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First Quarter 2022 Reading


Fragile Bird
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Finished the novel We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman which was published in 1971 and apparently a hit at it time.  I hate to call this a historical novel, rather would call it a historical soap opera.  The book has four parts which concern three fictional people who knew Richard III.  One the Maiden who as an affair with Richard early on and later births his illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth.   The Fool, the court jester who is in love with the Maiden, and an archer that befriended Richard and later fought with him.  

These characters each brought a different aspect of Richard III, however, they all loved, loved, loved, him so much, especially the Maiden who wouldn't shut up about it, and I found that aspect tiring.  For me this book was a slog but did like the Fools story the best.  Wouldn't really recommend it unless soap opera is for you.

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The Witness for the Dead was pretty good. Not quite the follow up to The Goblin Emperor I'd have chosen but it was a decent read. It reminds me quite a lot of Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric novellas, the more low key ones at least.

I'm going to read Katherine Arden's The Girl in the Tower next. I remember quite liking the first book but I can't really remember much of it so I'll have to see how it goes.

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On 2/9/2022 at 10:01 PM, Wilbur said:

I finished up Christopher Buehlman's The Blacktongue Thief this week on audiobook.  While very imaginative, it wasn't to my taste.

I don't care that much for characters who glory so much in filth, and the story had to same tone as Steven Erikson's The Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, which are just too earthy for me.

Chacun a son gout, as the French say! I found the language of the thief very funny and very in-character! 

My library copy of How the Word is Spread, by Clint Smith, finally popped up again and I got to finish it. The first time around it was pretty heavy going. Smith travelled the US, visiting places associated with slavery (and to Africa for a chapter) to tell the unvarnished stories of slavery. He goes to plantations, to a prison, to cemeteries, to cities. He crosses the ocean to go to one of the islands where slaves were held and shipped. Everywhere he goes he breaks myths and reports the truth. The slavery stories out of New York were new to me - did you know at one point the second largest slave market in the US was in NYC? And did you know that no witches were burned at the stake at Salem but rebellious slaves were? It’s a hell of a story he tells, well worth reading.

I mentioned in the last thread that the daughter of a friend suggested I read some of Sarah Maas‘ books, and I started with A Court of Thorns and Roses, and before I could finish it I felt I had enough of the fae to last a lifetime. But I borrowed a couple of the books in the series (they have weeks long waiting lists) and all of a sudden I’m reading three at the same time. They’re quite a bit of fun, with lots of magic and treachery and soft-core porn. Maas writes decent love scenes (and I read a very nice tribute she wrote to her husband, so maybe there’s some autobiographical detail there) though they get a bit repetitious. So those Court books are ok but what my friend really liked was her Assassin series, Throne of Glass (yes, the king has a throne made of glass). Sadly, the idea that an 18-year old girl who just spent a year imprisoned at a salt mine is this fabulous, incredible assassin is a bit much, but I’ll at least read the first book.

Looking at the titles under Maas’ name, though, I saw she has started a new series, called the Crescent City series, and decided on a whim to read that. My lord, the woman is a prolific writer! And, paydirt! House of Earth and Blood takes place in a world once just inhabited just by humans (lies, lies, their new overlords say!) when a bridge from another world opened and brought the fae, shifters, demons, angels etc etc, all of who are ruled by the Asteri, who seem to be 6 very powerful gods who a bunch of people sure would like to kill, if only they could. What made the book a page turner for me is that at least this first book starts as a murder mystery, a pretty well-written one. The main characters are a half-fae, half-human who’s roommate and friends were murdered by some kind of demon while she was out partying, and a fallen angel/slave who had been the general leading a failed rebellion 200 years before. The world is divided into 10 districts, each headed by an archangel, all of whom have battalions of angels as their military/police forces. (One of the archangel governors was the rebel leader.) The powers of the fallen angels have been curtailed by the use of magical tattoos, like a crown of thorns, on their heads, put there by witches. Our hero is one bad-ass angel. Bad-ass sad angel, since he figures he’ll be a slave for the rest of the 800 or so years left to him, if he isn’t tortured to death first by one of the pricks calling themselves archangel. 
 

