Tag Archives: Kayla Rae Whitaker

Blog Roundup 2018: Books Reviewed

A regular feature of this blog is the Sunday Book Reviews, short reviews of books I read this year.  Most of the books were new or recently published.

This year I reviews 58 fiction and 18 non-fiction books. (This doesn’t count the many articles and reports I comment on throughout the year.)

This years reading included lots of favorites including Thomas Perry, Charles Stross, Joe Ide, Donna Leon, A. Lee Martinez.

There are also some new favorites I discovered this year, including Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Cantero, Theodora Goss, Vivan Shaw.

Some highly recommended* books:

(*This is a highly unsystematic selection—these are all definitely worth your time, though there may be others in my list below that are even better.)

Non fiction

Stamped From The Beginning  (2016)  by Ibram X. Kendi
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron

Fiction

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Whole List

A list of all the book reviews (in no particular order…)

Fiction

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
Circe by Madeline Miller
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Dark State by Charles Stross
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Good Guys by Steven Brust
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N. K Jemisin
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A. D. Jameson
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Make a Nerdy Living by Alex Langley
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Noir by Christopher Moore
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Robots Vs Fairies edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
The Book of Phoenix (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Song of Achilles (2102) by Madeline Miller
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
There, There by Tommy Orange
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
Versailles by Yannick Hill
Who Fears Death (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
Wrecked by Joe Ide

Non Fiction

Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Stamped From The Beginning (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Earth is Weeping (2016) by Peter Cozzens
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
The Wordy Shipmates (2018) by Sarah Vowell
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Sunday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: First Quarter Roundup

This quarter saw the usual discussions of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology and sociology.  There are an increasing amount of academic studies of this technology (finally!), which are producing important findings.  Not that the enthusiasts are paying attention.

There is also a constant stream of discoveries and studies of dinosaurs and ancient birds, which I enjoy reading.


And, as usual, I regularly review books I have recently read.

Fiction

The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
Good Guys by Steven Brust
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
Dark State by Charles Stross
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon

Non fiction

How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
The Earth is Weeping by Peter Cozzens
Ada’s Algorithm by James Essinger


The ongoing list of great names for a band continues, inspired by Dave Barry. Here are a bunch, mostly taken from real scientific or technical papers.

The Adversarial Patches
Psychedelic toasters (this one has probably has already been used)
Judicious Design of Nanofins
        (or perhaps, Righteous Design of Nanofins or just Nanofins)
Rapid genome downsizing
Diffusivity of Water in Air
The Gymnosperms
SETI-XNAV
Pulsar Positioning System
Galactic Positioning System
Mushroom Body
A Spritz of Octopamine
Hebbian Learning
Neuromodulator
The Possible Ecologies of Mars
Ornament Evolution

 

 

Book Review: “The Animators” by Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

The Animators is Whitaker’s first novel, a story of two young artists out of the American South who meet in college, and become deep friends and artistic partners.  Whitaker portrays their intense drive to create animated cinema, and the complex and tangled personal and professional partnership they seem to need to make this happen.

The story covers their early career in New York, Florida, and Louisville Kentucky. A lot of stuff happens, and a lot of it is pretty awful. They work like crazy and, well, live like crazy, too. I’m assuming that this is a realistic portrayal of “the artist as a young woman.”

The artistic achievements cannot be separated from the deep, confused, and troubled friendship.  Sure, they need each.  And they also want each other and love each other (not sexually). But it’s not clear they understand each other, despite their intense close work together.

Whitaker tells about the deep personal meaning and the deep personal cost of their art.  Mel and Sharon are all about ‘courage’, and both think that telling their innermost secrets is important, because that is the only way to break out of their horrible past.  If this sounds painful, it definitely is.

There is a lot of pain in this novel.  Mel and Sharon achieve considerable success, but success is no shield from bad things happening.

I know what Mel and I did with memory. We ran our endurance dry with our life stories, trying to reproduce them, translate them, make them manageable enough to coexist with. We mad them smaller, disfiguring them with our surgeries. We were young. We did not know what we were doing” (p. 351)

If there is a lesson in this story, it has to be to be good to the ones you love right now, because they may be gone soon.

Your life is the people you fill it with….And nothing’s good without them.” (p. 308)

I found this a well written and haunting story.  We care about these two kids, smile for the good times, root for their loves, cringe at their mistakes, and ache with their pain.  It is excruciating to watch in places, because they really, really, didn’t know what they were doing.

I certainly look forward to more from Whitaker.


  1. Kayla Rae Whitaker, The Animators, New York, Random House, 2017.

 

Sunday Book Reviews