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First Quarter 2020 Reading

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7 hours ago, HelenaExMachina said:

I read the first two in LPQ but they just didn’t click with me like Dagger and Coin. Perfectly fine books, i just didn’t find them as interesting nor the characters as compelling as Dagger and Coin. To be fair though, that is a high benchmark to set!

 

I loved The Long Price (which was the first thing I read by the author). I tried the first book in the Dagger and Coin series and it just wasn't that interesting to me so I didn't read any further. 

Re The Expanse books - the first one is great, but the quality of writing declines from that point. I think I got as far as maybe the fifth book and stopped because the quality of the prose and the dialogue was distracting to me. I love the show though. 

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10 hours ago, HelenaExMachina said:

I read the first two in LPQ but they just didn’t click with me like Dagger and Coin. Perfectly fine books, i just didn’t find them as interesting nor the characters as compelling as Dagger and Coin. To be fair though, that is a high benchmark to set!

 

I would suggest trying the last two in the series. The books are relatively short for this genre and the payoff (no pun intended) is fantastic. The title of the series is no misnomer. This series is top shelf on my bookcase. I would love to find some hardcovers or nice special editions of the series.

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4 hours ago, Isis said:

I loved The Long Price (which was the first thing I read by the author). I tried the first book in the Dagger and Coin series and it just wasn't that interesting to me so I didn't read any further. 

I remember reading The Dragon's Path with very high expectations after having read The Long Price and being disappointed by comparing it to the earlier series. I thought the later books did improve significantly.

Re The Expanse books - the first one is great, but the quality of writing declines from that point. I think I got as far as maybe the fifth book and stopped because the quality of the prose and the dialogue was distracting to me. I love the show though.

I have enjoyed all the books so far, but I agree there has been a bit of a decline as the series progressed.

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Just finished Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. The edition I was reading was a rather time-worn 149 year old library copy, which given the subject matter felt vaguely appropriate. I have moved from there onto his Politics... and he has literally just slapped me in the face with the blase assertion that some people are just meant to be slaves. That's the funny thing about Aristotle, his ideas have shaped our world to an insane degree, so you find yourself nodding along to him for whole sections, whereupon he periodically reminds you of what an elitist misogynistic piece of shit he really is.

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The Dragon's Path is easily the weakest book in the Dagger and Coin series and the last two Long Price books are far superior to the first two.  

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Finished In Cold Blood by Mark Dawson, first in an action fiction series about a rogue MI6 assassin seeking revenge for betraya, set in current day.  I don’t recall how this got into my Kindle but it was a decent variation from the usual.  I rarely ever read thrillers or action fiction because they are so cliche, but I did enjoy the likes of  Robert Ludlum and Neslon DeMille in my early teens.  And this has some echoes of Jason Bourne mixed with more contemporary characters like Salt.

This was a decent read: short, snappy, well plotted, with a backdrop of Somali pirates and Al Shabaab.  A little too excited to name all the specific pieces of military equipment.  The heroine is implausibly kick-ass, as ever in this genre, but not actually superhuman.  The whole thing felt cinematic — the characterization, structure, action scenes and length would really suit an opening hour-length episode for a series on Netflix or Amazon. 

I don’t plan to read further in the series but it was entertaining enough for variety in genre.

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On ‎1‎/‎11‎/‎2020 at 11:27 PM, RedEyedGhost said:

An Autumn War is what takes tLPQ from alright to amazing (and The Price of Spring continues that amazingness).

Cannot echo this sentiment enough.

Finished The Institute by Stephen King. It definitely gave me an old-school, late seventies Stephen King vibe. Really liked it. Amazing that he survived his drug binge in the 80's, being hit by a truck later, and is still prolifically cranking out such quality material so many decades later.

Started Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence. Loved The Broken Empire trilogy. Thought the series got stronger as it progressed, so I've been looking forward to more Lawrence.

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Y'all are making me want to start a re-read of The Long Price Quartet. One of my favorite series ever, already read it twice.

I finished my re-read of The Shadow of What Was Lost, which was pretty much as good as I vaguely recalled, and now am onto book 2, An Echo of Things to Come. I am not enjoying it as much, but possibly that's because I started reading it overnight on a long haul flight.

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On 1/13/2020 at 2:08 AM, The Marquis de Leech said:

Just finished Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. The edition I was reading was a rather time-worn 149 year old library copy, which given the subject matter felt vaguely appropriate. I have moved from there onto his Politics... and he has literally just slapped me in the face with the blase assertion that some people are just meant to be slaves. That's the funny thing about Aristotle, his ideas have shaped our world to an insane degree, so you find yourself nodding along to him for whole sections, whereupon he periodically reminds you of what an elitist misogynistic piece of shit he really is.

It's interesting that Aristotle found the need to justify slavery, however unconvincing it sounds to us.  And, plenty of people accepted his justifications.  

Few Romans ever made the argument that people are born to be slaves (unlike Greeks, their citizen body always comprised a substantial number of freedmen).  Insofar as they thought about it, they just seem to have taken the view that the strong rule, and the weak obey.

