Khadaji's Whatcha Readin' - March 2014

Started this morning on This House is Haunted by John Boyne. Purports to be “written in Dickensian prose”, but I wouldn’t say that.

I just picked up Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson and the little one is off to Grammie’s for a week for March break! It is going to be a good week!

I’m reading the Thomas North translation of Plutarch’s Lives and I’m enjoying the High Forsooth English it’s written in. Sometimes it’s unintentionally hilarious, like with this story which is “neither true nor likely” of Romulus’s birth.

“continued there many days” - yeah, I’m not buying it either. :smiley:

Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins. Very good so far. A fascinating social history of the timeframe of her life and novels. A world about two hundred years removed from us but still much more different than you might imagine. It was hard to get basics back then that we take for granted today like food, light and clean water. I’m even more grateful I’m not a woman living during that time as they basically had no rights at all. Marriage turned a woman into a slave of her husband.

This might also interest you, Lavender and other Austen fans: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=542103

“Dickensian” prose – what is it? I think sometimes the blurb writer means “lots of words”.

I’ve read two by Boyne – House of Special Purpose and The Absolutist. I liked them and will be waiting for your final judgment on this one.

I’m almost finished with Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis. Lewis has Arrowsmith on the verge of an important discovery in the lab, and his description of a man being overstressed by work is IMHO brilliant and realistic.

I thought, “People with really dumb names.” :slight_smile:

I haven’t read this writer before so I’m glad to at least hear he doesn’t suck!

I read Arrowsmith years ago and enjoyed it a lot. Was actually wondering how it would hold up for me today, different phase of life for me and all that. On the one hand, he is so good at getting into the heads of Americans of his time, including some truly great dialogue; on the other hand, I appreciate subtlety more than I used to and nobody has ever accused Lewis of being subtle… Glad you’re enjoying it, hope you continue to!

Because I like the movie Amazing Grace, I picked up a copy of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery, by Eric Metaxas. It was a pretty good read, but I didn’t realize beforehand that Metaxas was primarily a writer of religious works. The book is an enthusiastic hagiography and has a strong Christian perspective. It’s a little preachy, actually, with corny jokes thrown in to keep the congregation engaged. I wish I’d picked something more scholarly and objective, but I suppose it’s suitable for Wilberforce, who credited his evangelical Christianity as the motive for his work against the slave trade.

I started the 1987 post-apocalyptic novel Swan Song, by Robert McCammon, which is something like The Stand except with a nuclear apocalypse. I don’t like the writing style very much, though, so I don’t know if I will finish it.

I’m reading City of Diamond by Jane Emerson, which is a pen name for author Doris Egan, who wrote the Ivory trilogy. This is the last novel she published in the late 90’s before switching to television writing. It’s soft science fiction about people who have lived for centuries in giant interstellar spaceships.

You might want to read War Day by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka, about two guys wandering through America after a brief but disastrous World War III. It’s a very realistic, calm but chilling travelogue.

I read all his stuff years ago and really liked him. Recently re-read Stinger and thought it was a bit too pulpy but still compelling. It’s about an alien creature that takes over a desert town, with a side of teen angst and race relations.

He can be smarmy and sentimental. Boy’s Life didn’t hold up at all.

Never use one word when ten will do.

I finished it today. And it wasn’t bad, I did like it (I found the chimeras and their magic really interesting), but I was kind of disappointed. I picked up this book in the first place because I’d already read and utterly loved the same author’s much more obscure Blackbringer. This didn’t wow me in the same way, and I couldn’t understand why it became so much more popular, but then I realised it’s because Daughter of Smoke and Bone has paranormal romance. So now I’m vaguely annoyed.

I’m now reading The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I’m enjoying it. Some stories are better than others, as with all anthologies, but I went in with moderate expectations so I can be pleased with the good ones and just shake my head indulgently at the bad ones.

I read that awhile ago. It really is a mixed bag. For consistently good Sherlockian pastiches, try June Thomson, who has several collections of short stories.

I read that ages ago, when it came out (It was published on the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance in “A Study in Scarlet” in Beeton’s Christmas Annual). It’s OKAY, but some of the stories seem awfully far from Doyle’s Holmes. For my money, the very best faux Holmes is The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, by Adrian Conan Doyle (Sir Arthur’s son) and John Dickson Carr.
http://www.amazon.com/Exploits-Sherlock-Holmes-Adrian-Conan/dp/0517203383

Just finished a library read of https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/72473.The_Dracula_Tape by Fred Saberhagen. This is a novel I’d heard about for awhile & I think I finally checked it out from the library after seeing it mentioned in a thread about alternate history stories.

