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What Are You Reading? Third Quarter, 2022


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13 hours ago, VigoTheCarpathian said:

Just started “Wonderland” by Dickman, and “The Tyrant Baru Cormorant” by Dickinson. The latter is the final book in a trilogy, the second book (read last year) took some interesting turns that I wasn’t really enthused with, so I didn’t go directly into this book - but I probably should have.  I forgot the depth of the world and how well-done the perspectives are, I got sucked into it this afternoon and can’t wait to devote more time to it this weekend.

Evidently this is not the final book -- The publisher's site says what they've presented so far are "the first three books" in the series, and Goodreads has an untitled fourth book listed on its page about "The Masquerade" series. 

https://us.macmillan.com/author/sethdickinson

And actually just found this from 2018 where the author says he did originally envision a trilogy but “Three books weren’t enough for Baru’s ambitions":

https://www.tor.com/2018/05/01/baru-cormorant-fourth-novel-seth-dickinson-the-masquerade/

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2 hours ago, Ormond said:

Evidently this is not the final book -- The publisher's site says what they've presented so far are "the first three books" in the series, and Goodreads has an untitled fourth book listed on its page about "The Masquerade" series. 

https://us.macmillan.com/author/sethdickinson

And actually just found this from 2018 where the author says he did originally envision a trilogy but “Three books weren’t enough for Baru’s ambitions":

https://www.tor.com/2018/05/01/baru-cormorant-fourth-novel-seth-dickinson-the-masquerade/

Thanks!  This is going to keep me from a baffled “wait, why didn’t x get wrapped up?” summation when I finish - glad to avoid that type of disappointment.  Will keep a lookout for a release date.

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This week is listened to Katherine Addison's (Sarah Monette's) The Witness for the Dead, her follow up to The Goblin Emperor.  I enjoyed it, although the names of all the characters really blurred together for me.  Also, the several different mysteries that the protagonist is called upon to solve wound around each other in a somewhat disassociated manner, although I think that this is an artifact of listening to, rather than actually reading, the story.  The author gets the various strands together and finishes everything off nicely in the end, but at one point I wondered if maybe I had set my iPod on "shuffle", given the variations in the topics of each subsequent chapter.

The further the story went, the more it seemed to me to be a story set in The Khaaveran Romances by Steven Brust.  It is equally well written, and the formality of the language between the characters also lends itself to such an impression.  You could also call it a sort of supernatural or spiritual Sherlock Holmes set in the land of elves, too, as the setting is a sort of elven late-Victorian age analog.  And apparently she has written exactly that sort of book, too, called The Angel of the Crows, which I now need to find.

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I started listening to A Darker Shade of Magic. Had heard good things about it but was under the impression Schwab wrote vampire/urban fantasy which isn't my cup of tea. When I realized this was historical magic fantasy, decided to give it a shot. So far it's okay but I have a personal pet peeve about petty thieves. Like I can get into a heist novel and cheer for characters who are thieves, but something about the unrepentant predatoriness of stealing shit from everyday people just because you can really grinds my gears. (Worse, this character is multiple times given the opportunity for paid legit work but refuses because she wants adventure, and the justification for her thievery is to save up so she can become...a pirate, aka more of a thief.) So yeah her entire character is driving me insane, but so far not enough to give up on the book.

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I finished The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal. I'd say I liked it overall but I have the same issues with it that I had with the previous book in the series. Basically the women astronauts in the early space programme stuff is good but

Spoiler

the Earth First supporters are supposed to be the sort of luddite bad guys but they're right. Colonising Mars as a plan to save humanity from a climate catastrophe on Earth is a terrible plan. What was the Earth's population 2 or 3 billion people when the book's set? Transporting even 10% of them to Mars with sufficient resources to support them seems fantastically unlikely.

 

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12 hours ago, TheLastWolf said:

Another addition to stuff I regret missing in childhood

What are you thinking of it?

This was one of the first books considered a 'real book' that was read aloud to me when growing up.  I must have been 6? It was very ... strange, shall we say ... to a farm kid on some of the flattest land on the globe, who had never seen a mountain.  Nor did we raise goats.  But we did have barns and hay! And school. And we really, really, REALLY had winter.  All of life was getting ready for winter, then living through winter, to get ready for the next winter.

Edited by Zorral
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Blindness by Jose Saramago. I think his books in general are a bit of an acquired taste due to his style of writing with no punctuation marks bar commas, extremely sentences and difficulty in reading dialog. That’s made more difficult until you get the hang of it because the characters have no names, and are identified by an attribute (girl with dark glasses, taxi driver, doctor’s wife etc).
 

Regardless of style the subject is just as interesting as his previous books I’ve read from him. There’s an outbreak of  blindness somewhere in the world in a city landscape. It is an unusual blindness because it comes suddenly with no lesions or physical damage to the eye whatsoever, it is contagious, and people see a milky “resplendent white” instead of pitch black and is an endemic.
 