It’s a good mystery with decent plot twists, but the characters do say fuck you a lot (though not as much as the black-tongued thief) and Maas does like to have characters lust after each other, lots of hard-ons here and the female equivalent. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to be fucked by a sexy angel? There’s a gay angel too, and lots of inter-species sex. Not graphic, for the most part. One thing about Maas, she writes about PTSD very well in her books. Lots of characters suffer from nightmares and sadness because war seems to be everywhere. The angel is the archangel’s assassin and the stuff he’s ordered to do is brutal.

Anyway, I buy few books these days, borrowing most from the library instead. I went out and bought the Murderbot books because I adore Murderbot so much. Yesterday I went out and bought House of Earth and Blood, and the clerk said, you know, the next book is coming out really soon, and I said, yes. And she said, like, boxes of books being delivered with labels saying ‘do not open until x date’ soon. So I told her to call me when I could buy it and she said, sure, we’ll call on Tuesday! House of Sky and Breath (the houses have different creatures in them). I wish other people would write so fast!

In the end though, if you like fantasy and you like mysteries this is a good combo. Sexy angels are a bonus!

Edited by Fragile Bird
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@Fragile Bird Ahh welcome to the world of SJM books. @kairparavel and I have discussed them over the years in the YA and Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance threads here.  A word of warning about the Throne of Glass series...SJM wrote the first book when she was in high school and it is so different from the later books in the series that she wrote as an adult.  The later books are not something you could have ever predicted based on that first book.  Her writing developed and the stories reflect where she is in her own life and her changing interests and inspirations.  Personally, I think A Court of Thorn and Roses is her best book - as in best edited, most tightly composed, most satisfying as a complete story.  Most of her books are just way too long and rambling and in need of reigning in - the last book in the Court trilogy is just a bloated mess.  But despite that she creates compelling locations and interesting female characters and great friendships between them which is why I keep reading her.

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4 hours ago, lady narcissa said:

@Fragile Bird Ahh welcome to the world of SJM books. @kairparavel and I have discussed them over the years in the YA and Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance threads here.  A word of warning about the Throne of Glass series...SJM wrote the first book when she was in high school and it is so different from the later books in the series that she wrote as an adult.  The later books are not something you could have ever predicted based on that first book.  Her writing developed and the stories reflect where she is in her own life and her changing interests and inspirations.  Personally, I think A Court of Thorn and Roses is her best book - as in best edited, most tightly composed, most satisfying as a complete story.  Most of her books are just way too long and rambling and in need of reigning in - the last book in the Court trilogy is just a bloated mess.  But despite that she creates compelling locations and interesting female characters and great friendships between them which is why I keep reading her.

Oooh, thanks! I’ll keep that in mind as I read Throne of Glass! I had wanted to say that her books reminded me of stories that I had spinning in my head when I was in high school  (I even drew pictures of my characters!) and I’m so sorry now I didn’t writing a book myself.

Have you read House of Earth and Blood? She still writes too much, she probably has a fixation on writing x number of words, but the book has a sharper edge than the others. It’s the one I’ve enjoyed the most so far. As I said, I’ve even bought the book!

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Finished A Brightness Long Ago, the first Guy Gabriel Kay novel I've read. He's been on my reading list for a long time, so it was with some relief that I found I liked it — that means I can look forward to familiarising myself with his other books.  Broadly, I'd describe the style as introspective, lyrical, a little detached and dreamy, yet at the same time Kay manages to convey the urgency and excitement of key scenes, notably the horse race midway through. He swoops in at times, writing with the intensity of an adventure story, and at others pulls back. A key character is disposed of in a few pages, almost casually, even if the ripples of the death aren't casual. 

