YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 4

This is a continuation of the topic YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 3.

This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2020 SF&F Overdose Part 1.

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YouKneeK’s 2019 SF&F Overdose Part 4

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Edited: Dec 20, 2019, 6:48am

Welcome to Part 4 of my 2019 thread! :) Here’s my usual introductory info:
  • I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, with a heavier emphasis on fantasy.
  • I tend to read slightly older books versus the newest releases.
  • I hate spoilers. Any spoilers in my reviews should be safely hidden behind spoiler tags.
  • I prefer to read a series after it’s complete, and I read all the books pretty close together.
  • I’m 44, female, and live in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA in the U.S where I work as a programmer.
  • My cat’s name is Ernest and he’s a freak.

Edited: Dec 31, 2019, 10:27pm

2019 Reading Index

Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.

  Date Read/
# Review Link Title Author(s)
1 2019-01-04 Fool's Quest Robin Hobb
2 2019-01-12 Assassin's Fate Robin Hobb
3 2019-01-17 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
4 2019-01-19 Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood
5 2019-01-22 The Year of the Flood Margaret Atwood
6 2019-01-26 MaddAddam Margaret Atwood
7 2019-01-29 The First Fifteen Lives of Claire North
Harry August
8 2019-02-03 Snow Crash Neal Stephenson
9 2019-02-06 Brown Girl in the Ring Nalo Hopkinson
10 2019-02-11 The Thousand Names Django Wexler
11 2019-02-11 The Penitent Damned Django Wexler
12 2019-02-17 The Shadow Throne Django Wexler
13 2019-02-18 The Shadow of Elysium Django Wexler
14 2019-02-25 The Price of Valor Django Wexler
15 2019-03-02 The Guns of Empire Django Wexler
16 2019-03-08 The Infernal Battalion Django Wexler
17 2019-03-10 Deathless Catherynne M. Valente
18 2019-03-15 Doomsday Book Connie Willis
19 2019-03-19 To Say Nothing of the Dog Connie Willis
20 2019-03-23 Blackout Connie Willis
21 2019-03-29 All Clear Connie Willis
22 2019-04-02 Haze L. E. Modesitt, Jr.
23 2019-04-06 The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms N. K. Jemisin
24 2019-04-10 The Broken Kingdoms N. K. Jemisin
25 2019-04-16 The Kingdom of Gods N. K. Jemisin
26 2019-04-17 The Awakened Kingdom N. K. Jemisin
27 2019-04-19 Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
28 2019-04-21 Othello William Shakespeare
29 2019-04-24 Sea of Rust C. Robert Cargill
30 2019-05-01 Spinning Silver Naomi Novik
31 2019-05-05 The Long Earth Terry Pratchett and
Stephen Baxter
32 2019-05-06 Nimona Noelle Stevenson
33 2019-05-09 Night Watch Sergei Lukyanenko
34 2019-05-12 Day Watch Sergei Lukyanenko
35 2019-05-14 The Day of the Triffids John Wyndham
36 2019-05-18 Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
37 2019-05-22 Behemoth Scott Westerfeld
38 2019-05-25 Goliath Scott Westerfeld
39 2019-05-27 A Canticle for Leibowitz Walter M. Miller Jr.
40 2019-06-02 Karen Memory Elizabeth Bear
41 2019-06-05 Alphabet of Thorn Patricia A. McKillip
42 2019-06-12 Under Heaven Guy Gavriel Kay
43 2019-06-18 River of Stars Guy Gavriel Kay
44 2019-06-22 The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern
45 2019-06-25 Neuromancer William Gibson
46 2019-07-02 Dreamsongs, Volume I George R. R. Martin
47 2019-07-07 The Once and Future King T. H. White
48 2019-07-10 All You Need is Kill Hiroshi Sukarazaka
49 2019-07-19 Dune Frank Herbert
50 2019-07-23 The Strange Affair of Spring Mark Hodder
Heeled Jack
51 2019-07-28 The Curious Case of the Mark Hodder
Clockwork Man
52 2019-08-03 Expedition to the Mountains Mark Hodder
of the Moon
53 2019-08-05 Elysium Jennifer Marie Brissett
54 2019-08-10 The Secret of Abdu El Yazdi Mark Hodder
55 2019-08-17 Odyssey Homer
56 2019-08-24 Magician: Apprentice Raymond E. Feist
57 2019-08-29 Magician: Master Raymond E. Feist
58 2019-09-01 Silverthorn Raymond E. Feist
59 2019-09-08 A Darkness at Sethanon Raymond E. Feist
60 2019-09-14 Artemis Andy Weir
61 2019-09-20 Daughter of the Empire Raymond E. Feist and
Janny Wurts
62 2019-09-29 Servant of the Empire Raymond E. Feist and
Janny Wurts
63 2019-10-10 Mistress of the Empire Raymond E. Feist and
Janny Wurts
64 2019-10-13 Prince of the Blood Raymond E. Feist
65 2019-10-23 The King's Buccaneer Raymond E. Feist
66 2019-10-27 Babel-17 Samuel R. Delaney
67 2019-10-31 A Night in the Lonesome October Roger Zelazny
68 2019-11-04 Shadow of a Dark Queen Raymond E. Feist
69 2019-11-10 Rise of a Merchant Prince Raymond E. Feist
70 2019-11-20 Rage of a Demon King Raymond E. Feist
71 2019-11-25 Shards of a Broken Crown Raymond E. Feist
72 2019-11-30 All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque
73 2019-12-02 Twelfth Night William Shakespeare
74 2019-12-05 Remnant Population Elizabeth Moon
75 2019-12-07 The Raven and the Reindeer T. Kingfisher
76 2019-12-15 Embassytown China Miéville
77 2019-12-22 Krondor: The Betrayal Raymond E. Feist
78 2019-12-24 Krondor: The Assassins Raymond E. Feist
79 2019-12-28 Krondor: Tear of the Gods Raymond E. Feist
80 2019-12-31 Jimmy and the Crawler Raymond E. Feist

Sep 1, 2019, 10:31pm

Review: Silverthorn by Raymond E. Feist

Silverthorn is the third (or second, depending on how you count Magician) book in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga, the first subseries in the Riftwar Cycle. This one picks up about a year after the previous book left off. There’s one more book in the subseries, so this one wraps up the most immediate problem that our characters are focused on, but it leaves a lot of dangling threads waiting for resolution in the next book.

Silverthorn brought the Feist Nostalgia Factor back in full force. 20 years after originally reading the first several books in the Riftwar Cycle, Arutha and Jimmy still lived on in my head as my favorite characters from his books. This is the first book that focuses mainly on those two, and I loved spending time with them again. It also brings back the ensemble camaraderie in full force which is something I really enjoy.

Reading it with older eyes, decades after its original publication in the 80’s, I can see now that it’s a teensy bit melodramatic at times. Also, our supposedly-stoic characters get all sappy a bit more often than might be realistic. I think I’ve come to appreciate a little more subtlety and “understatedness”, and yet I can understand why my 20-something-year-old self loved this and my 40-something-year-old self can’t help but still love it. I’m giving this one 4.5 nostalgic stars and rounding up to 5 on Goodreads.

Next Book
A Darkness at Sethanon, the final book in this subseries.

Sep 2, 2019, 12:46am

Happy new thread!

Sep 2, 2019, 1:14am

Happy new thread!

>1 YouKneeK: Your CV is pretty close to mine except that we have a dog named Jasper. He's pretty ditzy although (like his master, my elder son) he does have a brain - when he chooses to use it.

Sep 2, 2019, 8:44am

>4 quondame:, >5 humouress: Thanks!

>5 humouress: LOL about the ditzy dog. :) My cat is supposed to be a fairly intelligent breed (Russian Blue), but I’ve never seen evidence of it. He’s just very persistent. He can open drawers and cabinets, but not because he seems to have reasoned anything out. A thing catches his attention and he just pokes and prods at it until it does something entertaining. Then he does it over and over and over again.

Sep 2, 2019, 9:58am

>6 YouKneeK: Cats are hilarious! I don't quite know why they are so funny when a dog doing the same thing isn't. But it's why I love them!

Sep 2, 2019, 10:15am

>7 Sakerfalcon: Haha, they really are. Dogs can be pretty funny too, but I’m not around them nearly as much.

Sep 4, 2019, 9:22pm

>3 YouKneeK: Great to know that one still was highly rated for you. I always thought that was one of the best of the series.

Sep 5, 2019, 6:03am

>9 Karlstar: Thanks, I’ve been really happy so far with how well the series has held up.

This week I’m chafing against a busy schedule with no time to read, and I very much want to read my current book! :) I’ll just have to try to make up for lost time this weekend, and hopefully within the next week or two I can get back to my normal schedule.

Sep 8, 2019, 9:03pm

Review: A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist

A Darkness at Sethanon is the final book in the Riftwar Saga, the first subseries in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle.

Like the previous books, this was a good story that held my interest all the way through. I didn’t enjoy it quite as well as the previous books, though. It seemed like there was less of the fun banter that I’ve enjoyed so much in previous books, although there were still some great moments. Also, although this book wrapped the story up pretty well, I had some complaints about how that was done. I still enjoyed this book a lot, but I think there are some things that I’ve just become pickier about now that I have more epic fantasy under my belt.

I’ll elaborate on my above comments a bit behind the spoiler tags:
I felt like the Pug and Tomas storyline was a bit over the top, and those were the only parts where my interest wavered. Fortunately, they were only a small portion of the book. It just seemed like we were piling one “big thing” after another. Yes, it’s definitely high time we got an oracle involved. Oh, and what good fantasy story doesn’t involve a visit to the Halls of the Dead? Ah, yes, a nice long hallway with portals to tons of different worlds would be a cool thing to add. And I’m skipping a few. Each place they went to was supposedly more amazingly difficult to get to than the last. Tomas and Pug also seemed to possess/gain overly-strong powers, with Tomas’ in particular seeming to come out of nowhere with some nebulous explanation that the existence of the Valheru gave him more powers that he no longer had at the end of the book when they had been defeated. Oh, and the amulet Arutha wore that protected him from being located by Murmandamus? Yes, it’s totally logical that this amulet would be used to convert his sword into something that could deflect magical energy and harm magical/supernatural beings.

I was much more invested in the more down-to-earth parts – the almost-assassination of Arutha, faking his death, seeking out Murmandamus, the huge battle at Armengar, the race for Sethanon, etc. That made it doubly frustrating to me that most of those actions didn’t really amount to much, or else they helped the enemy in the end. For example, the battle at Armengar where they managed to kill so many of the invaders only served to strengthen Murmandamus since he fed off the deaths of both friend and foe. Arutha’s battle with Murmandamus didn’t really accomplish anything, and even Pug’s and Kulgan’s attempt to keep the rifts closed and Tomas’ fight with the Valheru only staved off the destruction. The real “hero” was the lifestone, or possibly the gods, that somehow destroyed the Valheru in some inexplicable way. We don’t even know if Tomas’ sword in the lifestone affected anything or if it was just a coincidence. I just wanted to see my heroes’ actions and suffering amount to more after spending all that time reading about it.

Despite some of my sarcasm, I really did enjoy most of the story, and I love the characters, but I also have to admit that there are some issues. The things I do love make up for it though, and I’m sure the nostalgia factor is playing a role.

Next Book
Before moving on to the next subseries, which I’m very much looking forward to, I’m going to take a short break to read an unrelated standalone: Artemis by Andy Weir. I liked The Martian a lot, but most of the reviews I’ve seen for Artemis have indicated that it isn’t nearly as good, or at least has a less-likeable main character. But I’ve had it sitting on my Kindle for quite a while, and I expect it to at least be readable based on my experience with his previous book, so it’s time to give it a try and knock it off the list.

Sep 9, 2019, 6:32am

>11 YouKneeK: And this book is where I pretend that Feist didn't write any more books after it :-D

Glad you still enjoyed it even with caveats. How do you pick your "between series" books? How long it has been on your tbr, your interest, a die roll?

Sep 9, 2019, 6:55am

>12 BookstoogeLT: LOL. I’m curious to read some of his later books now that I seem to be a bit more aware of some of his writing quirks/issues. I remember liking them less (not counting the Empire trilogy which I also loved at the time), but now I wonder if I’ll notice improvements in his writing style as he gained experience, even if I still don’t enjoy the stories as much.

My “between series” book choices are pretty random, aside from the fact that they’re almost always taken from standalone books that I already own. I do try to aim for the ones I’ve had longest, but I don’t look up my original purchase date to be precise about it. I try to avoid anything I think might be too similar to my current series reads, as best I can tell without reading any book blurbs, which means I'm likely to use science fiction books when I’m reading a long epic fantasy series, although I’ll also read some fantasy standalones that I expect to be very different. I also try to avoid authors I’ve read recently. If the group I’m in over in GR votes in a definitely-standalone book for a group read, which is somewhat rare, I’ll sometimes replace one of my originally planned standalones with that and join that group read even if I don’t yet own the book. So lots of little things affect it, I guess. I tend to change/rearrange my standalones quite a bit whereas I’m more likely to stick to my series plans.

Sep 9, 2019, 7:37am

>11 YouKneeK: Good luck with Artemis. I started it on Kindle, stopped after only a couple of chapters, I just disliked it. I imagine your experience will be different.

Thanks for the review of A Darkness at Sethanon. Part of what I always liked about the Feist books, the gaming feel of some of the magic, makes them not great novels. Who doesn't like cool magic items that do more than one thing? Gamers love them, but as you pointed out, they are gimmicks in serious novels. I think some of the plot fails you pointed out diminish in the next series.

Sep 9, 2019, 5:15pm

>14 Karlstar: You’re right, these books do have a definite gaming vibe. I keep getting flashback images from the Betrayal at Krondor game in my head while I read, actually. :)

Sep 9, 2019, 5:38pm

The only one of the Feist only books I rate as highly as the 3 Riftwar books is Faerie Tale, a stand-alone novel that definitely edges more towards the horror end of the fantasy spectrum.

Sep 9, 2019, 5:55pm

>16 AHS-Wolfy: I actually read that one also, I think shortly after I ran out of Riftwar books and I was trying to read everything he had written that I could get my hands on. I loved it. Since that was also about 20 years ago, I can’t say how I’d feel about it now, but at the time I was completely sucked in.

Sep 10, 2019, 8:17am

>16 AHS-Wolfy: Dang, thanks for reminding me, I loved Faerie Tale! Ok, I like lots of books maybe.

Sep 10, 2019, 10:55am

I think I'd put Faerie up with Magician as his best two books, they're very different, but I wouldn't like to have to choose between them. A long time since I've re-read them though.

