Book Bullets From The Dark Side - Darth Heather's 2017 reads
This topic was continued by Book Bullets From The Dark Side - Darth Heather's 2018 reads.
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Thanks for visiting, and don't worry if none of the bullets hit you - Imperial Troops have a reputation for poor aim. :)
Yipes! The force must have pulled me into this thread, I would *never* be attracted to the Dark Side otherwise. ;)
>1 Darth-Heather: But where are the cookies? They said the Dark side had cookies...
>1 Darth-Heather: I’ve been looking forward to seeing your thread for 2017! :) Based on your comment in my thread, it sounds like we have some similar reading interests.
>6 gilroy: I brought cookies!
Looking forward to being in on the journey through the Dark Side.
Starting 2017 a bit early!
Rogue Planet by Greg Bear. 3 1/2 stars
This installment in the Star Wars Legends series is set three years after The Phantom Menace, and involves Anakin and Obi-Wan on assignment to a mysterious planet in the far reaches of the galaxy.
If, like me, you feel that the first three movies do a terrible job of making the case that whiny bratty Anakin will someday become The Commanding Lord Vader, you will want to read this book. It portrays Anakin as tormented and fearful and struggling to come to terms with his connection to the Force, and does a far better job of setting up the future plotline than Attack of The Clones did.
Happy New Year, may 2017 bring you many enjoyable books and time to read them as well!
Happy New Year!
>12 Darth-Heather: I have yet to read any Greg Bear, but he's been mentioned a few times. I had no idea he'd written any Star Wars books!
>14 clamairy: I haven't heard of Greg Bear before reading this book. What other stuff does he write?
Other stuff so far this month:
Into The Wilderness by Sara Donati
an interesting colonial adventure set in the Adirondack mountains of New York. The main character travels from England, intending to teach school and live a quiet spinster life, but then Drama! Indians! Lots of snow! Murder! Intrigue! More snow! Well written, and clearly aimed directly at Outlander fans.
Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer
I don't normally read much romance, but this was recommended to me for a reading challenge, and turned out to be fairly entertaining.
Ice Station Zebra by Alistair MacLean
Mystery involving a disaster at an Arctic expedition camp. I get claustrophobic just thinking about submarines, so it's a bit tense reading about one under the Arctic ice cap, in the winter, hundreds of miles from land.
>16 Darth-Heather: Happy New Year!
The film of Ice Station Zebra, with Rock Hudson and Patrick McGoohan, is one of my favourites. It is real comfort viewing.
Pub quiz trivia:
Q: What impact did the film, Ice Statin Zebra, have on the TV series, The Prisoner?
A: The story for one of the episodes of The Prisoner involved No. 6 having his appearance changed. This story was written because Patrick McGoohan was not available for filming The Prisoner as he was busy filming Ice Station Zebra and they needed another actor to play No. 6.
If you are not familiar with The Prisoner you might look it up. I think you may enjoy it.
I am not a number. I am a free man!
BTW, Das Boot is a great novel, but your dislike for submarines might make it a non-starter for you.
>18 pgmcc: Oh, I adore the film also and look on it as comfort viewing.
>15 Darth-Heather: He's on of the three Big B's of 90s SF - David Brin, Greg Bear and Simon Baxter (whom's work I don't like). Greg Bear writes SF and explores all sorts of ideas about people and how they change and respond to various concepts. He's most famous book is probably Eon about an asteroid arriving in an orbit around earth.
>18 pgmcc: What's fun is that when the East Coast got slammed with snow either last year or the year before, some friends and I pretended to be various station communicating with Ice Station Zebra (which was located in VA for the fun of it) while posting on Google+. Think I was chiming in as Ice Station Chesapeake. :)
>18 pgmcc: Happy New Year to you as well! I will certainly check out The Prisoner; I am only aware of it peripherally - people refer to it occasionally, and I know the Iron Maiden song... It was once recommended to me by a friend who also recommended Steve McQueen's "The Great Escape" (which was exceptional), so I should probably just bite the bullet, already.
>22 Darth-Heather: That's the spirit. Catch the bullet between your teeth.
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb
The first of the Liveship trilogy. I love how Hobb's characters are so well designed and it's easy to get attached to them as they develop.
I will probably get into the rest of the trilogy pretty soon. I learned from reading Assassin's Apprentice that her trilogies are really just one story broken into three volumes, so nothing is resolved until the third book.
>26 Darth-Heather: Yeah, pretty much! Glad you liked it. I love Hobb's writing. There are characters in the Liveships that go on significant character arcs. One in particular I absolutely hated in the beginning and was one of my favorites by the end.
Have any of you read the Rain Wild trilogy? The Liveship books introduce that setting and now I'm curious to spend some time there. Although the start of Mad Ship seems to indicate that I will find out more during this trilogy too. (yes, I started the second book already... the ease of getting books with the Kindle App on my tablet is a terrible thing for my lack of impulse control where books are concerned)
>30 Darth-Heather: I haven't, but I want to. I’ve only thread the first three trilogies. I’ve been tentatively planning a re-read of everything (with the new-to-me stuff included) at some point after the last book in the newest trilogy is published.
>30 Darth-Heather: Not yet. I put it in my TBR challenge this year so I'll be hitting it up at some point over the next few months. It is high on my list and I already own all the books :)
>30 Darth-Heather: I've read it - it's actually four books (not sure if she meant it to be a trilogy at first and then it grew) and I think it works best if you've read the ship books first so that you understand the life cycle of the dragons. It was a total soap opera as regards the characters and their relationships, but impossible to put down.
I finished the Liveship trilogy by Robin Hobb. A few months ago, I was set up on a Blind Date with the first book of the Farseer trilogy, which is the start of this series. I loved it and immediately went right into the remainder of the trilogy. Liveship is the second trilogy, and I liked it even better than the first one and can't wait to get to the rest of the series. This blind date turned into a real relationship :)
This trilogy advanced the plotline to an exciting point, and added pirates! Robin Hobb is brilliant at giving her characters real depth, and I got very attached to them while watching them evolve. The Liveships themselves are wonderful characters, and I'm impressed with the inventiveness of this story and how skillfully she weaves various plots together. I am so totally in love with the dragons.
The Five by Robert McCammon
McCammon is my favorite horror writer, but this one fell short of the mark for me. It isn't a bad premise for a thriller - The Five is the name of a rock band, who are struggling to get noticed and find that they've attracted some unwanted attention. After two band members are gunned down, the media attention gains them sudden popularity but the killer is still after them.
McCammon is a descriptive genius, and I really enjoyed the inner workings of a band on the road and the rock-n-roll nostalgia he fits in. Like all his books, I got drawn into the scene right away.
The problem is that this story never really seems to go anywhere. He introduces a supernatural element at the beginning that never gets fulfilled and is just left hanging. The rest of it seems to be themes scavenged from his earlier books - the otherworldly battle of Good vs Evil is a theme in several of his other works, the spooky premonitions (like in Mystery Walk), a road trip chase (as in Mine), a girl with supernatural power (as in Gone South), the ancient foe (as in Night Boat or Usher's Passing). It may be that I've read too many of his in a short time and am getting jaded on his common themes, and I understand that this is probably just the way he writes, but I felt like since some years had gone by that maybe he would have discovered new elements. This book felt like a retread, as though I'd read it before.
