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Old 05-01-2020, 11:31 AM
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Khadaji's Whatcha Reading Thread - May 2020 edition


May first! Here we are ...reading in quarantine. For those of you who are essential workers, please continue to take care of yourselves and even though the government and your employers don't appreciate you, those of us in need of groceries, medical help, a hamburger and so on, certainly DO appreciate you.

I started to clear my Goodreads Currently Reading list last month... and then ended up adding to it instead

At the moment, I am actively reading:

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. I think, I would enjoy the book more if he hadn't chosen to focus on Martha Dodd and her involvement with the men of the Nazi Party. She's spoiled, selfish, shallow and not terribly interesting, but I will crack on and get through the whole book eventually.

Wraith Hunter by Clara Coulson. Urban fantasy, snarky hero and all sorts of shenanigans, just what I need to distract me from adulthood at the moment.


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

Khadaji was one of the earlier members of SDMB, and he was well-known as a kindly person who always had something encouraging to say, particularly in the self improvement threads. He was also a voracious, omnivorous reader, who started these threads way back in the Stone Age of the early 2000s. Consequently when he suddenly and quite unexpectedly passed away in 2013, we decided to rename this thread in his honor and to keep his memory, if not his ghost, alive.
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Old 05-01-2020, 11:37 AM
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April thread:I'm ready for flowers and sunshine thanks
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:22 PM
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Finished The River Bank: A Sequel to The Wind in the Willows, by Kij Johnson. It was okay.

Now I'm reading The Planets, by Dava Sobel.
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Old 05-01-2020, 12:46 PM
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Well, I'm not doing a whole lot of reading at the moment. My library is still closed, Amazon hasn't come through with my new Stephen King, and the contents of the nearby Little Free Library can be best summed up as "blech!" I'm on the verge of petulant whining and stamping my feet.

In my very limited reading time, I'm trudging through David Hartwell's The Dark Descent, which has a good mix of horror stories I've read a hundred times and stories I don't remember reading at all. I say trudging, but it's actually a very good collection. I'm just going slowly because when I get done I'll be about ready to have a full-on spoiled temper tantrum.

I'm going to look around this weekend and see if I can find some contributions to class up that Little Free box.
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Old 05-01-2020, 02:07 PM
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The Richest Man Who Ever Lived:The Life and Times of Jacob Fugger by Greg Steinmetz

Jacob Fugger was a textile merchant in Augsburg Germany in the 16th century. Through trading and by lending to kings, especially the Holy Roman Emperors, he amassed an enormous fortune.

Mildly interesting history.
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Old 05-01-2020, 02:17 PM
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I stayed up entirely too late one night to finish Scalzi's The Last Emperox. On the whole, I enjoyed it and was completely surprised by the ending.

Not entirely sure what's up next. I just got N.K. Jemisen's The City We Became, but may borrow something fluffy from my kid first.
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Old 05-01-2020, 02:41 PM
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The Pale-Faced Lie - David Crow A truly horrifying autobiography by a Cherokee Native who grew up in the 60s in a dysfunctional home with a brutal father and a mother with mental issues.
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Old 05-01-2020, 02:48 PM
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I just started reading "If It Bleeds" which is a newly released collection of short stories by Stephen King. So far I'm enjoying it immensely.

I also just purchased "Why You Should Be A Socialist" by Nathan J. Robinson which I will begin this weekend. (I often have more than one book going at a time.)
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Old 05-01-2020, 09:32 PM
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Well, I'm not doing a whole lot of reading at the moment. My library is still closed, Amazon hasn't come through with my new Stephen King, and the contents of the nearby Little Free Library can be best summed up as "blech!" I'm on the verge of petulant whining and stamping my feet.

In my very limited reading time, I'm trudging through David Hartwell's The Dark Descent, which has a good mix of horror stories I've read a hundred times and stories I don't remember reading at all. I say trudging, but it's actually a very good collection. I'm just going slowly because when I get done I'll be about ready to have a full-on spoiled temper tantrum.

I'm going to look around this weekend and see if I can find some contributions to class up that Little Free box.
If I were closer! If you like audiobooks, and have a library card, Libby is a good source for books. Of course older books are esier to get. I have Libby on my phone and listen when I walk the dog in the mornings.
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Old 05-02-2020, 10:55 AM
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Finished The Planets, by Dava Sobel. My favorite part was about the discoveries of Uranus and Neptune.

