Threadnsong's Gi-NOR-mous TBR Pile 2018 ed.
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My 2017 challenge by month and topic was such a great way to read some books languishing on my shelves that I am going to continue with that theme this year. I'll also be part of the SFF-Kit challenge to expand my horizons in that genre and add some TBRR each month as they call me from my bookshelves. These latter will be mostly fantasy since that's where most of my book buying money has been invested.
January: Sci-Fi The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
February: Alternate History Malafrena by Ursula Le Guin (technically a RR but I barely remember it the first time through)
March: Biography/Autobiography Starting and Closing by John Smoltz
April: Alternate History American Front by Harry Turtledove (Please note - did not have a positive experience reading this book so off to the wild it goes. Details are on my book review.) Instead picked The White Tribunal as a better experience.
May: Mystery (murder or otherwise) Arkansas Traveler by Earlene Fowler and A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter
October: Biography/Autobiography Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
December: Historical Fiction
TBRR Books, mostly from the Fantasy genre:
January currently reading Patriot Witch, haven't decided on a TBRR one. Yet.//OK, found one: The Bane of Lord Caladon by Craig Mills. I think I read it in the early 90's. If it's languishing on my bookshelves, I either need to re-read it and keep it, or send it to BookCrossing.
February Voices by Ursula Le Guin, and Gifts
March Triangle by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath
April None found, so read May's mystery instead (it had been sitting on my shelves and languishing)
May The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein and Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier
June The Last Unicorn and Tamsin by Peter S. Beagle
July The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny
August Looks like this month is one for starting new books or finishing off new, as-yet-unread books. And having given away several books that no longer fit my reading tastes, I'm making decisions about what I do really want to re-read.
September Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede as part of the SFFKit reading challenge.
Looks like you are all ready for 2018. I am looking forward to the Sci-Fi/Fantasy Challenges as well.
I'm really understanding now why Asimov wanted The Gods Themselves to be the book that, in the 1970's, was the one he wanted to be most remembered for.
The science department politics are exciting and to be expected in any real-world situation, the empathy with the Soft Ones on the alternate universe are a welcome change from most science fiction writers, and now we've jumped into a third story on the Moon, sometime in the future. But has the science mystery been solved?
The treatment of women in early science fiction has always been a sticking point for me. They're either non-existent or hysterical and clingy, and few writers treat them as human beings. But here, in the second section, where the Emotionals are the middle of the Triad, Deeah is written as and treated as a sympathetic emotional and female. While the Parent part of the Triad has more male characteristics, that of having an appendage and an ego to get what he wants, these characteristics are not necessarily positive characteristics. The perceptions of the Emotional are what drive the plotline, including her need to learn and to communicate what she perceives as going on. She is more daring than a human female in any of the Clarke or Van Vogt books I've recently read.
In the third section, that takes place on the Moon, the matter-of-fact manner of the female lead is a welcome respite. She's not a "difficult" women like many professional women of her day would have been written; instead, she is straightforward and honest, with appropriate reactions from the male characters.
Finished The Gods Themselves in late January and it definitely gets 5 *****.
The Bane of Lord Caladon was a fairly quick read. 3 ***, as it was a bit simple character-wise but well-driven by the plot.
Young Alonin, the Lord Caladon of the title, is under a curse: each lord of his family is going to be killed by the dragon Thudredid, and Alonin finds out the reason at long last. There was a jewel, the Dylcaer, stolen from said dragon's hoard, in the great-great-grandsire's time, and since the jewel was forged by an evil wizard with evil intent, its evil is invoked to unleash this curse.
Alonin begins his quest to kill the dragon, only to find out that until he has a son the dragon will not engage him. So he finds the local wizard, Mernon, who bequeaths him a protective talisman, tells him of the cursed jewel, and sends him on his way. Alonin finds a traveling companion, Dalkin, and the two set off to find the jewel. There are inns, and gypsies, and snow, and pirates, and finally an evil sorceress who imprisons the two men, and she is the keeper of said jewel. Their adventures are still not over even with the jewel, and the story comes to a nice resolution.
All that said, the only character with any development is Alonin; the rest are definitely supports who have no story of their own. And sometimes Alonin's inherent naivete is a pain to deal with. But it's an easy read, and a good YA novel, and it will stay on my shelves.
So Ursula Le Guin has passed. I am very sad. I met her at a book signing in the late 80's and she was a short, shy woman who was still very happy to be doing what she did. I had all of the Earthsea novels with me, including the recently released Tehanu; as it was my favorite of that series, she included a note to me when she signed it.