Sep 14, 2019, 11:49am

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

Artemis is a standalone science fiction novel by Andy Weir, author of The Martian. Although I managed to go into this without knowing much about the story, I’ve seen/skimmed a lot of reviews for it when they hit my feed, so I did have some preconceptions from that. My impression was that most people didn’t like this as well as The Martian, and that many people thought the main character was unlikeable. I agree with both of those things, but I think being prepared for it helped because I still enjoyed the story.

Artemis is set in a small colony on the moon. The main character, Jazz, has made a lot of bad decisions in her youth and is barely scraping by financially. She’s smart, but she doesn’t use her intelligence in any rational way, and most of her money is earned by smuggling. Somebody offers her a large amount of money to do something illegal, she accepts, and that’s what kicks off the main story. It’s mostly an adventure story with a hint of mystery and a small dose of palatable, easy-to-understand-and-believe science.

I can see why people disliked Jazz. This is one of those books where the story owes its existence to the stupid decisions made by the main character. That usually annoys me, and it annoyed me a little bit in this book too. For a character who is supposed to be intelligent, her life choices were stupid. There were also a few times when I correctly predicted something bad that would happen as a result of something she had overlooked or forgotten, things that seemed obvious to me. Because of this, I never really bought into the idea of her being smart. It felt more like a gimmick to explain how she could quickly come up with creative, science-based solutions to various problems.

Even though I had issues with the main character, I did enjoy the story. It was on the light side, it was pretty different from anything I’ve read recently, and it was a quick read. (Yeah, I know, it took me 6 days to read it, but I had very little reading time during those 6 days.) It held my interest well, and sometimes it made me laugh, although the humor is admittedly pretty immature. I agree that The Martian was better, especially in terms of a likeable main character, but I think it helped that it had been 3 years since I read that book plus I had already heard enough to lower my expectations. I’m giving it 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads for entertainment value.

Next Book
Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. This is the first book in the second subseries of the long fantasy series I’m currently working my way through. I enjoyed the subseries a great deal when I first read it 20 years ago, so I’ve been looking forward to this re-read.

Sep 14, 2019, 12:15pm

>20 YouKneeK: Oh man, a stupid character who is called "smart" but never acts like it peeves me badly. I've never understood the reasoning behind making someone like that a main character in a story. If someone like that HAS to be in a story, make them a side character for goodness sake.

Hope you enjoy the Empire novels as much as the first time. I enjoyed them but now I wonder if it wasn't because they were so different from Feist's writing. I tried some other stuff by Wurts after this and it didn't work for me at all...

Sep 14, 2019, 7:35pm

>21 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, in this case it seemed like the author adjusted her intelligence to meet the needs of the story. She was smart when he wanted her to come up with some clever solution and dumb when he wanted her to encounter a new problem.

I’ve never tried any of Janny Wurts’ solo work, but I would like to do so at some point.

Sep 15, 2019, 8:00am

>22 YouKneeK: Wurts had a big series, the Wars of Light and Shadow, of which I read the first one. The 2 main characters were supposed to be men, but instead of punching the crap out of each other, I felt like I had seen a sitcom situation where 2 women slap fight each other in the supermarket aisle. And one of them was an angsty whiner, so that sealed the deal for me :-D

But don't let me discourage you from trying her stuff out. Hahahaa! You know my opinions tend to fall outside of the popular.

Sep 15, 2019, 10:42am

>23 BookstoogeLT: LOL, now that makes me curious! I’d likely start with a standalone or a shorter series for my first attempt.

Sep 15, 2019, 4:11pm

>22 YouKneeK: To Ride Hell's Chasm is a Janny Wurts standalone novel we read as a group here in the GD many years ago. The majority opinion was that we loved it! If you try that, you can read the threads about it when you are finished, and feel free to add your comments there as well.

Janny herself joined us in the discussion and pops in to this group now and then as well. Her long series didn't work for me, more due to my timing of trying it, but also because I don't seem to be able to start lengthy fantasy worlds anymore. Several members of our group do love it though.

Sep 15, 2019, 7:16pm

>25 MrsLee: That’s very helpful, thank you! I’ll mark To Ride Hell's Chasm down as my likely choice once I’m ready to try her solo work. Although I do enjoy series, a standalone is way easier to slip into my schedule, especially for a sort-of-new-to-me author. Having a discussion thread to read afterward is an extra motivator. :) It's unlikely I'll get to it in 2019 since this year is already booked solid, but maybe in 2020.

Sep 15, 2019, 7:21pm

>24 YouKneeK: Also Janny hasn't quite finished with her long-running series yet. Though it is split into smaller arcs for slightly easier consumption.

Sep 16, 2019, 6:22am

>27 AHS-Wolfy: That’s good to know, given my incompleteseriesaphobia. Thanks! :)

Sep 16, 2019, 8:23am

Master of whitestorm is I think her only other standalone which I've also enjoyed. . I think I prefer it over Hell's chasm, they're quite different even though they're both 'classic' fantasy. there's a also a completed trilogy stormwarden which I've struggled to find.

I believe the last book in the WolS is due out soon, but I haven't heard she's finished it yet, so maybe next year...

Sep 16, 2019, 9:39am

>29 reading_fox: Oh, I didn't know that was a stand alone! I have it on my TBR shelf, but have hesitated to pick it up fearing a long series. :D Guess I don't have to fear it anymore.

Sep 16, 2019, 5:21pm

>29 reading_fox: I'm making notes, thank you!

Sep 20, 2019, 6:13pm

Review: Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Daughter of the Empire is the first book in The Empire Trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts. It takes place at the same time as Magician from the Riftwar Saga, but it’s set on a different world and focuses on different characters. There are a few references to the first subseries, but it would be easy to jump in here without any familiarity with the other books.

The story focuses primarily on Mara, a seventeen-year-old girl whose father and brother, not to mention a large portion of their military, are killed when an enemy house betrays them. Mara learns of this at the very beginning of the book, just as she’s in the middle of a ceremony to be initiated into a religious order. Mara is the only one left alive to lead her house, so her future is about to change drastically, if she can survive leading a house with depleted military forces and enemies determined to see her house fall.

I really enjoyed this. The story held my attention from beginning to end, and I felt like it had more depth and nuance as compared to the first subseries. There are a lot more shades of gray, both in the plot and in the characters. Mara is an easy character to sympathize with and root for, and I couldn’t help but cheer her every success, but at the same time I often felt uncomfortable about some things she did to achieve those successes. She isn’t a character I can love with blind devotion like I do some of the characters from the Riftwar Saga, but she feels real and she’s a lot of fun to read about. I loved her cleverness and her boldness, and her ability to adapt to a role that her upbringing had not prepared her for.

I also very much liked some of the other characters. The story is full of politics and scheming and some military action. I really didn’t think there were any slow parts, although it never quite became a compulsive read that I couldn’t put down. I’m rating this at 4.5 stars and rounding up to 5 on Goodreads. Despite being the first book in a trilogy, this book tells a complete story and would be satisfying on its own. I, however, am moving straight on to the next book. :)

Next Book
Servant of the Empire, book two in the above series.

Sep 20, 2019, 6:29pm

>32 YouKneeK: I enjoyed this book the most out of the trilogy. I hadn't read it at the time, but Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori (I have no idea why the touchstone puts the first book as by Rubinstein, stupid thing) has the same vibe. Obviously Wurts/Feist came first and I'm glad I read them first. So much scheming...

Sep 20, 2019, 8:18pm

Sep 20, 2019, 8:24pm

>34 AHS-Wolfy: Ahhh, thanks! I had no idea...

Edited: Sep 20, 2019, 10:11pm

>33 BookstoogeLT: Oh, that’s good to know, because I’ve had Across the Nightingale Floor on my Kindle for quite a while. It’s one of those medium-length series that I seem to have trouble fitting into my schedule, but it sounds like it could be something I’ll enjoy if I do.

Edited to correct post reference so I was talking to BookstoogeLT instead of to myself...

Sep 23, 2019, 10:52am

>32 YouKneeK: - it's notably very different from everything that Feist wrote on his own. At the same time there's no disconnect between the two authors. It's ended up as seamless writing.

I should probably re-read these at some stage. They get quite long though.

Sep 23, 2019, 4:22pm

>37 reading_fox: Yes, I kept noticing style differences and wondering if various things were Janny Wurts’ influence. I look forward to reading that thread about their collaboration after I finish re-reading the trilogy.

Sep 29, 2019, 7:59pm

Review: Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Servant of the Empire is the second book in The Empire Trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.

This book continues with the same level of depth and nuance that the first book had, and the story continues to be full of political intrigue as well as having a few good moments of military action. The first book held my attention without fail, and I still enjoyed this book very much, but I did think it had several slow spots. Part of these were due to segments of the story where the characters were waiting for information or for something to happen, and sometimes I started to get a little restless. Other parts involved seeing events from the Tsurani perspective that were already familiar to me from the original Riftwar Saga, removing some of the suspense. On the other hand, I did also really enjoy seeing how those events affected people on Kelewan and how they played a role in larger events that we didn’t know about in the other subseries, and the story really did require that the events be explored in detail or it would have rung false.

There was hardly any romance in the first book, but this one has a prominent romantic subplot. When I first read it in my early twenties, I was actually quite invested in that subplot. In fact, it’s one of the few things about the story that I still remembered from so long ago. This time around, I was less enthusiastic about it and I think this part of the story is really where most of the slower spots came from for me. It doesn’t use any really annoying romance tropes, at least not in my opinion. It’s handled pretty well, I just didn’t feel any investment in it this time. Mara is still quite young and I think her behavior was entirely realistic given her background and past experiences, but her obsession and confusion did get irritating sometimes. I found myself sympathizing with Nacoya quite a bit! I also had some trouble with Kevin’s behavior. I was disappointed with how easily he forgot his fellow slaves and how quickly he adapted to a life that went against his belief system for the sake of being with Mara. Of course, his influence played a huge role in the direction the story took and it wouldn’t have been the same story without that. I enjoyed a lot of the things Kevin brought to the story with his Kingdom perspective and his humor, but I think I would have liked it just a bit better if his influence had come without the serious romantic entanglement, maybe more of a relationship like what Mara and Lujan had.

Overall though, despite a few slow moments, I still really enjoyed the story. There were some great moments, and I especially enjoyed how everything wrapped up toward the end. As with the first book, this one tells a complete and satisfying story, wrapping up all the main plot threads while leaving room for more story to answer the question of “What happens next?”. Since I don’t remember much about what happens next, I look forward to finding out again.

I forgot to add this warning when I reviewed book 1, but both books 1 and 2 have a major spoiler on the map at the beginning of the book, at least in the U.S. Kindle editions I read. The Minwanabi estate is listed as “Acoma Estate (formerly Minwanabi)” and the Acoma estate is listed as “Old Acoma Estate”. This change doesn’t happen until near the end of the second book. I don’t remember noticing this when I originally read the series, so it may be an error that was introduced more recently when the e-books were created.

Next Books
Mistress of the Empire, the final book in this trilogy.

Also, the group I’m in over on Goodreads is going to read A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny. Since the book has a prologue and 31 chapters, the group plan is to read a chapter a day, starting with the prologue tomorrow on September 30. I plan to join in on this, so this will be a rare occasion when I’m reading two books at a time. My first and only experience with Zelazny wasn’t great so my expectations are pretty low, but I’ve been curious about the book for quite a while and the chapters are short. If I’m going to read it, I might as well do it during the proper season and with some company.

Sep 29, 2019, 10:44pm

>39 YouKneeK: I hope you enjoy A Night in the Lonesome October. It has become somewhat of a personal tradition for me to re-read the book each year. And yes, I do the chapter per night thing. I have the illustrated hardcover which features Gahan Wilson's artwork interspersed with the text, which adds a fun dimension to the experience.

Edited: Sep 30, 2019, 5:43am

>39 YouKneeK: I always felt the first book was the most interesting. I've often wondered how much collaboration went on in the 2nd and 3rd book, as it seemed like the tone changed just enough for me to notice.

Good luck with Zelazny. I've never really enjoyed him as an author so I'll let others have the joy :-)

Sep 30, 2019, 6:50am

>40 ScoLgo: Thanks! It seems to be an October tradition for several people, much like how Hogfather is a Christmas tradition for some. I’ve somehow never developed any holiday reading traditions, but then it’s pretty rare that I read season-appropriate books. When I do, it’s usually just a happy accident.

>41 BookstoogeLT: Apparently there’s a thread about the collaboration here in this group that I’m curious to read, but I’m going to wait and dig it up after I finish the whole trilogy in case of spoilers. I’ll post the link here after I find it in case you or anybody else wants to read it. Not that I’m as worried about spoilers in a series I’ve already read, but I remember so little about the story that much of it has been a surprise so I might as well keep that going. I was very surprised by the first chapter of the 3rd book when Ayaki died as I hadn’t remembered that at all.

Oct 1, 2019, 6:37am

At the end of this very long post, I have my year-to-date stats through the end of September. The only thing of potential surprise here, although not to me, is how much my average pages/day has dropped. At the end of June, my average was 110 and now it’s down to 100. My average this quarter was only about 78 which explains how I had such a big drop this late in the year. 100 is more in line with earlier years (it’s weird to me how I seem to keep ending up at exactly 100 without trying), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it drops more by the end of the year.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, I did some consulting on top of my normal day job in late August and early September, so that was one thing that affected my reading time. The client I consulted for gave a very enthusiastic review to the company that hired me. It was a good experience and the extra money was nice, not to mention I made some extra contacts and you never know when those will come in handy. The consulting company that hired me proposed the possibility of doing it again if another suitable client is looking for similar help, which I agreed to consider. I don’t want to make a regular thing of it, but I think it’s a combination of circumstances that aren’t likely to happen very often.

Aside from that, I’ve also had less patience for sitting around and reading lately. I discovered in early July that my iron levels had gotten very low, low enough that the doctor threatened me with a transfusion. Happily, I was able to absorb iron tablets fast enough that we didn’t have to go that route. I hadn’t been doing regular doctor visits, which was foolish of course and I've learned my lesson, so that’s how my levels got so low without it being caught sooner. The symptoms come on very slowly and are easily ignored or blamed on other causes.

I’ll skip all the other details since it’s more personal than I want to get on the internet, and pretty boring besides. My main reason for mentioning it is that, as a result of suddenly having normal iron levels again for the first time in who knows how long, my energy levels have greatly increased. All that “extra” energy has made it more difficult to sit still. For a couple weeks after my iron levels started coming up, I was actually more tired because I had so much energy I couldn’t fall asleep at night and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. I started finding more active things to do to burn off all that excess energy so I could sleep properly again. This has eaten into my reading time quite a bit, especially on weeknights.