>37 clamairy: I definitely recommend Gone South and Stinger. Mystery Walk, Usher's Passing, and The Night Boat were decent. I didn't enjoy Mine, but all of his books do have a way of drawing you into the characters and scene. Blue World is a collection of short stories, and is very worthwhile if you are a fan of Twilight Zone - I can picture several of them making good spooky episodes.
Then there's Boy's Life - I would recommend that to literally everyone. It is utterly entertaining.
I've taken some bullets for Swan Song, which is another supernatural thriller, and is in my TBR. It looks to be a large one so I haven't started it yet either. I have a half dozen others in my pile too.
I've also heard good things about The Matthew Corbett series, which as far as I can tell is a historical fiction set around the Salem Witch Trials.
Most of the ones I've read are his older works, from the 80's and 90's, but it looks like he puts out a novel every year so I'd like to check out some of his more recent works and hope that they suit me better than The Five did.
Which ones do you have waiting for you?
Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint
4 1/2 stars
Urban fantasy at it's best! This is one of the Newford settings, which is a fictional city in Canada. It is a stroke of genius to invent his own city so he can create whatever neighborhoods his story wants. The main character, Isabelle, is an art student studying under a reclusive master painter. He teaches her more than just painting technique, and once she learns how to put her heart in her work, strange things happen.
This is my third book of his, and I'm as delighted with them as I was when first discovering Neil Gaiman, and for some of the same reasons. I love mythology and mysticism and fairy tales of all kinds, and both authors draw on those inspirations in the most wonderful way. Where Gaiman involves more classic Asiatic and European mythologies, deLint incorporates Native American and earth-wise traditions, but the end results are similar - stories that sparkle with color and characters, while at the same time making you wonder what could be out there in the shadows.
>39 clamairy: We will have to compare reviews once we've (eventually) read them. I have both of those in my paperback stack, but was hoping to get the sequel to Nightbird before I start it so I can read them together.
It's probably good that I didn't know about the sale :) my eBook stack is getting big too...
Outbound Flight by Timothy Zahn
3 1/2 *
Another Star Wars Legends novel. Zahn is by far one of the best writers in this series, and this novel involves his genius character creation, the Grand Admiral Thrawn of the Chiss. The setting is somewhere between Episode 1 and 2, so it is the first contact with Thrawn, who will show up again in the Heir To The Empire trilogy which is set after Return of the Jedi.
The Approaching Storm by Alan Dean Foster
Another Star Wars Legends novel. Foster isn't one of my favorite writers in the EU collection, but tolerable. Anakin and Obi-Wan are assigned to do some diplomatic negotiation with a solar system that wants to leave The Republic. The author puts his characters through a lot of unnecessary rigors that don't add much to the overall plot, but it was a fun ride.
The next part after this book is the animated Clone Wars tv series, so I'm planning to start working through those next while I read non-StarWars books.
Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Doc Holliday is such a fascinating character, with layers of mystery and depth and motivations of noble kinds. This book fills in his early life, and his slow decline from tuberculosis in the years prior to the well-known OK Corral story (which probably didn't happen the way it has been commonly shown).
I love the way Val Kilmer played Doc in Tombstone, and his portrayal fits the vision of the character in this story so I pictured Val Kilmer throughout, with his genteel southern drawl and sharp wit.
>44 Darth-Heather: I wanted to like that more than I did - I found it easy not to pick up, so while I didn't actively DNF it I sort of accidentally did. I still have my copy though, so I should give it another go!
Since I had Val Kilmer in mind already, I decided to take on a biography that had been lingering in my e-reader for awhile.
Blessed, Life and Films of Val Kilmer is absolutely one of the most unforgivable pieces of junk I've ever wasted my time reading. The subject matter is decent - a listing of his work and some details about the making of each one. However, I counted at least FIVE spelling mistakes on EACH PAGE, as well as excruciating grammar and syntax errors. It literally reads like a rough draft written by a child who doesn't yet know to avoid sentence fragments. I can't understand at all how something like this gets published. FFS why don't writers just send it to me and I will edit it for free.
Fortunately, I didn't spend a lot of time on it, and soon moved on to:
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
This was a grand adventure. It does seem a little too convenient that they happened to wash up in a place that has literally every sort of flora and fauna and natural resource they could need, and it intruded on my suspension of disbelief a bit every time they would discover yet another new resource, some of which I didn't think could coexist. Regardless, it was very entertaining and well written.
>47 Darth-Heather: Was the Kilmer book self published? I looked on Amazon and there are only three reviews, two of which complain about the spelling & grammar.
>48 clamairy: I'm not sure of the publishing? One of the complaining reviews is probably mine.
I picked it up with the Kindle app I use on my tablet, and didn't take the time to check for user reviews - I should probably start doing that.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
A tumultuous experience with a very dysfunctional family. Tom, a high school football coach in a small town in South Carolina's low country, is summoned to the Big City of New York by his twin sister's psychiatrist, who wants his help in treating his famous poet sister after her breakdown and suicide attempt. He sorts through their family's past, including some pretty dark secrets, hoping to piece together all the damaging situations that have led their family to this point.
I didn't love the subject, but the writing is quite good and the characters are interesting and clearly drawn. The details of the low country and the fishing and small town life are vivid and well visualized.
Time and Again by Clifford Simak
This is only my second Simak so far, but I'm hooked. There is such a skillful delicacy in the way he reveals plot points and his writing style is a joy.
Simak is remarkably fun, I've only read a small selection of his somewhat vast works, and while there are some that are less good than others, I'm not sure I've found a bad one. City is one of the classics.
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. I agree with other reviewers who have said that this one wasn't quite as engaging as the first one, but I am glad to have read it. It doesn't quite have the strength of engaging characters as Shadow does, but it overlaps the first one in surprising ways so is worthwhile as an adjunct to the overall story.
I have the third volume, The Prisoner of Heaven, which I hope to fit into one of the monthly challenges sometime soon.
Firebird by Mercedes Lackey
3 1/2 *
A stand-alone that isn't related to any of her series', it is a re-imagining of a Russian fairy tale. The story is fairly typical young-hero-on-a-quest plot where the main character is a prince who learns an important lesson during his pursuit of his fortune.
Lackey is very skilled at character development, and at setting description, which helps make this a decent immersive adventure.
>48 clamairy: *looks it up* I assume it is self-published, yes. There's no publisher except Amazon and CreateSpace, so... Ugh. Books like that give all indie authors a bad name. I hate that. So many of us work hard to produce high-quality work! But I'll, uh, save you all the rant. I'm glad you could move on quickly to more enjoyable books, Darth-Heather!
>58 lynnoconnacht: I guess I learned my lesson to check out what I'm getting before I buy. Spelling errors are unforgivable - spell check is ubiquitous so there's no excuse. Grammatical errors are increasingly common though, and both make me itch to get out the red pens and go all schoolmarm on it and send it back.
wrapping up the rest of February:
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay. Thanks to Clamairy, I finally found that this one wasn't part of a series so it didn't need to continue waiting. So far my favorite GGK is A Song for Arbonne but this one was engrossing and very enjoyable.
The Quest by Nelson Demille
not my favorite of his; the action was sporadic, with big sections of boring in between. The plot was interesting - British journalists are stationed in Ethiopia to cover civil war action, and they stumble across an elderly monk who convinces them that there is a hidden monastery in the jungle, where the Holy Grail is kept. They decide, after 100 pages of dialogue while sitting in cafes in Rome, to seek it out.
