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Subject: What did you read in June? rss

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It's been a light year for me. I've been working on Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort since last November, and still have a ways to go on it. I figured that I'd get some books that I really wanted to read in an effort to encourage me to finish it, but it wasn't working that well. I had too many books that sounded a lot more interesting, and eventually I just set it aside and moved on to the more interesting stuff. I still plan to get back to it, but ... well, who knows when?

Anyway, I did purchase and finish Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane this month, which will come as no surprise to anyone. I've been a Gaiman fanboy since 1994, and I haven't seen any reason to stop being so. Anyone who likes his style will like this book.

I'm currently working my way through The Name of the Wind, which has been a long time coming for me. I'm really enjoying it so far, but I haven't reached the midway point yet. Expect to see it on next month's thread!
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I believe the recommendation came from one of these threads previously. Loved the first two and am halfway through The Last Argument of Kings right now.
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Yes, I finally finished 3 and working through 4. Keeping up with HBO.

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It is still June, and I can't be expected to think about this sort of thing until at least tomorrow.

Shame on you all.
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I'm on my annual nook vacation, reading dead tree for the summer.

I picked up the new Stephen King, Joyland, which was a good carny mystery with a hint of supernatural. I took the opportunity to reread a handful of other Hard Case Crime books starting with King's The Colorado Kid.

Next I returned to the two Richard Aleas Books, Little Girl Lost and Songs of Innocence which still kick the hell out of me. Aleas is the pen name of Charls Ardai, the publisher of Hard Case Crime. If he launched the imprint in order to see his own books in print, it's win / win . . .

Also reread HCC original by Domenic Stansberry, The Confession. A little different from the style rest of the books, it's a first person account of how the protagonist did or didn't kill his wife.

Finally, I had to buy and read Unutterable by Eric Arbitman.

It is an account of a family losing a brother at 24. The brother in question was a camper of mine at 12-years-old, his sister a good friend for a number of years.

Eric is the 3rd sibling and he pours out his feelings, describing in great detail the attempts to explain and cope with the loss.

The writing is not always polished, but the emotion comes through loud and clear. I wonder if it has the same impact if you don't know the players, but my instinct is that it does.
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First, I finished The Runes of the Earth by Stephen R Donaldson. It's a bit scattershot, and has quite a bit of the 'third in a trilogy' hollywood vibe going on. Everything is bigger, and of course things that are part of what was really going on all along are suddenly being revealed. Honestly, it just isn't one of Donaldson's better books, but then again I didn't like the first book of the Second Chronicles either...it takes him a while to get on a roll.

So I started right in on Fatal Revenant, and it was a much better read than the first book. But by now it is clear that most of the characters are just decoration. This series is trying much harder to push the plot along than dwell on any of them as individuals, and it suffers for it. I still enjoyed it, but had I started with this series instead of the first...I don't know that I would have read on.

Anyways, I'm currently mid way through Against All Things Ending, and so far it's moving right along. I'd still complain that most of the characters are shallow, but the story at least makes sense and I look forward to reading more. Too bad that once I finish this one I'll have to wait until October to do that.
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Fables Deluxe Edition: Volume 1

Really enjoyed it, picked up Volume 2 which I have just started.

Joyland - about halfway through. Pretty groovy King book. Me gusta.

I tend to not read this straight through but rather read it in bits and pieces. I think I have more or less read the whole books several times through at this point.
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vandemonium wrote:
I tend to not read this straight through but rather read it in bits and pieces. I think I have more or less read the whole books several times through at this point.


Added to Goodreads list. Thanks!
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Read the first two of Gordon Rhea's four book 1864 overland campaign series during the American Civil War.

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Finally got around to reading The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. Quite an interesting turn on the vampire tale, I thought.
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Dude went from Stanford swimming prospect to alcoholic lawyer to vegan Ultraman participant. The Ultraman is held on Hawaii over 3 days.

wikipedia wrote:
The first is a 6.2-mile (10-km) ocean swim from Kailua Bay to Keauhou Bay, followed by a 90-mile (145-km) cross-country bike ride, with vertical climbs that total 6,000 feet. Stage two is a 171.4-mile (276-km) bike ride from Volcanoes National Park to Kohala Village Inn in Hawi, with total vertical climbs of 4,000 feet. Stage three is a 52.4-mile(84-km) double-marathon, which starts at Hawi and finishes on the beach at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area. Each stage must be completed within 12 hours or less. The swim portion of stage one must be completed in 5.5 hours or less. Participants who do not reach the finish lines within the time limits are disqualified.


Crazy inspiring and scary.

