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First Quarter 2022 Reading


Fragile Bird
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Read The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix. Set mostly in London, obviously — plus the Lake District and the Old World (i.e. fairyland) — in the nineteen-eighties with a trio of lead characters in their late teens, one of whom is introduced to a not-very-hidden magical world, in which the two others have grown up as natives. This was a light and easy read, which I enjoyed, but which equally isn't likely to make a lasting impression in my memory. It felt like a self-conscious mash-up of Diana Wynne Jones and Susan Cooper with a sprinkling of Ben Aaronovitch added for good measure. The main PoV character seemed pretty thin. Not dislikeable, just underwritten. 

Nix has said that he plans to revisit the world in future, and I'm happy about that - I think a revisit could lead to it becoming more his own, a bit deeper, and less of a patch-work quilt of classic fantasy influences. 

Edited by dog-days
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Finished Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham. Fully hooked and can't wait for the next one. 

I think it's similar to A Shadow in Summer in that this is really setting the stage for some big shit down the line, but unlike Shadow (which I only fully appreciated on re-reads), I was drawn into the characters, story, and setting right away. 

Like all his books, Abraham has written some great characters. Alys in particular has a good arc (if unpleasant at times) and I loved Sammish. 

Looking forward to who we get to meet in the next book too (assuming Abraham sticks with adding new POV characters in different books). I do have some guesses. 

Next up is either The Goblin Emperor or Foundryside, haven't decided yet. 

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I read Kate Elliot's Unconquerable Sun. I thought it was an enjoyable space opera. It is a bit slow to start off with as a large cast of characters and several different competing civilisations and factions are introduced without the overall plot being particularly clear to begin with but once it gets going it did move at a good pace. There were some good action scenes on both small and large scales ranging from a small group trying to escape pursuers through a city to an interplanetary battle involving thousands of starships. The characters were interesting as well although some of the supporting cast could probably do with a bit more time spent on them. One thing I did find a bit unbelievable was the way in which characters are so willing to talk back to the heir to the throne which didn't really seem to fit the setting and how powerful and short-tempered that character is. As the first book in a trilogy it did a good job of coming to a conclusion while still leaving several plot threads for the rest of the series to follow.

I'm now reading Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash which I like so far, I really like Abraham's two previous fantasy series so I have high hopes for this one.

2 hours ago, Underfoot said:

Next up is either The Goblin Emperor or Foundryside, haven't decided yet. 

They're both good options. I was just thinking that so far Age of Ash does remind me quite a bit of Foundryside.

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I just finished Castle in the Air, which is book 2 in the Howl world of Diana Wynne Jones. At first I didn’t think Howl and his now-wife Sophie make an appearance in the book, since it takes place in a desert nation to the far south, but they do. This is gentle fantasy and a sweet interlude away from some of the grimmer books I’ve been reading. However, it does include a small amount of fat-shaming. I look forward to the third book.

I read A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas, which is sort of described as a stand-alone book about two of the characters in her Court of Thorns and Roses series, but it really isn’t. There are too many references to past events and I don’t think you could just pick it up and understand what’s going on without having read the other books. I also think it’s badly written. Maas tries to make the Night Court a place where characters are sympathetic and understanding of the problems suffered by various people, but one of the main characters here is so unfairly treated by the others it becomes very tiresome, and there’s a sub-plot about pregnancy that I just found forced. I’m also getting really bored with her very graphic sex scenes which just seem endless. There’s only so many times I want to read about oral sex and how many fingers someone is going to insert and how big somebody’s penis is. Even the shitty werewolf free novels I’m reading aren’t that bad, even with the very bad writing involved.

I also decided to listen to Robin Hobb’s Assassin’s Apprentice, which I read years ago. Listening to it reminds me of the problem I have with her books, not a problem exactly, more like a feature, being the underlying sadness in the books. I had to set aside her books for quite a while. It’s funny how many books in this genre, written by Americans, are read by British people in the audiobooks. I couldn’t imagine an American accent being anywhere nearly as satisfying.

Edited by Fragile Bird
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I thought Daniel Abraham's newest wasn't dropping until early March. I know that's only several days [to expectation, I got it today] but, words fail to express the gratitude I have for something I can just lose myself into right now, because you just know it's going to be so fucking good and the world is so godamn bad. 