In the process of finding more active things to do, I found a new addiction. Has anybody here ever played Beat Saber? I think it’s at some arcades, although I’ve not played it there. I had bought a VR (Virtual Reality) headset over a year ago, and I’ve played games with it off and on, but I used it more for adventure or RPG games like Skyrim. Even though it was cool and fun, I rarely managed to play more than 15 minutes at a time and I felt rather like I’d wasted my money. With my newfound energy, I dug it back out and decided to try a new game. I’d ignored Beat Saber before even though it was one of the most popular games because I don’t normally play many arcade games and the description hadn’t sounded that appealing to me. I finally decided to try it out, and I’m starting to realize active arcade games may be where the real fun is with VR.

Beat Saber is simple and very addictive. It’s also surprisingly good exercise. I mean, a dedicated exercise nut would surely scoff, but for somebody who has become increasingly sedentary over the past few years, it’s helping me get more active again because it’s so much fun I don’t feel like I’m exercising. It’s also helping me learn to dodge imaginary barriers by throwing myself painfully into non-imaginary desks. And it’s alarming the cat who doesn’t understand why his human is waving her arms around like a crazy person, hopping left and right, and randomly ducking like her life depends on it. Sometimes when I take the headset off, I find him just staring at me with wide eyes. I read on a VR fitness site that the higher difficulty levels are considered about equivalent with playing tennis, effort-wise. I’m not sure how true that is, but my Fitbit has a heart rate sensor and knows my current weight and it claims I’m burning about 400 calories an hour when I play as long as most of the levels I play are at least moderately challenging to me.

All this rambling just boils down to me doing less reading, but I’m ok with that since I really don’t feel like I’m wasting my time. If I were reading less because I was frittering away time watching TV or surfing the internet then I would be annoyed at myself because I personally prioritize reading over those things, but it’s nice to have the energy to enjoy more active things again instead of having to force myself to exercise. I’m hoping to keep that momentum going.

The Stats

Oct 1, 2019, 6:50am

I'm fascinated by the book with the publication date of -720. What was it?

Oct 1, 2019, 6:56am

>44 hfglen: Haha, that was Odyssey by Homer.

Oct 1, 2019, 6:47pm

>43 YouKneeK: Low iron levels eh? Who knew that it could affect your life so much. Glad you got things sorted out. I wish my lack of energy on that. I think I'm just tired :-D

How does doing the extra work, work? Are you doing an extra 2hrs a day at home or something, or just an extra day on the weekend?

Oct 1, 2019, 9:20pm

>46 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, that’s the thing – hardly anybody feels like they have enough energy even when they're perfectly healthy, so I just ignored it and pushed through to accomplish what I needed to accomplish.

In this particular case, the extra work was mostly in the form of conference calls with the client. We did 2.5 hour calls each weekday evening, which was late afternoon for them since they're on the west coast. I'd get home from the day job, scarf down some dinner while I checked a few personal e-mails and such, and then it would be time for the call. Before the very first session started, mostly during weekends, I also spent a few hours prepping some presentation materials and refreshing my memory on topics I thought were likely to come up but that I felt less prepared to teach.

After each call was over, there was usually a bit of additional work I needed to do to prep for the next session and/or research a more difficult question that I didn’t have a ready answer for during the call. On the weekdays I was working pretty much during all waking hours, and I was completely beat after talking for that long. Especially since that was the part of the day I normally think of as the time to escape from all the people and sit in peace and quiet. ;) But the weekends were mostly free after the initial prep work, so that helped. There were also some e-mails to answer, both during and after the training, but not nearly as many as I expected. I expected to still get some periodic e-mails after the sessions were over, but there were very few. We did record all the sessions so they could reference them as needed, and they picked things up very well. I was paid a flat fee rather than per-hour, and I was a little worried they would take advantage of that, but I think I actually ended up a good bit ahead of what I would have made on a per-hour basis. They even sent the payment fast. :)

Oct 2, 2019, 6:18am

>47 YouKneeK: Oooph, that kind of after-work work would kill me! Good job on surviving and I'm glad it paid off for you. I'm guessing you're going to spend your gains on a porsche, or perhaps a lamborghini? ;-)

Oct 2, 2019, 6:53am

>48 BookstoogeLT: LOL, definitely no fancy cars for me, and it wasn’t that much of a payment! My one splurge was an Oculus Quest so I can play VR games in a more open space without diving into furniture, and share it when I visit friends or family. The rest of it is going straight toward the mortgage. I think I may be able to have it paid off within the next couple of years, which would be about 20 years early on a 30-year loan. I’ve put a lot of my extra money toward that over the years, more so as I get closer, and I'm looking forward to finally having it done.

Oct 2, 2019, 6:24pm

>49 YouKneeK: You know you're a responsible adult when you hear someone talking about paying off their mortgage early and you think "Yeah, THAT'S the way to go!" and mean it :-)

Oct 2, 2019, 7:11pm

Congrats on all the extra energy! Nothing wrong with reading less when it's in pursuit of something else you're enjoying :)

Oct 2, 2019, 8:56pm

>50 BookstoogeLT: LOL, very true. I have a spreadsheet that keeps track of the crazy amount of interest I’ve avoided as a result of every extra payment, so that’s been helpful for motivation. When I think about buying something expensive, I can go plug it in the spreadsheet and see how much interest savings I'll lose if I buy it and factor that into my decision. I’m a bit obsessive with the number crunching, maybe. ;)

>51 Narilka: Thanks! :)

Oct 3, 2019, 7:42am

>52 YouKneeK: What a profoundly good idea!

Oct 3, 2019, 2:21pm

Glad to hear you got to the bottom of the problem, but I'm sorry to hear it is interfering with your reading. I thought I was good about keeping track of my finances, but you're putting me to shame.

Oct 3, 2019, 5:28pm

>53 2wonderY: Thanks! :)

>54 Karlstar: Thanks, I’m ok with the reduced reading since it’s for good reasons. I have become way too inactive in recent years, so it feels good to be getting more exercise again. Haha, I’m just a spreadsheet nut, so I’m always coming up with reasons to use one. :)

Oct 3, 2019, 8:10pm

>20 YouKneeK: I started Artemis and I got bogged down and moved on. I planned to go back, but now your review makes me think I won't bother.

>32 YouKneeK: & >39 YouKneeK: I had no clue Janny worked on this series. She used to be a fairly active member of this group, which amazed me. But I think she's just gotten too busy.

Oct 3, 2019, 9:15pm

>56 clamairy: Depending on why you got bogged down, that’s probably a wise decision. I guess the action increased as the story went on, but the general tone stayed the same.

The Empire Trilogy was my first (and so far only, although I hope to remedy that in the future) experience with Janny Wurts’ writing. I do remember following her thread, last year I believe, although I think her activity in the group was dropping off by then. I particularly noted that she seemed to be a fan of Carol Berg’s writing, who is one of my favorite authors. :)

Oct 9, 2019, 12:53pm

Glad you had the issue with the low iron levels sorted out. I suffered from a similar lack earlier in the year but the effect it had on me was to significantly impair my cognitive abilities. I got all dizzy and scatterbrained and couldn't remember anything, let alone do a proper analysis of facts presented to me. Like you I got it sorted with tablets, which was a relief.
And I'm in awe of your spreadsheet-mania. I hate having to deal with finances and I wish it was otherwise.

Oct 9, 2019, 7:15pm

>58 Busifer: Thanks, that’s interesting how different of an effect it had on each of us. I think if it had that same effect on me, I would have completely freaked out and gone to the doctor a lot sooner than I did. It must have been a relief to learn it was something so easily resolved and start feeling like yourself again.

I seemed to be the same as usual mentally, and I think I would have noticed if not because my daily work would have suffered. I did have some dizziness, mostly when I stood up, and some other random symptoms like frequent headaches, constant thirst, restless legs, etc. But it was all physical stuff with me. Physical activities had become quite difficult; just walking up my stairs or carrying in groceries seemed to require a herculean effort. I blamed everything on insufficient exercise and told myself I just needed to buckle down and get more exercise and stop being a lazy idiot. So I would try to exercise, which of course didn’t go well, which I blamed on being out of shape from insufficient exercise, so I just tried again. And again. And again. :)

Oct 10, 2019, 5:00am

>59 YouKneeK: I can see how that loop happened!

Oct 10, 2019, 9:45pm

Review: Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

Mistress of the Empire is the final book in The Empire Trilogy. As I’ve mentioned before, I first read this about 20 years ago. I remembered very little of it, particularly from the later books, just that I had really loved it at the time. My reaction was similar this time around. It was a great read.

I had a bit of a rough start with this book, and struggled a little through the first 100 pages or so. Mara took some actions early on that I didn’t like. I don’t think her actions were unrealistic given the circumstances and her personality, but I found them frustrating to read about and I missed her more calculated choices from the earlier books. Once that started to turn back around, my interest was caught again. I thought the book grew steadily more exciting as it approached the end.

This was a satisfying conclusion to the story, and I really enjoyed how everything worked out politically. I thought the last little bit at the very end was a bit too convenient, but I didn’t necessarily dislike it, I was just a little apathetic about it. I loved seeing the progression of Mara’s character as she re-examined her culture and her own decisions throughout the story, although there was one decision I wished she had thought back upon with regret at least once. I enjoyed all the political intrigue, and the occasional battle scenes were also written well and fun to read. It’s not an uproariously funny series, but there are nice bits of humor sprinkled throughout that made me laugh. There are several great characters, some poignant moments, and difficult choices that I thought added depth to the story. I’m rating this at 4.5 stars, but rounding down to 4 on Goodreads, mostly due to my difficulties at the beginning.

I want to elaborate on my above comment about the decision Mara should have thought back upon with regret. I’ll have to put that in spoiler tags:
Mara spent quite a bit of time regretting her part in Bunto’s death, and I do think that was something she should regret. However, I thought something that she should have regretted even more was the time in the first book when she had several slaves killed for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time and hearing information she didn’t want others to know. Bunto at least had some role in his own downfall and was a generally scummy person, but the slaves were innocent so far as we knew and represented several lives lost. I enjoyed seeing Mara’s views on honor and freedom evolve over the series, but I think it would have added some weight to her newfound convictions about slavery to see her remember and regret that particular decision.

Next Book
Normally I would take a break to read something unrelated before the next Feist subseries, but the next subseries is only a duology and I’m also currently reading A Night in the Lonesome October one chapter a day this month as I mentioned previously, so that’s serving as a brief daily change of pace. I’m therefore going to move on to Prince of the Blood which is the first book in the Krondor’s Sons duology.

My read of A Night in the Lonesome October is going pretty well. I’m certainly enjoying it more than I enjoyed Lord of Light. A chapter a day feels sooooo slow, especially since the chapters are often only a couple pages with words in a large font, but reading it this way with a group is kind of fun and I can see why this is a tradition for many people.

Oct 10, 2019, 9:52pm

I’m not 100% sure if I found the thread that reading_fox mentioned in which Janny Wurts discusses her collaboration with Raymond Feist, but I think I might have found it here. She comments on it in both posts 49 and 51. It was interesting to read, so thanks reading_fox for letting me know it was out there!

Oct 11, 2019, 5:41am

>61 YouKneeK: Glad this trilogy stayed strong for all 3 books. I remembered not being as impressed as you so I went and re-read my review. How the book ended should have been enough warning for me about Wurts in general. Oh well.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Prince of the Blood. I read that, once, back in the 90's and it was the beginning of my disillusionment with Feist. I suspect now it wouldn't have the same effect on me, but I'm not willing to do a re-read to find out. My WoT re-read is coming up by New Years so that will be my next big project :-)

Zelazny is working out better? That is good, I guess? I don't care for him but I'm not quite egotistical enough (almost! but not quite) to think that because I don't like him means he's a bad author. I've got the 2 Great Books of Amber sitting on my shelf in hardcover and I'm seriously wondering about making them the subject of my next Book Give-Away later this month.

I know you've done group things on GR before, but how does that work out for you? Is it like these threads with people chiming in whenever or do the Mods create a thread for each chapter and everyone rushes in and babbles away?

Oct 11, 2019, 7:08am

>63 BookstoogeLT: I’m very much looking forward to the commencement of your WoT re-read!

I think it wouldn’t have been too hard for me to like any Zelazny book better than I liked Lord of Light. It’s too soon to tell just how much I’m going to like it, but it seems far more coherent. Cute and a bit silly, but coherent. It’s not at all what I was expecting.

I’m only in one GR group that does these kinds of group reads, so I’m not sure how other groups handle it, but my group has two threads per book for its official group reads. One thread is intended to be a “spoiler free” thread where people talk about first impressions only. The second thread is the spoiler thread where people can talk freely about anything in the book. For this Zelazny read, there’s a third thread for the daily read where people are supposed to only talk about things up to the current day’s chapter, with the current day defined as starting at midnight Goodreads time (Pacific).

Non-official buddy reads are done a bit differently, with just a single thread. People tell what chapter they’re at then put their comments in spoiler tags and people can choose whether or not to read them. That works best I think, but apparently spoiler tags are a big source of angst so they aren’t used in the official threads. They don’t work properly in the GR app for at least one of the major mobile device platforms which means a subset of people can’t participate via their preferred method. I don't use the app, so I can’t remember if the problem was that the spoilers are hidden and there’s no way to unhide them, or if it’s that they’re not hidden at all, but I think it was the former.

I normally avoid all the threads until I’ve finished the book, then I catch up on the posts and jump in with my comments in the spoiler thread. I try to finish them early in the group read window so I can participate more. Even the spoiler-free thread tends to have comments I find too revealing due to my excessive spoiler-phobia. People try to be subtle by not saying something straight out, but it’s especially easy to extrapolate where a story is going to go from “subtle” comments if you’re presently reading that very story. For the Zelazny book, I’m breaking my usual practice and participating in the daily thread, but ignoring the others for now. Despite the format, there have been a few posts that I consider spoilery. I think some of the participants who read the book every year have lost perspective about what a new reader wouldn’t know, so some things have been confirmed before the story itself confirms them. That kind of spoils the open-minded-anything-goes experience that I enjoy early in a book when I’m still considering all the possibilities and looking forward to being proven right or wrong about my own speculation. But I’ve decided that spoilers for one book won’t kill me, so I’m sacrificing spoiler-free-ness in exchange for a unique seasonal shared reading experience. :)

Sorry, waaaay more info that you needed or wanted!

Oct 11, 2019, 11:11am

>62 YouKneeK: good find! I'd thought it was in a GD thread, but evidently not. We'd only read to ride Hell's chasm with her input.

