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Author Topic: So what have you read lately  (Read 1506536 times)
hmaria1609
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« Reply #6270 on: January 11, 2017, 6:57:47 pm »

Been awhile since I posted my reads.  Here's a selection of what I've read:

Fiction
Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
A Season of Spells by Sylvia Izzo Hunter  (Noctis Magicae #3)
A Want of Kindness by Joanne Limburg
A Grave Celebration by Christine Trent (Lady of Ashes #6)
The Death of Dulgath by Michael Sullivan (Riyria Chronicles #3)

Non-fiction
The One True Barbecue by Rien Fertel
The Lost Tudor Princess by Alison Weir
The Sisters Who Would Be Queen by Leanda De Lisle

Teen
Manga Classics: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, edited by Stacy King
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
The Black Key by Amy Ewing (Jewel #3)
Emma: A Victorian Romance by Kaoru Mori (omnibus edition Vol. 5)
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conjugate
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« Reply #6271 on: January 13, 2017, 9:04:03 pm »

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.  I liked it greatly, and now I'm a little way into the first book.

Pros:  Nice writing, good plot, reasonable "stand-alone-ness" even though it follows a trilogy of novels set in the same universe.  Roughly, six people from the bad part of town want to pull off a great heist; a sort of fantasy Ocean's Eleven, I suppose (though I'm not familiar with Ocean's).  The characters work together nicely, and a light humor holds the thing together.

Cons: Very few.  I thought in one case it wasn't well-thought-out.  This is the obligatory scene where the villain explains his plot and tells Our Heroes that they all have to die now.  Granted, if the villain had done the sensible thing and killed all of them right off the bat, the book would have been shorter but more depressing.  Then there was a bit of dissatisfaction where a major plot line was left unresolved, to make room for the sequel.  Apart from that, excellent.

The system of magic appears to work like this: There are three classes of people (called Grisha who can display magical talents.  The Corporalki can either heal or kill by directly affecting a person's body (stopping heart, increasing blood flow, etc.) and are divided into two subclasses.  These are the "Heartrenders" who specialize in doing damage and the Healers who, well,....

The Etherealki come in three subclasses; the Squallers, who can raise storms, the Inferni, who can create fire, and the Tidemakers, who can do a lot of things with all sorts of flows (but handle tides a lot, hence the name).

Finally, the Materialki or Fabrikators, who come in Durasts or Alkemi, and I'm not sure what the distinction is; one of the characters can, for instance, pull the iron out of a piece of metal that is alloyed with iron, making it somewhat weaker and providing them with iron if they want something made of iron.  He can also shape it.

All these people come from one place on the map, a sort of Eastern-Europe place.  The book starts in the metropolis of Ketterdam, capital of Kerch, an island principality in a sea between two large continents.  It strongly resembles Amsterdam.  The Grisha come from Ravka, in the center of the Eastern continent; south of them is Shu Han, a sort of generic China; to the north is Fjerda, a kind of Germany, but rife with arrogant intolerant nationalism.

The plot entails rescuing a Shu scientist from a prison in Fjerda.  I won't describe more, because the plot is intricate and I don't want to provide spoilers.

We've begun reading the sequel; I can't recall the title offhand, or I'd warn you not to try to read it without reading Six of Crows first, as events in the sequel are incomprehensible without an understanding of the first book.  The author has also written a trilogy, the Grisha Trilogy, which I have not read, but which presumably takes place in the same world.
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« Reply #6272 on: January 16, 2017, 9:23:16 am »

I blame Wally Lamb for this trend of ridiculously long novels covering many characters over decades.  Although I note that Lamb himself has cut himself down to writing less than 300 pages for his latest book.

I'm listening to Nathan Hill's The Nix, which is a tedious 22 hours. I didn't realize what I was letting myself into when I started, and I am over half way through now. The hardcover is 640 pages. It gets high praise from John Irving, and People magazine compares it to Franzen, although that's not necessarily a compliment and Hill isn't as smart as Franzen.  Even the NYT Book Review slobbered over it. I wonder whether these reviewers actually read the whole thing, and enjoyed it.

It does have some good moments, and could be a couple of entertaining shorter novels. It starts out with a satire of academic life with a professor who has stopped caring and a student who never cared.  There's nothing particularly smart about it, but it's sorta funny.