Apart from leaving me wanting to read more Kay, I'm now also keen to learn more about the Montefeltro-Malatesta feud that inspired him in this case. 

Edited by dog-days
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15 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

I had wanted to say that her books reminded me of stories that I had spinning in my head when I was in high school  (I even drew pictures of my characters!) and I’m so sorry now I didn’t writing a book myself.

Have you read House of Earth and Blood? She still writes too much, she probably has a fixation on writing x number of words, but the book has a sharper edge than the others.

Yes, lots of us have ideas like this as teens! Not so many of us write them fully down and go and get them published. I think she and others like Veronica Roth had the good fortune to come out of college with these books they had written as teens and the YA market was just exploding and looking for new YA authors and they lucked out with timing and getting published.  

I have read the first Crescent City book. As with all her books I enjoyed some parts and disliked others. I'll read the next one although I'm debating if I need to reread the first one or if I can remember enough of it. If you enjoy this series and are looking for something else to read you might want to check out the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning which was a big influence on SJM for the Crescent City series. The first book is Darkfever.

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Finished The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie. This is one of her 'thrillers', rather than a crime novel... and despite already having a low opinion of her thrillers, this one was painfully dated. It's written in the early 1920s, has the Russian Revolution (and German spies) being part of a maniacal international conspiracy driven by a Supervillain, and freaks out at the British Labour Party (and trade union activism) also being stirred up by aforementioned Supervillain. It brings to mind the conservative freak out over the Zinioviev Letter of 1924. 

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I just finished Age of Swords, book 2 in Michael J. Sullivan’s Legends of the First Empire series.  This series has a lot of positives -- overall plot, worldbuilding, magic system, character development, interesting band of females.  But, I felt disappointed that this second book wasn’t as good as the first.  The main issue, for me, was that the pacing was off. 

I currently feel a need for some scifi rather than continuing on with more fantasy.  I haven’t started it yet, but I’m planning to try Alex White’s Salvagers series next.

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The next Rivers of London book is due in April 2022, and I've caught up with a couple of the novellas to refamiliarize myself with the world. I'd forgotten how fun it is. 

The October Man is set around Trier, and has a different protagonist, one Tobias Winter, the German equivalent of Peter Grant (and he knows he's the German equivalent of Peter Grant because he's read all the files on him and would probably buy collectible cards if they were available, though I'm sure he wouldn't turn into a strange borderline creepy stalker-fan if they actually met in person. Well, probably not.) I enjoyed the mystery and the setting, though I think the style suffered slightly because of the culture shift. One of the reasons Rivers of London is great is its jokey, localised, pop-culture-reference-heavy narration, and I don't think that can be caught when you're writing about a place that you don't know intimately well, though Ben Aaronovitch obviously did plenty of research. But Tobias didn't even mention Tatort once...

What Abigail Did Last Summer was my definitely favourite of the two. It felt both funnier and more sure of its theme. For some dumb reason, I had Abigail in my head as that type of annoyingly smart Hollywood movie kid who's meant to be funny but isn't. And I was wrong. In the end, she reminds me more of Tiffany Aching than other SFF juveniles.  I can't comment on how authentic Aaronovitch's London teen slang is since I don't speak to anyone under thirty. : ) But it worked for me, and I enjoyed the footnotes, allegedly there to explain to American Agent Reynolds what Abigail's talking about, but possibly also enlightening the older readership as well.

The pathos of Abigail's brother Paul was touching. Horrible to think that when Paul dies, the family will likely be better off financially since Abigail's mother will be able to work; and how knowing that would feel.

Also, I would like a talking fox now too please. I not so old that I'm past wanting a talking fox. 

