Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - February 2014

Welcome, everyone! My New Year’s resolution to make more time for reading hasn’t worked out as well as would have liked, and yet, the time I have made and the books I have read so far in 2014 have been very rewarding, indeed. My time gets easier by the middle of the month - no, I shouldn’t even say that! I’m beginning to believe in jinxes…

I have two books still on the go - Stephen Booth’s Blind to the Bones, which is the fourth novel in the Ben Cooper/Diane Fry series. It’s an odd mix of police procedural and soap opera, set in a corner of the UK that you just don’t hear much about. And yet, for all those elements that interest me tremendously, it never seems to elevate itself much beyond a rainy weekend at the cottage sort of book. I’ve got more of his books that I’ll probably read, but it’s sort of like the MAS*H re-run of literature - it fills the time, and two months later, you can’t quite remember if you read that one or not…

Much more engaging is Frederic Morton’s ‘A Nervous Splendour’, which is a fascinating look at ten very specific months in the history of Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian empire. (Late 1888 to 1889 - we’re spending a lot of time discussing the Crown Prince Rudolf, setting up the idea of what was lost in January, 1889 when Rudolph killed his mistress and then himself.) Morton is also stressing the incestuous interconnectedness of Vienna at that time, showing how Freud, Wolf, Bruckner, Mahler, Klimt, Schnitzler, et al. were on the cusp of their greatness, and running around the same social and intellectual circles. A fantastic bit of social history!

And you - whatcha readin’?
A link to last month’s thread.

For those of you unfamiliar with him, Khadaji was a long time doper with a kind heart and an encouraging word for everyone. One of his passions was books, and he started this long chain of book discussion threads many years ago. When he died in January of 2013, it was decided that the best way to honour his memory was to continue these threads, and name them after him. May his corner of heaven have a well stocked library, a comfy chair and lots of light.

This week, I started A Feast for Crows, by George RR Martin, the fourth book in his series A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m about a fifth of the way through it.

I am currently reading Prodigy by Marie Lu. This is the second book of the Legend Trilogy. I will be reading the third book, Champion, after that. I read 13 books in January and am hoping to continue reading 10+ books a month. Next up on the list is the Razoblade Trilogy by Ann Aguirre, the Delirium Trilogy by Lauren Oliver, and the Midnighter’s Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

Just finished The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. Great fast paced look at fledgeling forensic science in prohibition era America.

Currently reading the third Expanse novel, and waiting for Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation to drop into my kindle next week.

Finished reading Nancy Marie Brown’s Song of the Vikings, her bio of Snorri Sturleson and how he influenced all our ideas of Viking myth, and writing more of Icelandic literature than I’d realized one person had.

On to Michael Brooks’ Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science, which put more previously unknown facts about scientists in the first 40 pages than I’d encountered in any other 40 pages. Looks to be a good read. I hadn’t realized, for instance, that Michael Faraday belonged to an odd Christian sect called the Sandemanians – of whom I’d never heard.
On audio, I finished Clive Cussler’s Zero Hour, which proved to be as ludicrous as ever. I have another of his audiobooks on tap, but I need a break, so I’m listening to Maureen Dowd’s Bushworld.

That would be nice.

Thanks for keeping these threads up, Ministre. They’re my favorites.

I’m about halfway through The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, The Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley

It’s quite good, and an amazing peek into the sexual escapades and intrigues in Victorian Era England, as well as his relationship with his mother the Queen, his wife and his (amazingly broad) extended royal family.

Finished up Inferno/All Hell Let Loose last night. I don’t have a lot to add to what I’ve already said, except perhaps that I never realized how hopeless the war was for the Axis from a fairly early point. If Germany had been run by a halfway sane government and surrendered before the Soviets had went too far into Eastern Europe, what a different world it might’ve been post-war. Too, I had to wonder about what would’ve happened if we’d not developed the atomic bomb and had to invade the Japanese “mainland.” I knew the Soviets were redeploying the Red Army to the east; I hadn’t realized they actually engaged in a decent battle or two before we ended the war. I suspect we might’ve had a set of Soviet satellite states in Asia as well (though we wound up with several communist regimes in the area anyway.) Finally, I don’t think I’ll ever again doubt Truman’s decision to drop the bomb. Descriptions of the battles in the Pacific made the calculus clear to me.

I still have my eye on Tuchman’s Guns of August, but I think I’m going to take enough time off of the heavy non-fiction to have a little fluff. Since I never finished reading Steven Brust’s Brokedown Palace when I started it ages ago (I lost my copy halfway through), I’ll give it a go.

Also, since we may have some other Dragaera fans here, I have to share My Little Jhereg. Assassination is Magic!

