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littlegeek's 2019 reads

The Green Dragon

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Edited: Jan 2, 11:34am Top

Happy New Year! I'm hoping 2019 is better than last year. It was a rough one. But not for reading, that was great.

I'm still working my way through Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. I'm enjoying it, but I do have to say that sometimes I'm finding it hard to visualize the characters. Some of the fantastical creatures are kind of vague in my mind, and then there's the whole "everyone has 8 names" thing that is so very Russian. I have to remind myself "the one whose name starts with N is the one that somehow is made of gun parts or something?"

Jan 2, 11:33am Top

Happy New Year! I wish you a great 2019 with plenty more great reading!

Jan 2, 11:39am Top

Happy New Year and happy new thread!

Jan 2, 1:05pm Top

Happy new year and new reading!

Jan 2, 1:42pm Top

Happy new year! I hope it is a great one, in books and in life.

Jan 2, 3:56pm Top

happy new year with new books!

Jan 2, 4:18pm Top

I wish you a fantastic 2019!

Jan 2, 5:50pm Top

>1 littlegeek: Happy new year! I think I mentioned in your last thread that I have Deathless on my list. It has people/beings/characters made out of gun parts? That sounds… interesting? :)

Jan 2, 7:03pm Top

>8 YouKneeK: It's trippy.

Jan 4, 8:57am Top

Happy New Year! Glad to be imbibing books with you in the pub again.

Jan 4, 11:44am Top

Thanks to all for the new year wishes!

Jan 6, 4:32pm Top

Finished Deathless. It's a unique blend of fairy tale and 20th century Russian history. Poignant, terrifying, touching, bewildering. I think if I was more familiar with Russian fairy tales I would have been less confused. I really liked it, tho!

Then I read The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. Pretty basic mystery, quick read. Might be good for an airplane!

I had trouble sleeping last night so I'm already on my 3rd book of the year! Wanted something long and involving so I'm now reading Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

Jan 6, 8:55pm Top

>12 littlegeek: Your comments on Deathless have made me all the more curious about it. :) Maybe I can fit it in sometime this year.

Jan 7, 4:55am Top

>12 littlegeek:, >13 YouKneeK: I thought Deathless was excellent when I read it a few years ago. Very dark, as you'd expect, but a really skilful blend of history and fantasy.

Jan 7, 5:51am Top

>12 littlegeek: I greatly enjoyed fairyland, so I'll have to try her other works.

Jan 7, 11:56am Top

>15 reading_fox: I have to read those fairyland books now.

Jan 9, 9:11pm Top

>1 littlegeek: Happy New Year, my friend. I hope you get your wish and 2019 is a wonderful one for you.

Jan 10, 5:04pm Top

>17 clamairy: thanks, clam!

Edited: Jan 18, 12:35pm Top

Still working my way slowly through Pillars of the Earth. There's a major tennis tournament going and that cuts significantly into my reading time.

Anyhoo, it's keeping my attention but it's so average in every way. No attempt at interesting style, plot elements that are very obvious, characters pretty much central casting. I guess this is the kind of book that makes bestseller lists. The story is just engaging enough and it demands almost nothing from the reader.

One thing that is disturbing: violent rape scenes from the POV of the rapist.

The setting in the middle ages makes it feel like reading a high fantasy novel without any fantasy elements, which is kinda weird for me.

I'll probably finish it, but for me it's a 1000 page palate cleanser.

Now off to catch up on all your threads!

Jan 19, 1:33am Top

>19 littlegeek: I read Pillars of the Earth when I was a young teen. The sex parts I read when I was in a private place. They were quite an eye opener for me. Other than that, and the dirt, there isn't much I remember, except they were building a cathedral.

Jan 19, 5:36am Top

>19 littlegeek: & >20 MrsLee:

Pillars of the Earth was a DNF for me. I was going to give up after 22 pages but I felt guilty (Catholic upbringing) that I had not given it a good enough chance. I gave it to page 125 and then called it a day. I just checked my review and I obviously sanitised the review. A couple of extracts from my review are below. I think they demonstrate that the three of us were disappointed in this tedious book.

