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What are you reading? Fourth Quarter 2022


williamjm
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Somehow we are 3/4 of the way through this year already.

I read Guy Gavriel Kay's All The Seas of the World. I always enjoy Kay's books and this was no exception. The appearance of some characters from A Brightness Long Ago and (to a lesser extent) Children of Earth and Sky but most of the focus of the plot was on new characters and a new plotline. I did like the references to the previous books and seeing what had happened to some characters. Like Kay's other books in this setting it's very close to being historical fiction (with the names and some details changed) with only minor fantasy elements. It perhaps lacks something that would really make it stand out from Kay's other books but it was still a good story.

I'm now about halfway through Tamsyn Muir's Nona the Ninth. So far it's not nearly as disconcertingly confusing as Harrow the Ninth was, although despite being much easier to follow there's still a lot I don't understand yet. Nona is a likeable protagonist, hopefully that will still be true once she figures out who she is.

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That may be the last thing I'd have expected to learn on innernezes today . . . . :thumbsup:

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 . . . .  Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billy Holiday (1998) by Angela Davis. 

he moment we entered into her thesis, there was all kinds of self-kicking going on.  It was so obvious.  Prior to abolition African American music was primarily a communal expression,  done in the fields, in worship, at funerals.  It was also primarily spiritual.

After abolition, African Americans needed a whole new musical discourse.  They had to make it up because never before had there been opportunity in these lands for them to make music that wasn't communal, that wasn't about the lament of the condition and the yearning for that condition to have passed away, leaving them free to do as other people did.  

For Black women in particular, there was and could be no tradition that was about love, about sex, about romance, about what she wanted for herself, for Black women didn't have choice until after abolition -- and certainly wouldn't be allowed to sing about wanting to marry and raise her own children herself while cooking, cleaning, digging, and having her children go on master's credit side of the ledger and sold off any old time. So post abolition Black women had to invent a gendered, individual, popular musical expression  for themselves.

This was particularly necessary for Black women who would have preferred women as their sexual partners.

And thus, here we come to the Blues, performed by a solo singer, with a single instrument, the guitar, played by herself.  Of course these women couldn't afford more complicated set-ups, but this they could. 

Of course a man got the credit as "inventor of the Blues"*, Robert Johnson, with a powerful legendary tale of meeting the devil at the crossroads as to how he did it to boot.  

Why haven't we read this book before?

* Musicologists of course, know better.  They all know there were a slew of performers, of both genders, and that among the very first were women.

Edited by Zorral
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Current reads:

One Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny -- Annual re-read. Each chapter of the book takes place on a single day in the month of October, so you could feasibly just read each chapter on its appropriate day in the run up to Halloween. (early chapters are pretty short but they grow more substantial as the month/book goes on.)

The Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin -- Engaging urban fantasy set in contemporary London. In terms of tone/approach, this is much more Neil Gaiman than, say, Ilona Andrews. 

Genesis of Misery by Neon Yang -- Have only made it through one chapter thus far (got distracted by the above two books) but I'll pick this back up soon. 

Necromantic Sword Lesbians in Space vol III by Tasmyn Muir -- Loved it. Despite a ton of flashback interludes, this narrative is a lot more linear than vol II. Current thread on the book uses spoiler tags and @karaddin helpfully posted some "the story up through vol II" recaps for those who need a refresher. 

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This past weekend I finished up The Green Count, Christian Cameron's third book of Chivalry.  The story continues to follow the protagonist of the first two novels, Londoner William Gold, although the plot orbits around the eponymous Green Count, Amadeus VI, Count of Savoy.

Again, as I mentioned about the first two books of Chivalry, this is the story that The Mongoliad could have been, but with a clear plotline, well-drawn characters, and interesting action.  Furthermore, the story that this book tells is more interesting than that of the first two, as here we follow a mature man and woman and explore their relationship as husband and wife and parents in addition to the historical fiction and the narrative that crosses the Levant and the final century of the Eastern Roman Empire.  Beaucoup religious and feudal politics, crossed with Levantine and Turkic political showdowns

I listened to the audiobook read by Peter Noble, and I highly recommend him as a top-class reader.  I have on several occasions listened to new books just because of the reader, such as Michael Prichard, and Peter Noble is one of those such fine readers.

