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Valkyrdeath's 2016 reading record

This topic was continued by Valkyrdeath's 2016 reading record Part 2.

Club Read 2016

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Edited: Jun 5, 2016, 8:13pm Top

Time for my third year here! As usual, I hope to carry on with a diverse selection of books. I think I’d still like to increase the amount of non-fiction I read. Last year I hit a new record of 134 books read, beating my 104 of the previous year, so I’m going to stick with not setting targets since I seem to read more that way!

Books read:
1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
2. Filmish by Edward Ross
3. Time to Depart by Lindsey Davis
4. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
6. Prison Island by Colleen Frakes
7. The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander
8. Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands by Michael Chabon

9. The Price of Salt (aka Carol) by Patricia Highsmith
10. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
11. Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
12. Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
13. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
14. When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
15. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
16. Candide by Voltaire

17. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
18. Steed & Mrs Peel: The Golden Game by Grant Morrison and Anne Caulfield, art by Ian Gibson
19. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner
20. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, translated by Magda Bogin
21. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
22. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

23. Tomb Raider: The Beginning by Rhianna Pratchett, art by Nicolas Daniel Selma and Andrea Mutti
24. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
25. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin
26. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
27. Lumberjanes Volume 3 by Noelle Stevenon and Shannon Watters, art by Carolyn Nowak and others
28. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa
29. Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov
30. ODY-C Volume 1 by Matt Fraction, art by Christian Ward
31. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
32. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
33. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
34. The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson
35. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
36. The Hours by Michael Cunningham

37. The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart
38. The Trouble With Women by Jacky Fleming
39. Narbonic Vol. 3 by Shaenon K. Garrity
40. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
41. Narbonic Vol. 4 by Shaenon K. Garrity
42. Funny Science Fiction edited by Alex Shvartsman
43. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
44. Mister Monday by Garth Nix
45. Narbonic Vol. 5 by Shaenon K. Garrity
46. Narbonic Vol. 6 by Shaenon K. Garrity
47. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
48. Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison

Jan 1, 2016, 8:58pm Top

Book stats for 2015:
134 books read, made up of:
61 novels
35 graphic novels
23 non-fiction books
11 short story collections
3 poetry collections
1 play

One of my goals for the year was to try to balance the number of books by each gender more, and without monitoring it as I went along, I managed a perfect 50% split between male and female authors. I was very surprised but pleased.

Jan 1, 2016, 8:58pm Top

Favourite fiction of 2015 (in no particular order):
The Golem and the Djinni
Mother Night
The Song of Achilles
Cold Comfort Farm
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Station Eleven
Various books in the Falco series and the Dortmunder series

Favourite non-fiction of 2015:
The Elements of Eloquence
Agent Zigzag
The River of Doubt
Nothing to Envy
A Girl Named Zippy

Favourite graphical works of 2015:
The Saga series
Lumberjanes 1 & 2
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
Narbonic 1 & 2

Jan 5, 2016, 5:49pm Top

Some of your 2015 favorites have been on my favorite lists in the past year or two. It is always interesting to see what others enjoy. You read an impressive number of books. I'm looking forward to your reading for this year.

Jan 5, 2016, 6:00pm Top

A friend of mine just recommended The Golem and the Djinni. It's great to see it was one of your favorites and be reminded to put a library hold on it.

Jan 5, 2016, 6:11pm Top

>4 NanaCC: I always like seeing which books other people like too. I've seen lots of stuff I love on your threads, though I've been terrible at commenting recently. I'm hoping to keep up with things better this year.

>5 nancyewhite: I hope you like it if you read it. It's a really lovely book.

Jan 5, 2016, 6:11pm Top

1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
Well, I think this was a great way to start the year off. I love wordplay, so this was perfect for me. It’s set on a fictional island with a culture built on language, which effectively worships Nevin Nollop, the assumed creator of the line “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, containing every letter of the alphabet. As the letters of this sentence on his statue start to fall off, the government decides this means those letters must be banned from use. The book is told in the form of letters between inhabitants, meaning the writing becomes more and more constrained as more and more letters are lost. But people keep writing, twisting language in new ways in order to desperately try to keep communicating. It’s clever and often funny. It’s also definitely dystopian fiction too, and feels very oppressive at the same time. The first letter (Z) lost automatically causes a ban on all books, and things only get worse from there.

I find it interesting, looking at the later pages of the book, that they should be practically unreadable, and yet with the gradual erosion of the language through the course of the book I found I was reading it perfectly easily when reading through the novel. It strikes me as smart writing that must have taken a lot of work. Anyway, I really enjoyed it.

Appropriate song to go with the book: LMNO by They Might Be Giants. From the moment I read the title of the book I had that song in my head.

Jan 5, 2016, 6:13pm Top

>7 valkyrdeath:

That sounds fascinating. Never heard of that book so thanks for the review and mentioning it! It is right up my alley...

Jan 5, 2016, 8:04pm Top

>7 valkyrdeath: Ella Minnow Pea is a fun, quirky book. Nice review!

Jan 5, 2016, 8:08pm Top

>8 AnnieMod: I hadn't heard of it either until a few days ago. I stumbled across it on a list of books in unusual formats and as soon as I read the description I just couldn't resist it. I love that sort of thing.

>9 cabegley: It really is. I'm glad I came across it. Thanks!

Jan 5, 2016, 8:23pm Top

>7 valkyrdeath: You're up and running already! This sounds so interesting, I haven't heard of it either.

Jan 5, 2016, 9:59pm Top

>9 cabegley: I may need to borrow that one, Chris.

Jan 6, 2016, 12:57pm Top

What a great book to start the year on! Putting a pin in that one.

Jan 6, 2016, 7:25pm Top

>3 valkyrdeath: Hello valkydeath! I too was intrigued by your 2015 favorites. River of Doubt has been on my radar for a while. I really enjoyed her follow up Destiny of the Republic.

I was not sure where or not to pick of RoD considering that Edmund Morris' Colonel Roosevelt is also on my TBR list. what do you think?

Jan 6, 2016, 8:17pm Top

Thanks for the comments everyone! Seems to be a book a lot of people are interested in.

>14 brodiew2: I loved Destiny of the Republic, I read that the year before last. River of Doubt was also very good, and I really like her writing style. I haven't read the Morris book so I can't compare them, but the Millard one deals in detail about the one specific expedition as opposed to a more general biography, so it probably has more detail in that area. It makes for a great adventure story either way! I'd say if you liked Destiny of the Republic then it's worthwhile.

Jan 6, 2016, 8:53pm Top

2. Filmish by Edward Ross
Subtitled “A Graphic Journey through Film”, Filmish is a non-fiction work told in a black and white comic book format. But it’s not just a straight forward history of film, and rather than simply going through films chronologically, the book is split into several chapters each exploring a different topic. Ross manages to go into a reasonable amount of depth for the short amount of space he has for each subject, and he’s clearly passionate about film. The book doesn’t just talk about film genres and styles but goes into more serious film theory territory, talking about the viewers’ relationship with films, how they can manipulate the way we see things, the relationship between film and technology (and technophobia) and many other topics. He regularly quotes other sources, often scholarly works, and everything is fully sourced. The art work is very well done, and it’s fun just spotting all the different films referenced in the images, though as with the quotes, everything is sourced in the extensive notes at the back. There’s nothing especially new for people who are already familiar with the topics covered, but it’s an excellent and wide ranging overview for anyone with an interest in film.

Jan 7, 2016, 10:04pm Top

Film history as a graphic novel has a lot of appeal. Noting that one.

Jan 7, 2016, 11:40pm Top

Me, too. I read my first graphic novel last year Fun Home and was kind of amazed at the potency of the form.

Edited: Jan 8, 2016, 2:49am Top

>16 valkyrdeath: I've never heard of this book, thanks for bringing it to my attention - it sounds really interesting. Do you ever watch Tony Zhou's short videos about film technique? I think they're great. You can find them here.

Jan 9, 2016, 11:06am Top

>17 dchaikin: Given that film is such a visual medium, I think it does make a lot of sense to tell it as a graphic novel. I'm surprised I haven't encountered anything similar before.

>18 theaelizabet: I read Fun Home in 2014 and loved it. I think it's probably the best graphic memoir I've read. There's a huge variety of graphic novels out there and when they're at their best they use the medium to do things that couldn't be done in any other way. I find them to be well worth experimenting with.

>19 wandering_star: I hadn't heard of it when I got it either. It had just come out when I saw it in the shop and I bought it on a whim, something I rarely do. I'm glad it worked out. I've never seen those videos before, but they look like exactly the sort of thing I'd like, thanks! I don't have time to watch right now but I've bookmarked the page for tonight.

Jan 9, 2016, 8:51pm Top

>16 valkyrdeath: Filmish sounds fascinating. Will look for it.

>19 wandering_star: Thanks for the link to Tony Zhou's videos. Very interesting!

Edited: Jan 10, 2016, 10:39am Top

>7 valkyrdeath: Sounds fun. Reminds me a little bit of a book I read years ago called The Chess Garden in which there was a place where the 'ideal' originals of each generic thing were disappearing, and when the ideal thing disappeared not only did all things based on it disappear, but the concept of the thing vanished as though such a thing had never existed or been thought of. So if, for instance, the ideal spoon vanished all spoons that had ever been ceased to have any existence, and spoons were unthought of. Your book sounds more fun as the idea is being borne out in practice over the course of the book.

Jan 10, 2016, 2:20pm Top

>7 valkyrdeath: You make me want to get to this. Like your idea of song pairings tho I'm wary of an earworm!