The characters were wooden, and endless detail was presented on the tools of a mason; the architectural details of a cathedral; the layout of an earl's castle; the social hierarchy; etc...

Unfortunately, I was looking to be entertained and the characters were not interesting enough to make me care; the story was drawn out and predictable; and the endless detail was tedious.

The final straw for me was when one character was trying to get into the cathedral at night. He tried every door and window. Unfortunately, Follett took the opportunity to describe in detail the architectural details of every door and window as his character visited them. It took six pages of excruciating detail for the character to get into the cathedral. He then when up to the rafters. On arrival there we got a lecture on how the beams were designed... That was when I had had enough. I decided life was too short waste time on the rest of this book.

Jan 22, 2:11pm Top

>21 pgmcc: I don't mind the architectural detail, but the lack of compelling characters is the real issue for me. I've been watching a lot of tennis and not really reading much, once the tournament is over, I might bail.

Jan 22, 2:13pm Top

Today I used "DNF" on another website and nobody seemed to know what it was! I thought it had more generalized use than just book websites.

Jan 24, 1:35pm Top

So yeah, I bailed on Pillars of the Earth. Life is too short and there are too many books to read mediocre fiction.

Now reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Way more worth my while already!

Jan 24, 1:49pm Top

I vividly remember being steered away from Pillars of the Earth by my favourite local independent bookshop owner. Having read A Place Called Freedom I havr a pretty good idea why, but all the hype around the Pillars of the Earth had led me to believe that it would be better.

Edited: Jan 24, 3:10pm Top

>19 littlegeek:, >20 MrsLee:, >21 pgmcc: & >25 -pilgrim-: I enjoyed it! It was way over-the-top in a bunch of places, but it was still entertaining. I lugged around a hardcover from the library, too. Great upper body work-out.

Jan 24, 5:25pm Top

>26 clamairy: Maybe I would enjoy an adaptation, but as a book it was meh for me. A lot of people like it tho!

Jan 24, 5:35pm Top

>27 littlegeek: Looks like I read it for a book group, so I had added incentive.

Jan 24, 5:52pm Top

>28 clamairy: Admit it, you were 14 and doing a school project on 11th century life in England. You had to read it for your project and it had all the details you needed.

Jan 24, 7:02pm Top

>29 pgmcc: Sorry to disappoint you. I was 49, but it was for a group that was sort of a "Wine Club with Books."

Jan 24, 7:15pm Top

>30 clamairy: Maybe the wine helped! :-)

Jan 25, 3:26am Top

Thank you for making sure I'll never trick myself into reading Pillars of Earth ;-)

Jan 28, 11:40am Top

Finished The Miniaturist and quite enjoyed it. The setting of 17th century Amsterdam and the whole East India Company stuff was interesting. Some of the character's attitudes were a little "modern" for the time frame, but I was willing to overlook that.

Now I'm reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. I really enjoy Nigerian scifi/fantasy and this one seems good so far.

Jan 29, 8:14am Top

>33 littlegeek: I just finished Rosewater which is SF by a British-Nigerian author, set in Nigeria, and it was excellent. I've seen lots of recommendations for Children of blood and bone so will have to seek it out.

Jan 29, 8:51am Top

>33 littlegeek: I did a book group discussion on the Miniaturist and I personally felt it was the setting that was the most compelling element of the novel.

Jan 29, 11:34am Top

>35 jillmwo: Agreed. I saw all the plot elements coming from a mile off. I have read so many novels that I usually don't dock a book too much for that, tho.

Jan 29, 6:57pm Top

In addition to my Kindle book, I am now listening to The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. It's on the short list for the Tournament of Books. https://themorningnews.org/article/the-2019-tournament-of-books-shortlist-and-ju...

I love the Tournament, I follow it every year. I usually only manage to read a few of the books before the tourney begins, but it gives me good ideas. I was surprised what made the short list this year, given what was on the long list. They seem to be going for the most obscure.