Edited by dog-days
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1 hour ago, dog-days said:

What Abigail Did Last Summer was my definitely favourite of the two. It felt both funnier and more sure of its theme. For some dumb reason, I had Abigail in my head as that type of annoyingly smart Hollywood movie kid who's meant to be funny but isn't. And I was wrong. In the end, she reminds me more of Tiffany Aching than other SFF juveniles.  I can't comment on how authentic Aaronovitch's London teen slang is since I don't speak to anyone under thirty. : ) But it worked for me, and I enjoyed the footnotes, allegedly there to explain to American Agent Reynolds what Abigail's talking about, but possibly also enlightening the older readership as well.

The pathos of Abigail's brother Paul was touching. Horrible to think that when Paul dies, the family will likely be better off financially since Abigail's mother will be able to work; and how knowing that would feel.

Also, I would like a talking fox now too please. I not so old that past wanting a talking fox. 

Have you read the Tales From The Folly collection? It does have a short Abigail story in it.

I would be quite happy to read sequels to both of the novellas.

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1 hour ago, williamjm said:

Have you read the Tales From The Folly collection? It does have a short Abigail story in it.

I would be quite happy to read sequels to both of the novellas.

Not yet - I scooped up the two novellas in the local library. Will have to give Tales from the Folly a go. Ditto re sequels. 

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I listened to the William Gibson Sprawl Trilogy (Neuromancer (1984), Count Zero (1986), and Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)) again this past week while driving around Southern California.

As always, these books are terrific, and I made a few connections by listening to them one after another that (maybe?) I hadn't done before.  For instance, the device that creates the shadow boxes in Count Zero is probably the Braun drone from Neuromancer.

Also, it struck me that the rural milieu from the viewpoint timeline in Gibson's Jackpot books (The Peripheral (2014) and Agency (2020)) is prefigured in the final two books of The Sprawl Trilogy.  It had been a long time since I had read Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive when The Peripheral and Agency came out, so I had forgotten how much of the latter two books dips into the forgotten realms of the Eastern US.  Now that I write that, it also reminds me of the short story Dogfight in Burning Chrome.

In summary, though, it is interesting to think about how prescient Gibson was in presenting how rural America would be wrecked by a plague of opiates, provided by US Drug Manufacturers.  His accuracy in his portrayal of the broken families and economies of the region would become 30 years later is startling.

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1 hour ago, Wilbur said:

interesting to think about how prescient Gibson was in presenting how rural America would be wrecked by a plague of opiates, provided by US Drug Manufacturers.  His accuracy in his portrayal of the broken families and economies of the region would become 30 years later is startling.

Bill was born in South Carolina, grew up in Virginia.  Beyond that, of course, is his extraordinary penchant for details of everything and keeping them mindfully in play.  Incredible observer.  As a detective he probably could have given both Sherlock and Poirot a run for their money.

 

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On 2/12/2022 at 10:55 PM, lady narcissa said:

Yes, lots of us have ideas like this as teens! Not so many of us write them fully down and go and get them published. I think she and others like Veronica Roth had the good fortune to come out of college with these books they had written as teens and the YA market was just exploding and looking for new YA authors and they lucked out with timing and getting published.  

I have read the first Crescent City book. As with all her books I enjoyed some parts and disliked others. I'll read the next one although I'm debating if I need to reread the first one or if I can remember enough of it. If you enjoy this series and are looking for something else to read you might want to check out the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning which was a big influence on SJM for the Crescent City series. The first book is Darkfever.

I picked up my hardcover (I never buy hardcovers anymore!) copy of Book 2 of the Crescent City series, House of Sky and Breath, and immediately read the first couple of chapters. As I’m sure you can guess with Maas, all our heroes and heroines get into a shitload of trouble, which, honestly, is not a spoiler. She has just learned new ways to twist the knife.

But. Oh. My. Gods! I am a person who loves, loves, loves being spoiled, and I also read the last chapters. I like to know where we are going so I can pick up hints along the way. It increases my reading pleasure, it doesn’t spoil it. And the last chapter is a delightful shocker that I did not see coming, even though, honest to God, I mused about it happening while reading the first book.

