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First Quarter 2020 Reading

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Finishing up the Magic of Recluce (audiobook). I like it. A lot, actually. The world building somehow felt clunky at first but it grew into itself. It's not perfect (STOP CALLING EYES "CHINA DOLL BLUE" WHEN THERE IS NO CHINA IN YOUR WORLD) but it's an interesting piece and I'm intrigued by the 20 other novels now.

Side note: The audiobook, at least, had a whole lot of sounds to replace fights and that was rather offputting. As are the horse whinys and such, when narrated. Constantly. I wonder if it's even more odd to read or if that somehow makes it better.

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8 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

Finishing up the Magic of Recluce (audiobook). I like it. A lot, actually. The world building somehow felt clunky at first but it grew into itself. It's not perfect (STOP CALLING EYES "CHINA DOLL BLUE" WHEN THERE IS NO CHINA IN YOUR WORLD) but it's an interesting piece and I'm intrigued by the 20 other novels now.

Did you get the edition with the wonderful Darrell K. Sweet artwork? 

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25 minutes ago, IlyaP said:

Did you get the edition with the wonderful Darrell K. Sweet artwork? 

Just the audiobook through Scribd (a subscription there had been great for me).

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4 minutes ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

Just the audiobook through Scribd (a subscription there had been great for me).

Audiobooks don't come with covers? (I've never used them, so I confess total ignorance here, but I hoped it would, and that you'd be able to load it up on your device of choice and have the swanky DKS artwork!)

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9 hours ago, Ser Not Appearing said:

Finishing up the Magic of Recluce (audiobook). I like it. A lot, actually. The world building somehow felt clunky at first but it grew into itself. It's not perfect (STOP CALLING EYES "CHINA DOLL BLUE" WHEN THERE IS NO CHINA IN YOUR WORLD) but it's an interesting piece and I'm intrigued by the 20 other novels now.

Side note: The audiobook, at least, had a whole lot of sounds to replace fights and that was rather offputting. As are the horse whinys and such, when narrated. Constantly. I wonder if it's even more odd to read or if that somehow makes it better.

Ha, the actual books just have the sound effects printed. Like

*woosh*

*thump*

 

etc.

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9 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

Ha, the actual books just have the sound effects printed. Like

*woosh*

*thump*

 

etc.

Super awkward, imo.

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12 minutes ago, IlyaP said:

Audiobooks don't come with covers? (I've never used them, so I confess total ignorance here, but I hoped it would, and that you'd be able to load it up on your device of choice and have the swanky DKS artwork!)

It's kinda smaller on the screen I don't see where I can maximize it. He's on a pony with a fireball behind him and staff in outstretched hand.

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5 hours ago, Darth Richard II said:

Yeah he's known for it. There's a name for it but I'm too lazy to look it up at the moment.

Onomatopoeia

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Posted (edited)

Finished I Should Have Got Off At Sydney Parade by Paul Howard, the fourth or fifth in his Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series.  Another hilarious novel of Dublin, parodying modern Irish culture and its tacit but extremely deep caste system signified entirely by accent.  The first person POV character is a hilariously spoilt and self-deluded narcissist, who just might, very gradually, be maturing slightly each novel as he experiences his own self-inflicted consequences.  The author writes the accents phonetically, from the plummy vowels and nonchalance of the upwardly mobile, roysh, to the nasal vowels and rippling consonants of the working class.  The rendition of Northsiders (Narthsoiders, who read the Evendning Heddild newspaper) would require an unfamiliar reader to watch two minutes of Fair City on YouTube to be prepared.

Also finished Longitude by Dava Sobel, an excellent non-fiction history of the quest to determine longitude, told mainly within Britain, and pitting the horologist upstart outsiders against the astronomist establishment.  John Harrison is obviously the central figure for the horologists, but by no means the sole focus, and the account continues well beyond his contribution.

I started but did not finish How To Talk To A Widower by Jonathan Tropper, who once again uses an identical template primary character facing bereavement.  He’s still an excellent writer but, at 20% in, I was too bored by the self-indulgent mawkishness of bereavement.  It suffuses all of his novels but felt even heavier this time, or perhaps I am just less willing to read an entire novel of that tone.  You would think the title should have warned me off.  Perhaps I’ll return to it another time. This review is definitely not a knock on the quality of the book.