Also making a note of Filmish. My favorite graphic-format books have been Stitches, Maus, the Barefoot Gen series (though too hard to find), and Hyperbole and a Half.

Jan 11, 2016, 3:05pm Top

>16 valkyrdeath: This one sounds like a lot of fun! Great review, I'm bookmarking it.

Jan 11, 2016, 5:40pm Top

>22 Oandthegang: Was The Chess Garden any good? It sounds interesting, though I'm not sure how the concept would stretch into a novel, unless that's only one part of the story. It's not one I've heard of before.

>23 detailmuse: The pun of the book title just put that song straight into my head, though I do quite like the idea of matching songs to books. I love Maus and want to read Stitches when I can get hold of a copy of it. I have the first volume of Barefoot Gen as an ebook I got from a Humble Bundle a while back but I've yet to get to it, and I'm worried if I like it I might then have to track down all the rest.

>24 reva8: Thanks! I'd say it's a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the more theoretical side of film. I think I'll go ahead and post the review on the book page since I've just realised that no-one else has posted there yet and I feel there should be at least one review on there.

Jan 13, 2016, 1:05pm Top

>25 valkyrdeath: I enjoyed The Chess Garden. It is an odd book, and it is years since I read it (probably read in 1995 when it came out). I can imagine a lot of people hating it. Here's a link to the Barnes and Noble site where it is described, with a couple of favourable reviews. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-chess-garden-brooks-hansen/1121153422?ean=97... and enotes http://www.enotes.com/topics/chess-garden

Jan 13, 2016, 1:48pm Top

I really enjoyed Ella Minnow Pea when I read it several years ago. Looking forward to following your reading this year.

Jan 14, 2016, 1:09am Top

>22 Oandthegang: It's funny, I read The Chess Garden way back when, and your description is completely foreign to me. For some reason I can't remember anything about it. I did recommend it to my mother who was somewhat bewildered by it. Maybe it's time for a reread. Hmmm. . .

Jan 14, 2016, 3:14am Top

>28 Poquette: Maybe in fuzzy memory I've invented this. Perhaps time for a reread all round.

Jan 14, 2016, 5:42pm Top

>26 Oandthegang: It is the sort of odd thing I like to read occasionally. I think I'll check it out.

>27 arubabookwoman: It was a lot of fun. I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it before.

Jan 14, 2016, 5:49pm Top

3. Time to Depart by Lindsey Davis
Lindsey Davis continues to have fun trying out every type of crime story she can think of within the historical Ancient Roman setting. This time it’s effectively a police procedural transposed to Rome. As usual, it’s based around genuine historical concepts, chiefly that criminals condemned to death were given time to leave the empire if they chose before the sentence was carried out. An organised crime boss it sent away, but then the people who helped convict him start to be killed. I’d also never realised the Vigiles were set up as firefighters originally, which is used in the story. It’s a lot of fun, and as usual, Falco’s family life is as prominent as the mystery, and is where a lot of the humour comes in. The series just keeps getting better and I loved the book.

Jan 14, 2016, 7:13pm Top

>31 valkyrdeath: Sounds fun. I haven't read any Falcos, so perhaps a new 'tec series to slip in to the other reading.

Jan 15, 2016, 2:23pm Top

>31 valkyrdeath: Reading 'Roman' fiction has always had appeal to me as I love history, but I have never taken to time dive into one. I am familiar with the Falco series and will now have to take a closer look. Are there other crime authors you enjoy within the setting of the Roman Empire?

Edited: Jan 15, 2016, 10:09pm Top

>33 brodiew2: Brodie. I think Lindsey Davis is the best for really putting you in the period (Falco far more than her spin off about his daughter, books which I've found far inferior). I've read the first of Ruth Downie's mystery series set in Roman Britain, which was very good and quite different in tone from Falco (as well as being a later period and not quite so full of detail). I introduced Gary (valkyr) to Falco so this isn't as much a rude horning in as it might seem.

Jan 15, 2016, 4:55pm Top

>34 mabith: Thank you, mabith. I appreciate the information. :-)

Jan 15, 2016, 5:22pm Top

>35 brodiew2: I was going to refer you to Meredith but I see she's on top of the situation! I'm pretty new to the genre myself. I haven't read any other authors who write about the Roman period, but I'd definitely recommend Falco. They work as crime stories and as historical fiction, but most importantly they're a lot of fun.

Jan 15, 2016, 10:31pm Top

Hi, Gary. I see you've got Mrs. Dalloway up next. May I suggest The Hours by Michael Cunningham as a counterpoint? I read them together and it worked very well.

Jan 15, 2016, 10:35pm Top

>31 valkyrdeath: Time to Depart sounds like fun. Love ancient history and historical fiction, so how could I lose?

Jan 16, 2016, 5:23pm Top

>37 cabegley: I've heard of The Hours but know nothing much about it. I'll check it out. I've still got to see whether I'll like Mrs. Dalloway since I don't know if it will be to my tastes, but I definitely need to try something by Virginia Woolf and I have a copy of that available.

Jan 16, 2016, 5:27pm Top

>38 Poquette: Sounds like the series would be worth trying in that case! They don't need to be read in order, so if this particular one sounds interesting I think it would actually be a great starting point since it contains basically all the main recurring characters and introduces them all well enough for anyone who hasn't read any of the others.

Jan 16, 2016, 9:18pm Top

>40 valkyrdeath: Thanks! Sometimes I feel the need to go back to the beginning of a series and then sometimes forget why I read the book in the first place. You've saved me from my compulsion!

Jan 17, 2016, 6:35am Top

>39 valkyrdeath: oddly enough I loved The Hours but wasn't so grabbed by Mrs Dalloway despite developing a new love for Ms Woolf last year. The film The Hours is also a good watch - some good actors in it.

Jan 17, 2016, 9:05pm Top

>41 Poquette: I know what you mean there. I've often felt like I have to go straight for the first book in a series, which has the disadvantage that a lot of them aren't at their best at the start. I can get caught up trying to read authors work chronologically too. I'm trying to avoid worrying about it so much.

>42 AlisonY: That's good to know. It may be worth checking out whether or not I like Mrs Dalloway.

Jan 17, 2016, 11:00pm Top

>1 valkyrdeath: Mrs. Dalloway is one of my next couple books that I'm going to read next. In fact, I was going to start it next, but then I chose to read War of the Worlds instead. But within a month I'll be reading it. :)

>7 valkyrdeath: I've really been wanting to read this book. Glad you enjoyed it.

>31 valkyrdeath: Now that sounds interesting.

Jan 18, 2016, 8:49pm Top

>44 The_Hibernator: Mrs. Dalloway is being read a lot right now it seems! War of the Worlds sounds a good choice to me though, I've always liked that.

Jan 19, 2016, 9:11pm Top

4. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, and I’m glad I finally got to it. It’s set in an alternate reality where the Axis won World War 2 and the US is split between Nazi German and Japanese control. There’s not a huge amount of plot, though what is there is interesting. The book is largely character driven, following a wide assortment of different people, with their own views and opinions about the world they’re in. They span different nationalities and perspectives. It’s a book that doesn’t present a clear good and evil, a world full of moral ambiguity.

Within the book, there’s also a book called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy”, which is a popular (though banned in Nazi controlled areas) alternate history book where the Allies won the war. It’s not quite our world, so there are two alternate histories for the price of one. It’s in the characters’ discussions of this book that I came to think The Man in the High Castle is basically using the alternate world to mirror our world, hence the moral ambiguity. A moment where a Japanese character expects white Americans to automatically give up their seats for him has clear parallels to the issues of the time it was written in the 60s.

I know Philip K Dick was trying to appeal to the mainstream at the time this was written, knowing how science fiction tends to get dismissed and anything that’s actually good just proclaimed not to be science fiction. So it amused me that there’s a brief conversation in the book where two people argue over whether The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is science fiction or not.

Anyway, that’s enough random rambling about the book. It was one that got me thinking and had far more going on than I first realised. It was a long way from the pulp alternate history about rebels fighting back against the evil Nazis that I was expecting.

Jan 21, 2016, 11:08am Top

Enjoyed your review of The Man in the high castle

Edited: Jan 21, 2016, 6:01pm Top

>46 valkyrdeath: Now I need to read The Man in the High Castle. Philip K Dick is an author I have sorely neglected, having only read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Good enticing comments!

ETA touchstones. Duh!

Jan 21, 2016, 9:16pm Top

>48 Poquette: If you don't mind things getting weird (a lot of his books are about reality breaking down in some way) then Philip K Dick has a lot of excellent books and is well worth reading. I especially loved Ubik. I really liked The Man in the High Castle, and it's fairly normal by his standards, though certainly not straight forward.

Jan 21, 2016, 9:43pm Top

>46 valkyrdeath: Nice review! Earlier today, as I sat down to write my thoughts, I saw that you had posted your review and quickly switched screens to avoid being influenced. Looks like we largely agree, though.

I mentioned to you earlier that I had read and liked Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Would Ubik be the next best bet for me?

Jan 22, 2016, 2:27pm Top

>46 valkyrdeath:/>50 theaelizabet: did you know you were reading it together? I came frim theaelizabet's thread hear catching the reviews one after the other by chance. Both great reviews.

Jan 22, 2016, 6:21pm Top

>50 theaelizabet: Thanks! I'd say Ubik is a good next step. I loved it, and it's widely regarded as one of his best works. It's very odd, but also the funniest book I've read by him. I really liked A Maze of Death too, but I'm not sure how much of that is because it's the first book of his that I read, since I've never reread it since. Solar Lottery was good, but it was his first book and a much more normal pulp sci-fi sort of thing. So Ubik probably is the way to go.

