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First Quarter 2021 Reading

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New year, new thread.  What are people reading this year?

I didn't read as much fiction as I'd have hoped to last year, and what I did read tended to be pretty similar in a lot of ways (that is, I read a lot of somewhat optimistic/escapist secondary world fantasy published in the last five years).  Not hugely surprising, given 2020, but I'd like to do something different this year.

My -- well, "resolution" is too strong, so let's say "vague hope" -- is to try to read a bit more of a mix of genres and to try some things that weren't necessarily published within the past few years. Specifically, each month I'm planning to read at least one literary prize winner, at least one work that's somewhat experimental in format or structure and at least one book published before this century.

I'm also aiming to read at least sixty books this year (but I'm not really so concerned about that).

So for January, my goal is to read the following:

  1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Fortress in the Eye of Time by C. J. Cherryh
  3. Event Factory by Renee Gladman
  4. Jade War by Fonda Lee
  5. The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
  6. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

 

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Jade War is fantastic. It takes all the great ideas from the first novel and ups them to eleven. Im eagerly awaiting Jade Legacy, which if a quick Google search is correct is due to be published later this year. Im actually about finished with Luna: New Moon, which shares some of the clan/gangster elements of that novel. Both are fantastic, but I think I prefer the Green Bone Trilogy so far. 

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I set my goal for 52 books this year, both as a nice even book per week rate and because (coincidentally) it was my tally from 2020.

I'm about halfway through Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear and enjoying it more than I did the start, although I am still a bit confused about the different nations/politics.

I also started listening to The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang on my run today. Only one chapter in so it's hard to say, but so far I like it. I think I may need to listen to it on a faster speed though as it's feeling a little slow on the audiobook side.

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Re-read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes yesterday. I've just started the follow-up Memoirs, which I haven't read before. I'm aiming to read the Complete Works of Holmes, in order.

Thus far, the biggest amusement is the opening few pages to The Sign of Four. Holmes casually injects himself with cocaine via hypodermic needle. Watson asks whether it's morphine or cocaine. Holmes replies that it's cocaine. He's feeling bored. Ah, Victorian junkies...  

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Finished Jude the Obscure  yesterday for my first book of the year. Mixed feelings on this one. I think, overall, I quite like Hardy as a writer. However, I think the story was not my favourite, to put it mildly.

Spoiler

Frankly, that's the most tragic story I've read in a long time. I actually heard someone several days ago talk about how Hardy novels just seemed to get worse and worse for the characters, but I didn't grasp just the extent of that in Jude until I'd finished. 

I enjoyed the start of the story well enough, the part I wasn't quite as keen on was Sue's religious tendencies after the death of their children. Not that it wasn't a coherent exploration of the character, but it just seemed to be the ultimate tragedy in this book, and Jude's eventual death a near blessing afterwards. It was made so much worse because you knew it was coming. The whole last section just struck me as so bleak and unenjoyable. My first thought was that it was truly Dickensian where the rest of the novel leaned more towards the likes of Wuthering Heights. In the end though, it was far behind that. Romeo and Juliet meets Dickens meets...who is an author known for degrading their characters? Hardy?

 

Next, I am reading The Merchant of Venice, which I have already read I think, but need to re-read to make sure I remember it. I am also reading Pyramids by Terry Pratchett, because I need something uplifting. This is a standalone, and I'd always kind of expected that it wouldn't be as good because of this. However, I am quite enjoying it so far. 

My reading challenge for 2021 is 48 books, after I read 45 in 2020. Alongside that is my aim to read every book I own but haven't read - this will be the year! I own about 30 or so. Last year I read an even gender split as part of my challenge. I don't think I can do that this year as I've got 23 books that I own written by men, and I think there's several more on my shelf that I haven't counted. So I'll have to beat my challenge, possibly handily, to reach that parity.

 

 

 

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Goodreads shows I read 57 Kindle books in 2020, plus a few physical books that I have not tracked.  That’s a similar figure to past years, even if it seemed to me that I gave less time to reading at some stages of the year.

I just finished Troubled Blood by Galbraith/Rowling, the fifth in the Cormoran Strike detective series.  I have to admit that after being disappointed by the fourth book, I only purchased this when offered at a large discount.  But it was quite good and definitely improved on the prior installment.  The two POV characters are still a selfish, misanthropic slob and a joyless, self-pitying Mary Sue, but the overall mystery was quite good and the immersive writing style has always been there.  The romantic arc was less angsty and page-consuming too, thankfully, but still there.  Rowling’s politics do suffuse these books; not her TERFy transphobic attitudes, but there are definitely some pervasive attitudes on class and gender.  Most of that review doesn’t sound too positive, but it was a good read.

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I read little fiction last year, which has tended to be so increasingly in recent years.  The next novel up to try, when I get to it, is Tana French's The Searcher (2020)

What I'm reading right this minute, having started them right before New Year's are -- Christmas haul, doncha know!

Stothard, Peter. (2020) The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar 
Tempest, Kathryn (2017) Brutus: Noble Conspirator
Crowley, Roger. (2019)  The Accursed Tower: The Fall of Acre and the End of the Crusades
Johnson, Walter (2020) The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History of the United States.
Harris, John  (2020) The Last Slave Ships: New York and the End of the Middle Passage
 

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I finished Peter F Hamilton's The Saints of Salvation. I liked it quite a lot. It's an action packed conclusion to the trilogy with lots of interesting things going on. I did have an issue with one major part of the plot.

Spoiler

The neutron star civilisation Yirella creates becoming advanced enough to defeat the Olyix in the space of 50 odd years seems extremely unlikely and very convenient.