Also read the first volume of All-Star Superman.
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Shades Of Grey by Jasper Fforde

The world-building is terrific. It's a complex, interesting world, and Fforde just sort of drops you into it and the various aspects of the world unfold over the course of the book, rather than exposition dumps. This is GOOD.

It's a future dystopia, where people are colorblind, and class is based on what colors and shades you can see. Violets are the top and Greys are at the bottom. The main character, Edward Russet, moves to a new city with his father, who's a swatchman—which is this society's doctor, as colors hold the power to heal. Not all is as it seems in this country village...

There are rigid rules for everything, and they seem to be a jab at religion and its "rules"—though I wouldn't call that the focus of Fforde's satirical eye, so much as bureaucracy and stupidity and over-reliance on tradition—and religion just happens to be something that can sometimes get bogged down in all of those things. This is darker fare than the Thursday Next series...

The reason it doesn't quite get 4 stars is that there's really not much story. There's a sort-of mystery about the past Swatchman, and someone pretending to be a color he's not, and enigmatic other towns, and a naked man everyone pretends doesn't exist but who holds real Truth, but it's all sort of shallow, Plot-lite. It feels like a 400-page introduction to a fascinating world where almost nothing happens. But then in the last couple of chapters there's a real-life plot, and interesting and sad and moving things happen! And then the book is over, and you're left asking why you only got two chapters of plot and 50 chapters of world-building and an overhyped/under-delivered killer flora storyline.

It's funny and clever and unique and full of wonderful word-play (but not puns, thank goodness), and I enjoyed reading it. After this introduction to the world, I'm genuinely looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Where I can only assume something will actually happen.


Die Trying by Lee Child

This was me giving Lee Child another chance, after the mediocre Killing Floor. This one is no better; it's probably worse. The point of view has changed from 1st person to 3rd person, and that allows us to get in the heads of a few more characters. But the characters aren't especially interesting, and I have no real desire to be in their heads.

Maybe I'm just sensitive to it because I noticed it in the first book, but once again the book is chock-full of people shrugging.

The entire reason Reacher is in the situation is another hoo-boy coincidence. What are the chances?! Infinitesimal.

And you know what I want to do right after I bury someone who's been brutally murdered right in front of me? That's right: Make sweet love to the woman who helped me bury the poor schlub. Doesn't everyone?!

I have plenty of books to read, so this is likely it for Mr. Child. Fool me once, and all that...


A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A re-read, so I can catch up to and pass the HBO series—that is, until I run out of books and I'm forced to decide between allowing HBO to tell me how the series will end (and that's surely what will happen), or waiting until Martin gets around to finishing the books—well after the HBO series has ended... I suppose I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

What makes this work is that it's full of the usual fantasy tropes, but it also pushes hard against the usual fantasy tropes. "Oh, he's willing to kill off a major character, and it's powerful and makes sense? Okay, you have my attention..."

As an aside, it's really remarkable how good a job HBO did of casting this.



Awful End by Philip Ardagh

This is an odd little book. Because it's not so much a story, as a funny series of asides. The thin, barely there, plot is just a framework to hang those asides on. So why 4 stars? Because those asides are wonderful and charming and funny. I'm not sure I can maintain interest in a story-free story over the course of the three books in this series, but the family is enjoying this. Also, rather than read the book we actually listened to the audio book on a short road trip, and the narrator does a marvelous job. He provided the funny voices so I didn't have to...


Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor

English Literature major here... So, like most people, I became an O'Connor fan when I read "A Good Man is Hard to Find" in college. Over the years I'd read many of her other stories, but I'd never managed to read any of these.

I suppose the only way to review this is to talk about each story; there might be some spoilers. But it's Flannery O'Connor, so me telling you someone died should come as no surprise at all.

"Everything That Rises Must Converge"—Is a nice way to start off the collection. It's not long, but seeing the son's blindness to his own prejudices, as he rails against his mother's, is sad and wonderful.

"Greenleaf"—I know this one's popular, but I thought it was "merely" good. The scene with Mrs. May and the bull is, admittedly, powerful...

"A View of the Woods" was easily my favorite story. It was powerful and compelling and dark and tragic and haunting and so real. I loved it.

"The Enduring Chill" was my least-favorite story.

"The Comforts of Home" was tragic and inevitable.

"The Lame Shall Enter First" is the only story that could come close to the power of "A View of the Woods." Sheppard's awful realization at the end, and the awful repetition of it, and the awful way it changed a little each time he said it, even though it was the exact same group of words, stayed with me for hours after I read this.

"Revelation" is wickedly funny. Ruby is hilariously delusional about her prejudices toward everyone—of every race, creed, and color. It was also great to see where the Coen Brothers got the phrase "wart-hog from hell," used to great effect in Raising Arizona.