Now I'm reading City by the Bay: Stories of Novaya Rossiya, by Walter H. Hunt. It's an alternate history, in which Russia, not Spain, colonized California. It's set in Saint Helena, which was built instead of what is now San Francisco.
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Old 05-02-2020, 02:42 PM
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I'm about a third of the way through Riding the Rap by Elmore Leonard, a novel about a kidnapping in South Florida. Not bad. The three bad guys aren't exactly rocket scientists and are starting to quarrel with each other; meanwhile, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (the protagonist of Justified) is hot on their trail.

Now and then I've been reading JFK: A Vision for America, a big, lavishly-illustrated coffeetable book. It's edited by Stephen Kennedy Smith and Douglas Brinkley, with essays by, among others, Jonathan Alter, Jerry Brown, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama, Maureen Dowd, Joseph Ellis, Vaclav Havel, Henry Kissinger, John Lewis, John McCain, David McCullough, Conan O'Brien, Robert Redford and Elizabeth Warren. I like it.

During the pandemic lockdown, I've also been reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings aloud with my son. We just started The Return of the King; Gandalf and Pippin have just arrived at Minas Tirith. Really good stuff.

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I stayed up entirely too late one night to finish Scalzi's The Last Emperox. On the whole, I enjoyed it and was completely surprised by the ending....
Glad to hear it! I'm expecting it from Amazon any day now. Scalzi was going to visit a local library here a few days back but it was cancelled, dammit, as you might expect. I was really looking forward to that.

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If I were closer! If you like audiobooks, and have a library card, Libby is a good source for books. Of course older books are esier to get. I have Libby on my phone and listen when I walk the dog in the mornings.
I use Libby for audiobooks, too, and (mostly) recommend it.
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Old 05-02-2020, 05:00 PM
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Close to finishing Apropos of Nothing, by Woody Allen, his autobiography.
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Old 05-03-2020, 08:34 AM
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I'm reading The First Mrs. Rothschild.
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:44 AM
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I just finished the audiobook of Miles Morales: Spider-Man, by Jason Reynolds. The reader was fantastic, and the book was a lot of fun: it's the only story I've ever heard that explains the school-to-prison pipeline and institutional racism through the lens of supervillains. Good stuff!
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:55 AM
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Almost finished with Harry Harrison's A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! It's good when he doesn't slip into heroic fantasizing, which happens more and more as the story progresses. Building a tunnel under the ocean is dramatic enough, and far more captivating than the hidden saboteurs sub-plot that has Gus Washington recruited and actively investigating for flimsy reasons.

If I can get Gutenburg, or any other non-kindle e-books to work on my Fire tablet, I'll then work through Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter. If not, I'll be digging into either a short story collection of Frank Herbert or Gene Wolfe's Fifth Head of Cerberus.
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Old 05-03-2020, 10:04 AM
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Sorry, got an error and thought the original post failed.

Last edited by Stowed Bob; 05-03-2020 at 10:05 AM.
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Old 05-03-2020, 09:04 PM
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Finished Apropos of Nothing, Woody Allen's recently released autobiography. Absolutely loved it, but then the wife and I are both huge fans, the wife being possibly his biggest Thai fan.

Next it's back to Robert Crais with Voodoo River.
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Old 05-04-2020, 07:40 AM
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If I were closer! If you like audiobooks, and have a library card, Libby is a good source for books. Of course older books are esier to get. I have Libby on my phone and listen when I walk the dog in the mornings.
Thanks for the kindness! I will be okay. If this is the worst effect the pandemic has on me, I'm one of the luckiest people in the world.
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Old 05-04-2020, 09:54 AM
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I just finished The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy.

"I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off." This is going in the annals of great first sentences in literature.

Another delightful historical fantasy from Mackenzi Lee, The Lady's Guide follows the further adventures of Felicity Montague, a secondary character from Lee's "The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue." A ferociously intelligent teenager who finds her expected life's course (marriage, children, estate-management) thoroughly unacceptable, she never gives up her quest to learn about the human body and to master medical science and art. Her quest takes some odd turns, and both petticoats and piracy are crucial to the plot.

The author's note somewhat defensively points out that women throughout history have refused to accept patriarchal confines, and that's true. But my one real criticism of the book is the *language* with which it happens. For a book so situated in the eighteenth century, it repeatedly uses phraseology that's peculiar to twenty-first-century leftist politics. Felicity talks several times about her right to "take up space." When a character shows her respect, she "feels seen." These are important ideas to be sure, but they're phrased in a way so thoroughly modern that it's jarring. If Lee's right, that people have always struggled for equality (and of course she's right), it would be better for Felicity to voice this struggle in the language that eighteenth-century women would have used instead of in modern jargon.

