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I love books, grew up among, and still live among, teetering piles of To Be Reads. In my dotage here, I admit I have less patience for plots that feel too familiar, and I tend (even more than I always have) toward the strange and surreal. But a beautifully-written and perfectly normal book can also bowl me over.

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Instant Zen (1994) 5 stars


5 stars

Remember that no teacher has ever spoken or written a single word of teaching!

About halfway through this book, Foyan writes:

"I will settle something for you right now: the ultimate rule is to see your own mind clearly. This is what Buddhism is, as far as I am concerned."

That's it, that's the whole thing. Every other section of this book, every other sentence, is not saying anything different.

So, why? Because, I would speculate, even though it is all the same, and all free of any content or teaching, each different series of words, like a different set of bird cries or patterings of raindrops, might be the thing that someone needs to hear to be freed, or to attain a little insight. Or to smile.

And Foyan may have been a wily expert at arranging especially effective ways of saying exactly the same empty thing.

Therefore, read …

Klara and the Sun (Hardcover, 2021, Faber & Faber) 4 stars

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches …

An amazing book; can I have more stars to give it?

5 stars

This is one of those very rare books that reminds me of what books are at some level all about. That makes me want to go about and knock about two stars off of 99% of my prior book ratings, to make room to properly differentiate this one.

It's hard to say too much that's concrete, without giving it away. I was closer to tears at the end of this than I can remember with any book for a long time. Not easy maudlin tears, but deep oh-my-god tears about what a universe this is.

The people are very fully people; the viewpoint character is not a person, but ... well, that would be a spoiler also. But the viewpoint it gives her allows Ishiguro to say some amazing and touching and true and thought-provoking things without coming out and saying them (because nothing he could come out and say …

Hotel Bosporus (Paperback, 2004, Brand: Diogenes Verlag AG, Diogenes Verlag AG) 4 stars

Review of 'Hotel Bosporus' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

A fun read, lots of Istanbul atmosphere

I didn't find the murder-mystery aspect all that interesting (and really the fact that the protagonist owns a murder-mystery bookshop wasn't played up at all), but the descriptions of places in Istanbul and the interactions between different kinds of people, different nationalities and strata of society, between the various neighborhoods and areas of the city itself, kept me reading.

Recommended especially if you're in love with Istanbul, Constantinople, and/or the idea of them.

Review of 'Kalifriki' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

Crazy perfect Zelazny

Stories in a unique and unknowable far-future reality; exotic names from the past and exotic science from just now combine with love and hate, greed and desire, in stories of the unchanging human fundamentals couched in the language and frame of millennia to come. Crazy hallucinatory space opera, highly recommended.

Review of 'The mother hunt' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Good solid Nero Wolfe

The perfect thing to buy for a quarter at the Friends of the Library Used Book Shed, and then spend a lazy day reading and watching the clouds go by.

A good straightforward Nero Wolfe murder mystery, as told by Archie Goodwin as always, who is in fine light-noir form. A couple of bloodless murders of people we don't really know, some tense but ultimately collegial interactions with the police, descriptions of amazing meals, the inevitable sexual tension between Archie and any nearby women, and ultimately the perpetrator brought to justice.

It is if anything too straightforward, no real surprises or twists, but that's not really why we come to Wolfe's brownstone, after all.

Elder Race (EBook, 2021, Tom Doherty Associates) 4 stars

Lynesse is the lowly Fourth Daughter of the queen, and always getting in the way. …

Review of 'Elder Race' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

A fast, fun, rewarding read.

This kept me reading from the first page to the last. What's happening isn't at all a puzzle, unlike some other books that use the same general concept (some of which I now want to go back and re-read). The way the high-tech protagonist's depression was dealt with was fascinating to me, and not one I've seen before; and having clinical depression myself, I found it plausible and relatable. And the relationship(s) between the high-tech protagonist and the indigenes who see him as a wizard were done well, feeling genuine on both sides.

Very recommended!