"Parker's Back" was an interesting character study of a man encountering God through the most unusual of circumstances.

"Judgment Day" was a fine, if unremarkable, story.

This collection only solidified my opinion that O'Connor truly was one of our greatest writers.
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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Our library's newsletter gave suggestions for good realistic fiction and this one was on the list and sounded very interesting. Basically time travel that takes place in 17th century Scotland and the first of seven novels. This is part historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, I was very intrigued by the story--especially the historical details of Scottish clan life in the 17th century. However........the novel soon turned into a "romance" consisting of countless sexual encounters, over and over again. I read many romance novels in my early and late teens, and am no longer interested. I stopped reading the novel when the woman is painfully forced and borderline raped... and climaxes with his first thrust! yuk (Plus, Harlequin does it better!)


So, I abandoned it to start reading another title on the library's list:
River God by Wilbur Smith. This novel tells the story of the talented eunuch slave Taita, his life in Egypt, the flight of Taita along with the Egyptian populace from the Hyksos invasion, and their eventual return. It is a very interesting historical fiction novel that gives fascinating details and insight into ancient Egypt, its people, gods, way of life, wars, and triumphs. I was amazed at the advancements of the age and the necessity of slave labor for this empire to flourish. Lots of great heroes and heroines along with very evil, wicked, and twisted antagonists. Lots of action and fighting with some fairly gory details along the way. RECOMMENDED.



Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. This was also on the library's list and recommended by a co-worker. What a ride!! Victorian-era Egypt, a feisty British heroine, archaeology, and lots more details about Egypt and how people lived. In addition to its wonderful character development the heart of the book is a mystery. An animated mummy makes an appearance to scare away the protagonists. To be honest, I kind of figured out the real deal many chapters before it was revealed, but this was still pretty enjoyable and somewhat nail-biting regardless. Again, the detail about the life on the Nile and the realities of ancient excavations was all new and interesting to me. There is a bit of humor as well as a tiny smattering of romance. Very well written and I pretty much devoured this book in less than 1 day. RECOMMENDED.

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Csigs wrote:


I believe the recommendation came from one of these threads previously. Loved the first two and am halfway through The Last Argument of Kings right now.


Oooooo, I have the first book waiting for me on my nightstand. I checked it out of the library.
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EgorjLileli wrote:


Oooooo, I have the first book waiting for me on my nightstand. I checked it out of the library.


Better have the next two ready on stand-by ... cool
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Csigs wrote:
EgorjLileli wrote:


Oooooo, I have the first book waiting for me on my nightstand. I checked it out of the library.


Better have the next two ready on stand-by ... cool


So good.
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Ohh... I can never resist a thread about books!

A book that I just finished is Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. I purchased it after hearing him speak about it on RadioLab.

Sacks contends that hallucinations are far more common and benign that the psychiatric community cares to admit, occurring most often in the completely sane, rather than in the certifiably nuts. And often due to some rare biological process that we don't understand going haywire as a side effect of another disease. As a narcoleptic, I have had hallucinations since I was a teenager (there is a cool chapter on narcolepsy), but I always knew that I was dreaming while awake, so they never freaked me out like they do others. The science in this book is light- I could have done with some deeper explanations rather than endless stories of kooky experiences. But altogether a fun and easy read.
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I read

Revisiting Paul's Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective by Peter Stuhlmacher for my Pauline Theology class, which is my last class for my Masters Degree. Definate meh on the book.

Bloody April: Slaughter in the Skies over Arras, 1917 by Peter Hart. This is an excellent narrative liberally filled with first hand accounts from the RFC and German Air Corps fliers who battled over the French town of Arras in early 1917. Great courage on both sides.

The Great War: American Front by Harry Turtledove. This is the 1st/2nd book (depending on if you count How Few Remain) of the first trilogy in his three series arc of the alternate history of North America had the Confederacy won the Civil War. The first trilogy is the first world war with the USA and Germany arrayed against the Confederacy, Britain, France, Canada, and Japan. Notable events of the war so far include the US taking the Sandwich Islands from Britain, the occupation of Washington D.C. by the Confederacy, the invasion of Canada stalling out infront of Winnipeg, and dual insurrections in the USA and Confederacy by the Mormons in Utah and Marxist blacks in the Confederacy.
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Csigs wrote:

I believe the recommendation came from one of these threads previously. Loved the first two and am halfway through The Last Argument of Kings right now.