This news has decided my reading for this month: Malafrena for alternate history, and Voices for my TBRR project. Not that there is any doubt I would not keep her works, not by any stretch of the imagination! I also want to read Gifts if reading time permits. This is a short month, after all. The gardening will start soon, the bird houses are cleaned and ready to go up, and now that I have distanced myself from my innumerable volunteer activities, my weekends are a bit clearer.
I'm really hoping I can finish Patriot Witch soon. I may take it out of my weekends-only purse and just finish it. It's OK if I read it in bits and snatches, and I'm hoping that it will get better if I just sit down and finish it. Finlay has certainly done his research with the Revolutionary War, especially the battle of Lexington & Concord, and his way of showing how witchcraft/special powers affected the lives of people living with them during this time. And the action takes place very close to Salem and within almost-living memory of those who died in that troubled time. So we'll see.
>18 pammab: I must say, Voices and Gifts are both very readable. They do not talk down to their audience, and I didn't realize they were YA until I looked at the cover. They both present a world of "what if?" that is surprisingly realistic even though we don't live in a pre-Industrial world any more.
How are you liking Left Hand of Darkness?
I finished Patriot Witch over the weekend. It was good historical fantasy from the Revolutionary War; Finlay is certainly versed in his research of that time period. But I so wish his editor was better suited to the subject matter: there were points where descriptions dragged, the characters were not quite developed, and Proctor Smith's inner turmoils were of the "just get over it!" variety. Releasing it through Book Crossing.
In a nod to last year's historical fiction challenge (December, 2017), I finished Ahab's Wife. Oh my goodness. What an amazing book. Clocking in at over 600 pages my thought was "of course I'll read this! I'll have lots of days off!"
The first sit down was easily the first 120+ pages, at one sitting. It is that kind of book where I just lost myself in the characters, the plot, scratched my head at a couple of things, wanted to shake her for her cruel leaving of her adopted family, but knowing that she had a conscience and saw what she had done to them was a plus in her direction.
There is anguish and despair in this novel, and I hope that the strength shown by the main character, Una, becomes a remembrance for me when tough stuff happens. Because it will, and this book is a testament to human resilience.
Historical figures are mentioned in here: Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller, as are several of the major characters from Moby Dick. Captain Ahab is a full, rich human being in this novel, drawn to the innocence of Una, or perhaps her strength, but nonetheless falling over her as a passionate lover and she him, and his joys and life are more fully realized before his madness takes over.
Again, it was a book where I could just fall into the language, read the story, immerse myself in the story, or spend a few minutes decompressing from work with just a few chapters. Definitely worth the reading time.
I too am doing a TBR-challenge this year and it feels really good to get at least some of my numerous purchases read, finally! :)
Yes! Yes it does. I'm seeing those purchased books finally make it from the bookshelf to the reading table (or the purse) and boy to I feel happy!
Gifts and Voices are both my re-reading tribute to the late Ursula Le Guin. While they are both considered young adult, they are easily read by someone way out of one's teens! They both tell the coming-of-age story in a realistically mythical realm that has widely divergent cultures.
Gifts takes place in a hardscrabble land in the north, where people who are the land holders have gifts that are often dark and scary, such as destroying others or breaking a limb or rendering someone mute. Into this world is Orrec whose mother loves to tell him stories, and his friend, Gry, whose gift is to call animals. But as each young person grows older, they reject the dark side of their gifts to the point where Orrec binds his eyes in order that he will never see anything that he could destroy again. And Gry decides she would rather train and tame animals, not call them to the hunt.
Voices takes place maybe 20? years later, in the southern part of this land, where books have been destroyed by an invading army that considers them the work of demons. In addition, anyone who is caught with books is consigned to a slow, torturous death in the mud flats near the ocean. This book is told from the point of view of Memer, a child born of rape, who lives in the home of the Waylord who himself was tortured in order to find his hidden, secret library. She meets Orrec and Gry as adults, as Orrec has been invited by the ruler to come and tell stories to the people.
Both books contain Le Guin's evocative language and written descriptions of landscapes, people, ideas, and events that continue to amaze me in their depth of understanding and explanation. There are two quotes from Gifts that really stood out:
"To see that your life is a story while you're in the middle of living it may be a help to living it well. It's unwise, though, to think you know how it's going to go, or how it's going to end. That's to be known only when it's over.