>51 dchaikin: It was pure coincidence, though we'd discovered a few days ago that we were both reading it at the same time. I've been meaning to read it for years but I got to it this month because it came up in an online bookclub I'm in. Nearly everyone else hated it and complained there wasn't enough plot, but then they seem to hate all the books I like, while they loved Gone Girl which I didn't think much of at all and mostly just annoyed me, so I'm probably in the wrong place.

Jan 23, 2016, 9:27pm Top

5. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This is a hard one to write anything about for me. It was well enough written and a fairly quick read, but most of the book I found fairly bland and uninteresting and I’ve already forgotten most of it already. The parts about the shell shocked former WW1 soldier Septimus and his experiences with two different doctors stood out to me though, and I liked those enough that I might try something else by Woolf at some point. I didn’t dislike this book, but it’s not really for me.

Edited: Jan 24, 2016, 3:15pm Top

>53 valkyrdeath: et al -- I too paired Mrs. Dalloway with The Hours. I sailed through The Hours and enjoyed Cunningham's re-imagining and homage. The film of The Hours is even better.

Jan 25, 2016, 12:16am Top

>53 valkyrdeath: Interesting that you didn't really like Mrs Dalloway - it seems to be one of her most popular books.

>46 valkyrdeath: I love Philip K Dick. I should really read more of his works.

Hope you have a great week ahead.

Jan 25, 2016, 5:28pm Top

>54 detailmuse: A lot of people seem to like The Hours. I'm thinking of giving it a go, though I'm not sure that sort of stream of conciousness writing is really my thing.

>55 The_Hibernator: I think I just didn't really get what most of it was about. Or maybe it was just about too many rich people for me. It was well written though and some bits I thought were very good, so I didn't hate it, but I guess it wasn't quite my style. I'm hoping to get to some more Philip K Dick this year myself. And I hope you have a good week too!

Edited: Jan 25, 2016, 7:29pm Top

>56 valkyrdeath: good news: The Hours isn't stream of conscious. The structure is alternating narrators, and the creativity is that they represent the three parties to a novel -- the author, the reader and the main character.

Jan 26, 2016, 5:47pm Top

>57 detailmuse: That makes it much more tempting then, thanks!

Jan 26, 2016, 8:31pm Top

6. Prison Island by Colleen Frakes
This is a graphic memoir about the author’s childhood growing up on a small island containing a prison and houses for the families of the staff there. It’s framed around a visit with her family to the island shortly after everyone has left due to it being closed down. Most of the differences in lifestyle are basically the same as they would be growing up on any isolated island rather than specifically a prison one, such as having to catch a boat at 6am to travel to the mainland for school. You only get little snatches of events and it’s a short book, so you don’t really get immersed in life on the island, and a lot of it doesn’t seem hugely different to growing up anywhere else anyway. It doesn’t really make any great use of the graphical format either, though the art is nice enough. It’s readable, but nothing special.

Edited: Jan 26, 2016, 8:46pm Top

7. The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War by Caroline Alexander
The War that Killed Achilles is a fairly in depth look at The Iliad, with lots of excerpts, and looking at it as an example of an ancient anti-war work. It’s an interesting way of looking at something that was usually seen as a heroic epic, and one I found fairly convincing. It also provides a lot of information along the way about the time it was written, giving an idea of what would be common knowledge then that we wouldn’t see in the same way. I enjoyed it a lot, though I don’t think I’ll be sitting down to read The Iliad itself any time soon.

Jan 27, 2016, 10:16pm Top

>60 valkyrdeath: i read this in December to prep myself for The Iliad this month. I didn't exactly enjoy it...well, i thought it was tough to read. But it was a great prep and added to a lot to my reading of The Iliad.

Jan 29, 2016, 7:06pm Top

>61 dchaikin: It gave me a new appreciation of The Iliad, but it also convinced me I probably didn't want to read it. What with the cataloguing of ships and everything I think it would drive me mad.

Edited: Jan 29, 2016, 7:52pm Top

The War that Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War sounds really good. I read The Iliad for a course in college, and I enjoyed it. I might have to check this out. I love the idea of learning more about ancient history and an ancient work of history at the same time.

Jan 29, 2016, 8:23pm Top

>62 valkyrdeath: funny. When I read it i was amused to think that it really didn't make me want to actually read the Iliad. Obviously I still read it and was grateful to C Alexander while reading it. And...it's not a difficult or intimidating work in anyway. So, in that Alexander misleads.

About those ships... while I'll admit I might not be the norm, I actually enjoyed the catalog of ships. Each group has a different geographic location and their own stories and mythologies are touched on, so the catalog becomes a catalog of mostly lost stories.

Edited: Jan 29, 2016, 8:59pm Top

I just loved The War That Killed Achilles and I don't remember thinking that Alexander makes The Iliad sound intimidating, other than the way any older piece of writing is - in the many many things a contemporary reader just won't 'get' without further scholarship. It doesn't mean it can't be enjoyed, just that there are pieces missing (that's the case for Jane Austen, let alone anything older). I didn't really expect to enjoy it so much, and had picked it up solely because I'd loved other books by Alexander. I found it totally thrilling and consuming.

Edited: Jan 29, 2016, 9:30pm Top

>63 fuzzy_patters: If you enjoyed The Iliad then it could well be worth a read. I found it put some interesting points forward about the time it was written and how The Iliad differed from what was usual at the time. I like the idea of learning about a work and the history of the time together too.

>64 dchaikin: I didn't really feel it was intimidating, but I feel like I know the story well enough without needing to read it. I'm not a huge fan of lengthy works told in verse, and I enjoyed the bits where she was telling me what happened a lot more than I enjoyed the samples of Homer's work itself. Something about poetry forms just makes my brain refuse to understand the majority of the time. I'd probably be more likely to read it if it had just been a prose piece. I did enjoy The Song of Achilles when I read it last year though, and it's caught my interest enough that I'm considering Ransom by David Malouf and Ilium by Dan Simmons, but if I do read The Iliad it probably will be in the distant future.

Jan 30, 2016, 8:04am Top

>53 valkyrdeath: I felt exactly the same about Mrs Dalloway. But don't let it put you off reading or watching The Hours.

Jan 31, 2016, 6:55am Top

>67 AlisonY: I checked out your reviews of them and I'm convinced. The book is on my to read list already but now I'll try to get to it soon.

Jan 31, 2016, 8:16pm Top

8. Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon
This is a collection of various non-fiction essays collected from various sources, so it’s a varied assortment. In general though, the first half has articles about genre fiction and some about specific authors, comic artists or books and the second half has more autobiographical pieces about his life and how he came to write some of his books. A lot of the first half puts up a defence of genre fiction, which is worthwhile, though he sometimes doesn’t seem to stick to his convictions. Despite defending genre fiction as being just as worthy as anything else, in his essay about Cormac McCarthy’s The Road he goes on the say that it’s not science fiction even though he states it does have all the science fiction elements that make up other post-apocalyptic fiction. I think it’s easy to lapse into that sort of defence though, even as you want genre fiction to be taken seriously it can be easier to lapse into trying to claim something isn’t part of the genre when trying to champion something. It sort of undermines the argument though. (I don’t understand “genre fiction” as a derogatory term anyway. All fiction is genre fiction. However much it might be labelled with the meaningless “literary fiction” tag, surely it must fit into at least one or more genres.)

Anyway, the second half is where the best material is, and it’s really interesting to read about how he came to start writing. My favourite was where he talked about discovering a book on how to speak Yiddish that was phrased like a travel guide language book led to his writing of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. And it culminates in an entertaining mixture of fiction and autobiography about golems.

Overall, the book is a bit of a mixed bag, and I preferred the second half to the first, especially as in the first half he was often talking about books that I hadn’t read. It’s fairly short and an enjoyable enough quick read, but not really something to go rushing out to buy. I’m definitely looking forward to trying some more of his novels though.

Jan 31, 2016, 9:49pm Top

>66 valkyrdeath: I hadn't heard about Ransom or Simmons Ilium. Noting. About the poetry of the Iliad - I would encourage you not to let that put you off. It has a strong narrative. And, if you read Fagles translation, you might not even notice the poetry. It reads as prose.

>69 valkyrdeath: I'm intrigued. And I would like to know he thinks about McCarthy. I would classify The Road as apocalyptic fiction. Not sure whether that is separate from scifi.

Feb 1, 2016, 12:40am Top

The War that Killed Achilles looks really good. I love books about books.

Feb 2, 2016, 5:25pm Top

>70 dchaikin: That's good to know. I'll check out that translation if I do get round to reading it.

He seemed to be a big fan of McCarthy. The article about The Road was quite interesting, but I haven't read the book (yet, since I've been meaning to read it for a long time and will surely get to it eventually.) Post-apocalyptic fiction is usually placed as a subgenre of science fiction, until a critically acclaimed author writes one at which point it becomes an exception. I'm not too concerned where it's placed really, since genre is just a sometimes convenient form of grouping things to me, but the double standards can annoy me at times.

>71 The_Hibernator: I like reading about books too. If you have any good ones to recommend then please let me know! I hope to find some more at some point.

Feb 7, 2016, 9:36am Top

You've done quite a mix of reading, as usual. I've never read anything by Chabon, although I do have The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: A Novel on my shelf, and a couple of others on my kindle. Maybe someday.