Next up I'm going to try a new author for me with Harry Sidebottom's The Return. It looks like Bernard Cornwell style historical fiction set in the Roman world so I'll see how that goes.

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Have been reading the Thief series based on the recommendations thread.  I've finished the first book, which I really liked, but have not really enjoyed the second book (I'm halfway through). 

I'm going to pick up a hard copy of Fonda Lee's first novel based on thread recommendations for the next couple of days.  

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East of Eden is so good. I usually list it as one of my favorites, although I haven't read it in a decade and have only a vague memory of it at this point. Might have to add a re-read to my list!

I finished reading Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts, the first book in the Eternal Sky trilogy. I didn't love it, but I quite liked it. I also didn't find it to be racist, as someone had mentioned earlier, but then I'm White so perhaps not the best judge of these things. In any case, there was an interesting story and interesting world-building and one interesting character (Samarkar). The rest of the characters were pretty meh, and the writing style made it difficult to get emotionally invested in anything, I found. I'll probably pick up the next one at some point.

For now, next up I am re-reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley in preparation for reading the remaining books in the trilogy, which I have not read.

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1 hour ago, Starkess said:

East of Eden is so good. I usually list it as one of my favorites, although I haven't read it in a decade and have only a vague memory of it at this point. Might have to add a re-read to my list!

I finished reading Elizabeth Bear's Range of Ghosts, the first book in the Eternal Sky trilogy. I didn't love it, but I quite liked it. I also didn't find it to be racist, as someone had mentioned earlier, but then I'm White so perhaps not the best judge of these things. In any case, there was an interesting story and interesting world-building and one interesting character (Samarkar). The rest of the characters were pretty meh, and the writing style made it difficult to get emotionally invested in anything, I found. I'll probably pick up the next one at some point.

For now, next up I am re-reading The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley in preparation for reading the remaining books in the trilogy, which I have not read.

I don't think Bear's alleged racism(not going to Judge either way there) was ever part of her books, per se. There was just some big kerfuffle(ha, my spell checker says that's a real word) a looong while back on race issues in novels on like, live journal(so way way way back) that was, eh, not nice. 

 

I guess I should start Jade City. 

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Finished off The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. I found the collection weaker than its predecessor, though The Final Problem is, of course, excellent. I've been ranking the stories as I go. So far seven of my top ten are from Adventures, while only three (The Final Problem, The Greek Interpreter, and The Musgrave Ritual) make it from Memoirs.

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I finished off Peter F. Hamilton's Salvation over the weekend, and it was good, with some interesting mysteries set up and finished off nicely.  The multiple timelines and characters are also well done.

One drawback for me is that Hamilton's characters seem to be less unique or less singular than in his earlier work.  My perception was that his earlier characters had unique personalities and traits that made them easier to identify and develop empathy with the reader.  Greg Mandel,  the voidhawks, Dr. Alkad Mzu, Nigel, Gerald, Larry Newton - all of these were fully-realized characters.

In Salvation, my reading was negatively affected because the characters weren't strongly differentiated until pretty late in the book if at all.  They did stuff, and they reacted to their feelings about stuff that happened, but the story didn't really seem to develop their personalities as much as I would have preferred.

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On 1/3/2021 at 11:28 PM, ljkeane said:

I finished Peter F Hamilton's The Saints of Salvation. I liked it quite a lot. It's an action packed conclusion to the trilogy with lots of interesting things going on. I did have an issue with one major part of the plot.

  Reveal hidden contents

The neutron star civilisation Yirella creates becoming advanced enough to defeat the Olyix in the space of 50 odd years seems extremely unlikely and very convenient.

Next up I'm going to try a new author for me with Harry Sidebottom's The Return. It looks like Bernard Cornwell style historical fiction set in the Roman world so I'll see how that goes.

I enjoyed the series, I think it was my favorite of his since the Nights Dawn trilogy. In terms of your issue with the plot 

Spoiler

It does feel like a convenient way to get a positive ending, much like a lot of his other work. It is my biggest criticism with his writing in general, but then endings can be tough. As I understand it the new civilization started with Ainsley's level of technology and were then able to manipulate time, in this case speed it up inside their bubble, so they had tens of thousands of years to advance. Whereas the Olyix, who could also manipulate time, had plateaued (more or less, they were still adapting to the human weapons).

 

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Posted (edited)
8 hours ago, Makk said:

I enjoyed the series, I think it was my favorite of his since the Nights Dawn trilogy. In terms of your issue with the plot 

  Hide contents

It does feel like a convenient way to get a positive ending, much like a lot of his other work. It is my biggest criticism with his writing in general, but then endings can be tough. As I understand it the new civilization started with Ainsley's level of technology and were then able to manipulate time, in this case speed it up inside their bubble, so they had tens of thousands of years to advance. Whereas the Olyix, who could also manipulate time, had plateaued (more or less, they were still adapting to the human weapons).

 

Spoiler

Yeah I get that. It just feels like a massive stretch to me that this small population of people in less than ideal circumstances would advance to the level that they could manipulate the flow of time in the space of 60 odd years. Especially when the entirety of the rest of the human race hasn't got there in 10,000 years.

 

Edited by ljkeane

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Posted (edited)

I didn't know if this belongs here or in

 

So posted in both 

The Last part of the second trilogy from Ransom Riggs' Miss Peregrine's home for peculiar children is to be out by Feb 23. The Desolation of Devil's Acre. 

https://bookstacked.com/upcoming/miss-peregrines-book-six-release-date-desolations-devils-acre-cover-plot/

Link 

Edit 

The film was classic Burton... 

Edited by TheLastWolf

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