Jan 30, 3:10pm Top

I've added Children of Blood and Bone to my list for later in the year. Good shooting!

Feb 4, 1:31pm Top

Finished Children of Blood and Bone. It's good for YA. I think I'm not the audience for YA anymore, at least not the adventure, feels-like-a-video-game kind of YA. It's like the book is yelling at me all the time, there is no subtlety or nuance. Which is fine if you're a teenager and you need everything spelled out (every 10 pages they reiterated the goal "to bring magic back." I get it!). But I'm old and I like things that are calmer and more measured. All that said, I'd definitely recommend this book for the intended audience. Good themes, lots of action, female protagonists, etc. One caveat: what was up with renaming all the animals?

Now I'm reading a book from the Tournament of Books shortlist: The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. Saga of a Mexican family on both sides of the border. I'm really enjoying it.

Feb 4, 1:43pm Top

>39 littlegeek: In regards to your spoiler, I thought they were different animals, kind of like hybrids of the animals we know. The ones they were riding for part of the story seemed to be part horse and part big cat, I thought? But maybe I misunderstood or am misremembering. I agree that the goal was unsubtle. My main problem with the book was"Got to get to the place, got to get to the place, got to -- wait, let's have a party!" It seemed out of character for them, having been so driven up to that point, and knowing that they were under a pretty tight deadline, to stop for something so frivolous.

Feb 5, 12:54pm Top

>40 foggidawn: yeah, that, too. As for the animals: I don't think they were described well enough for it to make sense. At one point I was imagining them as big cats with horns along their spines, but then she describes riding them and I was lost. She also just gave new names to pretty much every animal without describing it. "batlogs" or something, I dunno.

Feb 5, 1:19pm Top

>41 littlegeek: Yeah, I agree, more description would make those choices go down easier.

Feb 14, 2:49pm Top

I was sick last week so I haven't had the wherewithal to deal much with the internet but I did manage to read a couple of books.

The House of Broken Angels was quite good. It's more a series of vignettes than a real novel, but it's full of love and humor. And sometimes that's just what you need.

Next I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. What a weird book! I think my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact of my illness (just a cold). The protagonist is so messed up, but I loved the dark humor. My criticism is the ending was perfunctory. It's all setup, like the author really didn't have a plan and just started writing about a funny idea, got a page count and tied it off with no context. In my addled state I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to the average reader. Only those with a twisted sense of humor would enjoy it.

I'm now reading Warlight by Michael Ondaatje. His writing is so opaque, like there's a gauze over everything, but that's part of the charm and adds to the mystery. At this point in my reading life, plots and characters are often very familiar so style and tone are more important to me. This one has those in spades.

Feb 18, 8:55pm Top

>43 littlegeek: Glad to hear you're enjoying the Ondaatje. That was a DNF for me, but I wasn't hating it. It just showed up on my Kindle at the same time as about three other books, and I wasn't loving it enough to stick with it.

Feb 21, 1:34pm Top

I ended up really liking Warlight. I'm a sucker for delicate prose.

Now working on my "leftovers on my Kindle" project. Reading Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. I had completely forgotten what it was about and why I bought it. I'm enjoying it so far. I'm trying to have the characters speak in an Irish accent in my head but not really succeeding, I'm afraid.

Feb 22, 5:56am Top

>45 littlegeek: I remember enjoying Skippy dies quite a lot. The theme of the Irish involvement in WWI was unexpected and gave the book a depth I didn't expect.

Feb 28, 12:18pm Top

I haven't been around the Dragon much lately as my baseball team is in the mix for a big free agent which has taken over my internet time, but still reading books.

Finished Skippy Dies. This book has everything: romance, heartbreak, revenge, string theory, Irish folklore, WWI (as noted by Sakerfalcon), eating disorders, donuts! A little overlong, but very entertaining.

Now reading Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday. Too soon to know what's going on.