I was looking at this series. From the synopsis, it sound like a cliche session of D&D with four of his most funniest friends. Should I not look at it as such?
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Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

I liked this one. It is however, a fairly traditional fantasy story that hits a lot of the tropes. Medieval/Renaissance-but-with-magic setting, powerful bad guys in charge, simple farmboy rises up to beat them because of his birth that he is unaware of at the beginning of the story. That's not completely fair, because it also includes a focus on collective memory and identity, love and sexuality, loyalty and vengeance, music and intrigue, with a fairly complex plot and interesting characters and relationships. I did expect a bit more (I blame George R. R. Martin), but it's a very fine book.



The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch by Gene Wolfe.

I liked books 3 and 4 better than book 2. Book 1 gave me a good idea of the city of Nessus where it takes place, and books 3 and 4 of the surrounding world, whereas I didn't really know what was going on in book 2. I liked getting some answers this time, even if it took until 200 pages into book 4 before something from the middle of book 1 was cleared up. And what I like about an unreliable narrator, is that the answers you get and the picture you form doesn't necessarily match that of the main character. The world building is better than the story building, it's more intellectually than emotionally engaging, I didn't always really enjoy reading this series, but it's certainly very powerful. And like some games are hard to rate after a single play, this feels like it needs a reread some day.



Hard en Teder: Nederlandse en Vlaamse Erotica (Hard and Tenderly: Dutch and Flemish Erotica) by various authors, collected by Thomas Blondeau.

An anthology of erotic short stories. Some were really bad (There's this really hot guy and this really hot girl and they have really hot sex which I'll now describe in detail) and others were clever and strange and funny and sexy. Bad erotica is about sex, good erotica is about people. As a collection, it wasn't bad. It did struck me as odd - or maybe it's typical, I don't know - that there were several lesbian stories, and not a single gay one.



Looking for Alaska by John Green

I bought a John Green box set, mainly because I recently discovered his youtube shows (Crash Course history, Vlogbrothers) and love them. Then I saw he won some major Dutch/Flemish YA award for his latest novel, and although I pretty much never read any YA lit, this seemed like a good place to start. It's quite funny and thought-provoking and hard to put down. Very different from all the sci-fi I've read lately that's all about the authors bizarre ideas and hoping that the reader connects to those ideas, where this is written with a broad (teenage) audience in mind. I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
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MWChapel wrote:
Yes, I finally finished 3 and working through 4. Keeping up with HBO.

Cool. Just finished a Storm of Swords too.

I now started in Stan Nicholls's Orcs

Seems ages since I've read a book in Dutch.
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_Kael_ wrote:

I now started in Stan Nicholls's Orcs

Seems ages since I've read a book in Dutch.


I love antagonist viewpoint stories. I'll have to try this one at some point.

If you like those kind of books, definitely read Grendel by John Gardner, the best antagonist viewpoint novel I've ever read.
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MWChapel wrote:
Csigs wrote:

I believe the recommendation came from one of these threads previously. Loved the first two and am halfway through The Last Argument of Kings right now.


I was looking at this series. From the synopsis, it sound like a cliche session of D&D with four of his most funniest friends. Should I not look at it as such?


No they are a lot better than that. Great characters and very well written. Good world building and characters that actually evolve one way or the other.
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MWChapel wrote:
_Kael_ wrote:

I now started in Stan Nicholls's Orcs

Seems ages since I've read a book in Dutch.


I love antagonist viewpoint stories. I'll have to try this one at some point.

If you like those kind of books, definitely read Grendel by John Gardner, the best antagonist viewpoint novel I've ever read.
LOL. Know what you mean.

As a wargamer, love playing the Germans.
As a videogamer, I own Of Orcs and Men
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mister lunch wrote:


Dude went from Stanford swimming prospect to alcoholic lawyer to vegan Ultraman participant. The Ultraman is held on Hawaii over 3 days.

wikipedia]The first is a 6.2-mile (10-km) ocean swim from Kailua Bay to Keauhou Bay, followed by a 90-mile (145-km) cross-country bike ride, with vertical climbs that total 6,000 feet. Stage two is a 171.4-mile (276-km) bike ride from Volcanoes National Park to Kohala Village Inn in Hawi, with total vertical climbs of 4,000 feet. Stage three is a 52.4-mile(84-km) double-marathon, which starts at Hawi and finishes on the beach at the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area. Each stage must be completed within 12 hours or less. The swim portion of stage one must be completed in 5.5 hours or less. Participants who do not reach the finish lines within the time limits are disqualified.


Crazy inspiring and scary.

Also read the first volume of [url=http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22369.All_Star_Superman_Vol_1]All-Star Superman[/url wrote:
.


I will throw my recommendation on this one too. Good read.
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