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What Are You Reading? Third Quarter, 2022


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I read Robert Jackson Bennett's Locklands. I have enjoyed the trilogy, but I think this was my least favourite of the three books. It's not that it was bad and the plotline here was a logical extrapolation of events in the first two books, but I found the story of Sancia and her friends trying to build something for themselves in the ruthless society of Tevanne to be more compelling than the epic war with the fate of the world at stake that provides the plot of the final book. There did seem to be a lot of action scenes and journeying, which sometimes took precedence over the characters, at time it felt more like a Brandon Sanderson book than something by Bennett. I think the best characterisation came from the flashbacks about Clef and his history, which tied up a lot of loose ends in the backstory. The society of Giva was probably the most interesting idea in the book, but the plot didn't spend enough time there to fully explore it. The story does come to a satisfying conclusion, and I think the resolution was cleverly done.

Now I had started Guy Gavriel Kay's All The Seas of the World, hopefully it will live up to his other books in the setting.

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17 hours ago, williamjm said:

I read Robert Jackson Bennett's Locklands. I have enjoyed the trilogy, but I think this was my least favourite of the three books. It's not that it was bad and the plotline here was a logical extrapolation of events in the first two books, but I found the story of Sancia and her friends trying to build something for themselves in the ruthless society of Tevanne to be more compelling than the epic war with the fate of the world at stake that provides the plot of the final book. There did seem to be a lot of action scenes and journeying, which sometimes took precedence over the characters, at time it felt more like a Brandon Sanderson book than something by Bennett. I think the best characterisation came from the flashbacks about Clef and his history, which tied up a lot of loose ends in the backstory. The society of Giva was probably the most interesting idea in the book, but the plot didn't spend enough time there to fully explore it. The story does come to a satisfying conclusion, and I think the resolution was cleverly done.

Now I had started Guy Gavriel Kay's All The Seas of the World, hopefully it will live up to his other books in the setting.

I really need to revisit this series. I've read two of the three books but somehow just didn't feel compelled to push through to the third. but I feel like maybe this fall is my time, if only to find out about Clef's backstory.

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Some more of my recent reads:

The Wrong Side Of Goodbye (Harry Bosch) by Michael Connolly is the base material for the most recent (first?) season of the Bosch spin-off series.  The book is pretty well written but you can see why the TV adaptation tries to broaden the characters.  In the books, only Harry matters.  Everyone else is either incompetent, corrupt, or a victim for him to save.

Band Of Brothers non-fiction by Stephen E. Ambrose, the source material for the excellent HBO miniseries.  I enjoyed this a lot although I think it was improved by having seen greater character depth from the TV adaptation.  The books does a better job of fleshing out the background context of the war to explain why Easy Company was put into each situation. Recommended.

The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French, the start of a new fantasy series that positions half-orcs as the crude, sympathetic heroes against the elitist, racist humans. DNF. Tropey characters and plot, and too much contemporary trash talking and humor in the dialogue — and I enjoy dark humor in a grimdark fantasy. It missed the mark.

Unsouled by Will Wight.  I dropped this one quickly.  It felt like a YA fantasy version of Divergent — a society based on ridiculous category assignments but the plucky, super-special teenager will defy their categorization.  Jesus wept.

Murder At Greybridge by Andrea Carter.  The fourth in her series of cosy mysteries set in rural Donegal.  Another good read.  I’m enjoying this series.

The Stone In The Skull by Elizabeth Bear, start of a new fantasy series.  I dropped it quickly.  Setting, prose and characters did not grab me within the first ~30 pages.  There’s just too much undistinguished fantasy getting published and Amazon/Goodreads ratings are being shamelessly fluffed.

Immoral by Brian Freeman.  A police procedural mystery set in frozen Duluth, MN.  Pretty well written with a winding plot.  Only negative is how many beautiful women have to fall for the protagonist.  A solid option for fans of detective novels.  This is the first in the series.  The second one, set in Las Vegas, is pretty good too.

Edited by Iskaral Pust
Edit: to correct several auto-corrects
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I’ll continue with some recent reads but split into a separate post to manage length:

Lionheart by Ben Kane is the first in a series relating the history of Richard the Lionheart told by a fictional retainer.  Very similar in structure to some of Bernard Cornwell’s series.  But the writing and characterization isn’t as strong here, and it’s very light on action considering the era & events it covers.  I won’t read further.

Why Does e = mc^2? by Brian Cox, a non-fiction review of Einstein’s theory of relativity.  Nothing new that hasn’t been related and illustrated by many high quality TV documentaries but it is a different experience to immerse yourself in a book for several days rather than watch a documentary in an hour or two.  OK.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman is a literary fiction that feels very similar to Friday Night Lights but transported to ice hockey in Sweden instead.  Very well written if you can overlook the familiar themes.  Recommended.