And I finished The Hunter’s Prayer by Kevin Wignall, another novel of a spy (this time an assassin) based in Central Europe, whose career has left him isolated and with personal regrets.  As usual for this author, this is not a flashy thriller, but rather a novel of tradecraft and character introspection.  These are well written quick reads, and this one in particular ends differently than I expected.

Edited by Iskaral Pust

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Just finished Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which I've owned a copy of for a long time but never quite got around to. 

I really, really enjoyed this. Its a fairly quick read (as plays tend to be), but I found it to be extremely engaging. I'd say it was a simpler read than most Shakespeare (that I've read). One thing that stood out to me was, aside from the relevance of the political discussion to modern politics, the coherence of each conversation through a modern lense. Sometimes books from even the 20th Century seem to have absurd premises that read as out-of-date to a 21st Century reader. To me, the dialogue in this felt so recogniseable, beyond the vocabulary. 

Really loved it, anyway. I think out of the Shakespeare I've read, I'd rank it somewhere below A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear, but above everything else. Which is not much use to anyone reading this of course. 

Next up: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is another that's been on my to-read list for a while; I read some of her poetry in college. 

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I just finished Memories of Ice, the third book in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. 

 I'm uncertain as to whether I should go on to read the rest of the series. I did find Memories to be a very good book, but parts of it were frustrating, and since I've read more than once that major fans of the series usually rate it as the best book among the ten, I wonder if four through ten would be too much of a slog to be worth it for me.

I did like Memories way better than Deadhouse Gates. The characters were more interesting to me -- though I wouldn't be surprised if the ones I like best (the Mhybe, Lady Envy, Kruppe, and Paran) aren't favorites of most major fans. I also particularly liked the way Erikson dealt with the aftermath of the book's last battle. His writing about the grief felt when characters were paying final respects to those who had died was often very moving. 

Unfortunately I don't enjoy big battle scenes very much, especially ones that have "horror movie" aspects as the siege of Capustan did for me. And I find myself annoyed at Erikson's treatment of gender. I think he is trying to be feminist in creating armies that where half of the soldiers are women, but he then writes these women as if they were just substitute men. This is reinforced by his use of "Sir" as the form of address for both men and women. I think if he really wanted the genders to be seen as equal, he'd have thought of a new neutral honorific instead of use a term which has so many masculine connotations, implying to me that he thinks women are only worthy if they act and think just like traditional men.  I like the Myhbe and Lady Envy because they did seem to have a sense of themselves as women, though Envy may have gone a bit too far in the comic relief direction. 

The episode in the book that stays in my mind are the three pages (out of 1,000) about 3/4 of the way through where the artist Ormulogun and his critic Gumble show up. This was just so different from the rest of the story -- it felt to me like characters from The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland had suddenly been plopped down into an otherwise very "dark" adult fantasy world. And then they disappear and seem to have no role in the plot at all. I don't know why Erikson wrote those three pages unless he's foreshadowing something that will be important in later books in the series. 

But I would certainly recommend Memories of Ice to most fantasy fans, especially those who like "military" fantasy more than I do. :)

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46 minutes ago, Ormond said:

I just finished Memories of Ice, the third book in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. 

 I'm uncertain as to whether I should go on to read the rest of the series. I did find Memories to be a very good book, but parts of it were frustrating, and since I've read more than once that major fans of the series usually rate it as the best book among the ten, I wonder if four through ten would be too much of a slog to be worth it for me.

The next book, House of Chains is probably the weakest of the first five, although the following book, Midnight Tides, is among the best. The second half of the series can turn into a bit of a slog at times unfortunately, although there are still plenty of highlights.

The characters were more interesting to me -- though I wouldn't be surprised if the ones I like best (the Mhybe, Lady Envy, Kruppe, and Paran) aren't favorites of most major fans.

I think your assumption would be correct, a lot of fans seem to really dislike the Mhybe and Kruppe and find Paran dull.

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58 minutes ago, Ormond said:

I just finished Memories of Ice, the third book in Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen Series. 

 I'm uncertain as to whether I should go on to read the rest of the series. I did find Memories to be a very good book, but parts of it were frustrating, and since I've read more than once that major fans of the series usually rate it as the best book among the ten, I wonder if four through ten would be too much of a slog to be worth it for me.

I did like Memories way better than Deadhouse Gates. The characters were more interesting to me -- though I wouldn't be surprised if the ones I like best (the Mhybe, Lady Envy, Kruppe, and Paran) aren't favorites of most major fans. I also particularly liked the way Erikson dealt with the aftermath of the book's last battle. His writing about the grief felt when characters were paying final respects to those who had died was often very moving. 

