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Garett Hornwood

First Quarter 2019 Reading

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Posted (edited)

Shogun was a very enjoyable read.  I even reread it at some point a few years later.  It's up there with King Rat as Clavell's best work.  His Noble House series set in Hong Kong was a bit soapy, but the first, Taipan, was decent.  I could not get into any of the others.

Color Of Magic and Light Fantastic are two of the earliest and weakest in the Discworld.  Small Gods is one of the best, but a standalone.  I'd suggest next reading the Guards series (Guards, GuardsMen At ArmsFeet Of ClayJingoFifth ElephantNight Watch, and then don't bother with Thud or Snuff) or else the Witches series (skip Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad and instead jump to Lords And LadiesMaskerade and Carpe Jugulum) then experiment with some of the smaller side series like Death, Tiffany Aching, etc.

 

For my own reading, I finished John Dies At The End by David Wong, in which David Wong is the first-person POV narrator and character in a Lovecraftian horror story set in current day midwest America and told with a lot of dry humor.  It has some fun features with time loops, like The Final Days Of Jack Sparks.  I enjoyed the humor but the narrative was bit too jumbled and the main character wallows too much in his emo angst and self pity.  Enjoyable but could have been executed better.

Then I read Stiger's Tigers by Marc Edelheit, first in a fantasy series broadly based on Roman legions in a slightly magical setting: elves and dwarves exist but are extremely rare and not overtly magical.  I like this for the central narrative of a military commander organizing and leading troops in a military campaign, which I also enjoyed in the Sharpe and Hornblower series (somewhat in Aubrey/Maturin too, but much less focus there).  I plan to read further in this series, even if everything turns out a little too neatly for the central character.

Edited by Iskaral Pust

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11 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Color Of Magic and Light Fantastic are two of the earliest and weakest in the Discworld.  Small Gods is one of the best, but a standalone.  I'd suggest next reading the Guards series (Guards, GuardsMen At ArmsFeet Of ClayJingoFifth ElephantNight Watch, and then don't bother with Thud or Snuff) or else the Witches series (skip Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters and Witches Abroad and instead jump to Lords And LadiesMaskerade and Carpe Jugulum) then experiment with some of the smaller side series like Death, Tiffany Aching, etc.

I'd echo you but for Witches Abroad. Include that, but skip Equal Rites and Wyrd Sisters.

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Posted (edited)

Why is everyone recommending to skip Wyrd Sisters? It's my favourite of the Discworld books so far (I'm reading them in publishing order, and am currently three-quarters of the way through Jingo). It does have the problem of featuring certain characters that don't return later in the series, but it also nicely introduces many of those who do. 

I can see why you'd skip Equal Rites, as it has the above problem while also not introducing characters that well (Granny Weatherwax is the only one, but she is a little out-of-character if you compare her to later books), but Wyrd Sisters is definitely on my recommendations list.

Edited by Kyll.Ing.

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When I read (in some cases re-read after decades) early discworld (the first 8 without "Mort") I was somewhat positively surprised by the two very first ones despite their roughness and somewhat disappointed by Equal Rites, Sourcery and Wyrd Sisters (especially the last one, if one ist not well versed in Shakespeare). I guess I would still recommend reading them all in order, but give the early ones some slack, they are still funny and often pretty good. I did not re-read "Mort" (one the first ones I read a long time ago) but I remember this as very good.

And Guards! Guards! is certainly way above the general average discworld and probably among the top 10 or better. So it would also be a good place to start although then one is bound to be somewhat disappointed by others because it does not get much better.

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I finished Ian Esslemont's Kellanved's Reach. I enjoyed reading it, but at the same time it felt like it wasn't as good as it could have been. Some of Steven Erikson and Esslemont's previous Malazan novels have sometimes felt too long, but this one felt too short for the number of major events happening in it and it often felt a little bit rushed. Since this is a prequel to the main Malazan series and is focusing on some of the most significant events in the backstory of the series I did know a fair amount about how some of those events were going to turn out, but Esslemont does throw in some interesting additional details (such as Kellanved's relationship with the 'Army of Dust and Bone'). However, some of the climactic events in the book feel like they are resolved a bit too easily, particularly some of the battles in the latter half of the book. I feel that if Erikson had written this book rather than his fellow Malazan author then he might have made the more epic moments in the story more compelling, although it would probably have been twice the length and parts of the story may have been more difficult to follow. I think Esslemont's characterisation has improved since his earliest books and despite the number of characters being a bit excessive for a relatively short book they do generally get some good character development, and it is interesting to see the younger versions of many of the major characters of the wider Malazan series. Overall, it's a good addition to the Malazan series but I think falls some way short of the best books in the series, I thought Esslemont's first book in this prequel series was significantly better.

Next up I think I'm going to read Tim Powers' Alternate Routes.

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Finished The End of Days by Zecharia Sitchin, the last book of his seven book 'ancient astronaut theory' series.  It was alright, but it just proved that the previous book could have been split between this and #5.

