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williamjm

Second Quarter 2021 Reading

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Posted (edited)

I know time has lost all meaning but apparently it's now the Second Quarter so we need a new thread, I'll move my post over from the First Quarter thread:

I read Becky Chambers' The Galaxy and the Ground Within. Like her other novels this was a science fiction story with more of a focus on characters and world-building rather than plot, although I think it did have a more coherent narrative than the previous book in the series. In some ways it is quite timely since it follows five characters in a lockdown, although in this case they are locking down in a motel for travellers awaiting a slot to go through a wormhole when a satellite accident leads to all flights being grounded. In the grand scheme of things it's not a book with particularly high stakes, but to the characters the disruption to their plans can still seem very important to them. One interesting features is that aside from one brief appearance there are no human characters in this story, instead the protagonists come from four different alien species and as the events force them to spent time together this does allow for some exploration of the differences between their cultures (although they are not necessarily all typical members of their species). There is an amusing scene where they discuss how weird humans can be (and to be fair, we can be pretty weird), although it slightly frustrating to have several mentions of the crew of the Wayfarer from the first book in the series but not to get to see any of them. I think the almost complete lack of action would not be to everyone's tastes but I thought it was enjoyable to spend time with these characters and the book did come to a satisfying conclusion.

Edited by williamjm

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I enjoyed David Gemmell's Lion of Macdeon, so I picked up the sequel entitled The Dark Prince.

Even more so than Lion of Macedon, The Dark Prince is a fantastic tale set in a multiverse of pre-Macedonian Hegemony over Greece.  The story is more of an adventure or quest tale than the earlier personal story of Parmenion.

If you look at the overall story arc in the two books, the plot jumps off the "sort-of historical fiction" track and over onto the "high fantasy" track about 70% of the way through the first novel, and then stays on this track until about 60% through the second, when it jumps back into the "historical fiction" track after the climax of the second book.

This points to an odd feature of the second book, in that the last 40% of the book is historical fiction again after the climax, in a sort of extended falling action.  As a reader, I kept wondering when it would end, not because it was boring, but because we are trained to have no more than 10% of the book fall after the climax.

So if you have ever wanted to know why Alexander the Great was so Great, and you like fantasy set in Greek myth, this is the two-book series for you.

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I finished listening to The Titan's Curse today, the 3rd Percy Jackson book. It was quick and fun, though I didn't think it was as good as the first two. I love the mythology aspects, but I've never been one to much enjoy modern-day fusions into my fantasy and so sometimes I find those aspects rather tedious. (Incidentally, one reason that Harry Potter worked so well for me--and I suspect many Americans--is that it did the fantasy/real-world fusion but the real-world part still felt removed and fanciful because it was very British). I was also disappointed with the sidelining of Annabeth, who I much prefer to Thalia. 

I also finished re-reading The Subtle Knife. I forgot how damn depressing the ending of that book is. Now I'm working on The Amber Spyglass, of course.

Still slogging through So You Want to Talk About Race? My current take is that I don't ever want to talk to this author about anything, she just doesn't sound like someone I would enjoy spending time with in any way so it's a bit hard going. But I appreciate getting to see her perspective.

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I've had a productive Easter break, having knocked off the last two collections of the Sherlock Holmes canon. His Last Bow (the collection, not the story) was decent - I absolutely loved The Devil's Foot. The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes was, alas, a near-abomination. It's not completely awful, but apart from Thor's Bridge, the best stories are mere retreads of the old classics. I kept wondering whether Conan Doyle was making the collection deliberately bad, to allow him to retire the hated character in peace.

Anyway, my rankings of the stories:

A Game is Afoot: Ranking Sherlock Holmes Stories

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Well, I basically didn't read anything for the second half of February and all of March due to a flat move and a complete loss of motivation. It didn't help that I had just started Love In The Time Of Cholera, which is fairly slow to start (still haven't finished it).

I just read Jeeves in the Offing, since Wodehouse seems to be my go-to whenever I need to get back into reading. It was a pretty solid read, although fairly light on the Jeeves as the title implies. One of the weaker in the series probably, but still plenty of laughs to be had.

