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Subject: What did you read in November 2014? rss

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Me? Well, I started concluding the Dune series with God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert, which kept up the theme of examining power. This time around, Herbert took a look at tyranny through the eyes of a resurrected Duncan Idaho watching what happened when Leto II had ultimate power. It wasn't a particularly great story, but all four of the books that start the series were an intriguing examination of power.

After that, I had planned on reading Heretics of Dune, but just couldn't get the interest going for it. I wound up setting the last four books aside and starting on a novella that showed up for me at the library, The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang. I had seen it on a "best of" list for science fiction published in the last few years, and had high hopes for it. I was pleased that it didn't let me down.

Following that, I also read The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss. This novella is the latest in Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle, but anyone looking for a continuation of Kvothe's story will be disappointed. Hell, anyone looking for a story will be disappointed. This is really just an examination of what it's like to live with OCD for a week.

I moved on to the last three books of The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card, and was surprised to find that the theme of Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, and Children of the Mind were at odds with what I understood about Card himself. They spoke of tolerance and acceptance over prejudice, as well as the failings of religion, which was not what I expected from someone who is a Mormon who believes that homosexuals are an abomination. And they were a lot easier to read than either the Foundation or Dune series.

Following those books, I knocked out a ton of stuff by Stan Sakai, including Usagi Yojimbo, volumes 19-28, Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai, and The Adventures of Nilson Groundthumper and Hermy. I've recommended this series to tons of people over the years I've known of it, and I don't know why I went without reading them for close to ten years. All I know is I'm not going to let that happen again.

Another Walking Dead collection came out this month, too, so I caught up with the goings-on of Rick and his crew in A New Beginning. It's a good turn of events, with us seeing some good instead of a bunch of nihilism, but Kirkman doesn't let us get too complacent. I can't say I was surprised by that, though.

Lastly, I've gone back and started re-reading Clive Barker's Abarat series, starting with the first book, Abarat. I'm still amazed by the imagination of Barker. I had forgotten a lot of the details from the book, and was pleased to see that I found the book to be as interesting as I remembered it. I still have to read the next two in the series to get caught up, but I'm looking forward to it.

What about the rest of you? What did you all read in November?
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As with most of Baxter, it's pretty ambitious(Maybe too much so), but great world building. Am looking forward to the second book.
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Third book of the "Southern Reach" trilogy, and utterly a final chapter. These were released quickly together straight to paper back individually, which I thoroughly enjoyed. There's a hardback collecting them all together - I suspect they'll work very well as one solid book.

Acceptance is hard to discuss without spoiling the series, which is well worth a read; in fact, it's hard to discuss even the first book. Do you like dark, disturbing fiction about expeditions to uncharted territory on earth, weird alien biology that may or may not be alien, deep dark horror, deep dark human psychology, and the odd dash of office politics?

The Southern Reach is hard to describe without spoiling it. It's horror, science fiction, office politics, and stories about the nitty gritty of human relationships, all set in a mundane country familiar to any in the Western world, but with a huge whopping impossible to chart territory on their border.

I loved all three books & read nothing else in between...




Stiff upper lip 50s England meets the Cold War, international relations, and hot young Belgian cultural hostesses at the 1958 Worlds Fair in Belgium. Essentially, a lower level civil service lifer gets pulled up onto the minor rungs of the international espionage ladder with the backdrop of the world fair & an England falling in love with James Bond.

Thoroughly enjoyed this - it's like the book equivalent of "Our Man in Havana" & "The Man With The White Suit", but with a heavier dose of espionage, Belgium, satire & sex.



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A Clash of Kings - George R.R. Martin...At least I finished most of it. Still interesting, and nice to see the characters I first encountered via the show gain more depth and a better feeling for their motivations.
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This author was predicting that, because of peak oil, peak coal, peak iron and a bunch of other resources peaking in production, that the future would cease to have economic growth. He was saying that resource costs would only increase and that the 3% economic growth per year on average that we have been experiencing since the 1700's would come to an end.

He ended the book by saying that society needs to adjust to zero economic growth.

The book was written in 2011. The author has been wrong about at least one major point: oil has decreased in price when he predicted it would only rise in price.