Call The Midwife by Jennifer Worth
I've heard that the tv show made from this book is good. I haven't seen the show, but the book was entertaining. The author tells stories of working as a midwife in the poor sections of London in the 1950s. The stories are populated with memorable characters and anecdotes of pregnancies and births, society in those times, and the nuns and doctors she worked with.
>59 Darth-Heather: In two different companies that I worked for my teams gave me the nickname, "The Red Pen". I could never work out why.
>59 Darth-Heather: For me with spelling errors it depends entirely on how many issues there are and how long what I'm reading is. Ideally there would be none, but neither spell check nor human readers are infallible. :( Plus, when we're talking about smaller kinds of typo (like, say, a missing or an additional space), sometimes a company will decide that it's not cost-effective to address and so they don't. I expect a book to have at least a couple of typos because ime they always do (and always have). So if it's a book I'm reading for leisure, I'm liable to forgive a handful of spelling errors just because I know how incredibly hard it is to catch everything in something lengthy. The shorter the work, the less forgiving I get. I'm a lot less forgiving of grammatical errors too. Typos happen to everyone, but I expect a writer to understand the tool they're using and know how to use it well.
>60 Darth-Heather: Oh, I'm so glad to hear A Song for Arbonne is your favourite GGKay so far! It's one of my favourites, though it seems to be one of the most disliked overall.
(ETA: lol. Speaking of typos. XD *fixes it*)
>64 lynnoconnacht: I've also discovered that the two Sarantine Mosaic books that I have are the whole thing, so I can move them into the TBR stack now. I don't know why I thought I needed a third book...
I am working on rounding up the Fionavar Tapestry ones too.
Wool by Hugh Howey
This was really cool, and immediately immersive. I felt actual shock at the reveal
I really enjoyed Wool when I read it a few years ago. I started it without knowing anything about it, not even the synopsis, so the whole thing was a guessing game for me as I tried to figure out what was going on. I had a lot of fun with it.
I liked Shift pretty well also, but not quite as well as Wool. There are a lot of interesting reveals in it, but I wasn’t as crazy for the characters. I’ll be interested to read what you think of it.
At the time I read it, I thought Dust was closer to being on the same level as Wool, entertainment-wise. In retrospect, though, I barely remember it. I remember the first two better.
Mary's Land by Lucia St. Clair Robson
3 1/2 *
There are two main characters in this story of emigrants who come to Maryland before the American Revolution. They are opposites - one is a gentrified woman from a good family who is emigrating with her sister to escape persecution of Catholics in England. The other is a young street thief who gets transported as punishment for her crimes. They arrive on the same ship but have very different lives in the new colony, at least at first. Their town endures many hardships from native attacks to crop-destroying weather, and they learn in time that they share a strength of character that is necessary to survive the situation.
I have only read one other by this author -Ride the Wind is based on a true story of a young girl whose family is attacked by natives during frontier expansion into what will eventually become Texas. That story tells of her life being raised by the natives who captured her, and is very vivid with details of native life and society. This book shares the vivid writing style and well-described surroundings and is easy to visualize, but I didn't like the characters as much.
I have a few other books from this author on my wishlist and will look forward to them.
The Widow's War by Sally Gunning
3 1/2 stars
This turned out to be much better than I expected at the start. Lyddie lives in a small Puritan town on Cape Cod. When her husband is killed on a whaling expedition - which is a fear all whaling wives live with daily - she learns a great deal about society's expectations of how a widow provides for herself. At that point in history, women are not permitted to own property, so her husband's will leaves their home to her odious son-in-law. Lyddie is a strong-willed person who refuses to succumb to the injustice, and manages to find loopholes in the system.
The Mote In God's Eye by Larry Niven
An interesting take on the First Contact concept. Human civilization has expanded and colonized planets and solar systems thanks to a faster-than-lightspeed technology. They had not encountered alien life until suddenly a ship is found, containing a dead alien. It is determined which star system the ship had to have come from, and a military research contingent is sent to meet and evaluate the alien society.
This book was written in 1974, and reading it now it seems a little dated in some of the character's philosophies, especially
My dad loved that book! He was always trying to get me to read it and I never did. Hmm, maybe I should put it on my list in honor of him.
>72 catzteach: I'm glad I took the time with it, since it is classic SF and I've heard it mentioned for so long. The characters are interesting, but it does drag a little in the middle.
>71 Darth-Heather: While the sequel is also interesting, the rest of the prequel-universe co-written by Jerry Pournelle rapidly goes downhill.... I think the Moties are one of the more interesting aliens I've ever read, with the specialist morphologies being particularly clever. The societal changes were all on the alien side, contrasting to the 'ordinary' humans. A lot of early SF is equally bad at predicting how society has changed, with the Red Peril still a key driver.
Riddled With Life by Marlene Zuk
This author is an expert on parasites and pathogens and the ways they have evolved with their hosts. She is also pretty funny, and approaches these topics with a wry wit that makes the material really engaging, including chapters called "Why is testosterone like doughnuts" and "Darwin Made Me Eat That".
The reality of it is that diseases are terrifying, but are becoming predictable. However, changes are becoming more rapid in this age of unprecedented hygiene habits, which are now being linked to the drastic rise in autoimmune diseases and allergies. Resistant strains of bacteria are evolving faster than science can discover treatments. As well, the anti-vaxxer movement is doing everyone a disservice, including themselves. Diseases not only spread, but EVOLVE, which is the opportunity granted by having more unvaccinated members in the population. This can expose the rest of us (and them) to more virulent strains and make us all susceptible to things that were formerly eradicated like polio and measles.
I learned about things like the program to treat rabbits (aka Chainsaws of the Outback) with myxomatosis, which worked well at first, but the rabbits are now developing resistance.
I also learned an abhorrence of the word 'cloaca'. Eeeew.
I would recommend this book to people who have an interest in natural science and evolution, even if you don't have a scientific background. The author does a fine job of keeping the topics interesting without getting bogged down in research details.
Nice review. I'd heard of the book a while back but didn't get it and now I just might.
>78 Darth-Heather:. Hmmz. I read it at the beginning of the year, and was somewhat less taken with it than you (Vive la difference!). Maybe I'd seen quite a lot of it before, and I found her writing style irritating, as in this quote from my thoughts at the time: "She seems to have about half-a-dozen stock phrases with which she tries to make us believe she has a sense of humour. It doesn't work, at least not for me."
>80 hfglen: It probably has a lot to do with our reading experiences leading up to it. I hadn't read anything of hers before, and have read some really boring and dry attempts at this topic; by comparison this one seemed entertaining and fun :)
The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
I am so glad I finally found time for this one. At 956 pages it is a hefty thing to lug around, esp in hardcover, but I finished it off in 5 days because it really is engrossing. Ash is raised in a small village in India, and dreams of a quiet life raising horses. His mother confesses on her deathbed that he is actually the son of British peers and he sets out to explore this other side of his cultural heritage. He joins the British army and must learn to balance this dual nature while facing many political upheavals and adventures.
This story is so rich with details of Muslim and Hindu culture, and the lifestyles of villagers and royalty. The characters travel across varied landscapes and villages and military outposts, and the author does an impressive job of showing the scale of these settings.
I think I read somewhere that there is a movie version; I would like to see it.
>83 clamairy: I'd be interested in reading another of hers, but if it's as big as this one it will probably be awhile before I get there.