Feb 7, 2016, 7:29pm Top

>73 NanaCC: I do try to keep things varied! I definitely recommend The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, it was one of my favourite books of last year. I have yet to read any of his other novels though.

Feb 7, 2016, 7:42pm Top

9. The Price of Salt (aka Carol) by Patricia Highsmith
Originally written under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, The Price of Salt is basically a love story between two women who meet at the doll counter of a department store, apparently inspired by an event in the author’s life while she was actually working in that position. I’d never heard of the book until it was recently filmed under the title Carol, and love stories are not really my thing, but I gave it a go since it came up for an online book club. And I’m glad I did. While it’s a fairly slow moving story and not a lot happens, it’s extremely well written. The quality of the writing really carried everything and made it really easy to read, and the characters felt so real that it didn’t really feel like fiction at all. I’m still not going to become a fan of romance fiction, but I liked this one and can’t find much to fault it with. And it stood out at the time of its publication for avoiding the sorts of ending other books about homosexual relationships tended to have back then.

Appropriate song for the book: Oh! Carol by Neil Sedaka.

Feb 15, 2016, 12:13am Top

Happy Valentine's Day!

Feb 16, 2016, 2:03pm Top

>76 The_Hibernator: Thanks! Hope you have a good day!

Feb 16, 2016, 2:03pm Top

10. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
I’m skipping forward in my reread of the Discworld series. The last three of the Tiffany Aching books are the only Discworld novels I haven’t read, so I’m going to go through those now so I can finally get to the last one. So it starts with a reread of The Wee Free Men, which I’ve actually only read once back when it first came out. For some reason back then I didn’t like it as much as usual, which is a shame, since on rereading I realise it’s got a good story and is full of great moments and funny lines. I think it may be because I found the parts about the death of Tiffany’s grandmother hard at the time I was reading. Anyway, the Nac Mac Feegle are great as ever. It’s still not one of my absolute favourite Discworld books, but it’s still a fun read, and Tiffany is a good character. I seem to remember liking the second book better than this first one, mostly because Granny Weatherwax is in it. I’ll have to see how it goes this time round.
Appropriate song: The Wee Free Men by Steeleye Span (except why do the Nac Mac Feegle sound English in this song? That’s just not right!)

Feb 19, 2016, 2:45pm Top

11. Saga, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
12. Saga, Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples
Continuing the story, and I’m still really enjoying it. I usually wait for these ongoing series to finish before reading them though, and I’m starting to wish I’d done that with Saga. It’s a bit annoying reading a chunk of the story and then waiting months before another one is out. I don’t know how people cope with getting the very short individual issues and waiting a month between them. None of these stand alone. But it’s very good and the art work is excellent, it’s just hard to keep hold of all the different storylines across the months.

Feb 19, 2016, 2:51pm Top

I enjoy your Pratchett reviews (even if I never made it to Tiffany)

Feb 21, 2016, 6:38pm Top

>80 dchaikin: Thanks. Those are the only of his Discworld books I never got to previously but I intend to finish them all this year.

Feb 21, 2016, 6:38pm Top

13. Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Daughter of the Forest is an historical fantasy novel based on the Six Swans fairy tale but with a medieval Ireland setting where various aspects of their folklore are true. The fantasy elements are actually fairly low key in the story, but the setting is very well realised, but most importantly the characters were excellent. I loved the book. Marillier doesn’t make it easy for her heroine though, and she goes through some really awful situations throughout the book. It was often hard to stop reading since I just wanted to see her finally get to safety. Sorcha is a great lead character, showing great strength and determination but not being perfect and making mistakes. I found the romance element to be well done too, and not off-putting at all. This is the first book I’ve read by Marillier and I certainly intend to read more, starting with the other two volumes of the original Sevenwaters Trilogy, of which this was the first.

Feb 22, 2016, 6:39pm Top

14. When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
This was a really nice non-fiction read about the role books played in WW2. It starts with the Nazi book burnings and then voluntary public book donation schemes, but it mostly focuses on the Armed Services Editions that were specially printed for distribution to men in the US Army and Navy. These seem to have been highly valued by the troops who became big readers and helped the success of books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and made a classic out of The Great Gatsby. (Though I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the popularity of Gatsby, the only book I’ve ever literally fallen asleep while reading, but different tastes and all that.) It was really good to read about something like this, and especially good to see the cooperation between publishers to accomplish the project, and their determination in selecting the right books and fighting any attempts to censor anything. It was a quick read and perfect for a book lover, and I’d never actually heard anything about any of this before.

Feb 23, 2016, 8:43pm Top

15. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Surprisingly, I’d never heard of this book until fairly recently. Not sure how I’d avoided hearing about it, other than possibly the fact that I generally avoided children’s books when I was a kid. This one seemed to be exactly the sort of thing I would have loved though, and I enjoyed reading it. It includes some complex ideas in it without talking down to the reader too, which is something I appreciate in books aimed at younger readers. I liked the dimension jumping plot and the disturbing planet they end up on, and I liked that the story covered Meg’s realisation that her father isn’t perfect and can’t just fix everything. The ending I found to be a bit disappointing with the whole love defeats evil thing but otherwise I enjoyed the book and wish I could have read it as a kid.

Feb 23, 2016, 11:08pm Top

>84 valkyrdeath: I'd be curious to read this again now that I'm older. I absolutely loved this series when I was young (I think I read this one at a very young age), but I'm always curious if the memory will hold and you hate to ruin a great childhood memory.

Feb 24, 2016, 12:35pm Top

>84 valkyrdeath: I finally read this just three years ago. Think I would have loved it as a kid for its aspects of family/ coming-of-age/ value-of-odd-people.

Feb 24, 2016, 3:22pm Top

I adored the Wrinkle in Time series when I was a child, which then led me to L'Engle's other YA books. I feel like I should revisit them.

Feb 25, 2016, 6:16pm Top

>85 janemarieprice: I know what you mean about ruining memories. It's easy to go back to something and find it doesn't live up to your memories of it. I think A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books that should hold up fairly well though, since I've read it for the first time as an adult and still enjoyed it.

>86 detailmuse: I'd definitely have appreciated the odd characters and the more surreal aspects of the story, as well as the science themes. I loved all that stuff. The thing that put me off actually reading children's books when I was a child was the fact that they almost always had children as the main character. I hated kids when I was one and really didn't want to read about them. So I skipped straight forwards to adult books from about the age of seven or eight and have probably read more kids books as an adult than I ever did back then.

>87 RidgewayGirl: It seems to be a popular book. I don't know anything about any of her other books. I might check out the rest of the series. Are there any others you'd recomment?

Feb 28, 2016, 8:44pm Top

16. Candide by Voltaire
Well, this really wasn’t what I was expecting. Not that I really know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t this. It’s a brief book full of one terrible thing happening after another, with war, murder, rape and torture all appearing repeatedly. Naturally, it’s a comedy.

It seems to be mostly a satirical attack of Leibniz’s “best of all possible worlds” philosophy, which is mentioned many times from the philosopher Pangloss within the book. Candide stumbles from one disaster to another as his mentor still insists that everything is for the best (“I hold firmly to my original views. After all I am a philosopher. ”) It also criticises prejudice and slavery in various forms. The style felt surprisingly modern to me, with a real snarky sarcastic tone to the whole thing, and it was often funny. The repeated dismissal of terrible actions as being within the rules of warfare, and the recurring mantra of “all is for the best”, even reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut at times. (So it goes.) Some bits were better than others, but mostly I enjoyed this and was impressed by the satire.

(I was less impressed by the edition I was reading though. It included a Candide Part Two straight afterwards as if it was part of the same book, but it felt off when I was reading it and the attitude felt different, and the ending of the first part seemed to be the natural end anyway. So then I looked online and discovered the second part was not only written later than Candide, but actually wasn’t even written by Voltaire. The ebook I had did not mention this information anywhere at all, and I think it’s pretty important, since it could give the wrong impression of the book. I was glad to find out the second part wasn’t actually a part of the proper work since it is much better without it. That’s not even considering the fact that the book is called “Candide and Other Works” but doesn’t contain anything else in it.)

Feb 29, 2016, 1:14am Top

>89 valkyrdeath: Candide is one of those books one is always hearing about and ever since university days I've thought that I ought to read it, but that it would be a slog. Your review makes it seem less daunting.

>79 valkyrdeath: Not books that I would read, but I love the artwork.

Edited: Feb 29, 2016, 2:02am Top

>88 valkyrdeath: L'Engle had a series about a family that began with Meet the Austins. But there are children in the book! I loved that series. You have me curious as to how well it will have held up over time. They were written in the sixties. I read them in the eighties, but that's a lot closer, culturally-speaking than now.

Feb 29, 2016, 8:09pm Top

>90 Oandthegang: I usually expect books of that sort to be a slog, but Candide was far from it. It's very short, barely 100 pages, and it's told at a rapid pace. I read the whole thing in two days.

>91 RidgewayGirl: It's always interesting to see how well things hold up over the years. I'm sure I'll get round to trying some more of her books at some point.

Mar 2, 2016, 11:05am Top

I love Candide and amazing to think that it was first published in 1759.

Mar 3, 2016, 6:26pm Top

>84 valkyrdeath: I was very excited to see that Ava Duvernay is due to direct a film of A Wrinkle in Time.

Mar 5, 2016, 9:59am Top

>93 baswood: Yes, it was very impressive and if I didn't already know I would never have thought it was that old.

>94 wandering_star: I don't know them, but it's interesting that they're doing a film. I wonder how faithful it will be.