It's a good read, though. Lots of numbers and charts.
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Over the last couple months I've been reading the "Thursday Next" series by Jasper Fford...

1. The Eyre Affair
2. Lost in a Good Book
3. The Well of Lost Plots
4. Something Rotten
5. First Among Sequels
6. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing


I started reading the 1st book, knowing nothing about them, just based on how I reacted to the title of #5 -- laughing out loud in the book store.

Hard to describe what these quirky, sci-fi/fantasy, intellectual books are about: but by 1/2 way thru #1 I had encountered time-travel, alternate history, detectives noir, undead, cheese, religious satire, vintage autos, and evil geniuses plotting to take over the world.

Maybe this wikipedia entry can enlighten you a little, so you can decide if the series is worth your time.




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Wow, has it been a month already? I continue to struggle with real life issues, but at least have done a little more reading this month.

First up was an attempt at humor with the NYT bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. It's supposed to be wildly funny, and I kept waiting for it to be so, but I only got maybe 3 good chuckles out of it. I found myself thinking "thank goodness I thrifted this for a buck and didn't pay full price".

Next up was Michael Crichton's Sphere. While it certainly has its moments, it reminded me a great deal of Congo, which it follows in the sequence of Mr. Crichton's fiction -- both start out well, but end up being weird and ultimately unsatisfying (although Congo is more of both).

I followed that with Micro, also by Michael Crichton. This book was published posthumously, and it was my understanding that it was found in his papers, after his untimely death, in nearly complete form and only needing to be polished a bit (by Richard Preston). However, it seemed to me that the ending of the book was just a little disjointed, so that leaves me wondering just how much writing Mr. Preston did, and in what parts of the book. Still, it's a pretty good yarn, though not one of the author's best.

My primary game book for November was Hold'em Wisdom for all Players: 50 Powerful Tips to Make You a Winning Player by Daniel Negreanu. I always enjoy watching "Kid Poker" play, he's just such a pleasant and cheerful fellow, so I thought his book would be a fun read, and it is. I was an avid poker fan long before it was a fad on TV, but I did pick up a few ideas from this book.

Last for the month was a book that I had out to scan the cover in order to add it to a geeklist about books with game playing in them, The Last Gambit, by David Delman:


That is some of my favorite cover art in my library of game related books. As a strong chessplayer and a mystery buff, I was immediately attracted when I saw the book, and when I had it out to scan the cover, I started thinking it was time to reread the story, since I didn't remember the ending.

In the story, Dmitri Kaganovich is an internationally ranked chessplayer, and something of a rogue and a ladies' man who has more than his share of enemies. Because he has received threats against him, he seeks help from detective Jacob Horowitz, who is in the same town to play in the lower sections of the same tournament. From there, the mystery unfolds. It's a fun read, if not the best mystery I've ever read.

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I actually got quite a bit of reading done, just not much variety.

I finished off the Hornblower series that I had started the month before. Then, still in the re-reading mood, I've started into the Richard Sharpe series.



I'm up to book 3, but I can't find it on the parts of my bookshelves that aren't barricaded by stuff currently.
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I haven't posted in awhile, these are my latest reads:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. This was a longish period mystery drama. Very interesting and well-written. Considered to be one of the first of the genre of the "sensation" novels of the 19th century. I guessed parts of it, but the novel has some delicious twists and tons of angst in the protagonists' attempts at thwarting the villains. Some wonderful suspense and atmospheric haunting qualities as well as some very well drawn and fleshed out characters. I have enjoyed his Moonstone which is considered to be the first detective novel and also very good. His novels are slow-paced, but not unnecessarily long or with wasted passages. RECOMMENDED (for those who like these type of novels).