And even when it's over, even when it's somebody else's life, somebody who lived a hundred years ago, whose story I've heard told time and again, while I'm hearing it I hope and fear as if I didn't know how it would end; and so I live the story and it lives in me. That's as good a way as I know to outwit death. Stores are what death thinks he puts an end to. He can't understand that they end in him, but they don't end with him."
"Grieving, like being blind, is a strange business; you have to learn how to do it. We seek company in mourning, but after the early bursts of tears, after the praises have been spoken, and the good days remembered, and the lament cried and the grave closed, there is no company in grief. It is a burden borne alone. How you bear it is up to you."
Triangle by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath is one of the early books in the Star Trek series. These two women spear-headed what can now be termed "fan fiction" with their books Star Trek: The New Voyages Volumes 1 and 2 and it is no wonder that they then brought their friendship and love for this universe to a larger book that they wrote together.
The premise is an interesting one that takes place after the first movie came out, as it references Kirk's dabbling as an Admiral and Spock's sojourn on Vulcan as happening in the past. The premise of this book is that humans are now the amoeba race of the galaxy (along with all other sentient beings) and they will be assimilated into One-ness as presented by an Ambassador whose views are given to the Federation.
Added to the mix is a half-human, half-Zaran female, Sola, who is considered a Free Agent of the Federation and therefore has precedence over even the Captain of a Starship. And she has known and loved (and been loved by) both Spock and Kirk at a previous time, so there is tension between the three of them. Also, the Zaran females will pair bond with their chosen mate and lead their clan on successful hunts.
While the plotline is intriguing, the virtual non-existence of most of the crew in the novel renders the dialogue and conversations a bit thin. Much of the dialogue is inner dialogue ("should I join the One-ness?" "How much of my crew has been taken over?") and the writing styles of both authors leaves a lot of explanation to the reader who may or may not be following on the same track.
Still, it's a keeper and a good read for original series Star Trek fans.
>19 threadnsong: Well, my apologies first for the delayed response -- didn't see this until just now!
I am of two minds with Left Hand of Darkness. It feels a bit dated in a lot of its comments around men fitting in one box and women in another -- but only because (I think) she was deliberately trying to cast light on gender essentialism -- and it also feels pretty derivative -- but only because it was so influential that I've read similar things earlier in my life but written chronologically later. So, it's really a challenging book for me to give a single strong reaction to.
Hello! I've updated my reading challenges because I couldn't remember what I had picked for May, and realized that I read a mystery ahead of schedule so I'll just find another one on my shelves.
And because I was pondering, I found another couple of re-reads. The first will be for the SFFKit revolution (re-reading to a finish The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) and another favorite entitled Wolfskin. I have the second book in Marillier's trilogy in this series so I should probably re-read the first one to get back in that timeframe, eh?
Also, reviews of recent reads will come soon. Weekends have been filled (it's spring in ATL and so coffee shops with books come after gardening) but I'm thinking next weekend will have some excellent book engaging time. Thank you for continuing to follow my sporadic reading updates!
I tend to adjust my challenge throughout the year to match my reading-mood.
>28 -Eva-: Thank you Eva. And sometimes I just feel inclined to read a book a bit out of sequence because it's time to read it. Glad I'm not alone in this quest to finish everything read and un-read!
Arkansas Traveler by Earlene Fowler is a cozy mystery set in a small town in Arkansas. The trope-ness of the writing, setting, and characters was a bit eye-rolling, though I will give kudos to Fowler for bringing elements of entrenched racial conflict into her work. The mention of the Arkansas Traveler is a quilt pattern and each of her books includes a quilt pattern. This one is that the main character, whose people came from this town, has spent most of her life growing up in California and is now "traveling" back to her hometown in Arkansas. Good if you're a fan of Earlene Fowler but meh for me on the mystery part of it.
A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter is a gripping, character-driven murder mystery set in small town Georgia and at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. And trust me, you never want to see the inside of Grady! It even has its own mention on drive time radio as "The Grady Curve" for the stretch of I-75/I-85 that curves around it through downtown.
This book is #3 in the Grant County series, where Sara Linton is divorced from Jeffrey Tolliver and she is investigating the suicide of a student at the local college campus when her sister is stabbed. Tessa is eight months pregnant so the results are horrific and Sara blames herself for letting her sister go off by herself into the woods. The first part is so very character driven, with everyone referring to Lena Adams' horrific assault (I guess in the previous book?) and Lena herself on a self-destruct sequence. Still, by half-way through, the characters are starting to put together the pieces of this series of suicides and the action really picks up.
