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First Quarter 2020 Reading

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I finished The Light of All That Falls, the final book in the Licanius trilogy by James Islington. I agree with the poster upthread who found the series whelming. The first book was really fantastic, and enough to make up for its flaws, but books 2 and 3 really fell short. As much as I hate to say it, because I like short series, I think perhaps this shouldn't have been a trilogy. Not a terrible read, but nothing outstanding either. I'll keep an eye out for future works by the author though--this was his first series and so I'd expect improvement.

I also finished The Paladin of Souls audiobook by Lois McMaster Bujold. I didn't love it *quite* as much as the first book, but it was overall really excellent. I liked Ista as a side character in the first book, and as a protagonist she is excellent. Looking forward to continuing this series.

I've recently started listening to Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It's a book that lends itself well to audio, as (at least so far) it has been nothing but transcripts of interviews between characters (who are read by different narrators). I'm enjoying it!

I think I'll also start my re-read of The Expanse, as I believe the final book is expected out this year. I've read books 1-6 already, but not 7&8, so I'm looking forward to getting to those.

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Finished Lies The Mushroom Pickers Told by Tom Phelan, a literary fiction set in rural Ireland in 1951.  Very well written, and captures the era, the patterns and interplay of a small village, and the idiomatic speech.  Definitely worth reading.

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Finished The Dark Ages 476-918 A.D. by Sir Charles Oman.  It was published in 1908 and some of Oman's bias toward non Christians and other attitudes is apparent, but it was a good overview of period and the different peoples that rose and then faded from power across Europe, both the smaller kingdoms, as well as the Empires.    Mainly focused on who ruled when and who killed them to take over before they were killed in turn ;).

Then breezed through Outland by Dennis E. Taylor, a fun story about travel to an alternate Earth.    Reminded me of Steven Gould's Wildside and S.M. Stirling's Conquistador, both with crossing over to alternate Earths and starting the people who discover the way to cross over trying to make a profit from it,  college grad students in Outland, high school students in Wildside, and military veterans in Conquistador, but the stories diverge from that point as new elements are thrown in.     

 

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I listened to the audiobook of Joseph J. Elllis's The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783 - 1789. Tells the story of the Constitutional Convention from the Articles of Confederation to ratification of the Constitution. The book follows the story primarily through the quartet of George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Also includes some supporting characters like Robert Morris. Very interesting.

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Posted (edited)

After hearing about it for years I have finally read the "Steerswoman" series by Rosemary Kirstein, and really enjoyed it, except for the part where I thought that it was finished in 4 extant volumes: "The Steerswoman", "The Outskirter's Secret", "The Lost Steersman" and "The Language of Power" and it is not. The books follow a member of the wandering scholastic order specializing in the gathering and dissemination of information. Rowan getting interested in a seemingly obscure little mystery and her attempts to solve it via good old scientific method lead to unexpected reprecussions and deeper insights into the nature of the vaguely medieval world she inhabits. Some really neat  worldbuilding and each installment does have a largely satisfying ending, tying most of the imminent plot-lines from within the volume itself. Which is why I didn't much mind it's unfinished state and whole-heartedly recommend it. Also, thankfully, as far as relationships go, the series very much prioritizes friendship.

 

Ditto "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison. Which I liked, but expected to love and didn't. In part due to the fact that "elves" and "goblins" are called that merely because of their appearance and otherwise function and behave like bog-standard humans. In part due to the fact that

Spoiler

Maia (no relation :D) was just incredibly lucky in that the very first person he encountered upon inheriting unexpectedly turned out to be an administrative and political genius, who accomplished the bulk of everything in the book, which gave the protagonist a chance to grow into his own power. It felt too convenient and unearned. The intrigues were also rather simplistic and straightforward for an Imperial court.

But still,  coming to terms with trauma was depicted in a very believable way and yay for the power of decency!

 

"Arrival" anthology, which used to be "Stories of Your Life and Others" by Ted Chiang, which, again, I expected to be blown away by and wasn't. The stories are well-written and I admire his approach of taking an interesting premise and following it to the logical end, but I dunno, something doesn't quite work for me. The stories are good, but from the buzz I expected more. Maybe it is the characters' motivations that are lacking for me. For instance, I really don't understand why the protagonist chose to go through with things without even attempting any changes in the titular story.  At least, the movie gave her an actual reason... I am still very much looking forward to reading his other anthology, though.

Edited by Maia

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3 hours ago, Maia said:

"Arrival" anthology, which used to be "Stories of Your Life and Others" by Ted Chiang, which, again, I expected to be blown away and wasn't. The stories are well-written and I admire his approach of taking an interesting and following it to the logical end, but I dunno, something doesn't quite work for me. The stories are good, but from the buzz I expected more. Maybe it is the characters' motivations that are lacking for me. For instance, I really don't understand why the protagonist chose to go through with things in the titular story.  At least, the movie gave her an actual reason... I am still very much looking forward to reading his other anthology, though.

