveting performances. (5/5 stars.)

Zero Hour (Expeditionary Force Book #5): The adventure continues in this fifth installment of the Expeditionary Force series by Craig Alanson. This is the most entertaining of the last three books, but in the end it’s more of the same. It’s past time for Alanson to reveal some backstory about the artificial intelligence, Skippy, at the center of the books. (4/5 stars.)

Panorama: A life affirming, if heartbreaking, first novel that looks at the effects of a plane crash on survivors. (4/5 stars.) Read full review.

Turtles All the Way Down: The latest by John Greene feels contrived as the heroine, Aza, helps look for a missing billionaire while coping with a serious anxiety disorder. Featuring Greene’s exceedingly well spoken, widely read, clever and tragically brilliant characters.  (3/5 stars.)

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore: Kim Fu’s novel alternates between the stories of five women who experience a traumatic event at camp while young girls. Unfortunately it reads as a disparate collection of unrelated stories, with the shared camp experience the only thing that connects the women. (3/5 stars.) Read full review.

New Rules: In comedian Bill Maher’s 2005 book of musing on politics and culture he comes of as irritable, partisan, pessimistic and sometimes funny. In other words, a lot like cable news. (2/5 stars.)