I'm now reading another Wodehouse, Aunts Aren't Gentlemen. This is another in the Jeeves & Wooster series, and as with the above I do think I've read it before a long time ago. However, since I'm with the parents for Easter I thought I'd go through some of the short ones on their bookshelf, moreover this is not on my Goodreads - but once I have read it, it will be the 400th book I have 'read', which is not too shabby. In reality I think I'm somewhere closer to 500, but there's a fair amount of YA garbage in there skewing the numbers. 

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On 4/3/2021 at 1:18 PM, Wilbur said:

I enjoyed David Gemmell's Lion of Macdeon, so I picked up the sequel entitled The Dark Prince.

Even more so than Lion of Macedon, The Dark Prince is a fantastic tale set in a multiverse of pre-Macedonian Hegemony over Greece.  The story is more of an adventure or quest tale than the earlier personal story of Parmenion.

If you look at the overall story arc in the two books, the plot jumps off the "sort-of historical fiction" track and over onto the "high fantasy" track about 70% of the way through the first novel, and then stays on this track until about 60% through the second, when it jumps back into the "historical fiction" track after the climax of the second book.

This points to an odd feature of the second book, in that the last 40% of the book is historical fiction again after the climax, in a sort of extended falling action.  As a reader, I kept wondering when it would end, not because it was boring, but because we are trained to have no more than 10% of the book fall after the climax.

So if you have ever wanted to know why Alexander the Great was so Great, and you like fantasy set in Greek myth, this is the two-book series for you.

Just finished the first one and bought The Dark Prince. 

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I enjoyed Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera, although compared to something like Shashi Tharoor's Inglorious Empire, it pulls a lot of punches. Maybe because the latter author grew up in a country that experienced the empire from under the boot, as opposed to being the person wearing it. As an Irish person, Mr. Tharoor's attitudes are much closer to my own.

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I read Yoon Ha Lee's Hexarchate Stories, a collection of stories set in the world of their Machineries of Empire trilogy. Some of the stories are very short 'flash fiction' but there is also a novella Glass Cannon which is a sequel to the original trilogy. Some of the shorter stories felt a bit redundant but I liked the different perspectives given on Jedao and Cherris at various times in their life. I think that last story might be the most interesting although I think the trilogy's ending was maybe a better conclusion than the end of the novella which seems to be starting off new plotlines.

I'm now reading Neil Gaiman's A Game of You.

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Today I finished Aunts Aren't Gentlemen, which was as entertaining as I remembered. This one had a bit more of what was lacking in Jeeves in the Offing, and was all around a better story - but I still gave it 4 stars, relative to the 5 stars of the best Wodehouse.

I also had pretty much nothing to do all aft, so I picked up Henry V. I read this more than once in Uni, but it's been a while. I enjoyed the flick through, it's definitely one of my favourite Shakespeares. Also another one that has mysteriously not been added to Goodreads, so I'm one step closer to finally whittling that "owned-unread" shelf to zero (it's currently at 22, with 3 books on the go) 

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Been very quiet the last few weeks on account of a writing project and working my way through Darkdawn, the third and final installment in Australian author Jay Kristoff's Nevernight Chronicles

Was fascinated to find out that he wrote the entire trilogy whilst listening to Ludovico Einaudi. (Not what I expected!) It was also surprising to learn that some fantasy readers found the inclusion of footnotes jarring, which surprises me, given that well-known genre authors such as Terry Pratchett and Susanna Clark both use them, so it's not a particularly new or unexpected stylistic choice for the genre. 

Am now in the post-conclusion phase where I listen to/read interviews to understand what his goals were with the project, so as to better understand if and where he succeeded in his goals, and where perhaps not. An interesting and unique read, if nothing else. 

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18 hours ago, Peadar said:

I enjoyed Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera, although compared to something like Shashi Tharoor's Inglorious Empire, it pulls a lot of punches

Yet Tharoor doesn't blindly oppose the continued usage of English in India like some narrow minded jingoists. In fact he speaks better English than tRump. 