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I finished CIty of Mirrors and Appleseed. City of Mirrors was okay, the series started out really strong for me but I wasn't as into the second book. This book was a bit better for me but was also a little confusing and rambling. These books are quite long as it's an undertaking to read the series, but I don't regret it. Appleseed, eh. It was ambitious but it didn't really work for me in the end. There are three separate stories, sci fi blended with folk tale, and a strong moralistic anti-human message that didn't resonate with me. It was way too long and kind of floridly written. Not really for me.

Still working on Age of Ash and waiting on a new audiobook from the library.

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Finished Seth Dickinson's The Tyrant Baru Cormorant.  I liked it a lot. 

Of course, now that I'm caught up I get to enjoy the ongoing wait for the (still to be named, I think?) fourth book in the series.

I'm sure I remember somebody starting a discussion thread for this series when the book first came out, but after avoiding it for fear of spoilers at the time, I'm now unable to find it again...

 

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5 hours ago, Plessiez said:

Finished Seth Dickinson's The Tyrant Baru Cormorant.  I liked it a lot. 

Of course, now that I'm caught up I get to enjoy the ongoing wait for the (still to be named, I think?) fourth book in the series.

 

I finished Monster earlier this year. I hate it when I think the next book I'm going to read in a series is the final one, and finding out that's not true. 

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9 hours ago, Plessiez said:

I'm sure I remember somebody starting a discussion thread for this series when the book first came out, but after avoiding it for fear of spoilers at the time, I'm now unable to find it again...

 

Chataya's thread. Too few of us Baru lovers.

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Posted (edited)

I want to mention a book that I have a hold on at the library, called The Paradox Hotel. It’s a sci-fi murder mystery, in case you haven’t heard of it.

The premise of the novel is that the hotel is used by time travelers. The narrator is the murder victim, (I should correct this by saying an apparent murder victim, there is at least one other murdered person) a hotel security person. She’s also going mad in a recognized time traveler manner. She’s slipping in time. Stage 1 of the condition happens when a person starts having flashes of other moments in time, lasting for split-seconds or a bit more. What she has hidden from the doctor and from management is the fact she’s progressed to Stage 2, where she starts seeing 10, 20, 60 seconds or more of other times overlayed on the present. 

The Libby format allows you to read (or hear) a sample from books, and these details come from the opening chapters so I don’t think I’ve given a huge spoiler. If you look up the book you’ll probably see just as much described. I’m looking forward to reading it.

Edited by Fragile Bird
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Read Fonda Lee's Jade Trilogy in a rush and enjoyed them greatly.. 

For some reason I have had Lois McMaster Bujold on my mind,while I enjoy the Penric stories they are no substitute for old time Bujold, I reread Shards of Honor, which was ok but I had forgotten the Aftermath .. wow... That got me in the feels.... Next up is Barrayar.. 

Cordelia ..then Miles..

 

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Vladímír (2022), by Julia May Jonas.  Reviewed quite favorably in the NY Times, so I thought to check it out. Very early in the reading of this lively, slim, narrative of academia, everything about the narrator-protagonist's house, and some of her life too, seemed awfully familiar.  I swore the novel was set in a well known upstate NY college town, and the house was that of our friend who lives there, and the college was where his wife chaired a department before becoming fatally ill.  Stupidly, didn't look in the Acknowledgments before talking about it with our friend.  And yes, yes, it is his house; the author lived once a week in their spare bedroom, before his wife got sick (the author taught in his wife' department), commuting from Brooklyn, to teach her course there.  She started writing the novel in those days in the house.  He was delighted I recognized the place, and couldn't wait to so inform the author.

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I recently re-read William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy and Burning Chrome, so I thought I would give The Difference Engine another shot.  I purchased, read, and thoroughly disliked The Difference Engine when it was first published, but perhaps today's more mature version would enjoy it or better understand it.

No and Yes.  I did not enjoy it this second time, either.  However, I had a better understanding of who wrote what in the book between Bruce Sterling and William Gibson.  Otherwise, this was once again a huge waste of time to read.