Mar 1, 4:28am Top

>47 littlegeek: I'm glad you enjoyed it! It was long, but I couldn't think which parts I'd have left out. Kind of like The goldfinch in that respect.

Mar 1, 11:56am Top

Finished Asymmetry. Meh. It's got lots of first novel issues, one I find especially egregious is using cultural references as character development. That and it's just too clever by 3/4.

I think I've been reading too many books striving to be "literary" lately. I just downloaded Dark Matter, a scifi thriller. That should help.

Also, I have pinkeye so I'm stuck at home for a few days, although I will have to give my eye a rest from time to time.

Mar 3, 8:33pm Top

Well, that was silly. I mean, I knew what I was getting into reading a best selling thriller, but LOL.

So many issues with the plot and so much science to hand wave away, but whatever, it was ok for an airplane read or, like for me, a sickroom read.

Spending the year reading TBRs and library books only, I haven't forgotten the paper books. I am now reading a book I received years ago as a Santathing book (I forget from whom), Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger. There's like 18 books in this series, too, and most of them are available in my library so that's pretty cool if I like it.

Mar 3, 10:30pm Top

I enjoyed Iron Lake, altho I'm not sure it lived up to the enthusiastic fuss when it came out. As I recall, I liked the image of the lake and the pacing. I haven't read any of the sequels.

Mar 11, 12:58pm Top

Hm, well, Iron Lake was only meh for me. I did finish it, but I found that I didn't like the protagonist at all. Too macho, too emotionally clueless. And the romance stuff fell really flat for me. I did like the incorporation of Native American culture.

Anyway, I felt like I needed something light and kind (no murders), so I'm reading A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. I haven't read her since the 90s. It's so white and middle class (like me) so it's all very familiar. I've not been going for that in a few years so it almost seems novel in its familiarity. (huh?)

Mar 11, 2:02pm Top

>50 littlegeek:
Spending the year reading TBRs and library books only
That was my resolution too.
Then I discovered some books for £1 as a discount bookstore sold off renaindered stock...The temptation was too great.

Mar 11, 2:16pm Top

I felt the same way about Iron Lake, littlegeek. Not interested enough in the characters or writing to continue. I chose it because it's semi-local (northern MN is close enough to where I live) and the Native American aspect, but I have too many other things to read.

Mar 12, 11:53am Top

>53 -pilgrim-: I totally understand. So far I've been "good" but that new Elizabeth McCracken might send me over the edge.

Mar 18, 12:38pm Top

Finished A Spool of Blue Thread. Read more like a series of short stories than a novel, and seemed to have a very different idea of which characters were compelling enough to spend time getting to know. I was particularly annoyed with the super bossy woman and her super milquetoast man, they both made me cringe. Another book where the small details were great but the greater vision was lacking.

Now reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

Mar 19, 10:48am Top

>56 littlegeek: Ooooo, I very much liked Cutting for Stone.

Mar 25, 7:19pm Top

I have found a workaround for my Elizabeth McCracken problem - I found $65 worth of amazon gift cards lying around the house so I entered them. This is not my money so I don't feel bad about spending it! I will only use in case of emergency.

New McCracken Bowlaway is waiting for me after I finish Cutting for Stone (which I am really enjoying, btw).

Mar 25, 10:28pm Top

. >58 littlegeek: This is not my money so I don't feel bad about spending it! I
Neat solution. ;-)

Mar 26, 3:40pm Top

>59 -pilgrim-: Feel free to borrow or steal.

Apr 2, 11:33am Top

I finished Cutting for Stone and enjoyed it immensely. It's definitely NOT for anyone who is squeamish about medical procedures, but I personally find that stuff fascinating. It kind of reminded me of John Irving a little, but not as funny. The plot hinges on coincidence a little too much, but I didn't really care.

Now reading Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken. I love the weirdness.

General announcement: I am so far behind on Green Dragon. One of these days I'll catch up with all your threads, and I will not bump them up with my comments, but if you had a birthday or something notable that you shared recently, know that I care and I'm sending good vibes to you all.