Mar 5, 2016, 10:22am Top

Candide was one of those books I was really glad they assigned in high school!

Mar 5, 2016, 11:27am Top

>89 valkyrdeath:, I've got Candide on the go. I thought, from the name, that the main character would be a woman. oops.

Edited: Mar 5, 2016, 11:49am Top

>97 Helenliz: Perhaps, as I did, you are conflating it with Candida by George Bernard Shaw

Mar 5, 2016, 7:48pm Top

>96 ursula: I'd never even heard of it at school. I think it would have gone down well if we'd done it.

>97 Helenliz: I'd always thought that until I actually got the book. It definitely sounds like a woman's name.

>98 ELiz_M: That's another one I don't know anything about.

Mar 5, 2016, 7:48pm Top

17. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
This was the first adult novel from the author better known for writing the Moomin books. It follows a six year old girl, Sophia, and her grandmother and the time they spend together on an island. The girl’s father is there too, but he never speaks or takes much part in the action, he’s just a background presence. It’s a nice book, with some entertaining conversations between the main characters, often funny, but there’s a melancholy side to things too as the recent death of the mother is understood but never directly spoken of. It was a very brief book, well written and I enjoyed it while it lasted, though it didn’t have any huge impact on me.

Mar 12, 2016, 8:01pm Top

18. Steed & Mrs Peel: The Golden Game by Grant Morrison and Anne Caulfield, art by Ian Gibson
Originally published in the 90s as a six issue series, this is based on the old 60s British TV show The Avengers, but couldn’t be published under that name for obvious reasons. I loved the show so when I saw the recent reissue of this I had to give it a go. It actually contains two stories, the first four chapters being The Golden Game by Grant Morrison and the other two being Deadly Rainbow by Anne Caulfield. The first story captures the feel of the TV show really well, though it does it by being a bit too close to the plot of one of the actual episodes. The dialogue feels right for the characters though, and it brings Emma Peel back in after Tara King goes missing. The second story doesn’t work anywhere near as well though and felt a bit muddled. I didn’t care much for that one. I quite enjoyed the first part though, except for the artwork. Aside from the fact that I didn’t think it was especially good in general, the character art really didn’t work. Steed looked sort of like the same person, but Mrs. Peel could only conceivably be the same person after a plastic surgery disaster and Mother is clearly not even remotely the same person. If they’re based on a TV show, surely the characters should look like they did there. Anyway, half of it was quite fun but unexceptional, and the art ruins it a bit.

Mar 19, 2016, 9:19pm Top

19. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner
I’ve read a couple of the Apex collections of World SF and have enjoyed them, so I was pleased to get this book collecting some of the best stories that have been published by Apex. It turns out I liked this one even more than the other two books and found it to be the most consistent anthology I’ve read in a long time. In fact, there wasn’t a single story I disliked, which is quite unusual for such a varied collection with a wide range of authors. The stories span science fiction, fantasy and horror, and they’re nearly always very imaginative and unusual rather than falling back on the standard themes and tropes. Obviously there were some I liked more than others, but there was nothing I found boring or regretted reading.

Some of the stories were like a masterclass in world building, creating an entirely different reality in just a few pages without having to spell things out with lengthy exposition, something that I always appreciate. A Matter of Shapespace by Brian Trent created such a fascinatingly different world that it almost seems a shame that it’s limited to the one short story (though for certain reasons I don’t expect to see it again). I also particularly liked the folklore styled Jackalope Wives by Ursula Vernon (which opened the book), Pocosin, which I’ve only just realised now while checking is also by Ursula Vernon, and The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell, about a woman gradually transferring her consciousness to ever more abstract computers and robots as an art exhibition. Other stories feature robots used as walking adverts (Advertising at the End of the World by Keffy R. M. Kehrli), a world where war veterans have their memory of the awful events they went through removed for all but one day of the year (Remembery Day by Sarah Pinsker) and a vampire on trial (Blood on Beacon Hill by Russell Nichols). All the stories have at least something interesting about them. It’s an enjoyable and well-chosen collection of stories.

Mar 21, 2016, 1:50pm Top

>102 valkyrdeath: Nice review. It sounds like a interesting collection.

Mar 21, 2016, 9:03pm Top

Interesting to read about Apex magazine which features free SF stories on the net.

Mar 23, 2016, 9:29pm Top

>103 brodiew2: >104 baswood: It was a good collection. I sometimes consider reading the stories on the website but I just rarely seem to be able to get into reading stories online like that.

Mar 23, 2016, 9:29pm Top

20. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
A book following various members of a family over several decades against a backdrop of events in Chile (I think, since I don’t believe it ever actually mentions where it’s set in the book.) It’s quite a long book and I got through it, so I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t really do anything for me. Something about the writing felt quite distancing and I found I just couldn’t care what was happening to the characters for much of it. I found I liked it a bit more later on and for the last hundred pages or so when the political situation in the country came to the forefront of the plot I quite enjoyed it, but I found it a bit of a slog to get there. I think probably it’s just not the style for me. It probably didn’t help that I didn’t know what it was aiming for at first. It seemed to introduce supernatural fantasy elements early on in the book, so I assumed that’s what I was reading, but then those elements just drifted in and out of the book seemingly at random and I never understood why they were there in the first place. But it was well enough written and had bits where I did start to get into it, just every time I did I’d then hit another stretch that I found dull. And now I’ll bring another disjointed review to a close.

Apr 2, 2016, 5:57pm Top

21. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
I’ve been meaning to read this for quite some time now, ever since I saw a stage version and loved it. I’m glad I finally got around to it, because I loved the book too. The depiction of WW1 is vivid and the scenes portraying the scale of the death and destruction it caused are powerful and some of the best I’ve read. It’s also nice to see a large focus on the tunnellers too, since they don’t generally seem to get a lot of mention in WW1 novels. Alternating with the wartime (and initial prewar) chapters are shorter sections set in the 1970s with the granddaughter of the main character trying to learn about what happened. I don’t really think these chapters added much to the story. They weren’t badly written and didn’t ruin the book, but I also don’t think the book would be any worse at all if they were just removed. Which they were in the stage version. It’s a great book either way, and one I’d happily recommend to almost anyone.

I’d avoid the TV version though.

Apr 2, 2016, 6:17pm Top

>107 valkyrdeath: Birdsong was a five star read for me when I read it in 2014. I've not seen the stage or TV version. Your comment tells me I'm not really missing out, at least with the TV version.

Apr 3, 2016, 7:16pm Top

>108 NanaCC: If I gave them ratings, I'd be giving it 5 stars too. It was really good. The TV version changed lots of things and cut lots out, not least all the references to birds and birdsong. Despite a 3 hour running time, it didn't seem to fit in as much content as the shorter stage play did.

Apr 3, 2016, 7:16pm Top

22. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This is a novel told in an unusual way that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. It’s not really an illustrated novel, but rather a novel half told in text and half in pictures. Sometimes there’ll be a few pages entirely of text, but then you’ll get a few pages where the pictures take over the story with no text at all. The story follows Hugo, a boy living alone in a train station in Paris in the 1930s following the disappearance of his Uncle. The plot brings in automatons and the history of early cinema, specifically Georges Méliès. Appropriately, the sections told in pictures seem to adapt cinematic techniques to the page to tell the story. It’s well done and was an enjoyable read. I also loved Scorsese’s film version, Hugo, which in my memory seemed to be quite faithful to the book overall.

Apr 3, 2016, 7:17pm Top

23. Tomb Raider: The Beginning by Rhianna Pratchett, art by Nicolas Daniel Selma and Andrea Mutti
I got this in a bundle with some other graphic novels a while back which I mainly bought for other things, but I thought I’d give it a go since it’s a very quick read. It’s about what I expected. It’s effectively a prologue to the 2013 Tomb Raider game. I played that back at the time, and this comic doesn’t really add all that much to it, and it doesn’t have any real purpose to being read separately from the game since it doesn’t have its own ending. At least it doesn’t have the problems with the story not matching the gameplay that the game itself did. The artwork wasn’t all that good in this either. Not really worthwhile.

Apr 3, 2016, 7:17pm Top

24. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The second collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, and the one Doyle originally intended to be his last, ending as it does with Holmes’s death. I think I liked it as much as the first collection. I think these early short stories were when Holmes was at his best, and this collection contains some of the best and most famous stories, with cases like the Musgrave Ritual and the Naval Treaty, and of course the Final Problem where Holmes dies until a few years later when he suddenly didn’t because Doyle had caved in to the pressure of people wanting him to write more. Anyway, I loved it, but I always enjoy the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Apr 9, 2016, 9:56pm Top

25. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
A man tells of how he fell in love with a bartender called Giovanni, and how this leads to Giovanni being executed (which isn’t a spoiler since it tells you this right from the start.) It seems to be fairly highly regarded for its portrayal of homosexuality written in the 1950s, so I could well just be missing something. The problem for me was that none of the characters was sympathetic. Around the mid-point, Giovanni said something violently misogynistic and the main character laughed as if it was nothing, and from that point I could no longer care about them at all anymore and the rest of the book fell flat. I know books don’t have to have likable characters to be good, but for something that’s entirely character based rather than plot based, it needs to at least make me care about what’s happening to them. It’s probably just not my sort of book mainly though, since I’ve never been much of one for love stories.

Apr 10, 2016, 7:34pm Top

26. The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
“It was time for action. The Pirate Captain slammed down his After Eight mint with a mighty crash.”