Finished the first 2 of the novels in Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. LeGuin. These novels are the prequels to LeGuin's The Left Hand of Darkness and are very interesting Sci-Fi/Adventures. Rocannan's World follows the exploits of a stranded explorer trying to chronicle the intelligent life forms of a far planet and later his attempt at alerting the galactic authorities of the presence of hostile forces that are destroying everyone and everything on the planet. Space travel and the time lost is also touched upon/explored. Planet of Exile mainly shows the clash/interactions of 2 different societies/intelligent life forms/humans who need to band together to defeat a common enemy. Both consider themselves as "men" but the "far-born" are supposedly the descendants of people from Earth or an Earth-like planet and have technological advances that the other people call "witchcraft" or "magic"--a society that still live in tents or underground and utilize a harem-type system. City of Illusions I have not finished but it is mainly a travel adventure type novel of an alien trying to reach the government or ruling class of the planet/world in order to "help" the good people of the planet who first took him in and re-taught him basic life skills. He (and we) is/are not sure Of anything since his memory has been wiped out and his purpose and loyalties are not known or explained--as of yet. RECOMMENDED.
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FINALLY finished that beast of a short story collection Rogues, edited by GRRM. Best short story anthology I've ever read.

American Virgin v1, by Steven Seagle.
American Vampire v5 by Scott Snyder.
Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman.
Lowball, a Wild Cards novel also edited by GRRM.
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Drew1365 wrote:
EgorjLileli wrote:
I haven't posted in awhile, these are my latest reads:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. This was a longish period mystery drama. Very interesting and well-written. Considered to be one of the first of the genre of the "sensation" novels of the 19th century. I guessed parts of it, but the novel has some delicious twists and tons of angst in the protagonists' attempts at thwarting the villains. Some wonderful suspense and atmospheric haunting qualities as well as some very well drawn and fleshed out characters. I have enjoyed his Moonstone which is considered to be the first detective novel and also very good. His novels are slow-paced, but not unnecessarily long or with wasted passages. RECOMMENDED (for those who like these type of novels).


These two novels have been in a holding pattern on my Kindle for months. I should probably just get right to them.


Be prepared to dive in; they require patience and a wee bit of commitment.

“At the age when we are all of us most apt to take our colouring, in the form of a reflection from the colouring of other people, he had been sent abroad, and had been passed on from one nation to another, before there was time for any one colouring more than another to settle itself on him firmly. As a consequence of this, he had come back with so many different sides to his character, all more or less jarring with each other, that he seemed to pass his life in a state of perpetual contradiction with himself. He could be a busy man, and a lazy man; cloudy in the head, and clear in the head; a model of determination, and a spectacle of helplessness, all together. He had his French side, and his German side, and his Italian side--the original English foundation showing through, every now and then, as much as to say, "Here I am, sorely transmogrified, as you see, but there's something of me left at the bottom of him still.”
― Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
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Month started off good but went bad...


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

I really enjoyed this one. It's the aftermath of a pandemic flu that kills off 80% (or thereabouts) of the population. At first I thought it was going to be as popular around here as Ready Player One or The Martian, but I'm backtracking on that. It's not quite as brain-candy and fun as those, but I liked it quite a bit.


Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

Trying to keep my classics game fresh, but man this was a depressing mess. I guess I'm just not that into murder/suicide as the average Aphra Behn fan.


Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

This was totally an ambitious book, and I know a few people who loved it, but I did not resonate with it. Sweeping family histories are hard for me because I want to know who's story it is. As generations go by, we constantly reset who's story we are following. Larger themes persist, of course, but overall it just wasn't tickling me behind the ears.
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I finished a John Le Carre' novel this month, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1963):



Alec Leamas is the Circus' section head in West Berlin...or, at least, he was, until his last agent is inexplicably exposed and shot while crossing the checkpoint from the East. The architect of Leamas' downfall is Hans-Dieter Mundt, the head of counterintelligence for the Abteilung. Now, his career ruined, Leamas receives an interesting assignment from Control--pretend to go rogue, defect to the East, get close to Mundt, and assassinate him. Leamas' quest for revenge takes him to H.M. Prisons, Holland, and, finally, back to East Germany, where he learns some hard lessons about the nature of his assignment and spycraft in general. A gripping read.
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Wow. God Emperor of Dune killed the series for me, and took my SO about 5 years to eventually finish. Congrats on making it through. "My flippers hurt" is a running joke for us.
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I forgot to include October's entries, so doubling up this month.


Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion
Fun take on zombies as told through the perspective of a zombie who falls in love with a human girl. I saw the movie first and both book and film are worth the romp.