Thank the gods Maas is a demon fast writer and the next book will likely be out in a year, because the cliffhanger is wonderful.

I thought about putting the last sentence of the last chapter in a spoiler tag, but I didn’t want to tempt anyone who would regret looking under the tag and then kicking themself around the block. If anyone wants to know what the last sentence is, I’m quite happy to send you a message!

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On 2/12/2022 at 2:31 AM, lady narcissa said:

@Fragile Bird Ahh welcome to the world of SJM books. @kairparavel and I have discussed them over the years in the YA and Urban Fantasy / Paranormal Romance threads here.  A word of warning about the Throne of Glass series...SJM wrote the first book when she was in high school and it is so different from the later books in the series that she wrote as an adult.  The later books are not something you could have ever predicted based on that first book.  Her writing developed and the stories reflect where she is in her own life and her changing interests and inspirations.  Personally, I think A Court of Thorn and Roses is her best book - as in best edited, most tightly composed, most satisfying as a complete story.  Most of her books are just way too long and rambling and in need of reigning in - the last book in the Court trilogy is just a bloated mess.  But despite that she creates compelling locations and interesting female characters and great friendships between them which is why I keep reading her.

I tried the Crescent City stuff and I just could not. As lady narcissa says, the best part of her books are the female friendships. Her male characterization is way OTT (and OTP too) though Rhysand started off pretty great but uh, well you'll see. I skipped the second to last book in Throne of Glass series because so long and full of who cares characters. (It was supposed to be a novella!)

I'll read the next Court of book but she'll have to come up with something far catchier to lure me into a new series.

Speaking of Persephone and Hades, I think I'll start Neon Gods by Katee Robert.

Edited by kairparavel
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4 hours ago, Fragile Bird said:

Oh. My. Gods! I am a person who loves, loves, loves being spoiled, and I also read the last chapters. I like to know where we are going so I can pick up hints along the way. It increases my reading pleasure, it doesn’t spoil it. And the last chapter is a delightful shocker that I did not see coming, even though, honest to God, I mused about it happening while reading the first book.

I did decide to reread the first book so it will be a few days before I get to the new one.  I did see the SPOILER you are referring to, however, so I have been spoiled to that bit.  Maybe we can discuss in more detail in the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance thread?  (Actually I will go to that thread and post more then after this.)  I, like you, generally enjoy spoilers especially for books like this and will look ahead to the last chapter or seek them out on the internet. That way I can relax while reading and just enjoy instead of speed reading through. 

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Read the book 2313 by Kim Stanley Robinson, a SF novel that takes place in our solar system and the important events take place in the year 2312.  Many of the planets, moon, and asteroids have been terraformed and colonized one way or another.  The premise of the story is the main character, a woman named Swan becomes involved in a clandestine group when her grandmother dies suddenly. 

The group works in secret and so she can't be told what it is.   I read the and felt that most of it was travelog by the author as the main character traveled all over the solar system so we could read his ideas for terraforming and other ideas.  While there were interesting ideas, the plot was sandwiched in and not really very exciting.  It was OK I guess.

Next up, THE 1619 PROJECT by Nikole Hannah-Jones and the NYT Magazine.

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Finished Eric Hazan's the Invention of Paris: A History in Footprints. I would only recommend it to readers with an already decent knowledge and understanding of the city. The author doesn't seem to be writing it for anyone other than those with an already intimate knowledge of the city and French culture. I was both fascinated and frustrated by it at the same time. I preferred the first half of the book which focused more on the general history and expansion of Paris from medieval to modern times discussing various quartiers and arrondisements. The second half focuses a bit more on revolutionary and then literary and artistic Paris. The structure is a bit lacking in the second half bouncing around from various time periods and artistic movements. In spite of some frustrations with the book,  I loved learning more about my favorite city.

I've now started William Hogeland's The Whiskey Rebellion: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and the Frontier Rebels Who Challenged America's Newfound Sovereignty.

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