This book was a lot of fun. It follows the adventures of Pirate Captain and his crew as they meet Charles Darwin after sinking the Beagle due to believing it to be carrying gold, and learning of his controversial scientific theory (that a monkey dressed up in a suit can be passed off as a gentleman.) It’s extremely silly and I loved the style of humour in the book. None of the crew are named and instead are referred to as “the pirate with a scarf” or “the pirate with an accordion”. There’s lots of great lines and crazy things happening and the pirates are as often likely to be found arguing about the best way to cook ham as running people through with their cutlasses. The footnotes are brilliant too, starting as factual information about real pirating linked with the things mentioned in the story, but growing increasingly more tenuous as the book goes on. The whole thing sort of reads like the literary equivalent of a Monty Python film. And unlike the film it’s not aimed at children, though I enjoyed the film too when I saw it a few years ago. I loved this one and found it to be one of the funniest things I’ve read in ages, and it made me laugh out loud several times, which is quite rare. I look forward to continuing with the series.

Apr 10, 2016, 7:46pm Top

27. Lumberjanes Volume 3 by Noelle Stevenson and Shannon Watters, art by Carolyn Nowak and others
Lumberjanes Volume 3 contains the first four issues following the end of the initial eight part story arc. The first issue is a Halloween special, involving the girls sat around a campfire telling spooky stories to each other, each drawn by a different artist. The stories send up various tropes of ghost stories and urban legends and it’s a fun issue. The other three issues form a three part story. The writing is still very good, but sadly the artist is different to the first two volumes and it didn’t feel right, with a completely different style and the characters looking different. I don’t understand why they do things like that, especially since the art style looked great and added a lot of character to the series. Surely they could have at least got an artist who could make it look the same. Thankfully, the original artist is back for the next volume. This one was not quite as great as the first two, but still an enjoyable read, despite the artwork.

Apr 11, 2016, 7:23pm Top

>115 valkyrdeath:

Sometimes they do that to allow the artist to actually do their issues properly - not everyone is able to produce a montly issue and the choices are either to skip months (which pisses off anyone that reads the floppies), accept a sub-par work from the artist (which is bad) or find another artist to do filler issues (while the main artist works on the next issues). And finding someone that can do similar work is not that easy - neither will a good artist be held to being similar to someone else. It is annoying to the readers but that's the reality of monthly comics :)

Apr 14, 2016, 1:41pm Top

>116 AnnieMod: I think that's relatively new in issue comics though, beyond very special circumstances artists were expected to basically stick to a prescribed model, the same as in animation. I think switching like that really underestimates the importance of the art in the success of a series. The art is not simply an incidental side product, but frequently the thing that grabs you first. I'd much rather wait to have the original artist do all of the art.

Apr 14, 2016, 2:18pm Top

>117 mabith:

Oh, I absolutely agree. But that is the reality of it. And some artists seem to be going out of their way to make it different. It is up to the editor as well - even if not the same, there will be artists closer stylistically than the ones chosen here - but they made a decision to go to this instead.

I am with you - I would wait for the artist to finish the work. But it usually plummets the sales of the monthly title - and leads to cancellation. Thus the new "get a filler artist to help" trend.

Apr 14, 2016, 6:03pm Top

>118 AnnieMod: Yeah, I've seen it happen with ongoing series at times, but it still can seriously impact the enjoyment of the work, especially when the style is such a complete change. Mostly, in this particular instance, I didn't really like the new artist's style much, aside from the fact that it looks so different to the earlier ones. It's a shame comics are having to do that sort of thing to keep going. I'm hoping it won't happen to Saga too.

Apr 14, 2016, 6:32pm Top

>119 valkyrdeath: Yeah, I hope so as well. Although Fiona Staples seems to be able to finish her issues on time and it had been long enough for a need like that to arise if she was having an issue. But you never know. The curse of the monthly titles I guess. And if they did not expect the success of Lumberjanes, maybe it was not really clear from the start that the issue will arise - thus having this middle volume to help for a bit.

And I am right there with you - comics is a dual media - artist and author are equally important.

Apr 16, 2016, 6:23pm Top

>120 AnnieMod: Lumberjanes was originally supposed to just be an eight issue series, so these were the first issues following it being made into an ongoing series, so that could have something to do with it I guess.

Apr 16, 2016, 6:24pm Top

28. Revenge by Yoko Ogawa, translation by Stephen Snyder
This book took me by surprise slightly. I started it knowing it was a collection of short stories, but it wasn’t until part way through the second one that I started to realise the stories linked in with each other. Sometimes the links are subtle, sometimes they’re direct, but every one related in some way to the previous stories, and it makes the whole thing work better than I think it would have done otherwise. The book is strongly character driven, each story being narrated in the first person, interestingly with none of them ever being named. The subtitle of the book is “Eleven Dark Tales” and it’s a fitting description, the stories in it ranging from sad to disturbing and macabre. It’s very different from The Housekeeper and the Professor which I read last year. Where that was a pleasant enjoyable read but one which didn’t really stick with me, this book had moments which I’m pretty sure are going to stay with me. It also got me thinking of just how many lives intertwine and impact on each other, even when the people involved don’t realise it or necessarily even know each other. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the book, but I really liked it. The translation as great and I loved the writing style. Hoping to read more by Ogawa in the future.

Edited: Apr 16, 2016, 6:33pm Top

29. Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus by Isaac Asimov
The third book in the Lucky Starr series of books aimed at children. It’s minor Asimov, but these books are quite fun anyway. This time Starr heads off to Venus after hearing his friend is accused of being a traitor to the Council of Science intent on clearing his name and finding out just what is going on. Again, Asimov starts this 70s edition with an introduction explaining how later astronomical information makes the science in the book out of date. In this instance, we have a Venus entirely covered by a planet-wide ocean. The fact that it’s scientifically inaccurate doesn’t change the fact that it’s an interesting environment that he’s created with its underwater cities and unusual lifeforms. The story is fast paced and entertaining enough, but most fun of all was the fact that the plot turned out to revolve around a form of Venusian frog that had powers to influence people’s minds. I just couldn’t help but think of this.


Anyway, it’s fun, and something I’d have really enjoyed when I was in the target age range as well. It’s probably only going to be of interest to Asimov completists, but I think this is the best of the Lucky Starr books so far.

Apr 17, 2016, 2:58am Top

>121 valkyrdeath: Yeah, probably :)

>123 valkyrdeath:
I read all 6 in my late teens. I loved them - the science was already dated but they were so much fun :) Had not thought of them in years.

Apr 17, 2016, 12:21pm Top

>122 valkyrdeath: if you enjoyed those short stories I would recommend Hotel Iris. I enjoyed it far more than The Housekeeper and the Professor which was fine but a bit lukewarm. Hotel Iris is quite edgy.

Apr 17, 2016, 8:00pm Top

>124 AnnieMod: That's good to know! I don't know anyone else who's read them. I read loads of Asimov in my childhood but never found the Lucky Starr books, and my dad was an Asimov fan but hasn't even heard of them. They are very fun and a step above a lot of the kids books that I read at the time that diverted me to start on adult books as quickly as possible.

>125 AlisonY: I definitely intend to read Hotel Iris at some point. It sounds interesting. I'd also like to read The Diving Pool.

Apr 17, 2016, 11:58pm Top

>126 valkyrdeath: A Bulgarian publisher (which did not survive long - but long enough to publish some SF and Fantasy in the early and mid 90s - the two Asimov books and a handful by Brooks (the first of Landover and the last 3 of Heritage of Shannara - the first was already published by another publisher that folded)) got them translated and published in 2 volumes. Thus me reading them - my pre-2000 reading was governed by what I could find in Bulgarian (or in Russian if I was really curious or when no BG publisher was finishing a started series...). It was interesting and really annoying to be a SF/F fan in those years - you never know what will get translated and what will get stuck with a publisher that goes bust :)

Apr 19, 2016, 7:51pm Top

>127 AnnieMod: That would explain it! I think they've been long out of print in the UK. I had to rely on whatever I could find in the second hand bookshops back then. Now they've all closed where I am so I have to rely on the internet.

Apr 19, 2016, 8:00pm Top

30. ODY-C Volume 1 by Matt Fraction, art by Christian Ward
A retelling of The Odyssey in a science fiction setting with the genders of the characters swapped. It’s an idea that sounded like it could be interesting. Unfortunately, the writing is weird, presumably trying to sound like The Odyssey itself but coming out as virtually incomprehensible. The artwork is colourful but looks like someone has just painted their psychedelic hallucinations. Good luck trying to work out what’s going on in any of this. As you can probably gather, I won’t be reading the second volume.

Apr 20, 2016, 1:12am Top

>128 valkyrdeath: :) Yeah and it is a pity. Despite their issues, they are a nice set of books.

>129 valkyrdeath: Bummer. I was planning to check it (Fraction's writing in Hawkeye is wonderful). Oh well.

Apr 20, 2016, 7:32pm Top

>130 AnnieMod: It's just my opinion of course, and I've seen comments from other people who seem to have loved it, but it just baffled me. I've seen reviews by people who like his other work but don't like ODY-C though, so it won't put me off trying his other books.

Apr 23, 2016, 6:45pm Top

31. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
This is the second Tiffany Aching book in the Discworld series. I enjoyed the first one much more on rereading it, but this one is a much better book and can stand alongside Pratchett’s best works quite easily. It’s got all the hallmarks of what made his books so good, being both funny and intelligent, and with a great story. It’s one of his books aimed at younger readers but doesn’t suffer at all from that and doesn’t talk down to the reader so can be enjoyed by anyone. The Nac Mac Feegle are great as always, Tiffany is a brilliant character and is even better here than in the first book. Later on Granny Weatherwax enters the story as a major character, which is always great, and I think she’s possibly the best character he ever wrote. I loved every bit of it. Now I’m looking forward to going onto the remaining three Tiffany books, which I’ve never read before.

