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Garett Hornwood

Fourth Quarter 2019 Reading

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Realized that I had checked out Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven from the library, so I guess that's next up for me.

I also realized that The Burning White was just released! Final book in a series that I really love (Brent Weeks's Lightbringer). The library has it, but only 2 copies and so my estimated wait time is 23 weeks. Debating buying it instead...although that would give me time to do a re-read. Hm. I do own the first 4, so maybe I should just cough up $15 for it.

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21 hours ago, Maia said:

"The Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Graham, which is quaint and which I mostly liked, but I have to wonder how accessible to modern children it still is, since so much of the humor is going to go over their heads due to how our society changed (thankfully).

I read this recently too and agree about accessibility. 

Funnily enough I actually enjoyed the strange little tangential stories (like the missing otter boy, Mole's abrupt yearning for home and Rat's encounter with the wanderer) much more than the central Toad narrative that I was familiar with. 

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Walter Isaacson's Leonardo Da Vinci. I'll admit to tuning out at times when it got heavy into art, but the combination of art and science was quite interesting. Overall it was a very interesting and informative biography of Da Vinci and his times.

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I finished Sword of Kings by Bernard Cornwell. It was entertaining enough, as all his books tend to be, but it feels like the series is running out of steam a little bit. I think he probably should have carried on the story of time period with a different character like he teased doing a couple of books ago. Uhtred really is kind of too old to be the main character in the kind of books Cornwell likes to write at this stage and he definitely will be by the time we get to the climax Cornwell seems to be building up to.

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All done with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I think is easily the weakest installment of the series. The others are much more self-contained and have more narrative momentum, this one just felt like a slow set-up novel.  

Still struggling through The Night Circus. Next up is The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking and the Future of the Global Economy. 

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On 10/31/2019 at 4:35 AM, Starkess said:

I also realized that The Burning White was just released! Final book in a series that I really love (Brent Weeks's Lightbringer).

Is it a different series than the one about a boy becoming an apprentice assassin? And if so, is it a significant improvement? Because I remember skimming the first book of the assassin one and feeling that it was very clichéd.

 

On 10/31/2019 at 3:04 PM, Paxter said:

I read this recently too and agree about accessibility.

Yea, my 8-year-old niece, who is burning through the audiobooks like there is no tomorrow (luckily, our library system is pretty good) couldn't get into it. Admittedly, she was listening to the German version, which I didn't try. I don't think that she got to the Toad-heavy parts, which she might have liked more, because of all the action and humor.

Anyway, onwards to book impressions:

"Memory Called Empire" by Arkady Martine, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The narrative deals with the complex mix of fascination, cultural admiration/emulation, resentment and terror which the titular space empire - which seems to be the mixture of the Roman, Chinese and Aztec influences, inspires in it's neighbours. All filtered through the experiences of a new ambassador from a small polity which finds itself uncomfortbly close to the empire's ever expanding borders.  Some things are still unclear to me, though:
 

Spoiler

 

If Yskander truly wanted to give the imago technology to Six Direction, as the book claims, shouldn't the latter have been wired up with the recording equipment years ago? Don't the Lsel residents record their experiences for imago for all of their adult lives? And there is no evidence that Yskander had any plan to obtain the necessary hardware.

Also, I don't understand why everybody and their dog knew about it. Sure, he had to spread some crumbs to come to the Emperor's attention in the first place, but it seems to have gone far beyond that.

If non-citizens aren't allowed cloudhooks, how did Yskander get around without a liason, after the first 2 years in office? Did he have an exemption or an illegal one?

While the ending makes sense for Mahit thematically/psychologically, it doesn't practically. Because with this new war, the Empire would need to interact with Lsel's gate more than ever and you'd think that a capable intermediary in the capital would be critical to avoid fatal misunderstandings between the Lselians and the Imperials. It may still make sense for the latter to annex Lsel in order to simplify their war effort.

 

 

 

 

"Walking to Aldebaran" by Adrian Tchaikovsky - a  disappointment. The story was appropriately a slog, but also pointless in the end, IMHO. Also, it is a pet peeve of mine, but how difficult is it to google appropriate Russian names, if you have allegedly Russian characters in your book? Even though Adrian wisely left out the patronymics, spending a minute or so on checking the most popular Russian baby girl names, leave alone how female family name endings work, seems to have been beyond him, which is why there are such pearls as Magda(!!) Proshkin(!) and Kathrin(!!) Anderova.

P.S. forgot to mention that the plot is about an incompetent expedition attempting to research a mysterious alien artefact beyond Pluto.

Edited by Maia

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On 11/5/2019 at 11:45 AM, Maia said:

Is it a different series than the one about a boy becoming an apprentice assassin? And if so, is it a significant improvement? Because I remember skimming the first book of the assassin one and feeling that it was very clichéd.

Yes, I think you're thinking of his Night Angel series. This one definitely represents a step up for him as a writer--however, I did enjoy the Night Angel series as well so probably a matter of taste.

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Most people think Lightbringer is a significant step up from Night Angel--not that I personally agree.  If cliches were your problem in Night Angel, Lightbringer is less cliched and more about subverting expectations.  There are some big surprises.

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I haven't read the Lightbringer books, but I have mixed memories of the Night Angel trilogy. I think I enjoyed them, I definitely read them more than once...but I also kinda remember it as having a pretty awful-even-for-fantasy portrayal of the main female character (Vi, or something). Is that right? I might be thinking of someone in the Demon Cycle, another YA series by a guy called Peter V Brett (as opposed to Brent Weeks).