>84 Darth-Heather: Kaye wrote some other doorstoppers - Trade wind springs to mind - but I really liked her light mysteries that reminded me of Mary Stewart. There are six, including Death in the Andamans and Death in Cyprus. They all feature a young heroine in an exotic location who gets caught up in a murder, with some gentle romance on the side. And of course, then there is The ordinary princess, which everyone should read!
Other recent reads:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (3 1/2 stars)
I'm glad I finally read it, just to have the reference. It is well written but sad fare.
The Practice House by Laura McNeal (3 stars)
Not bad, but never really fulfilled it's promise. Also, very little of the story involves the "Practice House".
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich (3 stars)
A bit bland.
The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman (3 stars)
Starting to get tired of 3-star reads.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (3 1/2 stars)
Entertaining, although the ending is not very believable.
At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon. (2 1/2 stars)
Filled a challenge category.
The Changeover by Margaret Mahy.
The main character, 14 year old Laura, is psychically sensitive, and gets premonitions when something bad will happen. She also has a feeling that a boy in her school is a witch, and must seek his help when something bad of an occult nature happens to her brother.
It was published in 1984, and I got it from the library right around that time so I was probably about 13 or so. I have been looking for this book for years; I remembered two scenes from it but not enough details to track it down. Serendipity recently brought it back into my world, and I am delighted to have located this book after years of searching, and also delighted with how good it is. It has found a place in my permanent library so I can't lose it again :)
It was really surprisingly wonderful. It is YA but geared more for high school aged kids, so I probably didn't appreciate at the time just how well written it is.
>91 SylviaC: it is great to hear from someone else who appreciates this book! I had tried to remember the title for the past couple decades, but didn't remember enough details to post it in the Name That Book group. I was pleased to tie up the loose end, and even more pleased that it is so worthwhile. Have you read any of her other YA fiction?
>92 Darth-Heather: I've read several of her YA books, a few of her children's books, and one picture book. She was a remarkably prolific writer! The Catalogue of the Universe, The Other Side of Silence, and The Haunting are all very good. The children's books are funny and cute. Sakerfalcon is also a fan.
More May reads:
The Silver Chalice by Thomas Costain
3 stars - the story of a young silversmith in first century Jerusalem; he is commissioned by Joseph of Arimethea to create a decorative silver sheath for the Holy Grail. I would have liked a bit more adventure and a bit less proselytizing, and the plot moves a bit slow, but there are a lot of interesting characters and a fascinating setting.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Like Neil, I discovered mythology as a child and enjoyed Norse myths as some of my most favorite stories. His retelling is well done but doesn't really add any new flavor to these stories; I guess I was expecting him to add his own color to these stories but he seems to have chosen just a straight-retelling approach.
There were Costain books kicking around my house when I was growing up, but I've never read any of them. I'm not surprised at your assessment* of his writing, but I'm a little sad. I think I have The Tontine here somewhere and now I doubt I'll be digging it out any time soon.
*It seems as if quite a few of the more popular books from this era didn't age well.
This Is What You Just Put In Your Mouth? by Patrick Di Justo
Written by the same guy who writes the consumer product column for Wired Magazine, which is one of my favorite parts. He researches the ingredients to various everyday food and household products and explains what each ingredient does and what it's effects are on us and our environment. His wry humour and snarky comments made this a very entertaining read.
I did not previously know that much of the cinnamon we buy in the US isn't actually cinnamon, but a lesser-quality plant material. Or that Spam is canned raw and cooked right in the can. Refrigerators in the 1920s used ammonia as coolant, which could and often did leak, poisoning and killing families. (maybe we DO need to keep the EPA!)
The take-away - do not eat Slim Jims or chicken nuggets. Do buy Vita Coco. We already know that we should eat more natural food and less processed ones, but this book explains in chemical detail exactly WHY.
>100 Darth-Heather: that one sounds good, but would I ever eat again?
>100 Darth-Heather: I'm still trying to recover from the fact that most of the heavy whipping cream available in stores has additives like carrageenan and other stuff I can't pronounce. While the jury is still out on whether those additives are actually detrimental to health, my question is, WHY? Whipping cream is one of nature's gifts as is. Why do we think we know better? The company would say, "to ease the whipping process." Bah!
note to self - check whipping cream label for ingredients... I guess I assumed it was just cream, in a carton. It never occurred to me to check for other things in there :/
I never thought of looking at the ingredients for whipping cream either. I will now, though. It's scary the crap that gets put into our food.
>101 catzteach: That was exactly my reaction. I'll have to pass the title on to friends, though. They'd definitely be interested in it too. ^_^
Looking at labels becomes habit after a while. When I stopped eating processed food years ago I looked at what I was throwing away and couldn't believe what was in stuff. Sugar in everything. Ugh. Now when I do have to get something like whipping cream or spaghetti sauce, I look carefully and make the best choice possible. I use commercial heavy cream in my coffee because the pasture raised stuff, whether raw or pasteurized, tastes like grass.
>106 Bookmarque: I was trying to buy a wholesome bread today, because I'm not diligent enough to make my own consistently. Looking at Dave's and Eureka, the second ingredient is sugar. I bought some local French breads instead. Guess if I want whole wheat I will have to bite the bullet and make it myself. :(
I realize that after flour, there isn't a whole lot in bread, and so even a very small amount would still be the second ingredient, but there were lots of ingredients after the sugar in these. Also, even organic sugar is still sugar.
Sorry >103 Darth-Heather: to take over your thread like this, but you started it! ;)
>107 MrsLee: Inneresting ... I was under the impression that bread dough needed some sugar to feed the yeast.
>107 MrsLee: I did start it indeed! I'm still giving suspicious glares to the dairy department; not sure I am ready to look at the bread labels yet. :peeks: oh yeah, there it is. Sugar is in everything.
>108 hfglen: I used to buy amazing if somewhat dense loaves of rustic style Italian bread called Pane Romano whose only ingredients were flour, salt & yeast. I have never been able to find a recipe for it online that didn't contain honey and olive oil, but most of those do look awesome. Just found one with onion and rosemary in it, too. *drool*
I use this recipe for "somewhat dense" loaves of focaccia that are made in the crockpot.
Line bottom and about an inch up the side of crockpot with baking parchment.
In a medium bowl, blend 2 c. all purpose or bread flour with 1 1/2tsp instant yeast and 1 tsp salt.
In a small bowl, blend 1c warm milk and 2 tb olive oil. (I add in spices at this point - rosemary, thyme, dill, garlic etc - but you don't have to)
Add liquid mix to flour mix. Blend well until sticky blob of dough.
Drop blob into crockpot. Smooth out a bit to make more uniform thickness, leaving about 1/2 inch space around the sides.
Cover with lid and let rise 40 minutes.
Brush top lightly with olive oil.
Turn crock on high heat for 1 1/2 -2 hours. Serve hot.
There is no sugar added, so I am guessing that the yeast feed on the milk sugar? It doesn't rise very much, but is tasty. If my crockpot is cold, I turn it on low while I"m prepping the dough, then turn it off before I put the blob in to rise. You can also use whole wheat flour.
>111 Darth-Heather: That recipe sounds awesome! I am so trying it! If I had a spice, how much would I add? I think I'd like some garlic in it.
>113 catzteach: I love any recipe that uses the crockpot. I don't really measure with spices, I just sprinkle until it looks good. A guess would be that when I make it with dill and garlic I'm putting in somewhere around a tsp of each.
I love my crock pot! I'm always looking for good recipes to use with it. I think I'll try this one on a weekend.