Apr 23, 2016, 7:01pm Top

32. My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell
As the title suggests, this follows the character of Lady Ludlow, told from the perspective of an old woman remembering her time as a young woman and being sent to stay with her. There are various characters involved, but Lady Ludlow is the focus, and how her interactions with these characters eventually cause her to change. She’s stuck in the past, insisting on the superiority of the upper classes and opposing any education to the working class and refusing to employ any servants who can read and write. Over the course of the book, she comes around and ends up helping everyone to do all the things she initially objected to. It’s well written and I enjoyed the book overall. There was a lengthy section where Lady Ludlow tells a story about the French Revolution, which she blames on the education of the lower classes, and her personal connection to the events, and while this is important to the characterisation it did go on a bit too long for me and I didn’t find it very interesting. The rest of it I liked a lot though. Not my favourite of the Gaskell books I’ve read, but still good and I look forward to reading her longer novels soon.

Apr 27, 2016, 7:33pm Top

33. Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
This is a gripping book. From the moment I started it to the end of the very last page I just couldn’t put it down. I mean, I tried, but no matter what I did with it, a few seconds later it would be back in my hand again.

Welcome to Night Vale does a good job of adapting the sort of strange surreal humour of the podcast into novel form, while expanding on it to suit the format. It’s a proper novel with good characters, even if those characters do live in a town where normal isn’t normal. It’s often very funny, often creepy, often both at the same time, and yet also manages to be quite philosophical too and has a great use of language. I enjoyed it just as much as I enjoy the podcast.

The best way to get a copy of the book is to wait until it appears in your hand one day unbidden. In that respect, it’s like any other book. If you decide to get it from the library instead, remember to take all necessary equipment, and for your safety and that of others, do not approach the librarians.

Apr 27, 2016, 8:29pm Top

Thanks for the great review, valkyrdeath. I've been sitting on the fence about this one for a while but your review as tip me over the edge. I am going to pick this one up ASAP.

Apr 28, 2016, 1:06pm Top

>135 brodiew2: Hope you enjoy it! Have you listened to the podcast at all?

Apr 28, 2016, 3:26pm Top

>136 valkyrdeath: I have not listened to the podcast, but the idea of the book has intrigued me. I don't do much podcasting. :-)

I picked up the book at the library last night and am 3 chapters in. I can see what you mean by funny creepy. There is something sinister about the quirkiness of the storytelling. I am expecting to cruise through it.

Apr 28, 2016, 3:54pm Top

>137 brodiew2:

I did not use to do any podcasting. Then listened to the first of the Night Vale ones a few months ago and had been working through them (one every few days). So if you had not tried, you may want to :)

Apr 28, 2016, 4:56pm Top

>137 brodiew2: I read the book before listening to the podcast, and still really liked it (though I was familiar with certain aspects via other social media stuff). All caught up on the podcast now, and a little excited to re-read the book to see what I missed the first time.

Apr 28, 2016, 9:53pm Top

>137 brodiew2: >138 AnnieMod: I never listen to podcasts either usually, but made Night Vale the exception at the start of the year and have now caught fully up to date. I'm not likely to be listened to any others though. I imagine the book should be a good experience regardless. I don't think there's anything else quite like Night Vale.

>139 mabith: I bet the reread would be great, there's lots of little references to all sorts of stuff from the episodes. You've had the advantage of getting to read it both before and after!

Apr 30, 2016, 11:31am Top

I'm glad to hear Night Vale is worth the read. I used to listen faithfully to the podcast, but have fallen way behind since around autumn.

May 1, 2016, 6:05pm Top

>141 ljbwell: I'd say if you liked the podcast at all then you'd likely enjoy the book too. I managed to keep going through all the ones that were available, I'll have to see if I can keep up with it from now on. Your comment has reminded me that there'll be a new episode up today!

May 3, 2016, 9:00pm Top

34. The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore, art by Ian Gibson
This is one of Alan Moore’s mid-80s works for 2000AD. It was quite a departure from the sort of things that comic usually printed. Halo Jones is an ordinary young woman living in The Hoop, a ghetto where the poor and unemployed are consigned, who decides to escape her life there. She’s not a galaxy saving hero, she’s simple someone getting constantly trying to improve her life, and carrying on despite the constant hardships and tragedies she endures. It’s also unusual in that all the major characters are women, with little to no talk about romance. Nice to see a comic from this era that so easily passes the Bechdel test.

The work is split into three books, each made up of five page chapters due to the instalments it was originally printed in within 2000AD. At the start of the book, it is a bit overloaded with Moore’s invented futuristic slang, but that soon settles down within a few chapters, and the story just keeps getting better. The third book is the peak where she joins the army and ends up in a war involving interesting time dilation features, but ultimately it’s a satirical anti-war story and it works particularly well. The story overall has humour but also some powerful emotional moments too, and can get quite dark at times. The artwork by Ian Gibson is quite detailed black and white artwork, a little cluttered at times, though mostly good. Apparently this is partly because it has been shrunk slightly though to fit the books format compared to the original comics. It’s a shame that there are only three books, as it was originally supposed to go on for nine but was stopped due to some rights dispute between the authors and publishers. It’s unlikely that Moore is going to go back to writing this now after all this time, and considering Gibson’s way of furthering the character recently seems to be in drawing and selling topless art of the character, perhaps it’s better left as it is. It’s a good read, and by the end approaching the quality of Alan Moore’s best works.

May 3, 2016, 9:12pm Top

35. Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The third Oz book, and I think I found it even more enjoyable than the first one. I can’t say whether that’s because it’s better or because the story wasn’t as familiar. Lots of fun characters including a talking hen and a clockwork man, and an entertaining plot involving the Nome King. At some point I’ll go back and fill in the gap by reading the second book, but it wasn’t necessary to enjoy this one anyway. A fun read and I look forward to more.

May 5, 2016, 9:58pm Top

36. The Hours by Michael Cunningham
I thought I’d read this now while at least some of Mrs Dalloway is still in my mind. The Hours is a short novel that alternates between three stories about three different women. One is Virginia Woolf in the process of writing Mrs Dalloway, another is a woman reading that book shortly after the Second World War, and the third is a woman in 2001 who’s been nicknamed Mrs Dalloway and basically having a corresponding story. It took a while to get going for me but after the first couple of chapters I found it starting to get quite readable. The writing is good, but I don’t really have much to say about it. It was enjoyable enough, though not something that’s likely to stick with me much. As with the book this is based on, ultimately nothing really happens, and the one event that does happen is the same one event that happened in Mrs Dalloway. I guess stream of consciousness just isn’t something that works for me.

May 6, 2016, 2:51am Top

>36 valkyrdeath: oddly enough I preferred The Hours to Mrs Dalloway. I think it helped that I'd seen the film and so was quite into it before I read it. Perhaps I wouldn't have loved it so much if it had been solely on its own merits.

May 6, 2016, 10:44am Top

>146 AlisonY: I preferred The Hours too. I found it much easier to read and got into it more as it went along. I just didn't find much that's going to make it memorable for me. I'm interested in how they made it into a film though, considering how little actually happens and how much of the story is just in the characters thoughts.

May 6, 2016, 12:32pm Top

>147 valkyrdeath: if you haven't seen the film I would recommend it. Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore - it was very well done (if you like that sort of film!).

May 8, 2016, 6:10pm Top

>148 AlisonY: I probably will watch it at some point. I've been considering watching it for a while anyway. It certainly has a good cast anyway!

May 8, 2016, 6:46pm Top

37. The Boy Who Would Be Shakespeare: A Tale of Forgery and Folly by Doug Stewart
An interesting non-fiction book about William Henry Ireland, a 19 year old who started forging Shakespearian documents in the late 18th Century. It’s a story of escalating deceptions, with an initial forgery of a deed signed by Shakespeare intended to please his antiquarian father turning into huge numbers of forged documents of all types including initial drafts of his plays, and culminating in a brand new play called Vortigern and Rowena presented as Shakespeare’s lost masterpiece and staged at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London.

It’s an entertaining and amusing account, and Doug Stewart writes it well. As well as covering the story of the forged documents, he also talks about the culture that was starting to worship Shakespeare at the end of the 18th Century which allowed the forgeries to be accepted by huge numbers of people, many quite famous, despite them being full of errors. He forged documents that said exactly what people hoped they would, and they were so excited at having found them that they didn’t want to question them, even as every time something questionable was pointed out, another document would miraculously appear within days to explain it away. The account of the performance of the play, which was the final nail in the coffin for the forgeries, is often funny. I enjoyed reading the book and it was an interesting piece of history that I didn’t know about before.

May 10, 2016, 10:31am Top

>122 valkyrdeath: Onto the wishlist -- linked stories are my favorite structure.

>134 valkyrdeath: If you decide to get it from the library instead, remember to take all necessary equipment, and for your safety and that of others, do not approach the librarians
Well that's interesting! Off to check out a couple of the podcasts.

>147 valkyrdeath: I just didn't find much that's going to make it memorable for me.
I too think you'll find the film memorable.

May 12, 2016, 8:39pm Top

>151 detailmuse: Thanks for stopping by! I love collections of linked stories too. Do you have any particular favourites?