With such a fine reader, combined with an interesting story, this book is a real winner.  I have promoted the next book in the Chivalry series to the front of my queue in order to discover What Comes Next.

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Today I began reading a book called We're Not Broken: Changing the Autism Conversation by Eric Garcia. The book features the experience of people on the Autism Spectrum, from higher functioning individuals, to people of color, and to those in the LGBTQ+ community. The book also explores how Autistic people struggle with systems that were not designed to support them. As a person of color on the Autism Spectrum, this is a book that I've needed for a long time and I'm glad I found it. 

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I’m a quarter of the way through a book that has been vaguely on my radar for a couple of years, but which I set aside because it’s an “indigenous” novel on a list of Canadian books that I’m trying hard to read. The thing is most of them are not my usual cup of tea and there are so many books in my physical pile and my internet pile combined that it’s easy to shuffle them down the list.

Anyway, I was getting caught up in my reading and came across a news story saying the book had just had its 32nd printing since 2017. I guess they were small runs, it’s a Canadian book by an indigenous author after all, but apparently it’s the book that won’t go away and it’s success is being driven by word of mouth.

I called it up at the library and there wasn’t even a wait for it, though it is on the special 10 days only list. The audio book is a production of the Soul Pepper Theatre in Toronto and it’s a pleasure to listen to.

The book is called The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, and I don’t even know how many of you would have access to it. It takes place in the not too distant future, a dystopian YA tale where water levels have risen catastrophically and cities have fallen into the oceans. The weather’s all changed, many animals have disappeared and a malaise has settled on people. People can no longer dream and the loss of the ability is pitching them into madness and death. However, one group of people (in Canada, anyway) still have the ability to dream, people of Indigenous backgrounds. And the ability seems centered on their blood, or more specifically, their bone marrow. And white people hunt them down to extract their bone marrow to create a cure for the dreamless.

The story centers on a group of native and mixed race people running from the city to the North where they hope they can hide from their hunters. The narrator is a 15-year old boy, nicknamed Frenchie, who’s father disappeared after going to a meeting with the government, who’s mother disappeared on a scavenger hunt for canned goods, and who watches his older brother sacrifice himself to the “recruiters”, their name for the hunters, at the start of the book. On the verge of death a group of indigenous people find him, save him, and they continue on their walk together. As they walk the older people tell the younger ones about the terrible things the government and white people did to natives over the centuries. An excellent production and so far a well told story.

eta: the city they start from is what used to be called Toronto, a city with a large indigenous population, and they are headed north towards the James Bay Area of Hudson’s Bay. Where the whales used to come, until they gave up permanently and headed for Australia.

Edited by Fragile Bird
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1 hour ago, Fragile Bird said:

The book is called The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline, and I don’t even know how many of you would have access to it.

My library here in Redding, CA has both book and electronic download, so I put the book on hold.  It also has another title by this author, Hunting by Stars.  Won't get this for a couple of weeks as I extended the hold out as I'm reading another brick about Watergate.   

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3 hours ago, LongRider said:

My library here in Redding, CA has both book and electronic download, so I put the book on hold.  It also has another title by this author, Hunting by Stars.  Won't get this for a couple of weeks as I extended the hold out as I'm reading another brick about Watergate.   

Hunting by Stars is the sequel! Great library you got there!

Edited by Fragile Bird
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The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik 

Spoiler

I didn't exactly find it a slog, since I still enjoyed El's narrative voice and the worldbuilding. During several dramatic accelerandos, it was still gripping. However, the opening out of the structure, since we're now mostly out of the Scholomance, didn't work for me as well as I hoped it would. We visit various new locations, and are introduced to various new characters, few of whom have much chance to breath in a story that also generously allows pretty much any named surviving character from the previous books to have a cameo and give a wave to the audience.