>113 catzteach: & >114 Darth-Heather: I have a bread a machine, so I'm not sure how eager I would be to try using my slow cooker for bread. I did make a half white/half whole wheat dough in my machine on Sunday. I added fresh Rosemary and Chives to it. We topped it with goat cheese, fresh arugula, artichoke hearts, uncured ham and olive tapenade before we baked it. I'm still noshing on the left-overs.
>117 clamairy: whoa, that sounds amazing! I make tapanade so I can tweak it to my personal preferences, and am always looking for more ways to use it.
>117 clamairy: I thought about getting a bread machine, but I wasn't sure we would use it a whole lot. We don't eat much bread anymore. That bread you made sounds yummy!
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
The story of Jean-Baptiste, a curious character who has an eidetic memory for every kind of odor. He can separate individual scents to their most specific components, and detect odor from things most people can't. Born in a slum of 19th century Paris, he develops a very strange and isolated personality where his world is only populated with his beloved scents.
I really enjoy good sensory descriptive writing, and this is brilliantly written. I've read other works where authors include scent description along with other sensory impressions to evoke a setting, but it is rare and interesting to explore this setting that is completely involved with the sense of smell.
Shift by Hugh Howey
This is the second installment of the Silo series. I often enjoy the middle of a trilogy to be the meatiest part of the plot and this is no exception. It follows multiple characters and timelines, and blends them skillfully as the secrets are revealed.
I am going right into Dust, the final installment.
>122 YouKneeK: I guess I liked them both equally. Sometimes a follow-up can be a let-down, so I was pleased to find this one is as good as the first. I like the way each small reveal adds a piece to a puzzle that is bigger than it seemed.
I agree that the characters in Shift aren't easy to root for, but they do suit their part in the plot so it still works for me.
Dust is a bit of a tricky start, as it picks right up where Wool left off, and it's been awhile since I read that one so I'm trying to catch back up. At this point I can't wait to see how it ends...
At The Edge of The Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
I am a fan of this author and have read quite a few of hers; this one is in the "good but not great" category. Her writing style is so comfortable and easy to slip into the story, and the characters are interesting, but some of the plot twists seem irrelevant, as in they don't really serve a purpose. I usually expect plot devices to do something to the plot, such as provide impetus for a character's behavior or change the course of the action, but this ended up seeming like a jumble of odd occurrences without resolution.
Overall I enjoyed it enough to recommend to other fans of hers.
>123 Darth-Heather: sadly I found Dust a letdown after the first two....
I'm also a frequent bread-machiner. Certainly there's no need for sugar in a plain loaf, using strong bread flour. About 1/2tsp salt seems to be the minimum to retard the yeast enough for reasonable rise. I don't tend to get too adventurous because going wild with the herbs and spices leads a one lovely slice, and then not being sure what to do with the rest of the loaf except haev the same again and again.
>125 reading_fox: I thought Dust dragged in places, then all of a sudden it seemed like the author was in a rush to finish because it got hectic near the end and left some loose bits that didn't tie up very well. I would have liked a bit more closure, but overall I liked the idea of the ending even if I thought it needed a bit more fulfillment.
I had a bread machine years ago, but I didn't like how much noise it made during the knead cycle, and the loafs always came out overdone. I hope that newer ones are better?
>111 Darth-Heather: I know I'm weeks late in seeing your process for making this kind of bread in the crockpot, but that looks interesting as an experiment. Thanks for posting it.
Sharing some photos of my "exotic" part of the world:
this is where we swim when up in the Great North Woods. We go every summer for a little family reunion/camping fun.
this is my front walkway in February, with all it's exotic snow.
same camping trip - Milan Hill State Park
(momma moose is trying to hide her baby from us)
Looks exotic and lovely to me! So green. That snow picture would be nice to look at in our soon-to-be-here 100+ temperatures.
Very nice! I don't think I'd like to meet that bobcat in the hayfield.
>136 SylviaC: I don't think the people running the pheasant farm there were happy to see him either :) I've heard that their population is growing in NH, mostly because we have a growing population of wild turkeys (they are EVERYWHERE), but this is the only one I've seen.
>131 Darth-Heather: Love the idea of "exotic snow"! Here in Durban it is -- the white stuff only happens in the mountains, and rarely for more than a few hours.
The other pictures tell me you live in a very beautiful part of the world.
So pretty! Love that you were able to get a pic of the bobcat! I've only seen one, and he was crossing the highway.
Those are great photos! I love the bobcat - how lucky you were to get such a good shot! - and the wildflowers and the sunset. I've always wanted to visit Acadia National Park ... one day I will get there.
I was very lucky to get that shot of the bobcat - I took a few others before he was out of sight. With his long legs he sure moves fast. The University of NH is doing a volunteer reporting program to track the populations so I submitted this photo to their archives; they said it is a young male, probably about 1 1/2 to 2 years old.
You live in such a pretty area of the country. Thanks for sharing the photos.
The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie
My first Agatha Christie book! I've had a bunch rolling around in the TBR stack, and finally one matched a monthly challenge category. This is a Miss Marple book, and was quite entertaining. I look forward to the others now too.
The rest of June:
Crescent Dawn by Clive Cussler
Dirk Pitt adventure
Night Fall by Nelson DeMille
3 1/2 stars
This wasn't great for me, but I did like the John Corey character and will pick up more of this series.
Mafia Fix by Warren Murphy
2 1/2 stars
Some Destroyer installments are better than others.
Flying Crows by Jim Lehrer
2 1/2 stars
An interesting premise, but the writing style is a bit bumpy.
Oil! by Upton Sinclair
3 1/2 stars
Almost as compelling as The Jungle but there are a couple of places where it stretches on WAY too long without advancing the plot.
Lost In A Good Book by Jasper Fforde
3 1/2 stars
The second in the Thursday Next series - very fun and clever!
The Foundling by Georgette Heyer
Her stories are just so nice.
Starting off July:
Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski
This is more like a character sketch than a novel; the main character gets older but doesn't really evolve and there really isn't a plot. Bukowski delves into some dark places sometimes.
I always liked The Foundling. It's not one of her most popular books, but I enjoy watching Gilly take control of his life, and like his friendship with his cousin Gideon.
>146 SylviaC: I picked it up as a Kindle daily deal; she has so much to choose from that I don't really know where to start so I just randomly grabbed a few. Gilly is a delightful character. I wish her female characters were a bit more independent though.
Awesome photos! Especially the bobcat. We have them here but by the time I can grab my phone they are usually long gone or so far away that they become just a speck in the photo.
>145 Darth-Heather: I had similar thoughts on this one. I am not in a hurry to read any more of his books as of right now.
I like Heyer's writing style, so I'm willing to try something that diverges from her usual approach. I like how well-constructed her characters are.
>153 Marissa_Doyle: I have Cotillion on my list, and will look for the others. It's hard to dive into her catalogue; there's just so many!
>150 clamairy: I picked up the Bukowski as a Daily Deal, so at least I only spend $1.99 :) I had intended to try him out sometime and I'm glad I did, since now I understand better when someone refers to his work, but I'm not sure I want to go much further with his stuff either. I appreciate the glimpse into this gritty and ugly world, but I don't know if I want to see a lot more. It is an experience though, for sure.
Post Office was highly recommended, so maybe someday I will try again...
Have you read any others of his? Are they all so dark?