The Night Vale podcasts are a lot of fun if you like the style of humour they go for. I love them.

May 13, 2016, 10:11am Top

>152 valkyrdeath: My favorites:
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (LOVED HBO's film adapatation)
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

My "Linked Stories" tag:

Others I'm most likely to acquire soon:
Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro
Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom

May 15, 2016, 1:00pm Top

>153 detailmuse: Thanks! I'm going to look up some of these. I've already got A Visit from the Goon Squad on my list. I'd heard of Olive Ketteridge but hadn't realised it was short stories. I've been meaning to try something by Alice Munro for a while now but still haven't got round to it yet. I feel my wishlist is going to be expanded.

May 16, 2016, 8:13am Top

I loved Olive Kitteridge, so putting in my two cents for that one. I don't usually read short stories, but the linked story aspect of that one was really good. And the HBO adaptation was terrific.

May 19, 2016, 8:54pm Top

>155 NanaCC: Looks like I'm certainly going to have to check that one out. Thanks for the recommendation!

May 22, 2016, 6:01pm Top

38. The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming
“In the Older Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school. There were men and quite a few of them were Geniuses.”

A short satirical illustrated book about women in history and how they’re treated in history books. Both the text and the drawings are funny and I got a few laughs from it. Enjoyable and written with a sharp wit but with a real message too, one which should be obvious these days but that I fear is still needed anyway.

May 22, 2016, 6:47pm Top

40. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. I saw an excellent stage version last year, so that pushed it up the list, and I’m glad I finally got to it. It has similarities to other dystopian fiction, but it feels quite different to most of them overall. It was very readable and still felt quite fresh and relevant. It’s also different in having the “savage reservations” where people have been left alone and isolated because it would be too difficult to “civilize” them. The savage society is a sort of opposite to the main society, but that’s far from perfect either. There’s lots of stuff in this book that I’ve noticed being used in other fiction later, such as drugs being used to keep the population happy and a population being grown in labs and conditioned from childhood to behave in certain ways. I’m glad I finally read it, and I found it to be a really good, thought provoking read.

Edited: May 23, 2016, 6:04pm Top

42. Funny Science Fiction edited by Alex Shvartsman
Well, that title doesn’t try to hide what the book is about. This is an anthology of humorous science fiction stories by different authors. The majority of them are fun, and while they vary in how comical they are, they’re all readable. The opening story, Observation Post by Mike Resnick, was a favourite, where an alien race analysing broadcasts from Earth to see whether they should invade mistakes films and TV dramas for factual documentaries and come to the conclusion that we’d be unbeatable. It was told in the form of reports about what had been seen, and I enjoy that format. I also really liked the closing story, Troublesolving by Tim Pratt, which involved time travel in a fun and unusual way, and Flying on My Hatred of My Neighbour’s Dog by Shaenon K. Garrity, where they’ve discovered a way to generate electricity via people with a talent for hating things. (Garrity also wrote the Narbonic comic, which I’m also reading right now and is brilliant.) There’s nothing especially deep or any complex stories or characters involved, but there doesn’t always need to be in this sort of thing. Sometimes it’s nice to just read something that’s funny and entertaining, and this fit that requirement.

May 23, 2016, 7:32pm Top

43. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The classic semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman’s descent into depression. I thought that it would be a tough read and full of angst, but it’s actually a really easy book to read. I really liked the writing style and it just raced along, and there was a lot of humour despite the bleak subject matter. Esther, the narrator of the book, is a believable character, not always completely likeable and with some annoying opinions at times, but then so are most of us at that age I expect. Her gradually worsening depression is convincing, as would be expected since Plath based it on her own experiences. There are some brilliantly written phrases and bits I could really identify with. I mostly enjoyed the book and I’m glad I did read it in the end.

May 24, 2016, 3:27pm Top

>160 valkyrdeath: it's some time since I read The Bell Jar but I seem to remember it being very readable and absorbing as you say.

May 27, 2016, 9:43am Top

>84 valkyrdeath: >94 wandering_star:

I see you were discussing the upcoming movie version of A Wrinkle in Time a while back. Just learned that the casting calls for what will clearly be the Meg and Charles Wallace roles specify "mixed-race" actors "of African-American and Caucasian descent". Good to see this move toward diversity, I think.

May 28, 2016, 8:24pm Top

>162 dukedom_enough: It makes a change, since usually they seem to just make the characters white by default unless another race is actually specified in the story. It'll be interesting to see how the film turns out. I imagine Charles Wallace will be difficult to cast, since I can't imagine a 5 year old being able to do the part, but anyone old enough to do it would have to look extremely young for their age.

May 28, 2016, 8:24pm Top

44. Mister Monday by Garth Nix
The first book in the Keys to the Kingdom series, about an asthmatic schoolboy who gets caught up in strange events as a plague hits the people around him. It’s fast paced and gets going right from the start and never lets up, and it’s got a really imaginative world that’s revealed efficiently through the writing without needs for lots of exposition slowing things down. It also has lots of fun characters and a good plot. If it had been around when I was a kid I’m pretty sure it would have been amongst my favourite books, but it’s a great read as an adult too and I look forward to going through the rest of the series. I’ve already started on the second one.

May 28, 2016, 8:41pm Top

39. Narbonic Vol. 3 by Shaenon K. Garrity
41. Narbonic Vol. 4 by Shaenon K. Garrity
45. Narbonic Vol. 5 by Shaenon K. Garrity
46. Narbonic Vol. 6 by Shaenon K. Garrity
These four volumes cover up to the end of the six and a half year run of the Narbonic webcomic. It follows mad scientist Helen Narbon, her evil intern Mell, technician Dave and a gerbil called Artie whose intelligence was boosted to genius level. The first two volumes were great but the series just keeps getting better as it goes along. It’s impressive how, when all the daily strips are put together like this, it reads just like a graphic novel with a proper storyline, yet due to its origin they also work as individual strips and you get a punchline at least once every four panels. It’s also impressive just how forward Garrity had the whole storyline planned out, and you can look back and see foreshadowing throughout the run, (the ending was foreshadowed over four years before she got there!) yet there’s a lot of surprises along the way. The final year is amazing, still often very funny but also with some really powerful moments too and some really great strips. The whole thing is a great read and I now miss not having any more of it to go through.

May 28, 2016, 9:02pm Top

47. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman
An interesting, well written and easy to read book about neuroscience, looking at how small a part consciousness plays in the workings of the brain and how much is going on below the surface without our awareness. It’s fascinating stuff and raises questions about how much control we have over what we do. He addresses that side of things in the last couple of chapters, which were interesting but felt a bit out of keeping with the more factual earlier chapters as he starts expounding at length his theories about how a future version of the justice system could work taking the workings of the individual criminal’s brain into consideration in the sentencing. It could get a bit repetitive in this section. Overall it was a really good and well worth reading for anyone with an interest in how the brain works.

May 28, 2016, 10:31pm Top

>158 valkyrdeath: Brave New World is the first book on a list I started keeping and have continued to keep until today. (I read it in December of 1990 and have no coherent memories of it. Lots of inchorent memories. ) Anyway fun to see it here.

>160 valkyrdeath: encouraging about The Bell Jar, a book I keep telling myself I should read.

>165 valkyrdeath: off my reading path, but Narbonic is intriguing.

>166 valkyrdeath: i loved Incognito. And still think about it.

May 29, 2016, 8:40am Top

Yes I want to get to The Bell Jar after reading a biography of Ted Hughes.

May 31, 2016, 6:36pm Top

>167 dchaikin: Incognito was certainly one of the more thought provoking books I've read recently.

>168 baswood: I know relatively little about Plath or Hughes so it wasn't until looking up Ted Hughes after your comment there that I realised they were married.

Jun 5, 2016, 8:11pm Top

48. Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison
This was quite a fun short historic fantasy read. It’s mostly based around Norse mythology, but pulls in other mythological and fantasy elements too. It’s also a surprisingly varied book for its short length, and goes through many changes of direction. It follows a character called Halla, starting from her childhood as she’s abandoned as a baby by her stepmother by saved by her nurse who takes on the form of a bear. She’s then raised first by the bears and then by dragons, before setting off on various travels with humans. As a dragon, she’s brought up to hate all heroes, so I guess she’s literally an anti-hero. There are some satirical elements and some subtle feminist moments in it, and it all feels like a fun modern fable.

I got this book in a bundle and had never heard of Naomi Mitchison before. She sounds a fascinating person, living to the age of 101 and having written over 70 books spanning multiple genres of fiction and non-fiction, and at various times in her life helped socialist refugees escape Austria in the 1930s, was a political activist, feminist and campaigner for birth control, was friends with Tolkien and proofread Lord of the Rings, received a CBE and became advisor and honorary mother to the Bakgatla tribe in Botswana. I find it amazing that someone like this is practically forgotten these days and that I’d never heard anything about her before.

Edited: Jun 6, 2016, 9:24am Top

>170 valkyrdeath: Yet we know so much about people so far less interesting. I really must read some Mitchison.

Jun 10, 2016, 2:19pm Top

>171 dukedom_enough: It's so odd who gets remembered and who gets forgotten. So often it doesn't really seem to make much sense. I'd definitely like to try something else by her sometime. I know The Corn King and the Spring Queen is supposed to be a great historical novel.

Jun 12, 2016, 7:25pm Top

I think it's time for a new thread. https://www.librarything.com/topic/224770

This topic was continued by Valkyrdeath's 2016 reading record Part 2.

Group: Club Read 2016

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