That said, this feels like a petty criticism. Overall, the book was tremendous fun.
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Old 05-04-2020, 09:57 AM
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As for ordering books, in addition to heavy reliance on Libby (especially for audiobooks), we've been placing extra orders with our local bookshop, an anarchist collective just down the street. Firestorm Books delivers anywhere in the US, and they're really good folk. Their selection isn't anywhere near Amazon's size, but they've got a great nerd in charge of the science fiction and kids' book sections, so we've been able to keep ourselves in books. If you want someone new to order from, you could do worse!
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Old 05-04-2020, 10:35 AM
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I just finished The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel. I went into it knowing very little other than it plays with the timeline like her previous book Station Eleven. I'm not quite sure yet how I feel about it. Her writing is beautiful and the characters are engaging, but it wasn't what I expected. I think I'll come to like it more as I turn it over it my mind.
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Old 05-04-2020, 10:36 AM
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Thanks for the kindness! I will be okay. If this is the worst effect the pandemic has on me, I'm one of the luckiest people in the world.
I keep repeating basically the same to myself daily. I'm bored senseless but we're all still ALIVE to be bored!
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Old 05-04-2020, 10:49 AM
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Finished City by the Bay: Stories of Novaya Rossiya, by Walter H. Hunt. Meh. It was an interesting concept for an alternate history (most of West Coast of current U.S. was settled by the Russians and the American and French Revolutions never happened), but the plots (it's a collection of short stories) weren't interesting. Also, I don't like it when many of the characters in an alternate history are real people, living lives very similar to those they had in reality. Lastly, something was wrong with the typography. Many pages were filled with incorrectly indented sentences.

Now I'm reading On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, by C. S. Lewis.
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Old 05-04-2020, 11:13 AM
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Finished Harry Turtledove's Down in the Bottomlands. The volume not only includes his Hugo-winning novella (which has an entire Wikipedia page devoted to it, with maps -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_in_the_Bottomlands )but also L. Sprague de Camp's The Wheels of If (Which I read many years ago, but have forgotten most of) and Turtledove's The Pugnacious Peacemaker, which is a sequel to The Wheels of If. I'd been wondering why those three stories were assembled into one volume. It's undoubtedly because it gave an excuse for republishing the novella in book form (just by itself wouldn't be economically feasible --it's too short). The other two stories had been published together before -- and you need both, because reading Turtledove's sequel alone leaves you at a loss without the background from the de Camp story. Besides, they all fit together well as works of Alternative History, and Turtledove always said that it was de Camp's alternative history fiction that got him started on that road.

Now I'm finally getting to Jack Williamson's Hocus Pocus Universe, which I've been curious since I saw the cover of Science Stories #1 in the first edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia. The story's only been reprinted twice, both times within the past ten years, and not easily available. (Science Stories only ran four issues, all before I was born).
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Old 05-04-2020, 11:18 AM
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Here's that cover, BTW. They used it on the most recent reprinting, too:

http://www.philsp.com/data/images/s/...ies_195310.jpg
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Old 05-04-2020, 01:42 PM
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i just started 88 Names by Matt Ruff, and have Lawrence Wrights prescient pandemic novel The End of October next in the TBR pile.
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Old 05-04-2020, 02:03 PM
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Prepping for John Scalzi's The Last Emperox, I'm skimming through the previous book in the trilogy, The Consuming Fire. Good stuff (a distant-future interstellar empire deals with the imminent loss of FTL travel), and now it's fresher in my mind.
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Old 05-05-2020, 09:47 AM
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Started today on If It Bleeds, Stephen King's newest. Yes! It finally came! I have peace in my soul once again.


Still mad at you, Amazon.
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Old 05-05-2020, 09:52 AM
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Finished Hocus Pocus Universe (Interesting, but not really worth the wait. But at least the cover is relevant to two scenes in the story).

Now on to Heaven, by Hotel Standards by Susan Wilson. It's the history of Boston's Parker House hotel, the self-proclaimed Longest Continuously Running Hotel in the US. I'd hoped to learn something for my next book, but it turns out that Wilson, the author and official Parker House Historian, doesn't know what I need to know. I wrote to her to verify this, and now she asked me to send her material.