Oct 11, 2019, 1:16pm

>63 BookstoogeLT: I am also looking forward to that re-read! Are you going to be posting here or over at Wordpress?

Oct 11, 2019, 1:19pm

>61 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed the series again, I will add it to my list to re-read! Turns out LT says I only have one out of three of those, I must have borrowed the other two, so I guess I some books to buy!

Oct 11, 2019, 1:30pm

>67 Karlstar: Thanks, I hope you enjoy the re-read too!

Oct 11, 2019, 5:53pm

>64 YouKneeK: Actually, that is exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. Since me and groups just don't work out (for the most part) I always like to hear about it working out for others.

>64 YouKneeK: & >66 Karlstar: I'll be posting reviews both here and on WP, but depending on how it goes (ie, such big honking books and my reduced reading time), I might end up doing an extra WoT post each month just to keep my post numbers up :-)

Oct 13, 2019, 9:50pm

Review: Prince of the Blood by Raymond E. Feist

Going more or less in publication order, Prince of the Blood is the third subseries in Raymond E. Feist’s larger Riftwar Cycle. I say “more or less” because this book was published between the first and second books in the previous subseries. To keep things more cohesive, I’m reading in “publication order of first book in subseries” rather than strict publication order. I think after this subseries, those two orders will amount to the same thing. When I originally read the first 16ish books, I read them in chronological order which is yet a different order altogether. This book takes place after a subseries that was published later. Since these books focus less on the generation I was most attached to, I’m glad to know I still have some books ahead of me that will take me back in time.

Note: The spoilers in this paragraph are to protect anybody who may be in the middle of reading the first subseries that starts with Magician. If you’ve read that entire series, this won’t spoil anything. This subseries focuses on the twin sons of Prince Arutha, who are 19 when the story begins. They aren’t bad kids, but they’re spoiled and a bit self-absorbed. (And that’s something I initially had some trouble buying into. They’re the sons of the most awesome, no-nonsense, and not-remotely-spoiled-or-self-absorbed Arutha, after all!) The twins are sent off on a diplomatic visit which turns into an unexpected adventure.

I actually enjoyed this book quite a lot, more than I expected to or remembered enjoying it the first time. I would have liked more focus on some of my favorites, but I grew to like the twins quite well. There was also a lot of humor. And there was Nakor! I had completely forgotten about his character until he showed up and pulled an orange out of that mysterious sack of his, then suddenly it all came flooding back to me. Aside from that, there were some sad moments also. I had completely forgotten that Lockyear died. I’m not sure I remember it even now that I’ve read it again. I was sure he was going to show up alive because I didn’t remember him dying. How does one forget something like that? And the death of the young boy who was helping Borric was at least as sad if not more.

I did have one big complaint, though. Feist has already shown a habit of taking two characters who barely know each other and making them fall madly in love with each other, i.e. “instalove”. This book had the most “insta” instalove I have ever seen. One of our characters meets a girl, falls in love with her, and is asking her father for her hand in marriage all within the course of a morning. Spoilers for this book: I’m talking about Jimmy and Gamina. I think it made me even more angry because it was Jimmy, who is such a great character and this just seemed out of left field. I think this was done more to get Gamina on the trip with them so she could give the characters a way to talk privately with her mind speech. She hardly served any purpose in the story other than to be a conduit for that. So at least there wasn’t a ton of annoying lovey-dovey stuff after the initial meeting, but it just all felt very forced and false and annoying. Plus there’s Feist’s tendency to portray marriage as the only thing that can make a person truly happy and fulfilled, especially if they’ve had a difficult past. Their great accomplishments and skills and friendships mean nothing if they haven’t yet met their soulmate, they’re really just a miserable person deep down. Blech! :p

It turns out that the edition I just finished was a 15-year-anniversary “Author’s Preferred Edition” that was revised in 2003. I had no idea. Yeah, it’s printed pretty clearly on the cover, but I read e-books and I tend not to notice covers that much. I also never read book blurbs, so if it’s mentioned on Amazon’s product page, I didn’t read it. I finally found out when I read the Author’s Afterward at the end of the book. I’m pretty sure this version was published after I read the book, so I think I originally read his original version. This may explain why I liked it better than I remembered, as he said one of the things he wanted to do was to better develop the twins, and I did quite enjoy their characters whereas they didn’t make any impression on me the first time I read this. I was also thoroughly confused earlier on in the book because there were occasional references to things that happened (I’m pretty sure) in the subseries that takes place before this one chronologically but wasn’t published until several years later. I actually went back and double-checked publication dates, feeling like I had somehow missed something. I guess maybe Feist went back and threw in a few references.

Next Book
The King’s Buccaneer, the second and final book in this subseries.

Oct 14, 2019, 5:18am

>70 YouKneeK: I wonder how many of his books were re-released as Author's Preferred Edition?

Oct 14, 2019, 6:29am

>71 BookstoogeLT: The afterward in this book implied that it was only Magician and Prince of the Blood, but of course that was written in 2003 so things could have changed since then. Who knows, maybe I have some more surprises ahead of me! I’ll definitely be paying more attention to the covers, though. I paid particular attention when I bought the sequel and it didn’t appear to be revised.

Oct 14, 2019, 1:22pm

>70 YouKneeK: I'm glad you enjoyed it! I always thought those two books got a bad rap. Maybe because there's only 2 books and there isn't some great theme to the series? I never understood it. Good point about the instalove (and I like the term!). I guess I'll have to look into that Preferred Edition.

I've been waiting for Nakor to make an appearance in your reading! He's a great character.

Oct 14, 2019, 6:07pm

>73 Karlstar: I’d be really curious what you think of the Preferred Edition if you read it, especially since you seem to remember the books way better than I do so you'd probably recognize what's actually different.

I definitely can’t take credit for the instalove term. I’m not sure where it originated, or where I first heard it, but I’m pretty sure it entered my vocabulary through reading other people’s reviews.

Oct 24, 2019, 7:46pm

Review: The King’s Buccaneer by Raymond E. Feist

The King’s Buccaneer is the second and final book in the 3rd published subseries of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle. The story stands alone from the first book and takes place 9 years later. It has different main characters and a separate story, although we see some returning secondary characters. In some ways, this is more of a sequel to the first series than anything, but I guess this is an ongoing plot thread that we'll see throughout the various subseries.

The previous book focused on the twin sons of Prince Arutha. This book focuses on his third and youngest son who is sent off on what is supposed to be a simple journey to visit family and gain some experience, but of course he gets caught up in unexpected and dangerous events. The familiar and beloved characters from previous books are mostly absent, but we do see a few: We see a tiny bit of Arutha in the beginning and even less at the end. Jimmy doesn’t show up at all, although I think he’s mentioned once or twice. Pug does get some page time here and there. Borric and Erland, the twins from the previous book, barely make an appearance although some events from their book are referenced. Amos does play a good-sized role, so it was good to see him again. Martin shows up a bit also. Ghuda and Nakor, secondary characters from the previous book, play similarly prominent roles in this book.

This book was published around the same time as the final book in the Empire trilogy that he co-wrote with Janny Wurts. I may be reading too much into that timing, but it seems to me like he learned some things from that collaboration experience. He did allude to that a bit in his notes at the end of the book, although without any specifics. This is the first of his solo books in this series in which I thought he wrote some good female characters. They aren’t as prominent as his male characters, and that’s fine, but some of them had more strength of character and were more interesting to read about instead of only existing to support or spur the actions of the men. On the other hand, Abigail was annoying as heck. I feel sorry for Marcus for ending up with her and I hope he comes to his senses soon. This book is also less insta-lovey. There was some insta-attraction, but I’m perfectly fine with that and consider that realistic. Happily, he didn’t spend a ton of time dwelling on the relationships as they developed, but at least there was some actual sense of development happening in the background as the story progressed.

I liked the story, but for some reason it didn’t always hold my interest well. My interest came and went, and I really don’t know why. I liked the main characters, but I didn’t feel as much investment in them as I did for the main characters in previous books. There were still plenty of exciting parts and funny parts and other great moments, though.

Next Book
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney. This will be my first time reading anything by Delaney.

Oct 25, 2019, 4:47am

>75 YouKneeK: Do you think that more of the series will be like this, ie, your interest coming and going throughout the book?

Oct 25, 2019, 6:53am

>76 BookstoogeLT: It does seem likely. I remember having a similar reaction the first time I read the Serpentwar Saga, the next subseries on my list. I remember nothing about the actual story though aside from a couple things that had little to do with the story itself, so maybe I'll enjoy it more this time around. I know those "couple things" I remember did not make me happy and probably influenced my reactions, so I'm sure it will help that I'm prepared this time.

Oct 25, 2019, 4:46pm

>77 YouKneeK: And knowing is half the battle!
(I tried to fit YouKneek somehow into the GI Joe song, but it didn't really fit, so all you get is the first phrase)

Oct 26, 2019, 6:27am

>78 BookstoogeLT: Ha, I've used that phrase on rare occasions, but I didn't know it was a GI Joe thing. I never watched it, which is undoubtedly a serious deficiency in my childhood!

Oct 26, 2019, 3:59pm

>79 YouKneeK: GI Joe was a rare treat for us kids in the 80's. Our parents wouldn't let us watch it, but a single aunt we had loved to indulge us when we came over. GI Joe, Transformers and some other show I can't even remember anything about except it had robotic lions in it. Man, the 80's were a great time for saturday morning cartoons :-D

Oct 26, 2019, 5:11pm

>80 BookstoogeLT: Transformers is another one I never saw, and I don’t remember anything with robotic lions. I must have been watching a different side of the cartoon spectrum. :) Although actually I don’t think I watched Saturday morning cartoons that often. Hmm... Mighty Mouse? I seem to remember watching that one in the mornings, but maybe it was weekday mornings during summer vacations.

My cartoon of choice as a kid was Scooby Doo, which came on shortly after I got home from school on weekdays. I also liked Superfriends a lot, which I think came on just after Scooby Doo for a while. I liked a few other cartons and would watch them if I wasn’t doing anything else when they came on, but Scooby Doo was the only one I really made a point of watching.

I saw Scooby Doo again once as an adult. It was so much more stupid than I remembered. I think it’s best left as a happy childhood memory!

Oct 26, 2019, 5:31pm

>81 YouKneeK: There were different iterations of Scooby Doo; the later ones far more stupid than the original. You can tell them apart by Bella's waistline.

Oct 26, 2019, 5:45pm

>82 -pilgrim-: I don’t remember a Bella. Do you mean Velma? I didn’t notice any waistline changes watching as a child, but that isn't the sort of thing I would have been likely to notice. The main distinction I made back then was "good episodes without Scrappy Doo" and "annoying episodes with Scrappy Doo".

Oct 26, 2019, 5:52pm

>80 BookstoogeLT: Voltron maybe? That had 5 robotic lions.

Oct 26, 2019, 6:04pm

>83 YouKneeK: You are completely right that I meant Velma ("Bella" was a bizarre brain-blip). But I don't think the awful Scrappy-Doo appeared in the first 3 seasons at all.

Oct 26, 2019, 6:06pm

>84 Narilka: I just went and googled Voltron and I'd say that was it! I don't remember a thing except those lions. They just fascinated me.

Oct 26, 2019, 6:07pm

Oct 26, 2019, 6:20pm

>87 mattries37315: Have you watched many episodes of Voltron?

Oct 27, 2019, 2:20pm

Review: Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany

Babel-17 is a standalone science fiction book from the 60’s, although I’m not sure I would have guessed it was from the 60’s if I’d read it without knowing that. It’s progressive in many ways, especially for its time. For example, the main character is an intelligent woman in a leadership role. It also plays with writing styles in a way that seemed very different to me than other books I’ve read from that era. I had mixed feelings about the book.

It's set in the far future. Humanity has encountered other races from other galaxies, some of whom are part of an Alliance with them and others who are enemies referred to as Invaders. The main character is a famous poet named Rydra who has some expertise in cracking code. She’s been asked to help crack the Babel-17 code, which appears to be a code used by the Invaders during acts of sabotage. At the beginning of the book, Rydra has already determined that Babel-17 isn’t a code, it’s a language. Her love of languages and her fascination with this particularly unique language leads her to get directly involved in seeking it out and learning more about it, and the rest of the story spurs off from there.

I thought the plot was pretty thin, and often the details about what was going on were obfuscated, at least for me, by the way the author experimented with writing styles and particularly in the way he expressed the internal thoughts of his characters. The book is at least as much about language as it is anything else. I enjoy occasionally learning a bit about language differences, and especially how a language reflects or affects the culture that speaks it, but language isn’t something I have much aptitude for or a particularly strong interest in, so this was a bit much for me. I prefer it in smaller doses.

There was some interesting world-building, though. It’s not at all a scientific science fiction book, but I enjoyed reading about how spaceship crews were formed and operated, as well as the various details about how this fictional future society itself operated. Some parts of it seemed pretty unique, especially considering how ideas from books published in the 60’s have often been re-used and feel like old hat when one reads them for the first time in the present day. I didn't get that feeling at all here. I liked the characters, but I wasn’t terribly invested in them. I think part of that was because the author’s style of writing their thoughts made me feel disconnected from them.

So, as I said, mixed feelings. There were a lot of interesting things here, and I think somebody who is more interested in language than I am and/or appreciates experiments with writing styles more than I do would probably like this more than I did. Either way, it’s a short and fast read and I don’t regret the time spent on it.

Next Book
Shadow of a Dark Queen, the beginning of the next subseries in my Feist Riftwar Cycle read. The 4 books in this subseries are among the last 7 of the books I had previously read.

Oct 27, 2019, 2:52pm

>90 -pilgrim-: Thank you, that dies sound interesting. And yes, I do have a fascination with language.

Oct 27, 2019, 4:31pm

>88 BookstoogeLT: Not since Cartoon Network's Cartoon Tsunami block programming while in high school, but I also watched when I was younger plus I remember playing with the action figures in pre-school/daycare (it was always a race to get to the Voltron lions.)

>89 YouKneeK: Writing style experiments are a nope for me, Joyce and Faulkner were enough.

Oct 27, 2019, 8:03pm

>89 YouKneeK: Sounds like a book I'll be happy to pass on. At least at 3stars it wasn't a waste of your time. Language stuff doesn't do much for me either.

>91 mattries37315: Ahhh, ok, so not something I need to race to re-watch and be wow'ed by how well it has aged :-D

Oct 27, 2019, 9:35pm

>90 -pilgrim-: I hope you enjoy it if you try it. I’d be interested to read what you think about it. My opinion of it seems a bit lower than others, so you'd probably fare much better with it since you’re fascinated with language. It was a group read on GR about a year ago that I skipped at the time, so I have a few friends there who have read it and four out of five of them rated it higher than I did.