The White Tribunal by Paula Volsky is the book I chose to get a little healing from the difficult experience of Harry Turtledove. I love Volsky's ability to take a moment in history and build an alternative universe around it. This historical period is the Spanish Inquisition due to its setting, though it might also be the Salem Witch Trials or even Hollywood's Blacklist period. A spiritual leader is delusional and out to manipulate others to turn in their loved ones to his White Tribunal so they may be tried for working magick. The Tribunal's view is that magick comes from the Demons and therefore all magick workers are allied with evil forces. The story centers around a young boy, Tradain, whose life changes horribly in one night and he spends his next 13 years imprisoned. Whether working in the kitchens or in solitary confinement, he is able to survive with his wits intact to some extent, and when he escapes he finds the truth of both Demons and what happened to his family. An excellent revenge plays out, though the ending and the explanation of Demon politics was a bit, um, leaving one wishing for better details.
>30 threadnsong: I tried that one years ago and never tried any more books by her.
>33 thornton37814: Oh really? OK, then I don't feel quite so bad. I mean, I love me some cozy mysteries, but this one just seemed so disjointed: is it a book about homecoming? Is it a book about racial issues? Oh wait, is there a murder mystery in there somewhere?
Wolfskin by Juliet Marillier was a good choice for a re-read. It is thick, involved, and leads right into the second in the series, Foxmask. It is a combination of historical fiction and priestess-centered magick that takes place in Viking times. Centering around several major characters, Eyvind and Nessa, the society of Vikings is described through Eyvind's lens as he works to become a follower of Thor. Part of this path involves blood-brothers and maintaining one's oath, even when it seems wrong, as well as serving the Jarl and springing into battle without a thought for one's own life.
Concurrent in time is the story of Nessa, a priestess-in-training of the Orkney (Light) Isles. Her people have lived among the ancestors and she will become priestess rather than mother to the next king because her two older sisters will become queens. This is a lineage descended from the mother's line.
Their stories interweave when an older warrior follows his quest to go to the Light Isles and set up a Viking colony there. The leader's younger half-brother, Somerled, is oath-bound with Eyvind, and Somerled is a classic sociopath who wrecks the peaceful truce with his desire for a kingdom of his own. When Eyvind realizes the truth of his friend's heart, he finds an alternate path through Nessa that cannot stop the bloodbath but does ultimately bring peace to the Light Isles.
OMG Tamsin! Beagle is such an incredible writer, evoking mood and voice and story, all at once. How else could a thirteen-year-old from New York (no specific place, though I'm sure New Yorkers could pinpoint 83rd Street) get caught up in the world of 1660's Dorset and its bloodshed and folklore? When I first heard this book as an audiobook, way back in 2002, he was narrating it himself and he did a great job, even though he is not himself a thirteen-year-old girl. But he describes the displacement she feels in a teenage way, and when she begins to acclimate to her new step-family the pacing really picks up.
Her friendship with both Tamsin Willoughby and her struggles to find friends in the real world are so very true, making the descriptions of talking with a ghost seem real and fragile just like Tamsin. She is "present" when she describes her life, or warns Jenny away from the Pooka and the Oakmen, but when the conversation moves towards what happened during the Bloody Assizes and Judge Jeffreys, Tamsin becomes more ethereal. And the pace just keeps building and building, and the final half is possible to read at one sitting.
The Last Unicorn is one of those books that I just fall into every time I read it. It was part of another group's mini-challenge, and as I had read 3 books with the same theme (Tam-Lin) last June, I decided this June would be 3 books by one of my favorite authors, Peter S. Beagle.
So this second installment in that challenge has been another great read of this book. I swear, every time I read it I find something new: definitely the mark of a great book. As an early teen, I loved the idea of a unicorn as described herein, with the tail of a lion, the cloven feet and face of a goat, and a grace that "horses have never had, and deer have in a shy, thin imitation, and goats in a dancing mockery." Imagine the magick in this creature! The wisdom, the litheness, and at the end the intense sadness.
This time around, too, the relationship between Molly Grue and Schmendrick is more alive than it has been in the past, and the elderly guards at Hagsgate are also now more human. The elements of the harpy and the skull that drinks the wine were somehow more . . . real? . . . than bits of a story.
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley is a to-be-re-read, and I think, 30 or so pages in, that it might just go into the wild. I remember reading it as a great story of a young woman who rises above all those things that hold her back, and I do want to give the book some more time to see if this plot that I so love to see will continue to hold my interest.