A Load of Hooey - Bob Odinkirk
A series of comedic short stories from one half of Mr. Show, so that explains why it reads like a bunch of missing skits from Mr Show. It's ok. Nothing great, but not terrible either.



Midnight Riot - Ben Aaronovitch
It's basically Harry Potter as a police procedural, but it's plenty fun. Definitely written with a heavy Gaiman influence. I'm looking forward to the next few books of the series when I need a palette cleanser.



Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Great apocalypse book that explores a group of interconnected people from before, during, and after a superflu that nearly wipes out mankind. The time jumping makes this reminiscent of The Passage, so I giggled when, about 2/3 of the way through, the book directly referenced The Passage. A bit of an anticlimactic ending, but I enjoyed the rest of the book so much I'll let that transgression slide.
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I finally got back around to reading a book (well, book one of two bound together, out of four books in the series) that has been on my bedside table for months, and finished it just in time: The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.



I had high hopes for this, and it did not disappoint; it is really well written. I really like the way the reader's comprehension of the world slowly grows from the little details of the
Spoiler (click to reveal)
torturer's guild
all the way out (at the very end of the book) to some hints about
Spoiler (click to reveal)
the capacity for interstellar travel.


I was also impressed by how deeply the author conveyed the way the main character felt about each of the people he encountered using minimal descriptions.

I'm already into book two, but a little confused by the transition since we jumped ahead and lost track of some people...
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Drew1365 wrote:
Marlowe_PI wrote:


That is a cool cover illustration.


A large number of his novels are now available in these spiffy editions. I'll probably move on to the Karla Trilogy next. Here's Smiley's People:

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Equal parts hilarious and depressing. Equal parts realism and surrealism. Equal parts social critique and anti-Soviet satire. This was a pleasure to read. 8/10


A reread. This book ranks, for me, as probably my most reread piece of fiction after Cat's Cradle, since I can usually finish it in a single sitting. It never fails to reveal something, and to break my heart a little. 10/10


Nothing I hadn't already read elsewhere, but it was succinct, moderately academic without becoming technical, and the exercises are practical. I've heard this book called "McDonalds Shamanism" since it's so widely known, and the narrative is so complementary instead of critical - a kind of one-size-fits all examination of the history, techniques, and methods. I found that label a little unfair. Harner is obviously right-hand-path all the way, but it's nowhere near as touchy-feely as a lot of the Earth Mama books on Wicca that I've read.7/10


Gene Wolfe being Gene Wolfe. Not his best, but not his worst. More playful and even romantic than many of his others. Not quite as heady, more intentionally surreal. Nevertheless, deeply enjoyable. 7.5/10


Holy hell is this a god damned fine fucking book. I mean, Delaney casts away one-off genius ideas as throwaway sentences, introduces concepts of gender and sexuality that are so far before his time that even now we are wrestling with them, creates fictional volumes of literature and poetry that would make Borges, Calvino, and the Arabian Nights sick with jealousy, and all of this, ALL OF IT, is BACKDROP for weapons grade space opera that explores, essentially, themes of globalization, information addiction, and most of all... IDENTITY. As in, this is one of the rare books I've read that made me rethink my own concept of who I am and how I think about that self. It's glorious, it's often fun, it's a puzzle, it's prettily written, and it's just jam-packed with tasty sci-fi yumminess. How is this book and Delaney more specifically not better regarded!? Other than Wolfe, I can't think of a sci-fi author who is more ahead of the curve.... anyhow, 10/10. Just an absolutel joy on all accounts.
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Verdigris97 wrote:
I finally got back around to reading a book (well, book one of two bound together, out of four books in the series) that has been on my bedside table for months, and finished it just in time: The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe.



I had high hopes for this, and it did not disappoint; it is really well written. I really like the way the reader's comprehension of the world slowly grows from the little details of the
Spoiler (click to reveal)
torturer's guild
all the way out (at the very end of the book) to some hints about
Spoiler (click to reveal)
the capacity for interstellar travel.


I was also impressed by how deeply the author conveyed the way the main character felt about each of the people he encountered using minimal descriptions.

I'm already into book two, but a little confused by the transition since we jumped ahead and lost track of some people...