Apr 2, 1:50pm Top

>61 littlegeek: I know the feeling of being behind. Sometimes keeping up feels like a Sisyphean task.

Apr 4, 11:57am Top

Well, this morning I finished Bowlaway. I enjoyed it, but it's not without flaws. It seemed to run out of steam in the latter third. I feel like I say that about a lot of modern "literary" novels these days. They are great at the micro level, wonderful sentences, and often have great characters (as this book did). But they're missing something at the macro level, like an intriguing plot or a point, even. It's like they're long short stories instead of crafted novels.

In any case, Bowlaway was good if you accept it on that level. McCracken can really write a wonderful sentence and she has lots of small insights. I loved the quirky characters. But in the end, a bunch of stuff happened and then the book stopped. If you know what I mean....

I'm still working my way through this years shortlist of the Tournament of Books. (Which is all "literary" novels, what am I thinking?) Now reading Milkman, which right away is very stylized, but at the same time, I'm kind of digging it. It's stream of consciousness, which is not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoy getting into the rhythm of a character's thoughts. I am not going to expect a story, tho, lol.

Apr 11, 1:08pm Top

Ok, I got about half way through Milkman, and while I admire what it is doing, I just can't go on. The oppression is weighing me down, and I just need an escape more than social enlightenment. It really sucked to live in Belfast in the 1970's.

I didn't really love Ancillary Justice, and didn't read the other two, but I like the author enough to try her standalone fantasy (which I got super cheap), The Raven Tower. I think there should be more standalone fantasy, I don't always want to invest in several books, especially if they are expected to be 1,000 pages long (I'm looking at you, Brandon Sanderson).

Apr 11, 3:09pm Top

>64 littlegeek: I agree with you on standalone fantasy. I'd definitely read more, or at least try more, books/authors if it didn't feel like I had to commit to several thousands of pages before arriving at some kind of resolution.
Of course, fantasy isn't really my favourite genre, so the threshold is rather steep.

Minor spoiler alert ahead (extremely minor, I'd say - anyone who have read beyond the opening paragraphs would know what I am referring to...)

The Raven Tower I felt to be a fair step away from what she'd previously written, while at the same time being a natural next step, if that makes any sense. Looking back all her main characters has been somewhat enigmatic, and this one even more so. And I think maybe the fantasy genre allowed her to explore that in a more innovative way than her previous sf permitted, were sentient machines/avatars, et al, has become norm rather than the exception.

Apr 12, 6:00am Top

Definitely agree with you both about standalones - for any genre really. On the other hand I can see the appeal to authors and publishers for series. And when I really love a world/characters I want to read more of them....

A tagmash of fantasy and standalone is https://www.librarything.com/tag/fantasy,+standalone and I've read (and recommend) most of the top hits.

Apr 12, 1:37pm Top

>65 Busifer: Exactly. I have indulged in many series and enjoyed them (especially Robin Hobb's Elderings series), but sometimes I just don't want a long commitment.

As for The Raven Tower, I know exactly what you mean and at this point it's intriguing...

>66 reading_fox: I do read a lot of fantasy and have read many of those titles, but it's great to have such a convenient list. Thanks!

Apr 22, 1:37pm Top

Finished The Raven Tower. I enjoyed it very much. One thing I really liked was that by the end it was unclear who was a hero and who was a villain. I wasn't really sold on the use of 2nd person for a person of ambiguous gender, because it was pretty obvious that was the reason why and it ended up being no big deal anyway. I did like the pacing and the way other things were obscured. Thumbs up!

Last night I borrowed News of the World because MrsLee liked it and that's enough recommendation for me! Haven't started it yet, tho.

Apr 22, 6:04pm Top

>68 littlegeek: *blushes*

Apr 23, 2:59pm Top

>68 littlegeek: Glad that you enjoyed The Raven Tower. I agree with you on the uncertainty of who really was the hero. I'm thinking maybe this ambiguity is part of the "message", so to speak, in days like these with an ever more polarized debate...