Kingfall by David Estes, Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar, and The Boneships by RJ Barker are all starters to their respective fantasy series, but I dropped them all within 50 pages for having depressingly generic characters and prose.  Most fantasy feels too childish and simplistic these days.  It’s not the existence of magic or silly-sounding names that makes them childish, it’s the rote characters with predictable arcs.

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4 hours ago, Iskaral Pust said:

I’ll continue with some recent reads but split into a separate post to manage length:

Lionheart by Ben Kane is the first in a series relating the history of Richard the Lionheart told by a fictional retainer.  Very similar in structure to some of Bernard Cornwell’s series.  But the writing and characterization isn’t as strong here, and it’s very light on action considering the era & events it covers.  I won’t read further.

Why Does e = mc^2? by Brian Cox, a non-fiction review of Einstein’s theory of relativity.  Nothing new that hasn’t been related and illustrated by many high quality TV documentaries but it is a different experience to immerse yourself in a book for several days rather than watch a documentary in an hour or two.  OK.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman is a literary fiction that feels very similar to Friday Night Lights but transported to ice hockey in Sweden instead.  Very well written if you can overlook the familiar themes.  Recommended.

Kingfall by David Estes, Gunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar, and The Boneships by RJ Barker are all starters to their respective fantasy series, but I dropped them all within 50 pages for having depressingly generic characters and prose.  Most fantasy feels too childish and simplistic these days.  It’s not the existence of magic or silly-sounding names that makes them childish, it’s the rote characters with predictable arcs.

I tend to agree, especially the popular stuff (i.e. Sanderson). 

 

If I can throw my hat into the ring for recent quality books, I'd recommend:

-The Last King of Osten Ard by Tad Williams 

-The Dark Star trilogy by Marlon James 

-The Fire Sacraments by Robert VS Redick 

-The Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu

-Sun Eater series by Christopher Ruocchio (first book was mid but the others excellent) 

 

 

 

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I’ve just started listening to The Three-Body Problem and all I can say is that it’s nothing like what I expected. It took a bit of time for me to get into it because things jump around somewhat at the start, and while I’m still not sure 1/3 of the way into the book about what’s happening, it is an interesting story so far.

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Wrapped up Heat 2. Overall, I was quite satisfied with it.  After the first act, they settled down with the bus tour guide stuff. I do feel like, after the first or second time, I understood that Hanna’s sidearm was a Colt Combat Commander and would not have assumed that he changed his preference from beginning to the end. 

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Well, I finished the third book in the black company last night. It's still significantly better than the first but I think it was a step back from book two. The mashed up timeline threw me a bit and didn't seem quite as well delivered as it could have been ... Although I tend to feel that way about every matchup timeline because, thanks, I hate it.

I'm just starting the fourth book which, I believe, is called the Silver Spike. Goodness gracious, I hate any and all types of southern twang. This switch in narrators is going to piss me off. I'm sure it's all of my biases coming together but a Southern accent just grates on me. Nails on a chalkboard. It's the single worst accent in the English language ... and, yes, I'm combining all versions into one because horrible is horrible and they are effectively the same to me.

And I say all of this as someone who moved to Wisconsin and has had to deal with that nasal accent for the last 20 years. I have biases and, for narration, they amount to wanting a non-american accent. Australian? Scottish? British? Having an accent because your native language is Spanish or Swahili? All fine. An American accent just doesn't capture enough "other" for me to enjoy it in a fantasy novel. And please, god, never give me southern twang.

(Narrated by voice to text as I drive, apologies and I'll fix any typos later)

Edited by Ser Not Appearing
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Read my first Charles Stross book The Rhesus Chart, number five in his Laundry Files series. I was underwhelmed. It wasn't terrible, but the characterisation seemed thin, in particular the female characters, and if you're going to anchor your humorous SFF series around the culture of big office bureaucracies, you'd better be really funny – this was mostly flat. I didn't hate it and would read another if that's what was there on a long train journey, but I'm not going to be rushing out to catch up on his other works. 

Edited by dog-days
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This week I've read Becky Chambers - The long way to a small, angry planet which I enjoyed enough to order the second book.

Not the usual type of sci-fi I'd read with the focus being more on the characters and their inter personal relations rather than "action" but it was a nice quick read.

Then read Dogs of Way by Adrian Tchaikovsky which like all his stuff I loved. Rex is a good boy.

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This past week I listened to the first two of Christian Cameron's Chivalry books, The Ill-Made Knight and The Long Sword.  I enjoy historical fiction, although I don't have quite as much interest in this period of European history.

A lot of other readers and writers DO like it very much, however, so I was expecting something along the lines of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company.