>144 Darth-Heather: - he's still writing DP adventures?! Blimey. I'd hoped he'd have run out of steam on those long ago. Some of them were kind of fun in their times, but it all got a bit silly long ago. Are the later ones much the same?
>157 reading_fox: actually I don't really know how recent this one is. My husband read his way through everything by WEB Griffin, so I've started him on Cussler and Lee Child, and we just have a mishmash of random ones. I liked the Juan Cabrillo ones better than Dirk Pitt.
I didn't write much of a review, because there wasn't a lot more to say about it :)
The Leaky Establishment by David Langford
This hilarious tale of misplaced nuclear warheads is just so clever. The main character works in a nuclear research facility, burdened by bureaucracy and buried in red tape and minutia.
The preface by Terry Pratchett claims that he wishes he had written it, and I agree that it appeals to the same audience but I don't think Pratchett would have approached the humour with quite such a delicate touch.
I was surprised to see that not many other members have this book in their libraries. He has written several others, which I hope to find.
The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind
Billed as a "mystery", this is the only book I've ever seen from him that isn't part of the Sword of Truth series, except that it sort of IS. It only really makes sense if you've read the series as far as Pillars of Creation.
If you really LOVE the series, it is not without worth. You've gotta really want it though, because it certainly suffers from typical Goodkind-isms - there are some glaring plot holes that he doesn't even try to address, and the characters are predictable.
I'm not sure why it is supposed to be separate from the series, when it very much ties in, except that it is set in the modern world and not in the fantasy setting of the series.
Kraken by China Mieville
um. My brain is still a little scrambled from this one. It requires a lot of focus to follow, in the same way as the Thursday Next books do, because the author has devised a lot of complicated mythology. Adventurous and very imaginative.
This is my first one from this author. can anyone recommend any others? I've heard good things about The City and The City but don't have it yet.
>161 Darth-Heather: I've only read a couple of Mieville novels. My first was Embassytown, which I found to be remarkably unique and incredibly well-constructed. It's reportedly his most science-fictional novel and places language at the center of the plot. The other Mieville I've read is Perdido Street Station which, while very good, I thought lacked the narrative focus of Embassytown. I need to read more of his work but have not been able to get around to it. I might have to give Kraken a try...
I had a hard time with Perdido Street Station, honestly. I liked Kraken, and really liked Un Lun Dun, which is YA.
>161 Darth-Heather: Kraken is the only novel of Mieville's that I haven't yet read. I think The city and the city is my favourite, but I do like Perdido Street Station despite recognising that it probably has a bit too much crammed into it, and it is very bleak and quite unpleasant in places. I find that I like Embassytown more each time I read it.
>161 Darth-Heather: Regarding Miéville…
Perdido Street Station was the first of his work that I read. It had a somewhat slow start for me, but I soon got wrapped up in it. I read the two follow-up books in that series, The Scar and Iron Council, and liked them progressively less. I gave them 4, 3.5, and 3 stars respectively. The Scar was really, really good once I got into it. The problem was that it took me at least half the book to get into it. Iron Council had some aspects that really exasperated me, but I also enjoyed parts of it.
One general complaint I had with that series was that, while he built an interesting and detailed world, he completely glossed over the magic aspect. There was magic, but it was so poorly-defined that it was impossible to take it seriously. It just kind of did what it was needed to do at convenient points in the story. That became a particularly big issue for me in Iron Council; it was less relevant in the first two books.
I read The City and the City more recently and I enjoyed it, but the aspect of the book that intrigued me the most (the setting and its history) took a back seat to the part I was less interested in (the murder mystery). The setting was unique; the mystery, not so much, except as it was influenced by the setting. I was left a little unsatisfied as a result. I gave that one 3.5 stars.
From what I’ve read, I think Miéville sometimes tries too hard to make his writing unique. He comes up with some great and unique settings, but then he also adds in odd sentence structures, odd word choices, and occasionally odd formatting. I have to go back and re-read sentences in his books more often than I’m conscious of doing in most other books. Iron Council was the most problematic for me in that regard, whereas The City and the City was the least problematic.
Edited to fix typo.
>165 reading_fox: I just checked my review of the book. I gave it 3* also. I noted that while I will probably read some more of his books (I have Perdido Street Station Miéville will never be one of my favourite authors. I made the comment that people reading "The City & The City" would not improve their grammar as a result of the experience. It pisses me off when authors ignore basic grammar rules. In reported speech it could be argued that it is intended to reflect, "common usage". Where it involves vast amounts of incorrect grammar it becomes the "common abusage" of language and, in a drip-drip fashion, spreads that abuse in the readers mind.
In relation to your comment, impressive imagination, inventive world building, and lack of actual ability to tell a story. I would agree with the first and second points. The third point I would qualify that he told the story in such a disjointed fashion that one had to be almost psychic to pull it together. One thing I thought he did well was develop the atmosphere of the old private detective stories, the type of thing Raymond Chandler wrote.
I think I will read "Perdido Street Station" when I realise I have only one book unread in the house. (I just checked. I have 1,080 unread books in my library. I suspect it will take a few days before I get to it.
You all are persuading me that I probably wouldn't care for much of the work by China Mieville. I had classified him (before reading this thread) under the heading of Worthy-But-Probably-A-Downer. Am I right that he doesn't write optimistic books? All the settings seem rather dark.
I sounds like there are a few that I would pick up if I ran across them, but not necessarily deliberately seek out. Embassytown sounds like it is worth a try...
btw, thanks everyone, for all your input.
There has been quite a bit of buzz about this author, so I wanted to test the waters there and see how I feel about his style. I'm still not sure I know, but at least it seems like I'm not alone in my ambivalence.
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin
I have no idea why I waited so long to read this... very enjoyable fantasy with a main character that is easy to root for. I will hopefully track down more of this series.
>173 Darth-Heather: I loved this series in my teens. I REALLY need to reread these.
>173 Darth-Heather: I agree that it's very satisfying. Le Guin is a delight as an author. Truthful is even more applicable as a term. I think I read this particular novel of hers as part of a Children's Lit course assignment -- developing an annotated bibliography of science fiction for young adults. To my shame, I seem to recall adding Jonathan Livingstone Seagull to that same bibliography.
>173 Darth-Heather: I read that book, and the sequels, for the first time last fall and really enjoyed it. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much!
This was my first foray into the world of Le Guin. I'm so impressed by how clearly she builds her world. She does as much in a 200page book as some authors do with 600 pages.
The initial trilogy was written a long time ago, and then sometime later she didn't like how paternalistic it all had become and retconned the history a bit writing some new tales, and some set much earlier. I adore all of it. I find some of her SF a bit more hit and miss, agreeable influential at the time, but not necessarily aged well. She does retain the ability to fit 600pages into 200 succinct ones!
I'm currently rereading A wizard of Earthsea, something I do regularly. Each time the world comes to life afresh, and the lovely, understated prose draws me in.
>177 Darth-Heather: Glad to hear you enjoyed this one, Darth! Le Guin is one of my favorite authors - in any genre. I originally read the Earthsea Trilogy as a teen. It was my first exposure to her and I kept coming back for more. About five years ago, I decided to locate and read ever Hainish novel and short story and am actually finishing the last one now with 'The Day Before the Revolution', which is a short story in her The Wind's Twelve Quarters collection. It is connected to the story told in The Dispossessed. The book also has a couple of Earthsea tales that I had not read before. Both were written before A Wizard of Earthsea and set the tone and place for the trilogy that she wrote after. I never have re-read the Earthsea books. I should probably do that soon...