There also wasn't much sense of peril, a problem that had already appeared in the second book. Once the students had started to accept El, and she began to realise her powers, it felt as if everything was travelling on rails towards a broadly positive resolution. And I like positive resolutions!  But I also like to let the story make me doubt them as part of the journey to get there. 

I did enjoy the reveal that El has been inadvertently destroying the enclaves by killing mawmouths, and enjoyed the reveal of how most of the enclaves are created. I'm also really happy that she got to be accepted and loved by her father's family. Thematically, it was a strong book, and a good end to the series. It just didn't work as well for me as an adventure novel. In Uprooted, Spinning Silver and A Deadly Education Novik managed to show off a rare degree of control of character, atmosphere, plot and themes. Here she seems to be reverting more to the Temeraire 'and then something else happened' mode. 

The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears

Thoughtful book with a style that reminded me of a mash-up of Guy Gavriel Kay and David Mitchell. Well, more Kay than Mitchell, on the whole, but I did sometimes wonder if Marinus from Bone Clocks et al. was going to pop up and explain that the three main characters – Manlius Hippomanes, a Roman aristocrat at the fall of the Western Empire; Olivier de Noyen, a poet in Avignon during the Papacy of Clement VI; Julien Barneuve, an academic in early-to-mid twentieth century France – were all the same Horologist with memory problems. 

I think someone knowledgeable about Platonism and its reception and reworking through history might get more out of Dream of Scipio than me. Then again, maybe not, since in so far as a moral can be drawn from the work, it seems to be that philosophy's meaning is down to the nature of the person reading it. This book deserves a longer review; it manages to combine narrative push with intelligence and the conjuration of several historical periods. I'll definitely be reading more by this author. 

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Just now, Underfoot said:

I just finished and thought it was a great wrap up, but see what you mean...

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There really was never a sense of danger for El or like she was ever really going to mess up/make the wrong choice. Moments like when her mom went into the hut, or the rescue of Liu, or even the final face off with Orion you wondered about those people and if they'd survive (tbh I wish Orion hadn't, never liked him. He always felt like an empty shell, and I guess he was a really really full shell up until the end), but you were never worried about El which is a bit of a miss.

Even though there wasn't suspense about personal danger so much, the lingering "how can we solve the big issues baked into the wizarding world" was enough to keep me pulled along for sure. I liked the themes of collectivism vs individualism throughout the whole trilogy, even if this one really hit you over the head with the classic conundrum of if it's okay to have a perfect society at the expense of "one" person's unending torment. 

I also liked El's character beats, and thought all the mysteries were wrapped up really well; there were enough hints dropped along the way that you could probably have picked them up if you were really paying attention (I caught a lot of them!)

Good series, ripe for a reread in a few years. 

 

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I finished Tamsyn Muir's Nona the Ninth. I found it a lot easier and more consistently enjoyable to read than the previous book Harrow the Ninth, having a protagonist who is often ignorant of what is going on around here (and who she is) does mean the plot still requires some work to interpret but at least Nona is a reliable narrator unlike Harrow. Nona is also a much more likeable protagonist and it's also the first time in the series we see a lot of 'ordinary' people, in the previous book it was debatable whether any of the characters really counted as human any more but here Nona and her companions are hiding in the midst of a busy city. I liked the return of some characters from the first book who were barely in the second. It was good to see a bit more of the setting, although it would be good to see more of what life is like in the Houses at some point. As the series has gone on I feel I'm understanding a lot more about the overall plot, although there are still a lot of mysteries left for the last book in the series to resolve.

I've now started Naomi Novik's The Golden Enclaves. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series and this one seems off to a good start.

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23 hours ago, dog-days said:

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik 

  Reveal hidden contents

I didn't exactly find it a slog, since I still enjoyed El's narrative voice and the worldbuilding. During several dramatic accelerandos, it was still gripping. However, the opening out of the structure, since we're now mostly out of the Scholomance, didn't work for me as well as I hoped it would. We visit various new locations, and are introduced to various new characters, few of whom have much chance to breath in a story that also generously allows pretty much any named surviving character from the previous books to have a cameo and give a wave to the audience.