I did really like the anthology but I think the ideas are generally more interesting than the characters.

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After being informed that wolf hall isn't full of footnotes I've finally started the book and really enjoying it. At this rate i can see myself doing the whole trilogy

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Wasn't sure where to put this as it doesn't perfectly fit anywhere else and I don't want to create a thread just for it. As such, I decided to put it here. Apologies for the imperfect fit but I thought it might be interesting to people who this thread appeals to.

This is an lecture / talk by Nathan Alan Davis, a playwright (imperfect medium), and it's just interesting (to me) to get the perspective of a writer.

If you're interested, here it is ... if not, my apologies.

https://www.pbs.org/video/artist-talk-nathan-alan-davis-jwreeq/

(full disclosure that I know Nathan and that may feed onto why I found this interesting)

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Rereading The Lies of Locke Lamora. Been a long time since I've read this delightful book. 

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Finished The Wolf by Leo Carew, a zero-magic fantasy very loosely based on the English vs Scots in a late medieval setting.  This is the first of a series.  The plot focuses on a young prince who is thrust onto the throne in the middle of a war and before he has any support.  It has some similarities to the arcs of Robb Stark and Tyrion.  It’s a pretty good read, blending military action, political maneuvering, a clash of cultures and coming-of-age story.

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17 hours ago, IlyaP said:

Rereading The Lies of Locke Lamora. Been a long time since I've read this delightful book. 

Holds up so well on a re-read (the capers of Bug, Locke, Jean and the Samza twins was always great). I also enjoyed RSURS and RoT more on a re-read too

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On 1/5/2020 at 4:01 PM, IlyaP said:

David Graeber's amazingly thorough and impressively researched book Debt: The First 5,000 Years has me completely. This is an epic scholarly undertaking and wildly interesting. 

Have already run one marker dry from all the highlights I've been making. 

Gods this book is so cool.

Read this book several years ago, good and very eye opening. 

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On 1/15/2020 at 12:35 PM, Leap said:

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). 

Jackson wrote a famous short story "The Lottery" which was introduced to me in high school, (early 1970's) through story and film.  Check out the story if you get a chance.  I think of it often.

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On 1/20/2020 at 12:22 PM, Paxter said:

I started 2020 with Roy's much-lauded The God of Small Things. I can see why many people love this book and I certainly agree that it is beautifully-crafted, heartbreaking and really captures the tragic essence of India. But I couldn't help but to compare it to A Fine Balance, which is still my number one Indian/cultural text. 

I loved THE GOD OF SMALL THINGS, it was devastating to me and the was the best part.   It's a Booker Prize winner so I thought I would see if I could find another Booker winner with a gut punch so read THE ENGLISH PATIENT which was so good.  The character Kip had a much larger role in the book than movie and became my favorite.  My library has A FINE BALANCE so I think I'll check it out, thanks for mentioning it!

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Posted (edited)
On 2/6/2020 at 8:32 PM, Darth Richard II said:

Nothing nuanced about constant rape.

Don't forget the castrations.  Also, the magic gets more and more outlandish as the story progresses, not to mention it's full of bloat and would have made a better trilogy than a five book series.  

Edited by LongRider

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On the subject of re-reading, i found it was time for me to dig out Assassin’s Apprentice. Again.

Somehow everytime i read it i pick up on little details I either missed first time or forgot. Its also quite amusing to me

Spoiler

How many hints there are that Galen is Queen Desire’s bastard peppered throughout the novel. How was I so blind first time around?

 

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8 hours ago, LongRider said:

I started 2020 with Roy's much-lauded The God of Small Things.

Did it require much coffee to get through it? (I've tried reading this multiples times and failed every time; all my brain registered was "come on, get on with it!")

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3 hours ago, HelenaExMachina said:

Assassin’s Apprentice

Has it aged well? 

Have this in my library, picked it up a few years ago, intending to read it, since it's a classic of the genre. 

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1 hour ago, IlyaP said:

Did it require much coffee to get through it? (I've tried reading this multiples times and failed every time; all my brain registered was "come on, get on with it!")

It’s a pretty easy read once you get past the first 20-30 pages. I can see why people get stuck with the child-like, nursery rhyme writing style, but it grew on me.

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10 hours ago, IlyaP said:

Did it require much coffee to get through it? (I've tried reading this multiples times and failed every time; all my brain registered was "come on, get on with it!")

That wasn't me, it was Paxter who read this in 2020, I read it a couple of years ago and don't remember needing coffee, but love coffee so drinking coffee and reading anything is fine with me.    :P

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