The Name Of The Wind has finally risen to the top of Mt TBR! It fits a category in my August monthly challenge, so I'm indulging myself by starting it a bit early. I'm sure I won't finish it until the month has turned, anyway.
>181 Darth-Heather: I'm wishing you strength. My recollection of this and its sequel (both of which I only read because the library had nothing else over Christmas breaks 4 years apart) is that the author never uses one word when ten will do. And the pacing of the story is positively glacial.
arrgh. I finished The Name Of The Wind and enjoyed it quite a bit. Kvothe is a very interesting character. I agree with >182 hfglen: that the pacing is slow, but that didn't bother me until I got to the end and realized that after 720 pages, absolutely NOTHING is resolved. I love lengthy, convoluted fantasy series, and this one does a good job of immersing the reader into his world. However, there is usually some kind of actual story arc within each volume and this didn't do that at all. It just runs out of pages but nothing ends or is tied up in any way. I will have to get the second one soon, for some sort of resolution.
>184 Darth-Heather: There's no more resolution in the second than the first. I wish you strength.
>185 hfglen: ugh. Does that mean there are more volumes to come? I often wait to take on a lengthy series until all the books are published, then I read them all together. If there will be more to this one, maybe I will put it off until it is completed and then start over...
>186 Darth-Heather: There's a third, I gather. Not sure if it's all been written yet.
>186 Darth-Heather: Not only is there a third expected, but it’s been pending for about 6 years now. :) I want to read this series, because I get the impression it’s something I’d probably like, but it’s on my “wait and see if the author ever finishes it first” list along with A Song of Ice and Fire.
>189 YouKneeK: I am going to have to re-read the Ice & Fire series when the final one comes out. I really enjoy immersing myself in a complete series and getting through it all while the details are fresh.
A couple of years ago I spent 3 delightful months reading the entire Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey - I had read bits of it over the years and finally collected the whole thing.
>186 Darth-Heather: For what it is worth, I recommend for you to put it aside and wait. If he never finishes the third, make up a story in your head that helps the first book to end satisfactorily, because there is about a third of the second book which is not worth reading at all. ;) I don't mind an unfinished ending, if there is a promise of movement in the story soon, but after reading the second, I see no movement in sight. Sloths have nothing on this story arc.
>191 MrsLee: I do hope it is worth the wait - I really enjoyed his writing style and the depth of his characters, but I'm gonna need some closure eventually.
>192 Darth-Heather: I loved the first book, and there were elements in the second which I loved as well, but one loooonnnngggg passage nearly made me put it aside for good. Once it was over, the story resumed and was good. I feel the need to warn others of that, lest they put the book and series aside for good. It is always possible that the particular passage wouldn't bother some folks though.
>190 Darth-Heather: I’m the same way about wanting to immerse myself in a complete series. :)
Finishing The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, about the life and art of Michaelangelo. Over 700 pages, so it is pretty thorough, and sometimes a bit overstuffed with historical details but really a very entertaining story. The author manages to portray him as a fascinating character with very strong ideals.
>195 Darth-Heather: I love the historical fictions by Irving Stone. That was my first, and it resonated with me because of my love for From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. :)
>184 Darth-Heather: & >193 MrsLee: I really enjoyed the first one, and have put off reading the second because my daughter made similar comments to MrsLee's concerning certain parts that went on too long. Maybe I'll just skim those bits.
>189 YouKneeK: I am concerned that George RR Martin might not get to finish that series. I've read everything that's been published, but I never read them back to back. Think Of Mice and Men as far as emotional impact goes, but in a 800-1000 page book. They are all heart-wrenching. And yet I was compelled to keep going. (With much palate cleansing and sometimes a wait of a year or more between volumes.)
>197 clamairy: I’ve wondered the same about whether he’ll be able to finish. Uhoh, that sounds like an awfully large dose of heart-wrenchingness! And a long time to avoid reading in public places. ;)
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
I'm so glad this one finally found it's way to the top of the TBR. Koontz's clear and engaging writing style and interesting characters made this a really enjoyable read. Poor Odd - his sixth sense is not really a blessing. I liked the way his ability is almost believable, making this more of a horror with a supernatural flavor than a fantasy.
>199 Darth-Heather: I enjoyed that one and about the next 3, in spite of them not being stellar writing, the concept, and Odd, kept me reading.
>200 MrsLee: Oh good, I was hoping someone could advocate continuing the series. Are there more that you've not gone on with?
I think I only read the first four? It's been awhile. Not sure if there were more than that. I didn't keep them. The one which takes place in an abandoned casino still haunts me. It didn't help that I worked by a casino while reading it.
Joining the Mieville discussion a little late, but just wanted to mention that my first Mieville was The scar, and that was so far also the one I enjoyed most. I read Perdido Street Station next, and I thought it was quite good too, but I liked The scar better. Once you get into them, I thought they were quite immersive, and even though it was quite dark, I was impressed by the ending of Perdido Street Station. Not something you come across quite often in fantasy. If you ignore the setting for a moment, the story seemed more realistic to me than most, especially because of the ending. Also because of the characters. They were normal people caught up in something, not heroes, or clueless farmboys who turn out to be heroes in the end after all. And happily ever after and such.
I also read The city and the city, which felt very different to me. Lovely setting, but this was not as immersive as the others. After some of the previous comments, I now particularly want to read Embassytown. It sounds fascinating...
>203 zjakkelien: thanks for your suggestion - I hadn't heard of The Scar but will keep an eye out for it.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Amazon synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
This story is beautifully written, in a wonderfully descriptive style. I am stunned by the sheer imagination involved, and the delicate and delightful way the circus is portrayed. This was a grand adventure and I started missing the characters as soon as the cover closed. This will certainly be an author to watch and see what she does next.
Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb
I'm always impressed with how well she designs her characters. This is the 7th book in the Realm of the Elderlings series, and every book so far has been immediately absorbing. I get so attached to the characters that I am entranced by every scene even when there's really nothing going on and the plot is slow. And this happened:
I've jumped right into Golden Fool, and will keep going with Fool's Fate. I like to stick it out with an entire trilogy, because each one seems to pick up immediately after.
>207 Darth-Heather: Your spoiler, I agree so much. Loved that book anyway.
I finished Robin Hobb's Tawny Man trilogy, and am soooo impressed. I am amazed by her depth of imagination, and by how tightly this set weaves together everything from the first six books. This is definitely my favorite installment so far, even though some painful things happen within.
I will hopefully move on to the Rain Wild set sometime, but not probably soon. I love diving into this realm, but don't want to hurry because then it's over.
The rest of September ended up being filled by ones that weren't worthy of mention, but I have now gotten to one that is:
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
This was wonderful. I have seen reviews from people who didn't like the ending, and there is a part of me that wished for more closure
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
3 1/2 *
The premise is a bit like Pet Sematary - can someone be brought back from the dead? Ruthie has to find out, after a mysterious disappearance leads her to discover some old documents hidden in her house describing how to do so.
This was a decently spooky Halloween-season read.
Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies
Like a lot of fantasy adventure stories, this one involves a young hero, a prophecy, an evil overlord, and a perilous journey. The difference here is that the hero is a young red deer named Rannoch.
It was slow going at first, not unusual when being introduced to a fantasy setting, but it wasn't long before I was swept up in the journey and the drama.