I'm thinking that I've though I've downloaded Annie Proulx's Barkskins, it would be insanity for me to try it, since it is 26 hours long.


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« Reply #6273 on: January 16, 2017, 10:59:24 am »

I read all of the The Nix--on the recommendation of NYT and John Irving, in fact---and found it quite good. If you're not loving it yet then perhaps it's not for you, but I really enjoyed it.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #6274 on: January 17, 2017, 8:08:43 am »

OK, so I'm tired of being harassed by well-read friends for not having read Alice Munro.  I am reading Alice Munro.

And wow.
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dr_alcott
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« Reply #6275 on: January 17, 2017, 2:37:00 pm »

OK, so I'm tired of being harassed by well-read friends for not having read Alice Munro.  I am reading Alice Munro.

And wow.

Which Munro?
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« Reply #6276 on: January 17, 2017, 2:49:23 pm »

Conclave, Robert Harris. Pretty good.
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« Reply #6277 on: January 17, 2017, 2:53:13 pm »

I am contemplating reading The plot against America, P. Roth, again, because. I fear depression may result, though.
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« Reply #6278 on: January 17, 2017, 3:32:21 pm »

The Atrocity Archives, by Charles Stross. Lots of fun--especially because a character in the John Scalzi series I've been going through in bits and bobs is named after Stross--but nothing really special yet. I'd read more, but they get classified with Jim Butcher's Dresden FIles in my mind: I'll get them from the library, and go so far as to request them, but I won't spend money on them.
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yellowtractor
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« Reply #6279 on: January 17, 2017, 4:20:23 pm »

OK, so I'm tired of being harassed by well-read friends for not having read Alice Munro.  I am reading Alice Munro.

And wow.

Which Munro?

At my friends' behest I am about halfway through Family Furnishings.  I finally get the comparisons with Faulkner--had Faulkner been female, from rural Ontario, and not so perpetually full of himself (don't get me wrong, I love Faulkner), perhaps these are the sorts of stories he would have written?  Such complexity of character, and such quietly dazzling shifts in time and point of view.  I thought I did not want to read short story after short story about small-town Ontario.  I was wrong.
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itried
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« Reply #6280 on: January 18, 2017, 4:57:27 pm »

I tried The Nix and found I wasn't the least interested in the plot or characters. Since there's not much else to a book, I promptly returned it to the library. Maybe I'll try again in a few years.

I'm almost through Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost. I love reading her mind... she's so observant, and every now and again she writes a beautiful gem of a sentence.

Next on the list: The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. Apparently Americans were offing each other like crazy then as now, only then they used chemicals and now we use guns.
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #6281 on: January 21, 2017, 9:36:45 pm »

I've been trying to read Hidden Treasures before seeing the movie -- which I hear is fabulous. Not sure I'm gonna make it. The subject is fascinating, and the stories need to be told. But, the whole thing is written by someone who wasn't there, in past tense, using passive voice. I keep wanting to fall asleep. I have been "reading" it for a week, during which time I have started and finished two other memoirs, a cookbook, and a mystery. I've gotten 26 pages into this one. It seems longer.
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mystictechgal
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« Reply #6282 on: January 21, 2017, 10:16:50 pm »

^^

Hidden Figures!

Duh. Apparently, my mind wandered off while I was posting. I've been chasing spam here from one determined spammer (I've deleted at least 100 from them) all evening at about 1 every 2-3 minutes. I finally won; s/he's logged off, now, but I was clearly not paying proper attention when I took a break to post the above. Sorry.
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Quote
You must realize that a university cannot educate you. You must do that for yourself, although a college or university is the place where it is likely that you can study most efficiently.
http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/chapman.htm

"Is all the same, only different" -- HL
goaswerfraiejen
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« Reply #6283 on: January 21, 2017, 10:28:51 pm »

I haven’t posted in here for quite a while. Mostly just because I didn’t read much in the month of August and was embarrassed about not having finished what I had on the go. And then I read some other stuff instead of what I had on the go, and the embarrassment lingered. But now that I’ve finally caught up with myself, it’s time for a mammoth report on my activities. Sorry everyone! (I know nobody cares, but it’s too hard for me to resist the compulsion to post all of my fun reading here with a brief commentary.) It’ll be a long post, so my apologies in advance!