>91 mattries37315: It sounds like I should brace myself whenever I decide to fit them into my classics reads. :) I tend to be iffy on writing style experiments, but mostly I would rather authors experiment with their storytelling style rather than their writing style if they want to experiment. Some styles aren’t a problem and I’ll barley notice them after a few pages, but I get frustrated if I end up thinking more about the author’s wording or syntax choices than I do about the story itself. Not all of the writing in this book was problematic for me, mostly just some of the longer internal thought sequences, but a lot of the explanations as to what was going on were contained within those sequences so their lack of coherence was an annoyance.

>92 BookstoogeLT: Yeah, I surely can't proclaim myself an expert on what you like even after all this time, but this wouldn’t be one I’d expect you to like.

Oct 27, 2019, 11:37pm

>89 YouKneeK: Been a long time since I read Babel-17. I have a vague recollection of liking the book but cannot recall many details at this point. I have been planning a re-read.

>90 -pilgrim-: If you are interested in language-based science-fiction, China Mièville's Embassytown might be up your street. Or have you already read that one?

Edited: Oct 28, 2019, 1:51am

>94 ScoLgo: I tried to start Embassytown but that was a rare did not finish for me. For some reason I couldn't concentrate on it. The only thing I can think of is that it's a paper book in the cull? pile and these days I almost exclusively read ebooks. When we're away this Christmas, I'll have another go at it.

Oct 28, 2019, 6:39am

>94 ScoLgo:, >95 Maddz: I’m actually planning Embassytown as a December read myself. I’ve had it on my Kindle for quite a while, and a few members of that group over on GR have voted to read it starting around December 15. Miéville is another one whose writing I tend to have mixed reactions about.

Oct 28, 2019, 12:57pm

>89 YouKneeK: I enjoyed Babel, a few years ago since I last read it though, but my review from the time was very positive. DOn't know why I've read little else by Delaney.

Oct 28, 2019, 2:40pm

>93 YouKneeK:, >97 reading_fox: I have just ordered a copy of Babel-17.

>94 ScoLgo:, >96 YouKneeK: Thank you for the recommendation, ScoLgo. I have added it to my wishlist.

Oct 28, 2019, 3:06pm

>95 Maddz: It's a dense book that takes a while to build. Once it does, the scope is rather epic. The language aspects also add to the challenge - but then, that is the premise of the book; the difficulty of language when it comes to communicating with an alien species.

I generally don't do audio books, but, in the case of Embassytown, I listened to the story while reading along in Kindle. It took a lot longer to get through but the audio really added to the experience. It's read by Susan Duerden of 'Lost' fame and I thought she did an admirable job.

>96 YouKneeK: Being mostly a Science-Fiction reader I, of course, gravitated to Mièville's SF-nal work first. I have since read Perdido Street Station, and Kraken. While I enjoyed them both, (Kraken a bit more than PSS), Embassytown remains my favorite of his works to date. YMMV.

>98 -pilgrim-: You are welcome. I hope you and YouKneek both enjoy the book.

Oct 28, 2019, 7:21pm

>97 reading_fox: I just went looking all over for your review, thinking Ctrl+F was somehow failing me when I couldn’t find it on the work page. :) I finally found it through your catalog, where I realized your review was under a different work since the version you read came with another story. I think (not really a spoiler I don't think, but being extra cautious since -pilgrim- may be reading it soon) the gathering of her crew was the part I enjoyed best.

>98 -pilgrim-: I look forward to reading your thoughts about it!

>99 ScoLgo: I haven’t read Kraken yet. I’ve read all three Bas-Lag books, starting with Perdido Street Station. I also read The City & The City. I think those are the only four I’ve read so far. I’ve had mixed reactions to all of them, really liking some things and disliking others. He’s an author whose books I usually have to read at a slower pace. Something about his sentence structures trips up my brain in a way that I don’t often experience with other authors. I also finish the books feeling like he went into great depth in some areas of his world-building, but skimped in other areas that I was equally if not more interested in.

Oct 28, 2019, 8:57pm

>100 YouKneeK: Miéville, Wolfe, and C.J. Cherryh are the three authors whose writing style can shift the gears of my brain. They are also among my favorite authors, Miéville and Cherryh just below De Lint and Bujold. (No one is higher than Austen)

Oct 29, 2019, 6:29am

>101 quondame: Of those authors, Gene Wolfe is the only other one I’ve read besides Miéville. The others are all on my list, though. I liked Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun series quite a bit. I personally didn’t have any of the same types of issues with his work that I usually have with Miéville.

Oct 29, 2019, 1:44pm

I remember enjoying Embassytown (and The City & The City), and with a nod to >101 quondame: C.J. Cherryh is one of my favourite authors (a nod to reading_fox as well, I think he introduced me to her books, back in the days). I will say, though, that they vary some in quality. My favourite is the Company Wars sub-series, though I love "cats in space" (Chanur) very much as well, and Cyteen, and... But I must say that she's not very much like Miéville.
(Gene Wolfe never managed to catch my interest, for some reason.)

Oct 29, 2019, 2:54pm

>103 Busifer: Agreed about Cherryh and Miéville not producing similar works. But they both use language rather differently from most of their contemporaries if not like each other. Wolfe's use of language is also unique and changes from series to series. Since most of his F&FS work more closely aligns with fantasy or magical realism that distances it from the works of Cherryh's that you have mentioned.

Oct 29, 2019, 4:42pm

>103 Busifer: I enjoy Cherryh as well, Chanur and the Foreigner series and her fantasy stuff. I agree, she's nothing like Mieville, she has a writing style I definitely enjoy. Though I did have to quit part way through the Foreigner books, there were just too many.

Oct 29, 2019, 11:36pm

>104 quondame: Spot on. I would add the other thing that sets Wolfe apart from Cherryh, (haven't read enough Mièville yet to have a strong opinion there), is the use of unreliable first-person narration. I have read somewhere around a dozen Cherryh books and can only think of one where she used first-person. Wolfe used it in nearly everything he wrote. I wonder if that might be what puts some readers off his writing? Personally, unreliable narration is one of my favorite devices because reading between the lines is part of the fun.

Cherryh manages to accomplish much the same thing without using first-person, which is remarkable and probably why she is on my top-5 favorite authors list. She slowly builds worlds and develops characters via tightly-woven third-person narration and whip-smart dialog. My first Cherryh, Cuckoo's Egg, was startlingly good to me in that aspect. I could discern very little of what was happening at first but the novel kept revealing itself in bits & pieces until the full picture sprang into view. It sure made me want to read more of her work.

>103 Busifer: Have you tried The Shadow of the Torturer? If that first book doesn't pull you into the rest of the tetralogy, then Wolfe is likely not your guy... ;)

Oct 30, 2019, 4:44am

>104 quondame: Yes on Wolfe - I've never been one for pure fantasy genre, though I do read the odd work that I enjoy, at times. And it is not for not trying. As to that - >106 ScoLgo: Shadow sat on my shelf for a long time after I stopped trying to get into it, but I have now faced the truth and got rid of it some years ago. As you say - just not my guy ;-)

>105 Karlstar: On Foreigner: I have read them all and will continue to do so as they are published, but willingly admit I would not freely recommend them without knowing more about the prospective reader. They started out as a sf series on culture and language but now I think of them as a book-form sitcom. Certain episodes are less good than others, but I still like it.

I think maybe one of the things both Miéville and Cherryh accomplishes it telling thematic stories, allegories, while managing to stay "human"; they tell about human society and structural change or set ways from the perspective of the affected individuals. And that is why I like them both, different as they are.

Edited: Oct 30, 2019, 8:09pm

This message has been deleted by its author.

Edited: Oct 30, 2019, 7:58am

>106 ScoLgo:, >107 Busifer: I am with Busifer on this; I have tried The Shadow of the Torturer several times, but could not get into it. The enthusiastic descriptions of cruelty repelled me; Wolfe was recommended to me by the same person who recommended Jack Vance, and I had the same reaction to both.

>101 quondame: I have never read Miéville, or any Cherryh other than her contributions to Thieves' World, which is rather odd, really, since Ischade was one of my favourite characters.

But since I agree with you completely about Bujold (and Austen), You are inspiring me to try the others.

But De Lint I admit to never having heard of!

Oct 30, 2019, 4:58pm

>107 Busifer: >108 -pilgrim-: Alternate Wolfes to try are Soldier of Arete an Knight the first a historical with fantastic elements, the second archetypal fantasy, and yet more and stranger. Neither is like the other (or terribly similar to books outside their series) and both are mind blowing. While Shadow of the Torturer is the standard entry point to Wolfe's works, it is somewhat misleading with the ugly violence of it's start and the meander of it's bulk. Not that the violence isn't basic to the entire series, just that the reader isn't nose deep in the details through all the books.

>108 -pilgrim-: De Lint does somewhat whimsical urban fantasy, and isn't opposed to survivors and mostly happy endings, and his books have more female protagonists than was formerly the fashion among male fantasy writers. Miéville is sort of the darker, broodier cousin to de Lint, with a more acid bite to his social activism and a lot less fresh air in his stories.

Edited: Oct 30, 2019, 8:11pm

>110 quondame: That does sound rather appealing. Where would you recommend starting with De Lint?

Apologies: I deleted accidental duplicate >108 -pilgrim-:, which was repeated at >109 -pilgrim-:

Oct 30, 2019, 10:52pm

>111 -pilgrim-: A classic 1st Charles de Lint book is the Newford story collection Dreams Underfoot which slowly introduces most of his cast of Newford characters who grow and develop through the novels. The first work of his that made an impression was the novella Riding Shotgun which is one of my favorites ghost stories of all time, and my favorite novel is Trader and while Trader is a Newford book, it doesn't require previous acquaintance with the city. After Riding Shotgun, none of the stories in Dreams Underfoot really wowed me, but they have their charm.

Oct 30, 2019, 10:56pm

>106 ScoLgo: >110 quondame: I am going to have to re-read Shadow of the Torturer. It has been so long, about all I remember about it is the sword. I don't recall being disturbed by it at all, but I loved the character and the setting, but it has been probably since the 80's since I read it.

Edited: Oct 31, 2019, 3:52am

>111 -pilgrim-: The first book I read by De Lint, and probably still my favourite, is Jack, the Giant Killer. The Newford books mentioned by >112 quondame: are very good too.

Oct 31, 2019, 4:40am

>112 quondame:, >114 NorthernStar: Thank you both - going hunting...

Oct 31, 2019, 4:53am

>111 -pilgrim-: I enjoy Charles de Lint, but I have a preference for his earlier urban fantasies, the pre-Newford ones. If you find you don't care much for the Newford stories, try the Ottowa and the Valley stories. Greenmantle is a good place to start there. Stylistically, they're more 'traditional' urban fantasies and mix Native American traditions with imported Celtic traditions.

Oct 31, 2019, 9:46am

>111 -pilgrim-: Moonheart was my first CDL and it's still one of my favourites.

Oct 31, 2019, 10:49am

>116 Maddz:, >117 Sakerfalcon: It is great to see so much enthusiasm for this new-to-me author; I will definitely have to try something!

Oct 31, 2019, 11:54am

I never got on with Shadow. Like many classics of the SF/Fantasy genre, I could see what would have made it special at the time, but these days to someone who's read reasonably of the available modern works, it just seems dull. I've read a lot of Cherryh, and really like her work - but I've yet to find the Thieve's world available.

I can sort of see the similarities that CJ Cherryh/Mieville/Stephen Donaldson and Janny Wurts have in that their prose is all long and complex with emphasis on description thought emotions and complexity rather than slash bang wallop of adventure you can get from other writers - there's certainly time and space for both styles, if somewhat fewer writers of the former. However in terms of plot and characters and worlds they're all very very different.

Oct 31, 2019, 12:53pm

>117 Sakerfalcon: I second this - I love the Moonheart and Spiritwalk duology. My first de lint was Little Grrl Lost and I really couldn't figure out how I had missed discovering this author sooner.

Oct 31, 2019, 1:01pm

>112 quondame: The only De Lint I have read to date is Svaha. Post-apocalyptic urban fantasy with a bit of a cyberpunk feel to it. I enjoyed it and plan to read more De Lint someday...

>116 Maddz: Is Svaha part of the Greenmantle world? I recall the protagonist was Native American and his heritage played a large role. The book struck me as a stand-alone but maybe it's part of something larger?

Oct 31, 2019, 1:21pm

>121 ScoLgo: I don't believe so. I'd say it's got more in common with Mulengro, but AFAIK it's a stand-alone (as is Mulengro). These date from early in de Lint's career and I think he was still finding his 'voice' stylistically. He also wrote 3 dark crime novels under the name Samuel M Key (which were later republished under the de Lint name).

Oct 31, 2019, 4:02pm

>118 -pilgrim-: >117 Sakerfalcon: >118 -pilgrim-: >120 Darth-Heather: >121 ScoLgo: >122 Maddz: Svaha really is a stand alone, though it stands in tone between his earlier works, which I find less interesting because of a, to me, whiff of fan-fiction, and his later horror and Ontario then Newford works. Somethings about the Ottawa books I really love, but once the Newford books get going its like he found the messages that he needed to get out and found the perfect bottles in which to keep them safe.

Oct 31, 2019, 4:26pm

>122 Maddz: >123 quondame: Thanks for all the good info! My library has a fairly extensive list of de Lint titles on Overdrive - including nearly all the titles mentioned in this thread - so my TBR list just grew yet again.

Oct 31, 2019, 7:25pm

Review: A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny

This was a pretty cute book. I read it as part of a group that read it one chapter per day and that was a fun way to do it. Each chapter represents a day in October, so it felt sort of like I was sharing the experience with the characters all month. Most of the chapters are very short, so sometimes it was also a little frustrating to only read a couple of pages and then have to wait another day to find out what would happen next.

This isn’t a children’s book since there is some darker content, but it often read like one, especially in the earlier chapters. I think part of the reason it came across to me as having a younger tone was because the main character is a dog named Snuff. Snuff has a fun personality and that helped make the book more fun to read. In the early parts of the book, we’re introduced to the idea that some sort of “game” is going on, and that Snuff and his human Jack are players. We’re slowly introduced to other characters who also seem to be playing this game, many of whom seem to be a human paired with some sort of animal. There are sides, but nobody really knows who’s on which side of the game. The whole purpose of the game and the nature of what is going on is slowly revealed throughout the book. It was pretty entertaining to speculate about all that.