Intense and impressive.
>214 Darth-Heather: That sounds like one I'd enjoy. I added it to my wish list.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I can't rate this one highly enough - I would recommend this book to everyone. Ove is the most honest and true character I've met in a long time, and seeing through his eyes is a terrific experience. I have a soft spot for grumpy old guys, and just loved every bit of this.
Ove is a retired widower living in a small suburban neighborhood. His life story is slowly revealed, interspersed with his current struggle to figure out what to do with himself without a job and a wife to care for.
He inadvertently makes friends with his neighbor, and with a stray cat, despite his best efforts to avoid them. The scenes with the cat are HILARIOUS.
The writer is skillful and clever and made me laugh and cry quite a lot.
From The Dust Returned by Ray Bradbury
I had read a couple of short stories about The Family in Bradbury's October Country and was pleased to find this collection all about them.
from the book cover:
They have lived for centuries in a house of legend and mystery in upper Illinois - and they are NOT like other Midwesterners. Rarely encountered in daylight hours, some of them have survived since before the Sphinx first sank it's paws into Egyptian sands.
Now the House is being readied for the gala homecoming that will gather together the far-flung branches of this odd and remarkable clan."
>216 Darth-Heather: I've been thinking, "Yeah, another book about a grumpy old man" whenever I come across A Man Called Ove, but your description makes me think I should read it. Reading about grumpy old men makes me simultaneously feel nostalgic for my dad, and remember how stressful it could be to live with all that grumpiness.
From the Dust Returned looks good, too. I've remember reading very little Ray Bradbury beyond The Martian Chronicles. I'm sure I must have read others back in my youth when I was devouring science fiction and fantasy books by the bagful, but a lot of those have blurred together.
>219 SylviaC: My favorite Bradbury stuff is when he's doing weird/spooky short stories, the best of which are in The October Country. I also love Dandelion Wine, a wonderful coming of age story. He has such a beautiful descriptive way with words.
>218 Sakerfalcon: I have been told that there is a fairly decent movie version - have you seen it?
I'm finally starting a big 'un from my TBR pile - Swan Song by Robert McCammon. So far it's a bit like The Stand except with nuclear war instead of disease. I'm only about a hundred pages into this thousand page book, so it will be a while before I can review it.
I'm a big fan of McCammon, and other fans have highly recommended it, so I'm glad to finally fit it into one of the monthly challenges in the Around The World group.
If you are interested in checking out the challenge, take a look at October's:
ATW October Challenge
>216 Darth-Heather: this one is on my list. I think I shall move it up a bit. I have his other book waiting on a table in my hallway.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon
I discovered a liking for McCammon back in the 80's, but then forgot about him for years and have recently started trying to catch up on his book list. This one finally fit into this month's challenge category, and I'm glad of it.
At first it seems like a direct rip-off of Stephen King's The Stand, only with the destruction of nuclear war instead of disease. The few people left are trying to scratch a life out of the damaged earth, and of course there are the requisite Bad Guys who prey on the survivors. There is a Stand-like corollary with a supernatural evil stalking the land and seeking to destroy the main character, who represents the hopeful, nurturing side of mankind.
There is a turning point about halfway through where it finally verges into new territory, and I did like the ending. I always enjoy McCammon's clear and vivid writing style, and his characters are interesting.
I'm glad I finally made time for this one (it's a big 'un) but my favorite of his is still Stinger.
>224 pgmcc: awwww. come on - kindred spirits and all that! Ove is now one of my favorite characters - I'm already well into the "You Kids Get Off My Lawn" stage of life and he's my new hero :D
In the past week, I attended three book sales, two of them with excellent selections of current fiction, and I did not come across a single copy of A Man Called Ove. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked! Fortunately, I was able to console myself with another 50 books.
>226 SylviaC: That is a bit surprising; there must be a ton of copies roaming around out there somewhere.
It only took 50 books to console you? That takes a lot of willpower!
>227 Darth-Heather: Well...there were also those two new hardcovers that I bought online...and the five books I bought the week before...and there is another library book sale next week which I may or may not attend...
>228 SylviaC: it is awfully kind of you to adopt all these poor homeless books... they deserve a loving family :)
so far this month:
Deadly Scandal by Kate Parker - a well-written murder mystery set in London just after WWI. Political intrigue and a hint of romance keep it interesting. The first in a series; I might look for the next one.
Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
I liked the premise a lot - alternating between a sheltered young woman being raised in a Coney Island freak show, and a young man trying to make a living on the streets of New York at the turn of the 20th century. The characters are interesting, and the setting is vividly wrought. I didn't love the author's choice to set entire chapters in italics when writing in the first person viewpoint of either main character. The interspersing chapters are in regular type, when written in the third person, often picking up within the same scene. It didn't seem like a useful device, and was a little hard to read.
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie
This is my first Poirot mystery, which I thought was a nice change from Miss Marple. While I adore the Marple character, there are limitations to the depth of investigation an elderly lady can feasibly do. It seems more believable for a character like Poirot to have high level contacts and access to records.
The Golden Gate by Alistair MacLean
I'm starting to see why his books get made into movies. He has a way with action scenes.
Currently in the midst of Cotillion by Georgette Heyer...
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
I still can't figure out why I didn't read these years ago. I got Wizard of Earthsea earlier this year, and just loved it. This second one is quite an interesting story, although with a smaller scope than the first. I assume it is leading up to something, so I hope to get to the third book soon.
So far December is all about 3-star reads...
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
a first-person account of the southeast asian tsunami of 2004.
In The Company of The Courtesan by Sarah Dunant
A vivid view of 15 century Italy, I will probably seek out more of her books.
Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
A nice change of pace, told from the viewpoint of a teenage girl coming to terms with the death of her beloved uncle.
>234 Darth-Heather: I loved the Earthsea trilogy when I read it in the 1970/80s when it still was a trilogy.
>236 pgmcc: I do like the later books too, but I always need to remember they were written a lot later, and there's a big shift in LeGuin's view on some matters.
>237 reading_fox: I have not ventured near the newer books lest they shatter my good memories of the trilogy.
>239 Sakerfalcon: I thought it was well worth my time, but I may be biased - the main character is a teenage girl who struggles a bit with being "weird" and not fitting in with her peers, which I could easily commiserate with...
I could use some advice/recommendations if any of you are Urban Fantasy readers? I am looking at some books for my brother's gift, and wonder if anyone has read the Sandman Slim or Blue Blazes series'?
I specifically need to know if these are suitable for my autistic brother. Thomas likes horror movies, so is ok with gory parts, but he's uncomfortable with adult-scenes, so to say.
These sound like they would be fun for him, as long as there aren't graphic sex scenes. Having not read them myself, I'm hoping someone can advise me?
The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This is my sixth WWII book this year, and while it was far and away the best one, I think I'm ready for a break from war for awhile.
Going out on a high note - my final read for the year is:
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
What an interesting setting! I haven't spent much time in a monastery before, and I really enjoyed most of the history lesson incorporated within. A few bits dragged out way too long, pages and pages of irrelevant lists of saints and heretics and clergy and royalty. I slogged through most of it, until I realized that some of that stuff isn't at all relevant to the plot. Some authors feel the need to stuff in every detail of their research when often a paraphrasing would do. I did greatly enjoy his reading style and passion for the subject matter though, and would gladly read more of his work.
This topic was continued by Book Bullets From The Dark Side - Darth Heather's 2018 reads.
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