Instead, Cameron has given us something much closer to what I would characterize as The Mongoliad, only with likeable characters and a clear plotline.  Indeed, as the stories take in the trade, banking and guild interactions of the politics of the time, it very much has the flavor of Neal Stephenson' Baroque Cycle.  And Cameron's inclusions of Geoffrey Chaucer and Petrarch and Sir John Hawkwood, etc. are organic to the plot rather than flashy cameos that detract from the progress of the story.

So while this isn't my preferred era of historical fiction, I found these stories enjoyable due to their clear storyline, single character viewpoint, and excellent reader in Saul Reichlin.

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On 9/5/2022 at 12:32 PM, Iskaral Pust said:

Unsouled by Will Wight.  I dropped this one quickly.  It felt like a YA fantasy version of Divergent — a society based on ridiculous category assignments but the plucky, super-special teenager will defy their categorization.  Jesus wept.

Lol I really loved this whole series.  Twelfth and final book is coming out soon!  Maybe not the best prose, but Wight releases books at a steady cadence (un-like some others I could name).   I really enjoyed the characters.  The whole series is free on kindle unlimited so great if you are on a budget.  Reads like an anime, so if you are into that maybe you will like this.

Guess good ol' JC can shed a few tears for me!

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I just finished The City We Became by N.K. Jemesin. Bits of it were good but overall I'd say it was a bit too into the idea of New York, or perhaps Jemesin's idea of New York, and as a non New Yorker I found it a bit tedious. I kind of suspected that might be the case but I thought I'd give it a go.

I've found Jemesin's books a bit of a mixed bag in general. I remember not liking The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, although it was a while ago I read it, and this didn't work for me but The Broken Earth Trilogy was really good.

I'm undecided on what I'll read next but I'm leaning towards starting Nona the Ninth.

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I don't usually read mystery books, saw this author here somewhere, so picked up A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger at the library.  It is a historical fiction set in Medieval London 1385 under the reign of Richard II. The mystery concerns the whereabouts of a book of prophesies that predict the death of England's kings up to and including the current one. 

The story includes the main character and many secondary characters who populate the high and low places of London.  There were many layers to the story and not being a mystery person I'm sure there many clues and foreshadowing that were missed, and yet I still found it an enjoyable read.  Recommend!  Holsinger's next historical fiction The Invention of Fire is on the 'to be read' list. 

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3 hours ago, LongRider said:

I don't usually read mystery books, saw this author here somewhere, so picked up A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger at the library.  It is a historical fiction set in Medieval London 1385 under the reign of Richard II. The mystery concerns the whereabouts of a book of prophesies that predict the death of England's kings up to and including the current one. 

The story includes the main character and many secondary characters who populate the high and low places of London.  There were many layers to the story and not being a mystery person I'm sure there many clues and foreshadowing that were missed, and yet I still found it an enjoyable read.  Recommend!  Holsinger's next historical fiction The Invention of Fire is on the 'to be read' list. 

I see the author is a trained medievalist. Sounds very promising. I've been looking around for historical mysteries, but till now nothing has caught my fancy. (Shardlake spoiled me). Picked up the first of MacLean's seeker books in a library but put it down again after skimming the first few pages, but put it down again after spotting something I disliked. Can't even remember what it was now! I should probably give it another chance. 

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33 minutes ago, dog-days said:

I see the author is a trained medievalist. Sounds very promising. I've been looking around for historical mysteries, but till now nothing has caught my fancy. (Shardlake spoiled me). Picked up the first of MacLean's seeker books in a library but put it down again after skimming the first few pages, but put it down again after spotting something I disliked. Can't even remember what it was now! I should probably give it another chance. 

Give it a try, perhaps it will be a good read for you.   :read:    :)

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On 9/9/2022 at 7:49 AM, Ser Not Appearing said:

 

And I say all of this as someone who moved to Wisconsin and has had to deal with that nasal accent for the last 20 years. I have biases and, for narration, they amount to wanting a non-american accent. Australian? Scottish? British? Having an accent because your native language is Spanish or Swahili? All fine. An American accent just doesn't capture enough "other" for me to enjoy it in a fantasy novel. And please, god, never give me southern twang.

 

They have accents here in Wisconsin?  :P

No, really, it's very Minnesota here in the speech patterns...though there is a good amount of Chicago in it too, particularly around Milwaukee...

 

But anyway, I recently completed The Wisdom of Crowds.  I'm on to a re-read of Tigana, as I've not read it in probably 18 years...?  

I need some more to listen to on my drives though, except I'm never sure what I want to listen too, as I tend to gravitate towards books I've already read at some point, as I can listen while driving, yet not be too worried about concentrating on the material.

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52 minutes ago, Jaxom 1974 said:

They have accents here in Wisconsin?  :P

No, really, it's very Minnesota here in the speech patterns...though there is a good amount of Chicago in it too, particularly around Milwaukee...

It's particularly loathsome on a's. Hearing people around here (I'm in Waukesha, btw) say "bag" with a long a makes my eye start twitching.

 

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