18 hours ago, Peadar said:

Maybe because the latter author grew up in a country that experienced the empire from under the boot, as opposed to being the person wearing it

Nicely put 

18 hours ago, Peadar said:

As an Irish person, Mr. Tharoor's attitudes are much closer to my own.

Cheers

Tho humanity and empathy is all you need to sympathize 

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Bugger!  I’ve lost track of what I’ve shared on these threads.  I went through a few books lately because I abandoned a couple (the downside of purchasing almost exclusively from Kindle daily deals).

I know I read Black Echo by Michael Connolly, the first of the Harry Bosch series.  Definitely a good read and I will try more.  The TV show is surprisingly true to the characters.  Bosch is the lone wolf inside the system, and can only be inside the system.  He’s the sole champion of the neglected and overlooked, especially amongst the careerists and jobs-worths of LAPD.

I know I abandoned The Rules Of Supervillainy.  If you’re going to write a parody spoof then it needs to be funny.  I had not chuckled once at 15% in.

I read some of Storm Of Steel by Ernst Junger, a memoir of WWI.  Interesting but not as good as I expected.  I was very sleep deprived while reading, so my patience and attention span may not have been as generous as they should have been.

I read The Twelfth Transforming by Pauline Gedge, a historical fiction about the reign of Akhenaten in ancient Egypt, primarily from the POV of his mother the dowager empress.  This is a lengthy palace intrigue as Akhenaten promotes a new state religion and alienates the powerful establishment priesthood and the ordinary people.  I enjoyed it but it dragged on a bit.  Perhaps I was still too tired as I read, but the historical outcome is well known so there wasn’t much tension or suspense.

And I just finished The Informant by Thomas Perry, third (and final?) in his Butcher Boy series about a mafia hit man. Really enjoyable read for the genre.  The writing quality felt like Jack Reacher, but without the grandiose savior projection.

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5 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

I read some of Storm Of Steel by Ernst Junger, a memoir of WWI.  Interesting but not as good as I expected.  I was very sleep deprived while reading, so my patience and attention span may not have been as generous as they should have been.

I loved this one and am sorry you did not. I thought he was an amazing character, if a little bit crazy.

As for me, I'm reading yet another Adrian Tchaikovsky book, Bear Head

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Im about halfway through the Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman, which im loving so far. Im pretty uninformed about this particular section of history, but the characters are just so vivid and fantastic. I think its probably her best since Devil's Brood. So tragic that she passed away, her books are a real treasure.

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I'm reading Slade House by David Mitchell, the first of his books I've read. It's fun so far.

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8 minutes ago, ljkeane said:

I'm reading Slade House by David Mitchell, the first of his books I've read. It's fun so far.

I enjoyed that one - found it really gripping. I read it a couple of years ago and sat up into the night with it. 

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7 hours ago, dog-days said:

I enjoyed that one - found it really gripping. I read it a couple of years ago and sat up into the night with it. 

I thought it was an interesting twist on the haunted house genre. I did like the way each story built on the previous stories.

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15 hours ago, bms295 said:

Im about halfway through the Land Beyond the Sea by Sharon Kay Penman, which im loving so far. Im pretty uninformed about this particular section of history, but the characters are just so vivid and fantastic. I think its probably her best since Devil's Brood. So tragic that she passed away, her books are a real treasure.

I feel the same way.  It feels a little odd that her last novel was the last book I checked out of the library, only the day before our whole city literally shut down due to covid, a year ago.  We got grab 'n go instituted finally back sometime in August, which has helped so much.  But with everything being re-opened now -- when it shouldn't be as cases continue to rise and hospitalizations and deaths are very many -- not rising necessarily, but only plateaued -- it surprising the gov hasn't forced libraries to reopen too -- schools have.

I think my favorite of Penman's Plantagenet novels remains When Christ and His Saints Slept. Now that was a time about which I really knew nothing. So all the while I read it, I worked at learning about it.

In the meantime I'm reading Arthur Conan Doyle's Valley of Fear; it may be one of his best works.  Does it ever move!

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Slade House was very good. I enjoyed it a lot.

Next I'm reading Adrian Tchaikovsky's Firewalkers.

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