I’m a bit of a sucker for alternate takes on familiar stories, and IMHO Saberhagen’s novel is one of the standouts of the genre, not only in terms of age (published in 1975) but in quality as well. While the frame story (Dracula meeting up with the Harker’s descendants, and recording his version on cassette tape) is a bit hokey (and now dated), the actual retelling of the events is engrossing.

While I’m no scholar of the Stoker source material; having listened to the Audible full-cast version of the classic fairly recently made reading this novel both more accessible and more enjoyable. Saberhagen obviously covers the same ground as Stoker, but makes Dracula, if not a hero, at least the protagonist. Harker is painted as a well-meaning nebbish, and Van Helsing a scheming malcontent whose claims to scientific knowledge are proven wrong several times by Dracula.

Mina is portrayed as not only a willing accomplice, but a worthy consort to one such as the Count. While I liked her character in the Stoker novel, seeing her as a strong female within the context of the times; Saberhagen gives her even more agency as she is torn between her love for Jonathan and fascination with Dracula.

I would have liked more insight to Renfield, and the ending felt a little rushed, but I’m glad I finally got around to reading this novel, and would recommend it to anyone interested in an alternate take on the classic vampire tale (after reading/re-reading the Stoker version, of course!) I may pursue the sequels at some point, after I check out their reviews here.

Aargh - I meant The Dracula Tape of course…

I’m still reading Catharine Arnold’s The Sexual History of London: From Roman Londinium to the Swinging City - Lust, Vice, and Desire across the Ages. An interesting lens through which to view the city.

I’ve been working my way through William Marshall’s Yellowthread Police Station series set in Hong Kong in the 1970s & beyond. A great combination of police procedural / whodunit and black humor enriched with layered character development as the novels draw on. Nice details of pre-handover Hong Kong, too.

I’ve also picked up a couple of Bill James’ Harpur & Iles mysteries: The Lolita Man & Roses, Roses. The mysteries don’t interest me nearly as much as the psychological portraits of the people involved, so to speak; James does an upstanding job creating characters who somehow ring true - except Harpur’s daughters, who seem a little too precocious and aware to be real. That Desmond Iles is quite the piece of work.

I finished Lucy Lethbridge’s Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times. I’d seen it recommended as a must for any Downton fan, and I agree. It brings to life what servant life was like in Britain from the 1800s through roughly the 1960s or so, and also why it went away: not just the wars, but the attitudes of the young who decided against ‘going into service’ despite its relative security.

Next up from a fiction perspective: another Yellowthread Street - good treadmill book - and Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. I started it shortly before my daughter was born, and now that she’s 18, I can get round to finishing it. :rolleyes:

Some may consider my tastes simplistic, but I prefer novels where the protagonist is likable (one reason I’ve yet to read Lolita, I suspect). However, I found Ron Rash’s ***Serena***quite an engaging read, despite my feelings towards the two main characters, the Serena of the title and her husband Mr. Pemberton (yes, just “Pemberton”; even his wife uses his surname when addressing him!).

I wanted to like Serena, as a strong female character proving her worth in the man’s world of a Depression-era South Carolina lumber camp; however, her heartlessness and self-interest soon turned me off. Not only did she become a cold blooded killer, but her husband also takes a life (albeit with the excuse of self-defense for his act of manslaughter). Being lumber barons playing dirty pool in their fight against the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park didn’t endear them to me, either. Admittedly, my own sociopolitical views may color that last remark, despite being the great-great-granddaughter of a lumber baron.

Rash’s historical novel paints a detailed picture of a time and place, with well-developed characters and a compelling story, even if it starts a bit slow. Pemberton himself feels a bit flat, but I believe that is intentional. Serena is perhaps the most detailed character, despite her mysterious past. Rachael is pretty much is the only sympathetic character, and she’s a bit on the one-dimensional side as well.

I first heard part of this novel on Dick Estelle’s Radio Readershow back in December 2009 & ran across it while browsing the Indiana Digital Media site and am glad I finally had a chance to read it. Recommended to fans of historical fiction in a rural, early 20th century setting.