I think in some cases I over-speculated and expected things to be more complex or twisty or nefarious than they actually were, and the ending was very abrupt and anticlimactic after all of the build-up so I was disappointed with that. After all the build-up about only one of the sides surviving, Jack and Jill and Snuff and Gray go down the hill with minimum fuss. Speaking of which, I did enjoy the many puns and such throughout the book.

There were two twists at the end that I didn’t catch in advance, although I think they were foreshadowed and I just missed it. I feel a little hampered by not having this available as an e-book in the US. Normally I could quickly search to double-check things and refresh my memory, but it just isn’t worth the effort with a physical book if I can’t remember what chapter something was in. Anyway, the twists. I liked one of those two twists (the switching of the wands) but I thought the other was too much of a stretch (the detective convincingly disguising himself as the mysterious wolf). One thing I did particularly like was seeing Snuff and Gray and Jack and Jill getting along with each other, working together, and respecting each other despite major philosophical differences and different goals. The world needs more of that.

My first Zelazny experience was with Lord of Light and I didn’t care for that much at all. This was a better experience for me. I don’t think this will become an annual tradition for me, but I can see why many people enjoy reading this every October. It was a fun experience and I’m glad I did it once. 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3 on Goodreads.

Next Book
Not really applicable in this case, since I was reading this simultaneously with other books. I’m still reading Shadow of a Dark Queen by Raymond E. Feist and enjoying it so far despite that it has one of the most annoying events in the series. It helped that I remembered it from my first read and was prepared. I’m only about 100 pages in, but I hope to make better progress over the weekend.

Nov 1, 2019, 4:47am

>125 YouKneeK: Glad this was a slightly better read for you than Lord of Light. Do you think you'll try to dig deeper into Zelazny or call it good with this?

Nov 1, 2019, 6:26am

I always think Lord of Light is one of Zelazny's less accessible books. I'd give the first Amber series (starts with Nine Princes in Amber) a go before writing him off.

Nov 1, 2019, 6:41am

>126 BookstoogeLT: Thanks, I’m also planning to try the series >127 Maddz: mentioned eventually. That’s been on my list for a while and might have been my next Zelazny attempt if not for the group on GR deciding to do this October read.

Edited: Nov 1, 2019, 7:35am

Zelazny writes in a lot of different styles. I like Lord of Light, but I agree with Maddz that The Chronicles of Amber is probably a better example of his more usual style. Or

Nov 1, 2019, 8:10am

>125 YouKneeK: Interesting that you find it easier to search in a kindle book. I find it easier to look back for things I might have missed in print books! It's strange and kind of cool how different people's brains work!

Edited: Nov 1, 2019, 11:39am

>130 Sakerfalcon: I do too - unless I know the word or phrase I'm looking for. Then the e-book's search function proves superior to my analog eyeballs every time. ;-)

Nov 1, 2019, 11:57am

>130 Sakerfalcon:, >131 ScoLgo: I find physical books usually easier to search, because my memory usually includes s physical sense of where in the book the episode that I want is.

If I am searching for trivial points, such as "what was that character's surname?", then obviously the search function helps.

Nov 1, 2019, 4:12pm

>130 Sakerfalcon:, >131 ScoLgo:, >132 -pilgrim-: That is interesting!

What I really like when searching on the Kindle is how the list of occurrences for that word or phrase includes the surrounding text. I can skim the results quickly and either get a general refresher on the topic or just locate a specific reference that I wanted to read in more detail. So if, in the example from my review, I thought something might have been foreshadowed but I couldn’t remember when or where, I would search for the character or object involved, skim the results, and probably be reasonably satisfied that I knew the answer within a minute or two.

Part of it might be because I grew up on computers and am constantly using them between work and personal use. I use electronic search features regularly in a variety of contexts so it’s very much how I’m used to finding information. At work, people often ask me to help find old e-mails for them if they remember that I was part of the conversation. I can usually find them quickly using some word or phrase I remember, even if it was years ago.

My memory of position is probably not as precise as it is for you all. I’ve never been very strong on visual things – remembering faces, understanding assembly instructions that don’t have words, appreciating book covers, etc. I do tend to remember specific phrases or words, which makes a digital search fast for me. I’m not nearly as good at finding things by position. I used to do it a lot before the Kindle because that was the only choice I had, but now it feels cumbersome to me by comparison with what I’ve become used to.

Nov 1, 2019, 6:06pm

>128 YouKneeK: Good luck with Amber. I disliked Zelazny from the get-go and nothing I've read by him has ever changed my mind.

So of course, I own the 2 volume omnibus of the Amber series. Go figure :-D

Nov 1, 2019, 8:53pm

>134 BookstoogeLT: LOL, that makes perfect sense to me!

Nov 1, 2019, 9:28pm

>134 BookstoogeLT: Did you ever try any of the Dilvish books by Zelazny? They are quite different than the Amber novels, if I recall correctly.

Edited: Nov 2, 2019, 6:32am

>136 Karlstar: I am very fond of Dilvish - and he was my first introduction to Zelazny too - but he does fall into the same "high-powered magical hero with a tragic back-story" as Corwin. Although the tragedy quotient is ratcheted up quite a few notches.

(ETA: Joining the mis-remembering bandwagon: Merlin was my first introduction to Zelazny, not Dilvish (or Corwin). And yes, it is an interesting perspective to meet Corwin as an absent dad before I met him in person!)

Edited: Nov 2, 2019, 5:55am

>135 YouKneeK: I am thinking of making those omnibus books part of my book giveaway at some point. They're a classic (even if I don't care for them) and 10 books? Talk about value ;-)

>136 Karlstar: I started with Amber way back in middleschool. Read them all again just a couple of years ago and still thought the same thing I did back in 7th grade (hahahahaa!). But just to be fair, I tried Lord of Light last year and realized he just wasn't for me.

(edited to add: I read Amber way back in '07, not "recently") sigh, where does the time go?

Nov 2, 2019, 9:13am

>138 BookstoogeLT: I read Lord of Light a long time ago and while it was interesting, my general reaction was 'Why do people think this is so great?'. It was good, not great.

Nov 3, 2019, 6:43am

You have to laugh sometimes about the strange routes a package may take to arrive at its destination. :)

This one decided to take a little side trip and see more of the area. Fortunately, I wasn’t in any big hurry for it, and I wasn’t expecting it to arrive before Monday at the earliest anyway. I just thought I’d share my amusement. I live in the Atlanta suburbs.

Nov 3, 2019, 8:43am

>140 YouKneeK: I don't know, sounds like another stellar data job by the USPS! :-)
Hopefully they actually deliver it, hahahahaa...

I, however, now choose to pick on the amazon delivery people. It has gotten bad enough that I'm almost tempted to stop using amazon. We live in a condo complex with a shared mailroom and almost half the time the delivery driver puts down "can't deliver" because they don't want to take the time to find the door to the mail room (1 room for the 3 buildings in our complex). Our USPS guy is a gem compared to those jackasses.

Nov 3, 2019, 10:21am

>141 BookstoogeLT: Wow, that would be frustrating! Most of my packages are delivered by the Amazon delivery people and I don’t have too much trouble with them, at least not the kind that prevents my packages from getting delivered, no doubt because I don’t have a “complicated” mail room process for them to figure out.

The difficulty the Amazon delivery people (and other service people and visitors of all varieties) have at my place is that I live in a gated subdivision. Complicating matters, we have two entrances, both gated, but only one gate has a keypad for visitors to use. My home is closest to the gate without the keypad, so the GPS often tries to bring people in through that gate. They have no way of getting in through there unless they tailgate somebody else who’s entering. Back when Amazon first started using their own delivery people, I sent them a gate code they can use (provided by my HOA) and a map explaining which entrance to use, but I think the drivers usually don’t read the info in their rush to meet their delivery deadlines.

There’s a sign on the keypad-less gate telling guests to use the other entrance and what street it’s on, but this is the point where I usually get called from a panicked or confused person who doesn’t know what to do next. Lately the Amazon people seem to be doing a better job of arriving at the correct gate, but they rarely seem to find and input the code they should have been provided. They use the same keypad where they could have input the code to call me so I can let them in. It’s not a big deal because I just have to hit a # on the keypad on my phone to open the gate, but I’m not always available to answer calls, especially since I’m usually at work when they arrive. Still, despite the fact that I just wrote a wall of text on the subject, for the most part it’s just a minor inconvenience. When I do miss the calls, they seem to still make it in anyway. (Which proves the pointlessness of the gates.) At least I still get my packages. If I didn’t, I’d be way more annoyed.

Nov 3, 2019, 10:35am

>140 YouKneeK: I once bought an used book from a seller in the Seattle area; I had found it via Abe Books so, online. Of course I didn't expect it to ship to Sweden overnight, but when it arrived 6 weeks later it appeared that it had taken a leisurely side trip to various places such as New Zealand. Quite a detour, if you're asking me.

Nov 3, 2019, 12:58pm

>143 Busifer: LOL, that’s quite a side trip! The packages get to have all the fun. :)

Nov 4, 2019, 6:02am

>141 BookstoogeLT: >142 YouKneeK: - I find sympathy for the final mile actual delivery people if they aren't too terrible, like all front line jobs, it's rubbish and badly-paid hard work. They'll be on 'per item' rates, with little to no allowance for traffic or distance involved, and often struggle to make even minimum wage. I try to boycott buying from companies that don't ship by (here in the uk) royal mail. But sometimes you don't get much option.

Nov 4, 2019, 9:20am

>144 YouKneeK: Right!?

>145 reading_fox: Yeah, underpaid, badly managed, and hard. Not a recipe for a happy employee, and so I try to be nice.

Nov 4, 2019, 2:06pm

>145 reading_fox: I try to boycott buying from companies that don't ship by (here in the uk) royal mail. But sometimes you don't get much option
I'm with you on that. But sometimes you don't know which distributor they use until after the fact.

Nov 4, 2019, 4:32pm

>145 reading_fox: I don't know what it is like in your area, but the average rate in my area is $18-20/hr for a prime delivery driver. I know this because I looked into trying it out :-D

When McDonalds, Subway, etc are offering 10, that is a very attractive offer.

Nov 4, 2019, 5:37pm

>145 reading_fox: I feel sorry for anybody who has to do any job in my area that involves a lot of driving. The traffic is horrible, we have a generous helping of bad/confused/distracted/arrogant drivers, and there are confusing roads/situations like my aforementioned gate situation. When I first moved here, I accidentally turned one road too early when driving home from work one day and added 30 minutes to my commute. The first time I saw an ambulance trying to get somewhere fast during rush hour, I was horrified.

I also feel sorry for anybody who has to work in fast food, or retail, or customer service, or any customer-facing job where you’re dealing with grumpy, inconsiderate people all day long. I think it’s important to treat all workers who you interact with respectfully and remember that they’re real people, not magic wands who can just make everything happen the way you want.

But I also very, very strongly believe that workers, no matter how horrible their job, should do their best work. This is, at least in my experience, how one gains opportunities to get better jobs. It also makes the time go faster. You can encounter two people in the same job who have completely different attitudes, one positive and one negative, and it’s pretty obvious who’s getting more enjoyment out of the hours they have to spend at work and who’s more likely to get promoted if there’s an opportunity.

Nov 4, 2019, 9:58pm

Review: Shadow of a Dark Queen by Raymond E. Feist

Shadow of a Dark Queen is the first book in yet another subseries of Raymond E. Feist’s very long Riftwar Cycle. This is one of the two remaining subseries that I had previously read, and it’s the one I remembered least favorably, but I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit this time around. I remembered very little from the story, but I did remember some of the things I didn’t like about it the first time, and I think having different expectations helped.

This is the first book where the main characters aren’t related to the royal family, although we do see some traces of them on rare occasions. A lot of time passes between the various subseries, introducing us to new generations each time as our old favorites become older and sometimes die, and I had some frustrations with that the first time I read these books. I enjoyed the newer characters the first time too, but I was very attached to the characters from the first subseries and I missed them. Knowing that was coming, I think I’ve been less bothered by it this time around. Feist continues to do a great job of writing characters the reader can care about, and I do think his writing has improved and become more polished as compared to those earlier books.

Some comments for the spoiler tags. One of these contains a spoiler for later in this subseries, not just this book.
I had forgotten Nakor was in this subseries, so that was a nice surprise!

The first time I read this, when we learned that an elderly Arutha had died of complications from a broken hip, off the page, I was so annoyed! This time I braced myself for it and just moved on. He had to die eventually given how much time was passing, but I think I was annoyed about not getting to spend a little more time with my favorite character before it happened. I might have tolerated it better if he’d had a more heroic death like Jimmy gets later in the subseries. Yes, those are essentially the only things I remembered about this subseries 20+ years later: Arutha dies boringly. Jimmy dies heroically. Oh, and there were some other characters too that did stuff. Actually, I did remember Erik and Roo a bit, and some of the early parts of the story started coming back to me a little bit in advance of things happening.

We almost made it an entire book without a romance, but he just had to throw the beginnings of one in there at the end! :) At least he seems to have repented of his insta-lovey ways.

Next Book
Rise of a Merchant Prince, the second book in this subseries.

Nov 5, 2019, 5:20am

>150 YouKneeK: I actually kind of laughed when you wrote how Arutha dies. Completely not what you'd expect from that character at all.

Nov 5, 2019, 6:43am

>151 BookstoogeLT: Haha, it definitely wasn’t what I was expecting back when I first read it!

Nov 5, 2019, 11:28am

>150 YouKneeK: >151 BookstoogeLT: It's completely opposite (and appropriate) from what happens with Pug and Thomas and Macros and Nakor and... kind of refreshing, I guess. I enjoyed this series, though like you I missed the old familiar characters from the first series. This is a trend for Feist though. I'm glad you are enjoying these again. I've always been a fan of Feist's Midkemia books, all the way to the end, I think he's a bit under-rated.

Nov 5, 2019, 5:28pm

>153 Karlstar: True! Characters who live for many generations and show up sooner or later in every story to play a key role in saving the day start to require some extra suspension of disbelief after a while.

I am glad I have the Krondor subseries after this that takes place in an earlier time. I’m also looking forward to getting past that and on to the completely new-to-me stuff, though. At least then when I’m thinking, “I don’t remember this at all…” there will be a good reason for it. :)

Nov 5, 2019, 8:31pm

>140 YouKneeK: I've seen my packages do similar detours, but on a smaller scale. Sometimes they get loaded on the wrong vehicle, apparently. Thankfully they scan them!

Roger Zelazny has been on my radar for a decade at least. I think I have the Amber novels waiting on my kindle. I see that you enjoyed his books, but you weren't exactly head-over-heels. We seems to have very similar taste, so I might might let you test the waters on the Amber series.