I'm currently reading The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

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Just finished a great history of California by Kevin Starr. Recently moved to the West Coast and thought it'd be a good way to ground the experience. Now, sticking to the Pacific theme, I'm re-reading Hawaii by James Michener. 

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I read Andrew Miller's Pure and found myself waiting for something, anything to happen. It never did. I was originally drawn to it based on the blurb, loving French history and the Revolutionary period. Set in 1785, just on the cusp of the French Revolution, I eagerly awaited events or class conflicts, but there really wasn't much at all. At times I found myself forgetting the book was even set in Paris, let alone 1780s Paris. I find the history of the Cimetiere des Innocents, the eventual disinterment  of its "residents" and the creation of the Catacombs fascinating. But this historical fiction about its destruction was a disappointment. I should just stick to non-fiction.

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Finished The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen, a Scandinavian noir (even if Finland isn’t really Scandinavia).  A good read.  Not a detective story, but a regular guy finds out he is about to die from some prolonged exposure to a poison or toxin. 

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Finished Hugo's "Hunchback of Notre Dame". The English (as well as the similar German) title are quite misleading because the Hunchback is not the main character, rather one of about 4-6 almost equally important ones. The original title makes it clear that the cathedral as centre of late medieval Paris is the focus of the book. Interestingly, Hugo is not idealizing anything, to the contrary his colorful picture of the time and place explicitly includes the bizarre and fairly grimdark (only rape is excluded although we get very close).

Started the first of Donaldson's "Thomas Covenant" last night as it was only 99c for kindle and a supposed "classic" I never read.

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Finished Svetlana Alexievich's Secondhand Time. This is the first time I've come across her work, and it was a very interesting experience. I like the premise of looking at a period via several interviews of various people - mostly "normal" people. I may return to her other books at some time.

Now reading Zelazny's Lord of Light.

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Just finished Tade Thompson's The Rosewater Insurrection, a bit more linear than its predecessor but still greatly enjoyable. It is both shining a light on the structures in developing cities and touching on the horrors of war.

Can't wait to see where he takes Rosewater next.

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If I get time this evening, I will start the graphic novel, Starport. Adapted by our own Raya Golden from one of GRRM's TV scripts. Can't wait!

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Finished Chariots Of The Gods by Erich Von Daniken, a non-fiction that speculates about ancient aliens seeding human civilization.  While it is interesting how many ancient civilizations referred to gods visiting from the sky in chariots of fire, the book overall veers deeply into crank paranoia as it rages against the obtuse conventional thinking and then tries to knit together everything from the paranormal into this theory.  It also shows a very thin understanding of genetics and DNA when it assumes these ancient aliens could easily indulge in inter-species cross-breeding.  

Next I finished The Tiger by Marc Alan Edelheit, #2 in his Roman military fantasy series.   Still good: a fun military campaign in a slightly magical/fantasy alternate world.  The names of the dwarf clans were laughably cliche (everything had axe or hammer in the name), but the actual characters were decently written.

Then started but abandoned The Rescue by Steve Konkoly.  Portrayed as the “new Jack Reacher”, it was just too boilerplate/cliche.   I’m sure it will sell millions of copies at airports.  (Jack Reacher stands out in that genre because they are just better written)

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I'm reading Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear right now. 

I'm really enjoying it so far and some the elements of the story are familiar to me from the last book of the Jacob's Ladder trilogy which I recommend wholeheartedly. 

34 minutes ago, Iskaral Pust said:

Finished Chariots Of The Gods by Erich Von Daniken, a non-fiction that speculates about ancient aliens seeding human civilization.  While it is interesting how many ancient civilizations referred to gods visiting from the sky in chariots of fire, the book overall veers deeply into crank paranoia as it rages against the obtuse conventional thinking and then tries to knit together everything from the paranormal into this theory.  It also shows a very thin understanding of genetics and DNA when it assumes these ancient aliens could easily indulge in inter-species cross-breeding.  

 Erich Von Daniken... lol I loved his books as a kid but I was really into UFO stuff at the point of my life and my uncle had a lot of his books. Only years later I discovered that it was all bullshit.

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Recently finished City of Brass and its sequel Kingdom of Copper, and boy howdy did I love these books.  

I'm about 80% through Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending.  I do love an unreliable narrator book.  The main character of this book is so unreliable, and the revelations of the unreliability are so subtly and cleverly done that it keeps you thinking.

I'm also reading Ronnie Spector's ghostwritten autobiography Be My Baby (very entertaining in a depressing kind of way).

Next up Ann Leckie's The Raven Tower.  I've also got The Bird King in my queue. 

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Have you read other novels by Barnes? "The Sense of Ending" is not bad but it seemed to me largely a "rehash" of themes and motives that had appeared in earlier novels. (If not quite to the extent I get that impression with about half of the books by TC Boyle who really seems to be juggling the same handful of themes in almost every book...)

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