219 Clay’s Ark

claysarkby Octavia E. Butler 1984

While Clay’s Ark is the chronological third part in the Patternist series, it was the final book of the series to be published. In this installment, we leave behind the Patternists and the origin story of Doro and Anyanwu and we learn how the physically powerful and dangerous Clayarks came to be. Except for their place as the antagonists in Patternmaster, we haven’t learned anything about these beings or why they are the way they are. I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed to leave the Patternists behind, as Wild Seed left me wanting to know so much more about the originators of this clan, but Clay’s Ark provides a fitting and much needed backstory for our series’ adversaries.

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217 All Grown Up

allgrownupby Jami Attenberg, 2017

Andrea is on the cusp of 40 and her life isn’t exactly the way she imagined it would turn out to be. She’s all but given up on her love of art and her desire to be an artist, instead settling for an advertising job that slowly sucks her soul dry. She’s been seeing the same therapist for eight years without feeling like much progress has been made. She’s nowhere near having a functional relationship with a man, let alone on the path to marriage. To top it off, people keep asking her if she’s read this infernal book about being 40 and single. To many of the people in her life, Andrea seems like a mess, but she is one of the most realistic characters I’ve encountered in a long time.

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216 The Power of Habit

powerofhabitby Charles Duhigg, 2012

A number of the blogs I frequent have cited The Power of Habit as influential in the bloggers’ lives and the way they give advice. From productivity to working out and losing weight to completing projects, changing habits seems to be the best thing we can do to reach our goals. In this way, The Power of Habit really can be an eye-opening book, especially if you’ve never before thought about how our lives are driven by habits. However, I was less enamored with the way the book was structured, frequently switching from one subject to the next, as if the author or editor did not believe the reader would have enough power over their attention to follow one story through to the end without constant interruptions from three or four other stories. I found this ironic for a book about improving habits and, therefore, improving one’s ability to follow an endeavor through to the end, but maybe that’s just who the book is geared toward – those who do not have the endurance to sit through even a full chapter without getting bored. Maybe it’s their habits that need the most help.

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214 Annihilation

annihilationby Jeff VanderMeer, 2014

One of the things I bemoan about science-fiction movies and television shows is that it seems that none of the characters have ever read or seen science-fiction. In Annihilation, the same appears to be true. The novel follows a team of four women who have been sent a territory referred to only as “Area X.” Their mission is to find out as much about the area as possible, while also trying to figure out what happened to the previous teams that were sent there. The four-woman team consists of a surveyor, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and our narrator, a biologist. The idea seems interesting enough and, as a child of The X-Files generation, I was immediately drawn to the premise. I wish I could say the story panned out as well as I had hoped.

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213 An Acceptable Time

anacceptabletimeby Madeleine L’Engle, 1989
narrated by Anne Marie Lee

This was a lackluster ending to a book series that, somehow, I loved as a child. I never read this fifth installment to the Time Quintet that began with A Wrinkle in Time, but after rereading the first four earlier this year, my expectations for the fifth were severely adjusted. This finale does not feature Meg, Calvin, Charles Wallace, or the twins Sandy and Dennys, but focuses on Meg and Calvin’s daughter Polly and the time she spends with her grandparents, Drs. Kate and Alex Murry. She’s been sent to the elder Murrys in the hopes that she’ll gain an even greater education in science than she could have received at home or in school. All of that changes when Zachary, a college student whom she previously dated, shows up at the Murrys and pleads his case for Polly’s company.

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203 The Obelisk Gate

obeliskgateby N.K. Jemison, 2016
narrated by Robin Miles

I wish I understood what everyone sees in these books. I promise I’m trying, but I’m simply unmoved by this and most of fantasy. Consequently, I had a hard time following what was happening. Here’s my best attempt to piece it together. (Spoilers for The Fifth Season below, as they are unavoidable in discussing the sequel.)

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200 The Female Man

femaleman

by Joanna Russ, 1975

While my original plan for the “read a classic of genre fiction” task in the Read Harder Challenge was to count my forthcoming reread of Parable of the Sower, I decided to branch out instead and pick up a book I’d been meaning to read for years. The Female Man is a classic of feminist science-fiction. Though she may not be as well-known as the likes of Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Le Guin, Russ’s work has always appeared in discussions of this particular genre. The novel involves four women – really, four iterations of the same woman in various points in time and space. Jeannine lives during the 1930s, Joanna is a 1970s feminist, Janet is from another version of earth called Whileaway that is populated only by women, and Jael, with her metal claws and teeth, hails from a future torn by war between the two genders. This is the story of what happens when they come together.

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