There also wasn't much sense of peril, a problem that had already appeared in the second book. Once the students had started to accept El, and she began to realise her powers, it felt as if everything was travelling on rails towards a broadly positive resolution. And I like positive resolutions!  But I also like to let the story make me doubt them as part of the journey to get there. 

I did enjoy the reveal that El has been inadvertently destroying the enclaves by killing mawmouths, and enjoyed the reveal of how most of the enclaves are created. I'm also really happy that she got to be accepted and loved by her father's family. Thematically, it was a strong book, and a good end to the series. It just didn't work as well for me as an adventure novel. In Uprooted, Spinning Silver and A Deadly Education Novik managed to show off a rare degree of control of character, atmosphere, plot and themes. Here she seems to be reverting more to the Temeraire 'and then something else happened' mode. 

 

I recently finished The Golden Enclaves too. I think it was probably the weakest of the series but I still enjoyed it. Good series overall.

Spoiler

I'd agree it did feel like there was a little bit of a lack of jeopardy for El. I think it was supposed to revolve around whether she'd have to kill Orion rather than any personal risk to El at this stage but I'm not sure if it quite came off. Still, it was a nice read even if it wasn't the best book in the series.

After that I read The Golem and the Djinni which was another nice read. Sort of a magical take on immigration to the US in the late 19th century.

Next up I'm going to read Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Assassin. Honestly I kind of feel like the Sharpe series reached it's natural end with the Waterloo book which came out in 1990 (wow) but I like Cornwell's books and I'm not sure how many more of them we're going to get now so I might as well give it a try.

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On 10/9/2022 at 3:55 PM, ljkeane said:

I recently finished The Golden Enclaves too. I think it was probably the weakest of the series but I still enjoyed it. Good series overall.

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I'd agree it did feel like there was a little bit of a lack of jeopardy for El. I think it was supposed to revolve around whether she'd have to kill Orion rather than any personal risk to El at this stage but I'm not sure if it quite came off. Still, it was a nice read even if it wasn't the best book in the series.

 

I also recently finished The Golden Enclaves. I liked it better than the second book and about as much as the first. I reread all three and it's very clear that the author had the central plot of the story that goes through all three books before the first book was finished -- there are subtle hints and references to what is learned at the end scattered throughout.

Spoiler

Regarding El not being in danger: I don't think there was a way the third book could be about her being in danger after the second book has her single-handedly slaughtering the worst known mals -- maybe not always effortlessly, but definitely without forcing her to rest unless she also has to protect dozens of people at the same time. She's just too powerful so the main tension in the story has to be not her survival, but whether she can save Orion and resolve the political situation.

 

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Just finished Stephen King's Fairy Tale. More than just another portal fantasy story, it's a love letter to SFF giants such as Bradbury, Lovecraft, Howard, and Tolkien, among others.

It's also a love story about a boy and his dog, and that's the best part about the book.

Full review here.

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On 10/9/2022 at 12:55 PM, ljkeane said:

I recently finished The Golden Enclaves too. I think it was probably the weakest of the series but I still enjoyed it. Good series overall.

I agree I liked it the least of the 3.  They sort of went downhill to me.  Pretty much halfway through I knew

Spoiler

That El was going to "kill" Orion.  In retrospect it was obvious since the first line of the first book.  Not a big fan that she brought him back though.  I mean at the end of TGE I had forgotten why El even liked Orion.  The emotional connection established mostly in book 1 and some in book 2 completely unraveled for me.

What is the deal with Liesel?  I like her as a character, but why the romantic relationship with El?  Isn't that sort of kicking Orion when he is down?  I can probably forgive the first time since we don't know Orion is alive, but the second time?

I did like the thing about El's mom and dad keeping the "price open" for the Golden Sutras.  And I really liked the whole enclave / maw-mouth / human sacrifice connection.  And the thing about El's grandma using her prophesies to shape the future was super-cool.

I can't help being a little disappointed though.

 

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