Unfortunately I don't enjoy big battle scenes very much, especially ones that have "horror movie" aspects as the siege of Capustan did for me. And I find myself annoyed at Erikson's treatment of gender. I think he is trying to be feminist in creating armies that where half of the soldiers are women, but he then writes these women as if they were just substitute men. This is reinforced by his use of "Sir" as the form of address for both men and women. I think if he really wanted the genders to be seen as equal, he'd have thought of a new neutral honorific instead of use a term which has so many masculine connotations, implying to me that he thinks women are only worthy if they act and think just like traditional men.  I like the Myhbe and Lady Envy because they did seem to have a sense of themselves as women, though Envy may have gone a bit too far in the comic relief direction. 

The episode in the book that stays in my mind are the three pages (out of 1,000) about 3/4 of the way through where the artist Ormulogun and his critic Gumble show up. This was just so different from the rest of the story -- it felt to me like characters from The Wizard of Oz or Alice in Wonderland had suddenly been plopped down into an otherwise very "dark" adult fantasy world. And then they disappear and seem to have no role in the plot at all. I don't know why Erikson wrote those three pages unless he's foreshadowing something that will be important in later books in the series. 

But I would certainly recommend Memories of Ice to most fantasy fans, especially those who like "military" fantasy more than I do. :)

I decided to take a break after that book. I enjoy his writing and recognize the quality but there's something about it that wore on me over those books.

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15 minutes ago, williamjm said:

The next book, House of Chains is probably the weakest of the first five, although the following book, Midnight Tides, is among the best. The second half of the series can turn into a bit of a slog at times unfortunately, although there are still plenty of highlights.

 

 

I think your assumption would be correct, a lot of fans seem to really dislike the Mhybe and Kruppe and find Paran dull.

I'm indifferent on Mhybe, never got the hate.

Kruppe fucking rocks though.

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2 minutes ago, Darth Richard II said:

I'm indifferent on Mhybe, never got the hate.

I'd agree with you, I don't really remember much about the Mhybe now, but I've noticed a lot of complaints about her when the book has been discussed in the past.

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9 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

...Also finished Longitude by Dava Sobel, an excellent non-fiction history of the quest to determine longitude, told mainly within Britain, and pitting the horologist upstart outsiders against the astronomist establishment.  John Harrison is obviously the central figure for the horologists, but by no means the sole focus, and the account continues well beyond his contribution...

This is a really strong work - excellent writing and a totally engrossing story.

Before I read this book, I had no idea how recently humans first obtained the ability to identify location on earth.  Up until that point, travelers basically just guessed.

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3 hours ago, Leap said:

Just finished Shakespeare's Coriolanus, which I've owned a copy of for a long time but never quite got around to. 

I really, really enjoyed this. Its a fairly quick read (as plays tend to be), but I found it to be extremely engaging. I'd say it was a simpler read than most Shakespeare (that I've read). One thing that stood out to me was, aside from the relevance of the political discussion to modern politics, the coherence of each conversation through a modern lense. Sometimes books from even the 20th Century seem to have absurd premises that read as out-of-date to a 21st Century reader. To me, the dialogue in this felt so recogniseable, beyond the vocabulary. 

Really loved it, anyway. I think out of the Shakespeare I've read, I'd rank it somewhere below A Midsummer Night's Dream and King Lear, but above everything else. Which is not much use to anyone reading this of course. 

Next up: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This is another that's been on my to-read list for a while; I read some of her poetry in college. 

I’ve never read Coriolanus, sounds interesting though. Out of curiosity from your ranking, what other Shakespeare have you read? As it happens, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is quite low on my list. As is Romeo and Juliet (though to be fair, part of Romeo and Juliet’s low ranking is the over exposure to it in secondary school. I think it was the only Shakespeare our school owned so we analysed it for three years. Same with of Mice and Men. I can never heard about tending the rabbits or gloves full of vaseline again without wanting to scream

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3 hours ago, Wilbur said:

This is a really strong work - excellent writing and a totally engrossing story.

Before I read this book, I had no idea how recently humans first obtained the ability to identify location on earth.  Up until that point, travelers basically just guessed.

I was aware of the history already, but still found this to be an excellent read.  Well written, thoroughly researched and structured into a compelling narrative. 

I’m very open to any recommendations of similar quality. 

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