The title is great. It derives from a story about Mark Twain when he was staying there:

Quote:
In March of 1877, humorist Mark Twain was staying at the Parker House in room 168. A reporter from the Globe entered Twain's room, shuttled in by a porter. After a pause of several moments, Twain swiveled around in his large easy chair and faced his visitor. With a local newspaper in hand and puffing on a large cigar, Twain observed to the reporter, "You see for yourself that I'm pretty near heaven -- not theologically, of course, but by the hotel standard."
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Old 05-05-2020, 11:38 AM
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Elendil's Heir, we watched the LOTR movies with our teenagers this week. It was the first time I'd seen them since I watched them in the theater--it was fun to revisit them.

I did read a fluffy hand-me-down from my teenage daughter. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, is about a college freshmen who is an obsessive writer of fan-fiction. Various relationship issues ensue. It kept me pleasantly distracted for a couple of days. What I find fascinating about this book is that Rowell then went on to write a couple of books about the characters her Fangirl protagonist was writing fan-fiction about.

Martha Wells' latest Murderbot book came out this week. I'll be reading that soon.
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Old 05-05-2020, 07:13 PM
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A few nights ago, I finished reading Other Words for Home to my 11-year-old daughter.

This is a beautifully-written prose-poem novel about a girl who loves movies, loves the spotlight, who moves from Syria to the United States and navigates the strange cultural space she finds herself in. I kept bracing for the inevitable Newbery-bait trauma, the death that would teach a Very Important Lesson, and I love the book all the more for avoiding this cliche. Definitely worth reading!
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Old 05-05-2020, 10:26 PM
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Elendil's Heir, we watched the LOTR movies with our teenagers this week. It was the first time I'd seen them since I watched them in the theater--it was fun to revisit them....
We've talked about doing that, too. It's been awhile since I've seen them, and despite some nits to pick, I really do love 'em.
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Old 05-06-2020, 10:28 AM
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Finished On Stories and Other Essays on Literature, by C. S. Lewis. , by C. S. Lewis, which I enjoyed.

Now I'm reading The City & the City, by China Mieville.
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Old 05-06-2020, 11:17 AM
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Now I'm reading The City & the City, by China Mieville.
Ooh, I loved this one!
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Old 05-06-2020, 11:34 AM
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I finished the graphic novel Citizen of the Galaxy, based on the Robert A. Heinlein juvenile, adapted by Rob Lazaro and Eric Gignac. It's pretty true to the original. The artwork is so-so.

I've also started The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, a comic novel about a fundraising drone for a mediocre university in New York City (the staff even call it Mediocre U.) who's fired for being rude to a pushy, entitled undergrad, but then abruptly rehired when a wealthy alum insists he will deal only with the drone. It's not as funny as it could be, but I'll stick with it for now.
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Old 05-06-2020, 02:10 PM
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I've been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, Our Fake History and Dark Histories being my favorite two. So the latest DH history was of The Balham Mystery or the poisoning of Charles Bravo, which I read a book about several years ago. So I pulled Death at the Priory by James Ruddick off the shelf, blew the dust off and started to reread it to see if his conclusion was different than DH's.

Last edited by DZedNConfused; 05-06-2020 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 05-06-2020, 04:53 PM
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Finished Voodoo River, by Robert Crais. His fifth novel. The star of a popular TV show, who was adopted as a baby and is now concerned about her fast-approaching middle age, hires detectives Elvis Cole and Joe Pike to travel to Louisiana, find her birth family and bring back information on their medical history. It seems like a clear-cut case, but it turns out other people are looking for her biological family too, and some of these other searchers are turning up dead. The author just happens to be from Louisiana himself. There is an interesting variation on Chekhov's gun that could be called "Chekhov's turtle." Good, but not as good as the first four.

Next up is This Side of Paradise, by F Scott Fitzgerald.
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Old 05-08-2020, 09:07 AM
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Finished This Is How You Lose the Time War last night.

I really enjoyed this, definitely the strangest semi-epistolary novel I've ever read. The story, despite its short length, took me awhile to complete, because the plot appears to stall out about halfway through the book. But push through that, and in retrospect it's moving forward, only subtly and in a direction that's not immediately apparent.

This is, I think, a book that will stay with me. It's got the cleverness you'd expect from a time-travel book but beyond that there's a loveliness to the imagery and an emotional resonance that not many time-travel books achieve.
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Old 05-08-2020, 03:56 PM
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Finished The City & the City, by China Mieville. It's brilliant--definitely the best mystery I've read this year, and one of the best novels.