As his “Death with Interruptions”, so far it analyzes the processes and steps the society makes to contain it (through quarantine) and generally shows how humans in general become complete animals (and that’s insulting the animals) willing to sacrifice everything and everyone in order to survive and not get infected even when we are basically all in the same boat. So far (1/3 through the book),  there ARE examples of humanity peaking through in a couple of characters, but generally pretty on par with how as a race I think we behave when push comes to shove in times of crisis. At least until we wake up to the reality of all being affected I mean. Unless we never wake up…
 

Not sure why I picked it up. I hate these type of stories nowadays, but he makes it impossible not to read it because his books are fascinating. 

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2 hours ago, Zorral said:

What are you thinking of it?

This was one of the first books considered a 'real book' that was read aloud to me when growing up.  I must have been 6? It was very ... strange, shall we say ... to a farm kid on some of the flattest land on the globe, who had never seen a mountain.  Nor did we raise goats.  But we did have barns and hay! And school. And we really, really, REALLY had winter.  All of life was getting ready for winter, then living through winter, to get ready for the next winter.

I never did get around to reading Heidi, too busy reading all the Black Stallion books, Bambi, Black Beauty, and lots of other animal books.  A girl in the mountains chasing goats? nah.   

Edited by LongRider
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8 minutes ago, LongRider said:

too busy reading all the Black Stallion books, Bambi, Black Beauty, and lots of other animal books

I read all those too -- and Black Beauty, like Heidi was read to me as well at that time.  The others, I read on my own.  Totally about animal books. Besides, nobody yet convinced me I wasn't growing up to be a horse. :P

(though maybe, sometimes, in some places, in some ways, maybe I did grow up to be a horse's ass . . . .)

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On 8/6/2022 at 1:32 AM, Wilbur said:

You could also call it a sort of supernatural or spiritual Sherlock Holmes set in the land of elves, too, as the setting is a sort of elven late-Victorian age analog.  And apparently she has written exactly that sort of book, too, called The Angel of the Crows, which I now need to find.

I read it a few months and I don't think I was expecting quite how Holmesian it was going to be, to the extent of featuring many of the iconic Holmes cases and supporting cast.

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I finished A Darker Shade of Magic and didn't much care for it. Won't be continuing on with the series.

Now I'm listening to Arcadia by Iain Pears, a random library find. It's like a time-traveling Narnia-esque Stranger Than Fiction and so far I am immensely enjoying it.

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9 hours ago, Starkess said:

Now I'm listening to Arcadia by Iain Pears, a random library find. It's like a time-traveling Narnia-esque Stranger Than Fiction and so far I am immensely enjoying it.

I had somehow missed that he had written another book. They are always worth a try, I have added it to my list.

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The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. I liked it better than the original cosy crime novel The Thursday Murder Club featuring pensioners at a retirement village as the leads, though both books were readable and gently humorous. The characters seemed to have settled into themselves a little more; although they're still very much 'types', they aren't drawn overly-crudely, and the writing has a kind of sensitive, affectionate eye that made me care about them. Of the regulars, Ibrahim in particular was more developed this time around.  Middle-of-the-road, but in a very likeable sort of way. 

A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine. Again, I preferred this to the first novel, putting me in a minority of responses. I remember finding the voice of Mahit in that rather too close to that of an informal-and-slightly-neurotic 21st century blogger. That seemed toned down this time. On the other hand, an ongoing problem I've had with A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace is that a lot of the characters don't seem sufficiently differentiated in voice or personality. So many of them are intelligent, highly functional, rather dispassionate political addicts. There doesn't seem to be anyone with ADHD or autistic characteristics, just as an example. No one plays trombone really badly in the space-faring equivalent of a brass band during their spare time. 

That might be a feature of the setting. I can't recall the original's world-building now, but it seems quite possible that both the Teixcalaanli Empire and Lsel Station filter their populations heavily either through genetic manipulation or the education system so that only a certain kind of person - rational, ambitious, both social and socially manipulative - makes it into the political and military spheres through which Mahit travels. 

I continue to enjoy stationer Mahit's conflict about her relationship to the Empire, heightened through her imago Yskandr's own dose of autocratophilia. Particularly well-done was her surprise in finding out (more, seeing confirmed in reality) that her own home Lsel Station has a culture, and is capable even of creating cultural works that her Teixcalaanli almost-girlfriend can appreciate.

Martine has said that there will be more Teixcalaan though not direct sequels; I really hope this will include perspectives of people who aren't high-ranking Teixcalaan or engaged in a life-long love affair with the culture.

The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison. I did enjoy this, though can't currently remember much about it. The plot around the dead girls was a powerful one, and skilfully interwoven with Celehar's day-to-day life as Witness for the Dead. The setting and denouement of

Spoiler

the tomb under the Hill of Werewolves 

felt as if they should have felt more atmospheric/haunting than the writing allowed them to be. I know Addison excels in being matter-of-fact, but I think she could have afforded to run the risk of purple prose there and draw things out a touch. But that's not a serious complaint. The change in Celehar's status and 

Spoiler

promised new job

make me interested to see in what direction the next book goes. I don't want the series to leave is roots completely and go into being high politics all the time, but it would be great if Celehar could be called back to investigate something for Maia at some point.