Just want to give you a giant bro hug. Makes me so happy when people discover Wolfe and don't dismiss him for being too difficult.

Welcome to the Cult of Wolfe, brother.
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MScrivner wrote:
Makes me so happy when people discover Wolfe and don't dismiss him for being too difficult.

For what it's worth, I tried. I really did. I wanted to like this book so much. I made it through The Shadow of the Torturer, but by the time I got halfway through the second book, I needed to read something that was ... you know, readable.
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Verkisto wrote:
MScrivner wrote:
Makes me so happy when people discover Wolfe and don't dismiss him for being too difficult.

For what it's worth, I tried. I really did. I wanted to like this book so much. I made it through The Shadow of the Torturer, but by the time I got halfway through the second book, I needed to read something that was ... you know, readable.


Same. I also tried, I really did. I just don't like his narrative and story telling style.
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The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay
The Wandering Fire - Guy Gavriel Kay
The Darkest Road - Guy Gavriel Kay
Wolf in White Van - John Darnielle

I loved everything I read last month.

The Fionavar Tapestry, three books by Guy Gavriel Kay, has been my favorite fantasy trilogy since I first encountered it over 20 years ago. For its 30th anniversary this year they finally sorted out the rights and released all three as eBooks.

I have reread these many times over the years, but never since switching to nook in 2008, so was very excited by the digital release. And the books still tell the same personal, engaging, powerful, beautiful story I recall.

Not too many books have me weeping openly on my NYC subway commute, but these did repeatedly.

Despite all the fantasy trappings, this is a series about relationships and identity and I would recommend it even to those who don't like the "sword and sorcery" genre.

Wolf in White Van was also, differently wonderful. You need to come to it unspoiled, so all I will say is that I describe the style as "If Brett Easton Ellis wasn't such a dick." It is especially of interest to old-school gamers, and the images and issues it touches upon have stayed with me long past "The End".

-----

I noticed last week that I have over 100 unread books in my nook.
So I made two decisions.

1 - No new nook purchases for 12 months.
2 - I am going to read the books in my queue in order of purchase, most recent first.

I believe number 1 will be more difficult to adhere to than number 2, so to help me stay on track I'll be keeping a list of interesting books that I might have uploaded but for the moratorium.

I might end up spending a fortune in one go this time next year . . .


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Jane Eyre - Last month I read Wuthering Heights and hated it. This month, I read Jane Eyre, by another Brontë sister, and...wow, I really liked it. My main complaint with WH was that all the main characters were hateful idiots, but in JE that is gone completely. Even the "bad" people in the book are bad in well-developed and reasonable ways (for example, the rich hypocrite who manages the charity school and thinks it's no big deal when the kids run out of food because it's such a great chance to teach them lessons about hardship from the bible). And of course, like WH, JE has a romance at the center, but this one is told is much more complexity. In some ways it is a now-standard "she loves him but she shouldn't" story, but even that gets resolved in an interesting way. Overall a definite must-read, and it's easy to see how this became a classic.

Now I'm working on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by the third sister, but due to illness I'm not sure I'll be done in December. I'll try!
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wmshub wrote:
Jane Eyre - Last month I read Wuthering Heights and hated it. This month, I read Jane Eyre, by another Brontë sister, and...wow, I really liked it. My main complaint with WH was that all the main characters were hateful idiots, but in JE that is gone completely. Even the "bad" people in the book are bad in well-developed and reasonable ways (for example, the rich hypocrite who manages the charity school and thinks it's no big deal when the kids run out of food because it's such a great chance to teach them lessons about hardship from the bible). And of course, like WH, JE has a romance at the center, but this one is told is much more complexity. In some ways it is a now-standard "she loves him but she shouldn't" story, but even that gets resolved in an interesting way. Overall a definite must-read, and it's easy to see how this became a classic.

Now I'm working on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but the third sister, but due to illness I'm not sure I'll be done in December. I'll try!


I was forced to read this junior year of high school and good lord, did I hate it. Basically, Mr Rochester is horrible and Jane is too blinded by stupidity to realize it.

I know I'm in the minority about this, but yeesh.
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