I like the fact that Harry, the main character, is a tall, ungainly woman who has no suitors and no parents, but her brother is doing his best to find someone for her who will be a good husband. And what will she choose when her Destiny comes calling? What form will that Destiny take? I have a bit of an idea from the book jacket and would like to see it play out well.
>39 christina_reads: Hi Christina! It is a good book and I read about half-way through it before I decided it would be better on someone else's shelf. I remember really liking it and The Hero and the Crown when I read them the first couple of times.
So it is released via Bookcrossing.com and I will be interested in seeing who picks it up and enjoys it for another 30 years!
>28 -Eva-: I have definitely adjusted my challenges this year! I found a couple of really good books and they have helped me adjust what I will read this month. Totally different themes but most definitely not in the general fiction or science fiction/fantasy genres.
Love that! It's good to have an idea of what you want at the beginning of the year, but if you insist on staying with something you're not in the mood for, it will just turn you off the whole challenge, I think.
>42 -Eva-: Yep, and even in the same month, finding a reading challenge and then deciding I need to switch books has definitely helped give me permission to send a book off into the wild.
The Unicorn Sonata by Peter S. Beagle is at last finished and has moved from a long, dusty place on my TBR pile into my "official" bookshelves.
I gotta say, it's not a favorite book, even though it's by one of my all-time favorite authors. The reasons are many: too many fantasy characters that are thrown into Shei'rah, a mystical land that parallels ours, that really have no bearing on our own until Indigo, one of the Eldest, takes Joey, the heroine, into a journey in her L.A. neighborhood. But it seems like Beagle is just throwing these characters in to provide something in his land, and none of them are developed. The inner development of Joey seems to be a result of her sitting in Shei'rah and drawing and going into this land and out of it, but it's minimal. Yes, she is able to being playing music in a way that she never could before, and she helps her Abuelita, but there is so much distance between her time wondering about Shei'rah and the action at the end, the book just doesn't work that well.
The Priestess & the Pen by Sonja Sadovsky is a fascinating look at these three women authors who have transformed esoteric/fantasy literature with their pens.
Starting from the writings of Dion Fortune, who was a follower of Madame Blavotsky, she wrote about the journey of men and women who are drawn to non-traditional religions. While not all of her women characters are sympathetic (in fact, very few are), her men characters become drawn to women who are able to guide them into an exploration of the worlds beyond ours. The Sea Priestess is the book of Fortune's that I've read cover to cover.
Fast forward to Marion Zimmer Bradley and her take on the Arthurian myths through The Mists of Avalon and resultant Avalon/Atlantis series, and the idea of an isle of holy women becomes a central theme. The Knights of the Round Table are no longer a central feature but are observed through the lives of the women who interact with them.
Finally, Diana Paxson takes up Bradley's pen with her further tales of Atlantis and the early years of the Isle of the Mighty. She continues to stretch the possibilities for the sacred and divine feminine within this world as both warriors and priestesses.
I found this book a refreshing intellectual discussion of these topics and of these authors. Their lives are presented so that their writings are seen in the context of the times in which the authors lived. The impact of how these women re-imagined Women and their Divine images is seen over and over again in fantasy and the fantastical historical fiction by authors like Juliette Marillier and in Diana Paxson's larger corpus. Additionally, Sadovsky does not hold back on her criticism of each author, acknowledging where their description of women's roles are limited or are in response to an overarching view of the Divine Feminine through her reproductive or physical attributes and not the personal journeys of her followers.
The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny is another book that is about to go into the wild via Bookcrossing.com.
I wish I had liked more of these short stories. I know it's a re-read because I bought it in high school after reading The Once and Future King and starting the Amber series, and thinking what a great combination this book would be. But nope, it had nothing to do with Camelot (at least not overtly) and so it stayed on my shelf for decades.
So with this challenge, I took it down, brought it to work, and still it fell flat. Just. Flat. The first few stories, the very, very short ones, were fascinating. Also appreciated were the introductions where Zelazny described the how and why and where these stories came together. But with "He Who Shapes" I found my interest waning, and by the middle of "Damnation Alley" I figured I was done with the great destruction of nature that Zelazny takes for granted. Maybe it's a feminist view of the world, one where too many men destroy Nature for their own ends, that made me close that short story and make this decision, or maybe it's just Zelazny's style in his short works, but either way, it goes into the wild.
Again, glad I picked it up to re-read it, especially after loving Lord of Light as much as I did a couple of years ago. Just not my thing, then or now.
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