I’m feeling kinda guilty for liking The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson, and for rooting for Red Orm and Toke and the guys. Vikings were not the kind of people you’d want to see coming to your village and I have to keep remembering that. The history isn’t exactly sanitized, but the details of what happens are certainly omitted.

But what a fun read!

Did you ever read Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Last Light of the Sun? I had a similar problem with it. One of the protagonists was a Viking youth at the time of Alfred the Great, and Kay managed to write it with a wonderful sympathy. However much the English, Welsh and Vikings were in conflict with each other, no one side was ‘the evil villains’ or ‘the only good guys’.

I haven’t read that, thanks for the rec. I like Kay’s stuff.

What you say about writing with sympathy is probably how I should view this. It’s the rape that’s a problem. It happens off the page and Bengtsson avoids description and detail, so that helps some.

Three quarters of the way through Victims by Jonathon Kellerman. So far not too overly twisty, it’s not high culture but I’m enjoying it.

I have Black Ice by Michael Connelly lined up to read next.

I still can’t help but wonder how the war might have been altered if Hitler had deferred to his many talented military minds. They probably still would have lost being squeezed on two fronts as they were, but him not being the ultimate decision maker on military matters may have extended the war quite a bit as they might have adopted very different tactics and lines of defense.

I’m re-reading Harry Turtledove’s Settling Accounts: Return Engagement. The eighth book of the Southern Victory series, where the Confederacy won the Civil War, they fought the US in a second Mexican War, they allied with the UK and France to fight the US in World War I (which the US won), the US allies with Germany and they’re currently fighting the Confederacy in World War II. Three books left in this series. Yes, eleven books. But I like them.

I bought Jonathan Lethem’s As She Climbed Across the Table a little while ago, so that’s probably what I’ll start with. I’ll probably get started on V.S. Ramachandran’s Phantoms in the Brain at the same time.

I’ve just finished A Darkling Sea by James L. Cambais, which I really enjoyed.
It’s sf, set on a distant frozen water planet, or, actually, in the dark oceans under the several kilometre thick ice. Humans have set up a scientific base on the deep sea floor under the ice to study the apparently intelligent life there but, due to a treaty with the Sholen, another space-going race, they mustn’t interfere. But of course it goes wrong and the alien Sholen send a team to investigate possible treaty infractions…
All three races are well developed, with sympathetic (or otherwise) characters as the situation spins out of control. The Ilmatarans, especially, have a fascinating culture.

It’ll almost certainly be one of my sf books of the year.

Not sure what’s next; I can’t find my copy of The Rabbit Back Literary Society by Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen (paused 1/2 way through) about a strange death in a little Finnish town so I may try the new Joe Haldeman thriller, Work Done for Hire.

Read No.6 volume 3 yesterday, though I’m not certain manga counts here.

Finished Victims, liked it a lot, Kellerman has returned to this roots and left the see-how-smart-I-am twisty plots behind.

Should start Black Ice today or tomorrow… might just read manga today

It took a while, but I finally finished Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.

I’m now on to Cop Hater by Ed McBain.

Finished Free Radicals. Also read Bad News: The Best of Esquire’s Dubious Achievement Awards, which covers them up through 1984. I’m sorry they stopped that feature.
Right now I’ve got Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson’s Hoka! on tap. I’ve always wanted to read the Hoka stories, and this collection gives me four of them, with illustrations (some by Phil Foglio from 12983!). The book says “Soon to be a Major Motion Picture!” on the back, but that clearly never happened.

I’m also reading Archimedes Nesselrode by Justine Graykin. I heard her read part of it at Arisia 2014 two weeks back, and had to read the rest. She autographed my copy.

At the same session, I read part of my forthcoming novella The Flight of the Hand Pfall. I also read my Dr. Seuss’ Beowulf (as appeared on this Board just before Christmas.) On her blog, Graykin wrote:

I have substituted by Board name for my real-life name in the above… Entry for 1/22/2014

I just finished Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, ed. by David Sedaris, as an audiobook. The title has nothing to do with the stories, and none of them are by Sedaris himself; they’re his favorite stories by other authors. Most of them did nothing for me, but “Cosmopolitan” by Akhil Sharma was oddly affecting - it’s about a retired telecom engineer whose wife has left him to return to India. His daughter has drifted away and, lonely and with time on his hands, he begins an affair with a neighboring woman. It’s a quiet, well-written tale, and is read by the author.

I’m almost done with Listening In, ed. by Ted Witmer, a collection of JFK’s White House tapes, and am still working my way through Asimov’s commentaries on Shakespeare.