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Month in review

Reviews
American Road by Pete Davies
Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow Part Three by Gene Luen Yang
Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L.A. Meyer
Dead Air by Michelle Schusterman
Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt
Digital Photographer's Handbook by Tom Ang
Doctor Who: The Nameless City by Michael Scott
Everything's Amazing [sort of] by Liz Pichon
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
Fed, White, and Blue: Finding America with My Fork by Simon Majumdar
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City by Guy Delisle
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
The Last Days of California by Mary Miller
The Locksmith issue 2 by Terrance Grace
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The Mystery of the Scarlet Rose by Irene Adler
The Numberlys by William Joyce
PopCo by Scarlett Thomas
Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates
Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop
Romance of the Road by Ronald Primeau
Rutabaga the Adventure Chef: Book 2: Feasts of Fury by Eric Colossal
The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
Thai Die by Monica Ferris
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey

Miscellaneous
How I spend my time
I don't only post reviews
On leveled reading — or leveled reading didn't make me a life long reader
On reading ebooks and digital fatigue
Twenty-nine years of being a reader
What are my thoughts on audiobooks?

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



PopCo: 06/04/16

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas

PopCo by Scarlett Thomas has been on my to be read wishlist since it was first published. I'm sure I heard about it on BookCrossing from one of my many British friends. In 2004, though, I was also swamped in a recent move, a new job, and a very active toddler. That year I managed (by my present day standards of reading) a meager 175 books and most of those were ones I read to my son.

In the twelve years since it came out, I've maintained my desire to read it, though the reason behind it has long since vanished into the miasma of forgotten memories. By the time I got around to reading Popco all I remembered about wanting to read it was that I loved the cover art and was intrigued by the title.

Yes, I could read the blurb. I could read reviews. But there's something fun about reading blind. I think that stems from all the old books I've purchased used and read without out the benefit of blurbs.

So, PopCo, where does one begin? At its most basic, it's about a game designer stuck at an all hands offsite retreat. She has deadlines for a new line of spy toys she's designing. Now she's at this idiotic retreat with all her coworkers, expected to upthink the company, branding, and to get into the head of their most difficult to design for customer: the teenage girl.

But it's more than that. There are long, fascinating passages about cryptography and cryptanalysis. There are how-tos for some of the best known, most used systems. Deeper down, there is the story of a coded pirate treasure map. And it's all tied together with her memories of being raised by her grandparents, a grandfather who was a hobby cryptanalyst and her grandmother, who worked alongside Alan Turing in WWII.

And that's still just the surface of the book. It's layers upon layers of social commentary that is still relevant, even if some of the details are now dated (such as there never being a computer who can win at Go, nor can there ever be robots that walk upright).

Five stars

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