The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham. Yeah, this made me happy this week. As others have said, the magic system in the books has got to be one of the best in modern fantasy. The andat are terrifying. In terms of polish, Abraham's definitely come on since writing this series. The characterisation in the Dagger and Coin felt in several cases (Geder, Cithrin, Dawson and Annalise Kalliam) advanced on pretty much anything here; while Age of Ash benefited from having a smaller cast with more focus on each PoV. 

Some of the plotting is kind of questionable and depends on coincidence, and I wonder if after finishing, Abraham decided he never wanted to write another love triangle again, because there are three on offer here. 

But I didn't care. If someone said, 'I want an intelligent adventure story with sympathetic characters that will keep me glued to the pages from beginning to end' I'd put Book 1 of the Long Price Quartet in their hands, make sure they had a comfy chair, then leave them to it. 

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6 minutes ago, dog-days said:

Abraham decided he never wanted to write another love triangle again, because there are three on offer here. 

:lol: 
 

This comment reminds me of the opposite feeling I had when reading Abercrombie’s trilogies: I felt he has gone from 0 in The First Law to 60 in Age of Madness on love triangles. Though his are more practical (like sex triangles than love ones).

Anyway, haven’t read Abraham or better said I’ve only read his collab books with Ty Frank (Expanse) but it sounds like a good addition to my “to read” stack.

finished Blindness and it was really good. Do not recommend it though. There’s like a whole chapter of gang rape and physical humiliation of women that would rival whatever GoT put on screen only exponentially worse. Especially if you actively visualize what you’re reading. Humiliation of men too but of the moral kind.

Excellently written. So well in fact it’s just way to horrible. Cannot imagine the movie they made a decade or so ago was that faithful and to the book in many regards.

Started The Three Body Problem. So far so good.

 

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Finished Thunderball, the 9th book in Fleming's Bond series. It's easily one of the best and surprisingly none of the books are bad if you can look past the fact that Fleming was incredibly racist. It's the first of the Blofeld trilogy and I'm curious to see where the story goes.

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It's been way too long since I've made a post here.

As part of the book club I'm in, I read Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger. This was a "prequel" to his long-running police procedural mystery series set in far northern Minnesota focusing on detective Cork O'Connor. It's set back in the 1960s when Cork was 12 years old and his father was sheriff.  The mystery is about what first seems to be a suicide by a Native American man which turns out to be a murder. There are several believable twists and turns in the story, with the characterization very good. There was one minor annoying anachronism, with working class teens in small town Minnesota riding around on skateboards at least a decade before skateboards would have gotten there -- but all in all a very good book that makes me look forward to some day reading other books in the series.

Then the book club read The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Somehow I made it to age 70 without every having read this book which was a hit with young people back when it was published in 1951. I had read comments about it over the years that one really has to first read this book as a teenager to really love it. I was expecting to really dislike Holden Caulfield, the first person narrator. But instead I found myself just feeling sorry for him. He's a teenager dealing with the normal stress that comes when you realize most adults are very fallible human beings, and then having to deal with the death of his younger brother, while being the one of the four kids in his family who is least academically inclined and so feeling inferior to everyone else in his upper-class Manhattan family. So I could forgive his hypocrisy of calling everyone else "phonies" while he himself is constantly lying. I'm glad I finally read it, but it won't be in the top 100 books I've read in my life list.

For myself I finally finished David Brin's The Uplift War, third book set in his "Uplift Universe" and a sequel to Startide Rising, which I read shortly before as the first half of an omnibus volume titled Earthclan.  Though the events of Startide Rising are mentioned in the book, none of the characters from it appear. I liked The Uplift War a good deal more than Startide RIsing.  The female characters were much better presented. Brin's Uplift Universe features a world where humans have genetically modified dolphins and chimpanzees so they are intellectual equals, and where there are scores of other starfaring "sentient" species who have also been "uplifted" in their own history. Many of the main characters in the book are chimpanzees, and there are also main characters from other alien species, some which are allies of humans and some of which are enemies. The Uplift War won the Hugo and Locus awards back in 1988. Though I don't know what it was up against, it was certainly interesting enough with enough fascinating characters and world-building that it was worthy of recognition. 

Then I read Georgia Bottoms by Mark Childress, a comic Southern novel set in small town Alabama in 2001. (How people in the town deal with 9/11 is a small part of the story.)  The main character is a woman who supports her elderly slippping-into-dementia mother and alcoholic brother by "entertaining" six different men in the town, each one night a week, and has managed for years to make each of them think he is the only one she's having an affair with. She never specifically charges for services but drops hints about what she needs and accepts "gifts".  That's the set-up, and then complications ensue. Some great eccentric characters and lots of hypocrites getting their come-uppance. 

The book club's next selection is The Burning by Tim Madigan, the first non-fiction book we've read. It's about the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the worst such incident in American history, but largely forgotten until this book came out 20 years ago. So far I'm about 70 pages in to a 316-page book. Madigan's an excellent writer and is able to see the complexity in the people he's writing about even when he's pointing out how they contributed to great evil. 

 

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