Nov 5, 2019, 9:10pm

>155 clamairy: I was almost disappointed when my package arrived as scheduled on Monday. I had such grand hopes for it! I thought, for it to be a properly well-rounded package, it should have taken additional side trips to Florida, South Carolina, and North Carolina to visit all my surrounding states. (It surely came through Tennessee already on its way from Kentucky to Atlanta, so no need to send it back there.) Maybe a brief dip in the Atlantic Ocean to be thorough.

Haha, thanks for leaving me to be the Amber guinea pig. ;) It may be a while, though! I actually didn’t care for Lord of Light at all. I rated it at 2 stars and think in retrospect I may have been a bit on the generous side, or maybe it's just that the memory of my dislike has grown. I liked A Night in the Lonesome October a good bit better at 3 stars, but I think part of that was the chapter-a-day group read format I read it in and part of it was low expectations.

Edited: Nov 5, 2019, 9:29pm

I have a flock of (probably unsuspecting) guinea pigs in here. :o) MrsLee, jillmwo and littlegeek were among the first phalanx. And several others who uses to post a lot and went *poof.*

I returned some merchandise to Target via USPS last Winter and it had to go to CA. After following it online all the way to the facility the tracking suddenly showed that it was travelling back to NY. A couple of days later it showed it sitting in a PO outside the city limits, about 70 miles away from me. I was freaking out. I still don't know what happened, but the nice people at assured me that they received the package and credited my account. All while the USPS website still showed the item was back in NY. Now that's a glitch.

Nov 5, 2019, 11:31pm

>155 clamairy: I think Nine Princes in Amber is quite special, but as the series continues the special is vastly dilute. Jack of Shadows is a standalone, much less often cited work, that I wish hadn't ended - thought that's probably because it did. A Night in the Lonesome October was not my thing, but Lord of Light is another favorite.

Nov 6, 2019, 2:25am

>158 quondame: I have liked all the Zelazny that I have read, even his venture into detective noir. A lot - such as The Chronicles of Amber, Lord of Light, A Night in the Lonesome October and Dilvish the Damned - I have loved. Thank you for adding to the must-have list.

Nov 6, 2019, 6:34am

>157 clamairy: That would have been confusing! I can think of lot of ways a package might get routed to the wrong place, but not too many that would make the same tracking # show up on another package after the original arrived at its destination. Maybe they re-sealed the same package and shipped it straight out to another customer, only changing the address label and leaving the original tracking # label? Or if it was a defective item, did the same thing but shipped it to the manufacturer?

Nov 6, 2019, 8:00am

>158 quondame: Thank you! I might seek out a couple of those standalones.

>160 YouKneeK: The weird thing is I'm pretty sure the USPS only scan the barcode, so changing the address shouldn't have had any impact when the label was scanned. And it did show up as going right back to to the postal hub it left from. Perhaps a system restore on one of that PO's computers was to blame for the data. I do often see the postal clerks fussing with those units.

Nov 6, 2019, 9:36am

>157 clamairy:",i>I have a flock of (probably unsuspecting) guinea pigs in here. :o) MrsLee, jillmwo and littlegeek were among the first phalanx."

*blink* *blink* I'm trying to get the vision of flying guinea pigs out of my brain, although, they are rather a cute image. Wish I could get out of the reading slump I'm in so I could be more efficient for you! :)

Nov 6, 2019, 1:09pm

>162 MrsLee: Sorry, this probably won't help...

Nov 6, 2019, 5:23pm

>162 MrsLee:, >163 ScoLgo: LOL I'm often guilty of mixing metaphors, so her flock of guinea pigs sounded perfectly reasonable to me. ;)

Nov 6, 2019, 6:52pm

>163 ScoLgo:,>164 YouKneeK: Mixed metaphors? Yeah,but.... all I could think was, awww, how ADORABLE!!!

Nov 6, 2019, 7:34pm

Flock was the best word I could come up with 'on the fly.'

Edited: Nov 7, 2019, 9:35am

>163 ScoLgo: Hahaha! Love it!

>166 clamairy: A fast Google search tells me that one of the names for a group of guinea pigs is a muddle. That seems to fit my persona at the moment. :D

Nov 7, 2019, 4:32pm

>167 MrsLee: Hahaha. It fits mine all of the time, but sadly I am not part of the flock.

Nov 10, 2019, 10:52am

Review: Rise of a Merchant Prince by Raymond E. Feist

Rise of a Merchant Prince is the second book in Feist’s Serpentwar Saga, a subseries of his larger Riftwar Cycle. It picks up not too long after the first book left off, sort of continuing that story but focusing more on finance. There’s still a fair bit of action, though.

The main character is familiar from the previous book, but it’s a different main character. We do spend some time with other characters from the first book, but the focus on both characters and plot is quite a bit different. I enjoyed the story and it held my interest well, but I never warmed up much to the main character. Sometimes I liked what he did, but there were too many times when he did things I couldn’t respect. There were other characters around him that I did like though, so that helped.

The title kind of spoils the story; I never felt any suspense about how things would turn out because the title tells us. I still enjoyed seeing how the story got from point A to point B though.

I have one spoilery comment:
Duke James, formerly Jimmy the Hand, shows up several times in this book and he had some really great moments. I also liked his grandsons, Jimmy and Dash, what little we saw of them. I especially loved the moment when Duke James tells Roo just why Krondor and the palace are so important to him and we get a glimpse of his sorrow over Arutha’s death. It gave some much-needed weight to his death after the previous book, where it was little more than a plot point to drive other events and the characters whose heads we were in had no reason to care much.

Next Book
Rage of a Demon King, the third book in the above subseries. This subseries has four books in it, so there will be one more after that.

Nov 12, 2019, 9:07pm

This isn’t book related, but I had to post about my cat’s latest trick. (For those who have trouble keeping track of the Green Dragon’s many cats, mine is the freak that opens drawers and cabinets, climbs ladders, and jumps on top of doors.) Now it seems he’s learned how to start the Roomba. I was working at the computer earlier this evening when suddenly the Roomba piped up from its docking station across the room. I turned around to find Ernest standing right in front of it and slowly backing away from it with a “Did I do that?” expression on his face.

He’s by no means the first cat ever to do it, but he’s always kept a respectful distance from the Roomba in the past so I was hoping he would never participate in any of the entertaining cat vs Roomba shenanigans I’ve seen on the internet. They’re entertaining to watch as long as they’re somebody else’s cat. ;) He’s only done it this one time so far, so it remains to be seen if he’ll make a habit of it. Actually, for all I know, he does this all the time while I’m at work and it just returns to its docking station and I’m none the wiser. I doubt it though, because I have to clear the floor of cat toys and dangling window blind cords before it can reliably operate without getting stuck on something.

Nov 12, 2019, 10:42pm

>170 YouKneeK: Cats and Roombas, we got Trouble! Right here in River City!

Nov 12, 2019, 11:35pm

>171 MrsLee: I feel that I am missing something. What has Glasgow to do with YouKneeK's potential Roomba-rider?

Nov 13, 2019, 12:46am

>172 -pilgrim-: the comment in >171 MrsLee: is a reference to the film The Music Man, and River City, Iowa.

Edited: Nov 13, 2019, 6:40am

LOL, I saw the post from >171 MrsLee: on my phone last night after I was in bed and didn’t know what it meant, but I figured it must be a quote from something so I resolved to Google it in the morning when I was at my computer as I hate typing on a mobile keyboard.

>173 NorthernStar: and >174 haydninvienna: saved me the 5 seconds of typing and >174 haydninvienna: gave me some entertainment with my breakfast.

Now I’m just trying to think of a Roomba-related or cat-related noun that starts with a P and would work in the phrase, but I’m drawing a blank. “Purr” certainly wouldn’t fit the intent!

Nov 13, 2019, 6:58am

>175 YouKneeK: Now that I’m a few more minutes awake… we could change the letter. T also rhymes with C and that stands for Cat!

Nov 13, 2019, 7:32am

>174 haydninvienna: Problem? There must be a better one.

Nov 13, 2019, 9:21am

>170 YouKneeK: If he keeps it up you'll have to get a video of his shenanigans :)

Nov 13, 2019, 9:41am

>173 NorthernStar: & >174 haydninvienna: Hahaha, thank you for covering my obscure references. :) I was about to go to bed, and I couldn't remember for sure the whole quote or I would have gone further with it and possibly avoided confusion, I also was too tired to search it out on Google.

With a capitol "T" and that rhymes with "P" and that stands for Paws! or Puddy Cat! or Puss! (so long as that stands for pussy cat).

Nov 13, 2019, 4:43pm

The internet is filled with pix and videos of cats doing things and yet we humans never seem to tire of reading/watching about their exploits.

>170 YouKneeK: As long your cat doesn't turn the roomba into Skynet, I'm ok :-D

Nov 13, 2019, 5:29pm

>178 Narilka: I would try! I find it difficult to catch his antics on video or get good non-sleeping pictures of him. He has two speeds: asleep and FTL.

>179 MrsLee: I like P for Paws. :) His little paws are always causing trouble.

>180 BookstoogeLT: Haha, you never know! He accomplishes his feats mostly through dumb luck and persistence. Given enough time and dumb luck, he probably could turn a Roomba into Skynet. However, I have two Roombas (one upstairs and one downstairs) and Ernest does like to repeat his “cool” tricks. If he turns both Roombas into separate Skynets, maybe they’ll keep each other busy battling for supremacy.

Nov 13, 2019, 6:02pm

>181 YouKneeK: Somehow, Twin Skynets don't give me the same feeling as the Doublemint Twins...

Nov 13, 2019, 8:07pm

>181 YouKneeK: LOL, now there’s a piece of pop culture I actually know and remember.

I’m pleased to report to all concerned parties that I have witnessed no Roomba tampering today.

Nov 19, 2019, 8:49pm

>170 YouKneeK: That's awesome! Both my cat & my dog are not terribly fond of my Roomba. It's not loud, but I think they find its behavior unpredictable. (And mine gets caught on all sorts of cords and things, as well.)

Nov 20, 2019, 6:45am

>184 clamairy: I think the Roomba needs to ship with a small companion robot that goes around looking for objects on the floor and moves them out of the way automatically, or maybe just maps their location and sends the data to the Roomba so it can avoid them. ;) (Of course, if a companion robot could do that, then I guess they could just program the Roomba itself to do it. One of mine is the kind that empties its own bin, so maybe someday it will also be able to detect and avoid traps better...)

Ernest likes to keep a careful eye on the Roomba when it runs, but so far he’s always kept at least a few feet distance away. My mom has a dog and she says he’s afraid of her Roomba. When I run it during the day, the sunlight glints off the top of the Roomba and throws reflections of light onto the walls as it moves through the house and that makes my cat go nuts sometimes.

Since my post a few days again when he activated the Roomba, he’s taken to swiping at the power button quite a bit. He seems to like the way it lights up, and maybe he likes the beep. You have to hit it at least twice in a row within a relatively short time to activate it though, and so far he hasn’t managed to do that again. He likes to just hit it once and admire his handiwork for a while. If you don’t hit it the second time in the allotted time, it turns red briefly and then the next time you have to hit it three times. So fortunately this is all a bit too complicated for his kitty brain, but I expect it’s just a matter of time before it happens again now that he's developed a fascination with the button.

Nov 20, 2019, 8:21am

Hmm. Can you tape a cover over the button? Something with a hinged flap you can access but he can't?

Something like this:

Edited: Nov 20, 2019, 11:48am

>185 YouKneeK: That's wonderful! I know you don't want him turning it on, but I love how bright and adaptable they are. I wish mine would set her sights on learning to use the Roomba and not on trying to get to the now off-limits papyrus plant that she likes to eat and then barf up around the house. We go through this every Fall when I bring it into the house. And now I'm thinking I need to add a disco glitter ball to the top of my Roomba so it refracts light all around while it's cleaning. They do keep improving them, but they aren't cheap so I'll wait until they perfect the scanning feature before I get a new one. Then I'll moved this one to the basement.

("Error! Move Roomba to a new location!" I hear this so often that I've started moving it around myself and hitting Spot so it stays roughly in one area. I know it defeats the purpose, but I'm still moving stuff around here, so eventually I hope to use it as intended.)

Nov 20, 2019, 6:20pm

>186 Maddz: Something like that might work, but it would have to be removable since anything that adds to the Roomba height would just get ripped off and/or damage something when it tries to travel under furniture it thinks it can fit under. With his persistence in opening drawers and such, anything I put on with the intention of taking off repeatedly would probably be something he could figure out how to take off himself.

>187 clamairy: Oh no, I guess if I had to choose between randomly-running Roombas versus papyrus barf, I’d surely choose the Roomba! LOL, I love the idea of a disco glitter ball. The height would be a problem, but maybe something flat could have a similar effect.

If Ernest’s newfound Roomba button obsession turns into a real problem, I have both a Plan A and a Plan B.

Plan A: Take another look at the manual (or just use Google). Maybe there’s a childproofing feature I can activate to make it more difficult to turn on, because surely this is a common problem with both pets and kids. I don’t remember reading anything like that in the manual, but childproofing wasn’t exactly on my list of concerns at the time so I would have glossed right over it if it had been there.

Plan B: Otherwise, I’ll move it into another room that I normally keep closed off and just open the door when I want to use it. My home has 3 bedrooms and the third has gone almost completely unused except when I have guests. I don’t have guests often, so I couldn’t bring myself to tie up an entire room with guest bedroom furniture that would hardly ever get used but that I’d still have to clean. Instead, when I have guests, I blow up an air mattress in there for my own use and give the guests the master bedroom. I’ve occasionally used it for jigsaw puzzles or cross-stitching or other things that I wanted to do in a place I could easily close off from the cat, but more often than not it just accumulates junk that I have to clean out periodically. I recently cleaned it out again so it’s almost completely empty and I’ve been using it for my Oculus Quest (Virtual Reality) shenanigans which has worked really well. I could probably fit the Roomba in without it interfering much with my VR space.

Nov 20, 2019, 9:16pm

Roomba segregation! I have mine docked under a cabinet, so I have to pull it out to start it, but no one can do so accidentally.

Nov 21, 2019, 6:38am

Review: Rage of a Demon King by Raymond E. Feist

Rage of a Demon King is the third out of four books in Raymond E. Feist’s Serpentwar Saga, one of the subseries in the much larger Riftwar Cycle.