Now I'm reading The Season: A Social History of the Debutante, by Kristen Richardson
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Old 05-08-2020, 07:03 PM
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Just this afternoon started The Last Emperox by John Scalzi, the last in his distant-future sf epic trilogy, and in the first 50 pages there are already two major shifts in the storyline. I'm digging it.
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Old 05-11-2020, 08:54 AM
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Finished Stephen King's newest, If It Bleeds, and am happy to report that it was one of the good ones.
It's a collection of four novellas. The first one is called Mr. Harrigan's Phone, and it's a mild, unoriginal story. I enjoyed the comfort of experiencing it told in King's familiar voice. The second, The Life of Chuck, was also sweet and gentle, but with an unconventional structure. I don't know that I bought the central conceit, but I understood it. King also proves once again that his crystal ball is in good working order. The third story, If It Bleeds, was good but I don't think it stands alone. It would be best for the reader if they had also read the Mr. Mercedes books and/or The Outsider. And finally, Rat. I think it might be my favorite. King steps out of his comfort zone to tell a story about a writer, with writer's block, living in Maine.
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Old 05-11-2020, 09:17 AM
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Finished The Season: A Social History of the Debutante, by Kristen Richardson, which was okay.

Now I'm reading The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders.
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Old 05-11-2020, 12:06 PM
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Now I'm reading The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders.
I'll be curious to hear what you think of this one.
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Old 05-12-2020, 12:39 AM
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https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sea-Tra.../dp/0141001828

Heart of the sea, tragedy of the whale ship Essex.

My god, I'm ready to read something similar. Don't judge but I've never read "Mutiny on the Bounty". I'm looking for that same hard truth that I found in this one. Is it worth it? I was memorized.
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Old 05-12-2020, 08:50 AM
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Book three of L.A. Witt's series about Gay hockey players, Shot on Goal arrived on my Kindle in the wee hours of the morning. I may or may not have stayed awake and read a couple chapters....
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Old 05-12-2020, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by FollowMeDown View Post
https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sea-Tra.../dp/0141001828

Heart of the sea, tragedy of the whale ship Essex.

My god, I'm ready to read something similar. Don't judge but I've never read "Mutiny on the Bounty". I'm looking for that same hard truth that I found in this one. Is it worth it? I was memorized.
It's been forever since I read Mutiny, so I can't say for it. but you might want to look at Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.
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Old 05-12-2020, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FollowMeDown View Post
https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sea-Tra.../dp/0141001828

Heart of the sea, tragedy of the whale ship Essex.

My god, I'm ready to read something similar. Don't judge but I've never read "Mutiny on the Bounty". I'm looking for that same hard truth that I found in this one. Is it worth it? I was memorized.
What did you memorize?


The obvious thing, if you liked a book about the Essex, is to read Melville's Moby Dick. Some people find it boring, or don't like the way it flips between a straight narrative, a history of whaling, and Deep Symbolism, but I found it fascinating. The Penguin edition is liberally supplied with footnotes.


I haven't head Nordhoff and Hall's trilogy on the Mutiny on the Bounty, either, but I have read Bligh's own logbook, which was published in paperback as The Mutiny on Board H.M.S. Bounty. It's worth pointing out that the Nordhoff and Hall trilogy is fictionalized. If you want a factual treatment, you might like Richard Hough's Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, the book upon which the 1984 movie The Bounty was based (unlike the previous movie versions, which were based on Nordhoff and Hall).
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Old 05-12-2020, 09:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FollowMeDown View Post
https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Sea-Tra.../dp/0141001828

Heart of the sea, tragedy of the whale ship Essex.

My god, I'm ready to read something similar. Don't judge but I've never read "Mutiny on the Bounty". I'm looking for that same hard truth that I found in this one. Is it worth it? I was memorized.
My favorite seafaring story is Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Highly recommended if you liked In the Heart of the Sea.
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Old 05-12-2020, 06:43 PM
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Finished Ask Me Anything, by Annie Lane, a collection of advice columns. It was okay.

Still reading The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders.
  #50  
Old 05-13-2020, 12:07 PM
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My favorite seafaring story is Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage. Highly recommended if you liked In the Heart of the Sea.
If you're open to a novel, I can't say enough good things about Nicholas Monsarrat's The Cruel Sea, based on his experiences as a Royal Navy convoy officer in the North Atlantic during WWII. Funny, harrowing, sad and exciting by turns.
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