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I'm reading Sir Charles Oman's history of the Peninsular War, as part of my MA.  It is highly readable and entertaining, and still probably the definitive account, despite being written between 1902 and 1930.  He's wonderfully caustic about some of the key figures. 

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I just finished Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. 

Wow. I kind of expected to struggle with this, and indeed it did take a bit of getting through...but I did not expect to love it so much by the end. I found this to be breathtakingly profound, and so beautifully laid out. This is the first time in a long time that I've read a book that I've immediately thought of re-reading. If I didn't have a read challenge on for the year, I just might. I still might if I make good progress.  

So, next up is Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived In The Castle. I've never read anything by Shirley Jackson before or even heard that much about her, so I'm interested to see what this is like. Also it's quite short, which is beneficial since my reading challenge is 36 this year (including 18 by women). 

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5 hours ago, SeanF said:

It's interesting that Aristotle found the need to justify slavery, however unconvincing it sounds to us.

Safe to assume you came in with the knowledge that Aristotle's understanding of slavery was a different beast to what our modern minds conceive?

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I recently finished and enjoyed Tiamat's Wrath. Better than the previous book.

For a while I've been reading RE Howard's Conan stories in chronological order. The racism and sexism is definitely problematic, and the stories are pretty repetitive, but the settings are vivid. I'm now on the last story, Hour of the Dragon, Howard's only Conan novel.

I picked up a bunch of books by Elsewhen Press, who've published my two novels, and currently working my way through them: 

The Royal Sorceress quartet by Christopher Nuttall. It's an alternative history series where magic is discovered by the British in the 18th century, resulting in them winning the American Revolution. It starts in 1831, with war brewing with France, and social unrest in Britain. I'm on book 4 and enjoying it. The author has put a lot of thought into how historical events would play out in a world where magic is present and altered the balance of power.

Also currently reading (on my phone's kindle app while going into work) Million Eyes, by CR Berry. It's a time travel story where an ex-teacher and a graduate discover time travellers have interfered in historical events, assassinating King William Rufus among other things. Enjoying it so far.

Also reading Shadow and Storm, book2 in the Marek fantasy series by Juliet Kemp. Her first book, The Deep and Shining Dark, was good, and this is better imho.

After the above, I'll be reading Glass Shore by Stefan Jackson, a cyberpunk novel in New York in the near future. IT's in present tense which I'm not very used to, but the premise is interesting.

After that, I've got Blurred Vision by Steve Harrison on the shelf. I enjoyed his TimeStorm novel, which was about an 18th century Royal Navy ship transporting convicts to Australia when a freak storm sends it to the present day Sydney. Another good read, as the crew struggle with modern day Sydney while trying to catch the escaped convicts.

 

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41 minutes ago, IlyaP said:

Safe to assume you came in with the knowledge that Aristotle's understanding of slavery was a different beast to what our modern minds conceive?

Slavery was not (on the whole) race-based, in his time, albeit there was unhappiness at the idea of enslaving fellow helladikoi.

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Just now, SeanF said:

Slavery was not (on the whole) race-based, in his time, albeit there was unhappiness at the idea of enslaving fellow helladikoi.

That was what I was taught. I asked primarily because I have my professors forever stuck somewhere in my mind, forever reminding me to be incredibly nuanced about how we use the word "slavery" when talking about ancient Greece/Rome. 

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Last night I finished Runaway, a book of short stories by Canadian author Alice Munro, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013.  

I have wanted to read some Munro for years, and I ran across a recommendation that Runaway was one of the best places to start.

I have some mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I fully agree that Munro is a great writer. I think one of the signs of a good story is that one catches oneself thinking about it several days after one has read it. Munro's stories have that sort of resonance. I found myself wondering about why her characters made the choices they did and wondering what would have happened to them next long after I expected to still be thinking about them.

On the other hand I'm not sure her subject matter is my "cup of tea." The stories in Runaway focus on women, most of whom are dealing with domestic situations which are actually sad or even tragic, but are dealt with in fairly matter of fact quiet ways. I found myself thinking several times that the characters were fitting the stereotype that Canadians are overly polite -- people seemed to be a bit emotionally removed from their situations. Three of the stories in the book deal with the same woman, Juliet, over a 40 year period. In the last of these her only child, a daughter, stops all contact with her when she is in her early 20s without any explanation. Throughout that story Juliet seemed incredibly passive to me -- I kept wondering why she didn't even think of hiring a private detective to track her daughter down. The title story "Runaway" isabout an older woman who encourages a young friend who is in an unhappy marriage with an overcontrolling husband to leave him -- the young wife gets on a bus but changes her mind and goes back to the husband. At the end the wife finds out the husband has probably done something horrible in a fit of anger with her, but deliberately chooses not to investigate to find out whether or not her suspicions are true. 

Munro is a fantastic writer. But I don't feel motivated to search out more of her books if they are mostly about Canadian women leading passive lives of quiet desperation. 

 

Edited by Ormond

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I finished Ben Thompson's Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters and Military Commanders to Ever Live. Voytek the Soldier Bear makes all other entries in the book look average. 

Now moving on Matthew Cobb's The Resistance: The French Fight Against the Nazis.

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