 

Anyway, I finished up with Richard III, which I really enjoyed by the end. The first few acts felt proportionally large though. Would love to see this played - perhaps I'll check out the McKellan film if I can.

I also read Bill Browder's Red Notice, which I thought was quite good. Extremely interesting story and a lot of backstory that I personally found quite engaging, although Browder himself is a bit of an ambiguous personality to my mind. 

I'm currently reading W Somerset Maugham's Collection of Short Stories Vol 1, which is interesting to say the least. I think some of the shorter stories tend to not have too much beyond the obvious implications, but the longer ones have been quite fantastic. The foreword by Maugham leads me to suspect I'm not being quite as charitable as I should be though, and some of these stories are well worth a re-read. He is excellent at painting a scene though. I recall each short story quite clearly so far.

I also started Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I'm really only a few pages into this one - about as far as I got the last time that I picked it up. This time, however, I am thoroughly loving it. 

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Finished The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman.  Wow, that was a great read.  Easily my favorite of his books that I have read (Those Across the River and The Suicide Motor Club being the others), my only complaint about it would be the 1970s (and in some cases much older) colloquialisms.  I can't remember the last time I was that satisfied with the ending of a horror novel.

Up next is the newly released The Reddening by Adam Nevill.

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I've been thinking recently that I don't do anywhere near as much rereading since I started doing most of my reading on a kindle. With that in mind I had a bit of a root through my physical books and reread the first two Rigante books by David Gemmell. They were a bit clunkier than I remembered but still entertaining quick reads.

Other than that I just finished Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton. It features all the usual quirks of Hamilton's books, in fact I think it has more than the usual allocation of weird and unnecessary sex scenes etc, but it's still a well realised and interesting science fiction story for people who like lots of stuff getting blown up in space. A good read overall.

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I finished Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. This is a series that comes with a huge reputation and I thought it mostly lived up to it. In the afterword in this edition Gaiman comments that reading them again he finds these early issues to be a bit awkward and ungainly, I think he's perhaps being a bit too critical of his own work because I think the storytelling does feel assured throughout but I think I can sometimes see what he is referring to - the final confrontation between Morpheus and John Dee fell slightly flat and it maybe felt a bit too conventional for this story to have such a showdown between the hero and villain. There were a lot of fascinating side stories, which were often more interesting than the main plotline. To begin with Morpheus was a fairly enigmatic protagonist for whom his quest was all-consuming but the final issue does start to shed some light on his character. I think I'll read the next volume soon.

I then read This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. There were a lot of things I liked about this novella but also some aspects that didn't quite work for me. I think there's some great writing in here, particularly in the letters exchanged between the two protagonists and how their tone changes over the course of the story and reflects the change in how Red and Blue feel about each other. The plot is also cleverly constructed with things that initially seem minor coming to have a huge significance by the end. It's a great premise for a story and I like the playfulness of the jumping between different timelines and places, with some fairly standard time travel destinations mixed in with places like Atlantis. However, I did have an issue with the novella which kept me from being fully invested in it, although the relationship between them may be interesting I did feel that Red and Blue were a bit too alien in their outlooks for me to really connect with them as characters.

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I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month (a writing challenge to write 50k words in a month) which is both time-limiting and also makes me kind of worded out for reading. So not really picking up my current book (The Lathe of Heaven). I did start an audiobook on my long run today. Picked up Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein from the library. I'd never heard of it (or the authors), but so far it's pretty entertaining and it definitely helped the miles go by.

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Scored Mieville's Last Days of New Paris for $10 at a bookstore in VT this weekend, so that's on up after I finish the new Abercrombie.  Then have Nixonland which I've been working through, which has been great.  Then Banks Excession is ready to go.

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Just read Anne Leckie's The Raven Tower.

Entertaining once you get over the unusual second person voice, though perhaps a bit light despite some of her trademark gender ambiguity. The Strength and Patience of the Hill is a fascinating character.

However the Orbit edition I was reading is poorly presented, most notably with a distinctly annoying map at the front. This looks like something out of a YA self published book; is unnecessary, with nearly all the action taking place in a small corner of it; and is demonstrably wrong on several counts.

 

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Finished Conquerors: How Portugal Forged The First Global Empire by Roger Crowley, which focuses primarily on 1490-1520 before a summary epilogue.  Quite a good read about a crucial period in history: the connecting of the eastern and western hemispheres, the start of European colonialism, global trade routes, gun-boat diplomacy and state navies pursuing mercantilism for geopolitical ends. 

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I finished Treasure Island last weekend, which was a really fun read. I do not think it is a consistently great piece of writing, but it is definitely a great story. Even in my memory it is absolutely thrilling. It's definitely going to be a book I re-read at some point, too. I also loved the chapter breakdown.

Still working through Maugham's Collected Short Stories Vol 1. I am still enjoying this, and perhaps one in every three story is one that I really like (a good ratio I'd say). I am beginning to find the characters and stories a little too real, however. Rain is a remarkable short story that I found compelling and intriguing, but it didn't much impact me on a personal level. Some of the other stories are a little bit more uncomfortable. I have just started The Unconquered, which I put down within a page or so - I will pick it back up tomorrow, but my blood really ran cold for a minute or so reading that. It actually reminded me of The Shining even though it bears little resemblance. 

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