My complaints:  Gross - I understand that hygiene was not as we appreciate it today, but I don't enjoy constant, ubiquitous references to bodily functions.  Some authors can get away with this, and indeed Gibson successfully describes uncomfortable situations in other books, but it is way over the top here.

Viewpoint - I understand how an unreliable narrator works, but the viewpoints of most of the characters are so over the top that it shifts into farcical territory.  And this further serves to make every character unlikeable.  What a bunch of hypocritical dipsticks.

Characters - What does the protagonist want?  Who is the protagonist?  What is the purpose of the story?  This has to be one of the muddiest "plots" every written and published in large numbers.  And between the unlikeable characters and the plotless storylines, it is boring as hell.  Even the traditional AI awakening at the end that Gibson loves is tacked on and dull.

Women - I am almost certain that at least some women living in the nineteenth century were not whores, drug addicts or criminals.  But you would never know it from reading this book.  Things were bad for women back then, but that doesn't mean every women was worthless.

Alternate History - The substitution of one technology for another, and the changes in the roles of the leading lights of the 19th century are kind of interesting, but the whole thing goes nowhere forever, and then at the very end a vignette from 1991 is tacked on.  This whole package is pretty dull and unengaging.

Every other book that William Gibson has written is excellent and bears reading and re-reading, and Bruce Sterling's stuff is fine as well.  But this book is turgid and unsavory, and it is possible that I disliked it more now than I did in college.

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I listened to Matrix by Lauren Groff and thought it was a bit meh. It was quick and easyish, but it felt ultimately really pointless. A historical fiction about a woman in the 12th century sent off to become a nun rather unwillingly at 17 (I know absolutely nothing about the historical figures who inspired this story, though I did recognize Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine). The book covers the story of her life and...that's it. That's the book.

My hold on Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James came through, so I'm excited to see if this one is more to my taste than the DNF book 1 (Black Leopard, Red Wolf), and hopefully it isn't too confusing to pick up as a book 2.

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6 hours ago, Wilbur said:

This whole package is pretty dull and unengaging.

Pretty much :agree:-- though I haven't re-read it since it came out, unlike you.  Bruce's TXian was coming through way too loud and clear in this book, among other things, I thought at the time.  :dunno:  The world has shown him since that it and his place in it, and what he thinks, are not quite what he thought then.  But his adventurousness hasn't quit though, even now.

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On 2/27/2022 at 4:41 PM, williamjm said:

They're both good options. I was just thinking that so far Age of Ash does remind me quite a bit of Foundryside.

Thanks for the rec. I went with Foundryside and just finished it up. Enjoyed it a lot, and found the "magic" system really intriguing, as well as the hints at whatever happened with the heirophants.

Starting the second one today, and disappointed to see I'll have to wait 3-ish months for the final book in the trilogy! D: (For some reason I thought the trilogy was complete). Oh well, always good to have something to look forward to. 

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I just got hold of Age of Ash.  That means for this long, below freezing, snow-ice-rain-wind storm battering us all weekend, I have three novels I really want to read sitting here. Been quite a while since I had fiction I wanted to read. :read: :)

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Finished Joe Abercrombie's Age of Madness trilogy. Quite a ride. I've been spending most of my evenings and weekends on it for the last fortnight or so. Even if I sometimes felt aspects were repetitious, or too transparently manipulative, the work as a whole just swept me along. Loved the characters - Savine, Orso, Leo, Vick, Rikke et al. Loved the huge set pieces. The battle of Stoffenbeck in particular. It was particularly fun to read with Henry IV Parts 1&2 running through the back of my mind with Orso as a much nicer, ineffectual Hal, and Leo as Harry Hotspur if Hotspur was dumb as mud and in the closet. 

I should check out the Abercrombie thread to see what youse all been saying about it. 

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8 hours ago, Underfoot said:

Thanks for the rec. I went with Foundryside and just finished it up. Enjoyed it a lot, and found the "magic" system really intriguing, as well as the hints at whatever happened with the heirophants.

Starting the second one today, and disappointed to see I'll have to wait 3-ish months for the final book in the trilogy! D: (For some reason I thought the trilogy was complete). Oh well, always good to have something to look forward to. 

You'll find out a lot more about the hierophants in the second book. At least you've not got too long a wait for the finale. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the trilogy concludes.

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