Barbara Ehrenreich – Nickle and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America – It was a gripping read, and horrifying even though none of the information being conveyed was new to me.

Matt Haig – The Humans – Acceptable, but nothing like as funny or as trenchant as it thinks it is.

Stephen King – The Stand – I read the unabridged version. Ugh. The racial and sexual politics are distractingly awful, especially considering it’s supposed to be a book about the near future and it’s coming out of the civil rights movement(s). The sexual violence was seriously poorly judged, and I had zero interest in the Sauron/Mordor angle. I suspect that the abridged version makes for a much better book and a leaner plot. Oh, and I have to say that I just don’t buy that the unabridged version is set in 1990 (rather than 1980, as the original version was). It’s pretty obvious that he just went through and updated a couple references to work for 1990 (e.g. making references to President Reagan), but it’s so poorly done. Especially ludicrous is the “portable gramophone” which is obviously a walkman. Now that I’ve read it, I have that much more contempt for Michael Cronin, who basically just re-wrote The Stand for the 2010s, making a concerted effort to preserve the poorly-judged sexual violence.

Simon Scarrow and T.J. Andrews – Invader – Pretty decent. Totally cookie-cutter blood-and-guts historical fiction, and many of the breaks (from its days as a serial) were evident, but it was just what I wanted.

Simon Scarrow and T.J. Andrews – Arena – OK, but markedly worse than Invader, which came after. I assume Scarrow just lends his name and the setting to these stories, and Andrews does the writing. It’s good to see that he’s improving, at least.

Herodotus – The Histories – It took me ages to finally get through it all, but I loved it. It was a fascinating insight into the psychology of the time, as well as into the way the ancient world (especially the pre-literate world) conceived of its history (that they had much of any—let alone anything as detailed as they did, and going back as far—just astounds me, even if much of it was wrong) and of the weird new peoples it sometimes encountered. The gold-digging ants struck a particular chord with me. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m prepared to trot them out as an example at my defense.

Angus Donald – The King’s Assassin – Up to the usual standard, and hit all the blood-and-guts buttons I needed it to. It’s still annoying how thick the protagonist is (despite being moderately clever compared to the other characters), but I understand Donald’s decision. I’m not sure where he’s going with the PTSD angle, and it seems weirdly jarring (even if it’s an interesting angle to pursue).

Joseph Boyden – Wenjack – A haunting story, and the physical book itself is beautiful. Sometimes Boyden’s prose and tone work, and sometimes he’s just trying too hard and it all falls flat.

Bernard Cornwell – The Flame-Bearer – Cornwell always delivers the goods, and this is no exception. I devoured it, and was left clamouring for moar.

Alastair Reynolds – Chasm City – This might actually be my favourite of the series. I was totally absorbed by the characters, and entirely forgot about the bigger picture. What a great follow-up to Revelation Space. It occasionally lapses into action movie-style laconic dialogue, but I can forgive it that much.

Alastair Reynolds – Redemption Ark – It was OK. I didn’t really feel like going back to the main storyline. A few too many annoyingly stupid characters for my taste, especially since they were supposed to be quite intelligent. And more laconic dialogue that doesn’t work to make anyone seem especially badass.

Alastair Reynolds – Absolution Gap – A pretty good job at finishing up the series, although several characters were just annoyingly stupid. The very end sparked my curiosity, at least. Way too many crappy laconic moments in lieu of proper characterization.

Steven Pinker – The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined – The first six chapters were fascinating and backed by loads of fairly robust statistical evidence and analysis. The last four were significantly lighter on evidence front, and got bogged down in some dubious claims about evolutionary psychology, bad argumentation, and weird stalking horses. Chapter 7 was particularly atrocious because that’s where Pinker’s gender politics were on display. The low point was when he tried to argue that campus rape centres are a waste of resources because they tell rape victims that their rape was not their fault... advice which “no self-respecting father would give his daughter” instead of telling her not to drink, take her clothes off, have sex, etc. For real. I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

Phew. Back to regular (and short!) updates.
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voxprincipalis
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« Reply #6284 on: January 22, 2017, 12:15:51 am »

(don't get me wrong, I love Faulkner),

Alas! We can no longer be friends. I hate Faulkner.

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