Apr 24, 2:59pm Top

>70 Busifer: Indeed, and it's a good message, imho.

Apr 24, 3:02pm Top

>One thing that I was confused about was that it seemed like Eolo was in some way special to the god in the rock, but in the end, not at all. Not sure what to make of that.

Apr 24, 3:05pm Top

Apr 25, 10:01am Top

>68 littlegeek: So glad you enjoyed The Raven Tower.

>72 littlegeek: I think Eolo was favored due to his intellect. And the rock let him flee before it destroyed everything, which is part of his favor even if he didn't protect him outright.

Apr 25, 4:44pm Top

So, Libby sent me 3 books from my holds all at once, even though a few days ago it showed them a staggered. Oh, well, I will read them as fast as I can. Too much sports lately, tho. OMG those SHARKS!

Apr 25, 9:02pm Top

>61 littlegeek: Not to drag you back in time, but I too enjoyed Cutting for Stone. And I hadn't made the John Irving connection, but now that you mention it I do see it... especially his A Son of the Circus, which I loved. (Though I might be the only person on the planet to freely admit this.)

Apr 26, 5:37am Top

>75 littlegeek: Sharks? You follow KZN rugby?

Apr 26, 11:14am Top

>76 clamairy: I gave up on Irving a while back but his early novels were great reads.

>77 hfglen: NHL, Sharks all the way to the Stanley Cup, baby!

Apr 26, 11:23am Top

>78 littlegeek: Our lot have been painful this year; lose every home match and win overseas. Useless!

Apr 26, 11:24am Top

>79 hfglen: My baseball team (Giants) is similarly hapless this year. I feel you.

Apr 26, 5:27pm Top

Finished News of the World and I was crying at work. What a sweet story. Plus, I have an affinity for Westerns, anyway. Thank you, MrsLee, that was a good one.

OK, now I have to try to get through the 2 books that landed at once from the library (I sent one back because there's no way). Next will be My Sister, the Serial Killer byOyinkan Braithwaite. It won the Tournament of Books, so it's gotta be good, right?

Apr 27, 11:41am Top

>81 littlegeek: So glad you enjoyed it! Sweet is a good description.

Apr 29, 11:37am Top

Finished My Sister, the Serial Killer in one sitting. What a ride! Much deeper psychologically than you'd think from the tone. I really liked it.

Now reading The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.

Edited: May 6, 3:18pm Top

Finished The Great Believers. I wish I liked it more. It's kind of hard to criticize a story about the AIDS crisis, but the characters weren't well developed (I kept getting the male characters confused) so the tragedy didn't land for me as well as it could. Also, there was a lot of detail about a deal procuring some art for a gallery and I found it soooo boring I almost bailed.

Now reading There, There by Tommy Orange.

May 12, 3:00pm Top

There, There was ok. Some first novel issues, but he writes well so I would read something by this author again.

Now reading Titus Groan and LOVING IT! It's so up my alley, I have no idea why I have not read it before. Feeling grateful.

May 21, 1:34pm Top

Finished Titus Groan and what a great book! Hard to categorize, full of incredible imagery, quirky characters, and strange goings on. I love authors that really know how to do description (a dying art). I can see Gormenghast castle in my mind's eye so clearly.

Anyhoo, I will definitely be reading the other two books, but I have a library hold to read: The Overstory by Richard Powers. I see what he is going for here, but I remain skeptical that it's working. Reading on, tho.

I think I'll save the other Gormenghast books for my vacation next month.

May 22, 7:13am Top

>86 littlegeek: The overstory is on my TBR pile. I look forward to seeing what you think of it.
I too loved Titus Groan and must get around to reading the rest of the trilogy. I also enjoyed the BBC adaptation of the first two books, with Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Steerpike.

May 22, 9:03am Top

>86 littlegeek: That Gormenghast trilogy is getting higher and higher on my TBR.

May 22, 11:19am Top

>87 Sakerfalcon: Good casting.
>88 MrsLee: I hope you enjoy it.

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