This one was a little uneven for me. The story focuses on a variety of characters instead of focusing primarily on one. I enjoyed the ensemble feel and I was interested in all the characters, but some sections were more interesting to read than others. It wasn’t always the same characters I was the most interested in; sometimes I was bored and interested by different sections about the same sets of characters. I did really like how some major plot threads were resolved or at least significantly advanced, not just from this subseries but from the larger story.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in any of my previous reviews, but I’ve noticed several errors in most of these books. A lot of them look like OCR-type errors such as oddly placed or missing punctuation, or letters that aren’t quite right. I’ve faithfully reported each one I’ve caught on my Kindle, something I only take the time to do if I feel some investment in the author and/or the book, but I have no idea if such things ever get fixed. Most of these books have been on the Kindle for quite a while, so I’m surely not the first to report them. My thoughts are that probably a traditionally-published e-book can only be updated when a new edition with a new ISBN is published? It doesn’t seem like that would happen often for e-books. So I have no idea how any of that works, but I report the errors anyway in the naïve hope that it might make a difference.

The reason I bring up the errors is because this book had a couple that made me laugh, although they were overly distracting at times. I went on a small Google adventure trying to figure out if “puffing a bow” was really a thing. I didn’t want to report an error that wasn’t actually an error just because I’m ignorant about the finer points of archery. I had images of somebody smoking a bow like a pipe. Although I learned that there are apparently puffy things that can be used to silence a bow, that didn’t really fit the context, so I finally concluded the author did in fact mean “pulling a bow”, which was what I had guessed from the beginning since that phrase had already been used a handful of times throughout the series. Another error that really cracked me up was when the word “barricade” (I think, based on context and similar phrasing in the surrounding paragraphs) was accidentally replaced with the word “bather”. Apparently, some invaders were about to overrun the “second bather”. After that, every time the invaders were advancing, I wanted to yell out, “Somebody warn the bathers!” I feel sort of like I’ve been ruined for life, because I suspect that one is going to stick with me for a long time and infect other books I read.

Yeah, that’s pretty much all I have. A general summary and some silly comments about errors. Well, I do have a couple spoilery comments too.

The below spoiler is for just this book:
This is the book where Duke James, previously known as Jimmy the Hand, is killed. His death wasn’t as heroic as I had remembered it. He did die while doing heroic things, but it seemed like he could have escaped in time if his guilt hadn’t made him reluctant to escape when others would die as a result of his actions. Also, I had forgotten his wife was killed with him because she wouldn’t leave him while he was being reluctant to escape. I didn’t think the way it all played out was necessarily wrong for the characters, just that it wasn’t quite how I remembered it and I have somewhat mixed feelings.

The below spoiler is possibly a spoiler for the entire larger series, but it’s only speculation based on content in this book and the title of the final book.
There’s an ominous warning to Pug in this book regarding what would happen if he chose to live his own life versus accepting godhood: ”…you shall know the loss of those you love, the pain of thousands, and the sting of bitter failure at the end of your life.”.

I hope this doesn’t mean the end of the series is going to be terribly depressing with lots of death and destruction of characters I’m attached to. I’ve long suspected that Pug would die at the end, based on the title of the last book, Magician’s End. I wouldn’t be upset by that because, while I like the character, I’m not that invested in him on an emotional level. But if all those things are going to happen to him at the end of his life, and if the end of his life is in the last book, that sounds like a pretty bleak ending!

Next Book
Shards of a Broken Crown, the last book in this subseries. After this, I may take a longer break than I normally would before I start the next subseries. I have several other books I was hoping to get to before or during December. I still need to fit in my classics for the final quarter of the year, which are planned to be both All Quiet on the Western Front and Twelfth Night. I also committed a while back to a group read on Goodreads of Embassytown starting in mid-December, a book I’ve had on my Kindle for quite a while. The same group also picked Remnant Population as one of its new reads for December. I don’t know anything about the story, but I’ve seen enough comments from people who love it to be curious about it. It was on sale recently, so I grabbed it knowing I would read it eventually if not next month, but I’d like to read it with the group if I can fit it in.

There are a couple other group reads scheduled for December that I would have liked to participate in but probably won't have time for. Most months don’t have anything I particularly want to join in on, but somehow several things I was interested in all managed to fall in December. I’m just going to focus on trying to finish this subseries and fit in those four books I mentioned, then I’ll see where things stand. The next Feist subseries is set earlier in time so I've been looking forward to that, and the first book is based on that Betrayal at Krondor video game that I had wanted to replay while I read the book. I’d still like to do that, but I might give up on that idea because I have too many other things I want to do and not enough hours in the day. I’ll just see how things go and decide when the time comes.

Nov 21, 2019, 6:49pm

>190 YouKneeK: Elizabeth Moon has not let me down yet. Remnant Population is a good one from her. I had some quibbles with the supporting cast but loved the protagonist. It's not nearly as long of a book as...

Embassytown, which took a while to get through, but I found the story well worth the time. My favorite Mièville thus far.

All Quiet on the Western Front was a very powerful read for me.

Nov 21, 2019, 10:07pm

>191 ScoLgo: This would be my first Elizabeth Moon book. I’ve seen her name mentioned a lot, but haven't managed to get to her before. I’m glad you enjoyed several of the books I’m planning for December, that’s encouraging!

Nov 21, 2019, 10:13pm

>192 YouKneeK: I like Elizabeth Moons books a good deal. Remnant Population is one of the very few that isn't either space opera or D&D based fantasy. RP and The Speed of Dark both happen to be quite good. Mind, I like both space opera and D&D based fantasy, but in both of those genres some of her books are very much better than others.

Nov 21, 2019, 10:58pm

>193 quondame: I loved The Speed of Dark! That was my first Elizabeth Moon book. I have the Vatta's War series on my radar. So many books yet to read...

>192 YouKneeK: Mièville writes (intentionally, I think...?), in multiple genres. Embassytown is his straight-up science fiction book. The other titles I have read, (Perdido Street Station and Kraken) have been more in the realm of weird fiction. His ability to move effortlessly between genres is impressive. He's no one-trick pony of a writer, that's for sure!

Nov 22, 2019, 5:04am

>190 YouKneeK: Well, sounds like december is going to be a full reading month for you! Best of luck with all those various reads.

I know I read Rage of a Demon king when it was released but can't remember if I read the next book or not. Either way, this sub-series was where I stopped reading Feist. I'll be reading your reviews for the rest of the series with an eye on determining if this is something I want to try myself in a year or two.

Nov 22, 2019, 7:08am

>193 quondame: and >194 ScoLgo:, The Speed of Dark is another Moon book that’s been on the list I pull books from, but I don’t think I’ve seen people talk about it before and I never saw it on sale, so it never ended up on my Kindle and hasn’t been a priority. Good to see you both liked it! That’s likely to be my next Moon book whenever I’m ready to try the author a second time.

>195 BookstoogeLT: Thanks, I’ll probably need the luck with the December reads. :) They’re all under 400 pages aside from the one I’m reading now, and the Shakespeare plays always go fast even when I take my time with them, so that will help. That would be fun (for me, anyway!) if you did re-read/read this series eventually. Aside from the first few books, I almost never see anybody read them and I’ve found very few reviews from people I know. The Discworld, WoT, and Hobb series reads were more fun for me in that respect because more people were familiar with all the books.

Nov 22, 2019, 12:40pm

I thought The Speed of Dark was the best book I read in 2012. I've since sampled a couple of her space fantasies, but nothing took. But Remnant Population looks interesting.

Nov 22, 2019, 12:59pm

>197 2wonderY: Clearly I should have made The Speed of Dark more of a priority! :)

Nov 22, 2019, 11:08pm

>190 YouKneeK: By the end, I think Feist was influenced a bit by G. R. R. Martin.

>198 YouKneeK: Yes you should! The Speed of Dark is fantastic!! You might want to go back and check out her old Paksenarrion fantasy novels too.

Nov 23, 2019, 7:14pm

>199 Karlstar: Great, something to look forward to. ;)

I’ve heard about the Paksenarrion novels and might like to try them someday, but the length of the series means I’m not likely to dive into it in the near future. The Speed of Dark has a much better chance of making it onto the schedule.

Nov 23, 2019, 9:25pm

>200 YouKneeK: When you have the time the Paksenarrion trilogy is the best I've read of any post-Tolkein book in any of the categories in which it could be sorted - high fantasy, woman warrior, D&D based, military fantasy.

Nov 24, 2019, 1:21am

I'm also a fan of Elizabeth Moon. The Speed of Dark is excellent, and I really like the Vatta's War and Paksenarrion series as well. It's been a long time since I read Remnant Population, and I don't remember it well. Perhaps it needs to go on my reread list.

Nov 24, 2019, 7:41am

>201 quondame: That does sound likely to appeal to me. Maybe someday! Even before I started this Feist series and even before my reading time decreased, I was planning to avoid any really long series in 2020. There are a lot of medium-length series I’ve been interested in for a long time but never seem to get to, so I want to fit some of those into the schedule instead. Now I think I’ll focus on those for at least a couple years, in-between shorter series and standalones.

>202 NorthernStar: Now I’m getting even more curious to try Elizabeth Moon’s work. :)

Nov 25, 2019, 7:17am

>203 YouKneeK: I feel we aren't selling Elizabeth Moon's work hard enough! The Paks series, at least the first 3 books, is really a great fantasy series. The Speed of Dark is one of my all-time favorites and a big favorite here with Dragoneers. I liked the Vatta's war series, though not as much as her other work.

Nov 25, 2019, 5:21pm

>204 Karlstar: Definitely the impression I’ve received from the last few posts is that nobody really likes Elizabeth Moon’s work much and I should cancel my plans to try her work so I don't torture myself. ;)

Nov 25, 2019, 7:16pm

>204 Karlstar: I thought the Paks series was only the first three books and those that came after were related but don't feature her much. It's why I never continued with them really.

Nov 25, 2019, 8:18pm

>205 YouKneeK: *raises hand*

Nov 25, 2019, 9:02pm

>207 BookstoogeLT: It looks like we finally have a dissenting vote! :)

Nov 25, 2019, 9:29pm

>206 Narilka: Technically true, she only appears in the first 3 (published order, not chronological) but there are more books in the series.

Nov 25, 2019, 10:08pm

Review: Shards of a Broken Crown by Raymond E. Feist

This was the fourth and final book in the Serpentwar Saga, one subseries in the middle of Feist’s very large Riftwar Cycle. I think I enjoyed this one the best out of the books in this subseries. This is an ensemble book, but the two grandsons of Jimmy the Hand get a large chunk of the page time and I really enjoyed them, both separately and together.

The story held my attention well, although I think that was as much because I was invested in the characters as it was because of the story. There’s a pattern to these books that causes me to roll my eyes a little bit more in each book. I enjoy the writing and the characters and the stories, but I’m also hoping Feist will find some new types of stories to tell in the later books or I can imagine reaching a point where I get tired of it.

I have some notes on the reading order in the unlikely event that somebody who’s trying to decide how to read this series happens to randomly run across this review for a book right smack in the middle of the entire series. This book was published in early 1998, before Krondor: The Betrayal, the first book in the next subseries, which was published later that same year. Sounds logical so far, right? However, this book takes place later chronologically then Krondor: The Betrayal. Ok, well, sometimes authors do that, so what? Well, Krondor: The Betrayal is based on a video game that was released in 1993. This book therefore has several references to and spoilers for the events in Krondor: The Betrayal, because that story already existed in a video game format when this book was written, even though that story hadn’t yet been published as a book. This whole mishmash is further complicated by the author’s revised edition of Prince of the Blook from the subseries before this one. That book was originally published before even the game, but it now makes references to events in that game due to being revised at a later date. If I were ever to read through this series again, I think I would do it in chronological order instead. The first time I read these books, I did read them in chronological order based on some random list I had found on the internet and I think the story flowed better that way.

I have a couple other things to discuss inside the spoiler tags…
Regarding the repetitive plot elements, this seems to be the basic story that is repeated throughout the books: The Kingdom, or at least the Western portion of it, is threatened by a big, bad, overwhelming enemy. There’s a major bloodbath as the sides clash. There are also inevitably a few deaths of critical secondary characters for emotional impact. Nevertheless, the Kingdom manages to just barely stay ahead of total destruction thanks to courageous and clever leaders. Meanwhile, the powerful magicians are either missing or unwilling to help for one reason or another, but they manage to show up in time to fight the big, bad supernatural creature that’s the source of all the trouble. This serves to end the fighting and/or they might get involved to help end the remaining petty squabbles before gathering together for a final companionable chat.

I had somewhat mixed feelings about Dash becoming the Upright Man at the end, but I think I liked it overall. My main worry is that this will lead to conflict between Dash and his brother Jimmy who has chosen to continue serving the crown. I’m guessing Dash probably won’t tell Jimmy, but it may come out sooner or later. The camaraderie between the two is one of the things I really enjoyed in this book, and I’ve never particularly liked seeing a good fictional friendship become estranged or develop tension. I haven’t yet read any of the books that are set chronologically after this one, so I’m curious to find out where things go with that storyline in the future. I think the next 7 books were all set prior to this subseries though, so it may be a while before I get there.

One more thing: Prince Patrick is annoying! I miss Prince Arutha.

Next Book
I’m going to start working on my classic selections for the final quarter of 2019 with All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I have some general knowledge of what it’s about from seeing it referenced elsewhere, but this will be my first time reading it.

Nov 25, 2019, 10:41pm

>209 Karlstar: I'm pretty sure Paksenarion has a strong presence in more than one of the sequels, though she isn't the center of any of them.

Nov 26, 2019, 5:49am

>208 YouKneeK: Well, you know how odd my contrariness can be at times :-)

>210 YouKneeK: This doesn't sound familiar at all so I'm guessing I never read it. It does sound some what interesting though. That whole mishmash of time in regards to the videogame, authors edition, etc sounds like a messy situation though.

Nov 26, 2019, 6:58am

>212 BookstoogeLT: LOL :)

Yeah, I usually prefer publication order, but this series is the exception to the rule since the original publication dates don’t reflect the order in which things were written.

Nov 26, 2019, 9:14pm

>210 YouKneeK: Really glad you are still enjoying these, I never did get tired of the series, even if it did drag a little bit in the middle. I think my interest picked back up in Talon of the Silver Hawk, even if that one did wander away from the Kingdom focus of all the others.

Nov 27, 2019, 8:18am

>214 Karlstar: Thanks! That’s good to know about Talon of the Silver Hawk. I actually enjoyed this Serpentwar Saga more than I remembered enjoying it the first time around.

While I’m posting, I wanted to mention that I’ll be visiting family over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, so my reading time will be short for the next few days. If there are any people paying an alarming amount of attention to my thread and who actually notice that it’s taking me several days to finish the ridiculously short All Quiet on the Western Front, this does not reflect my enjoyment but only my quantity of reading time. ;) I did start the book and am enjoying it so far; I’ve just been busy preparing for the trip so haven’t had much reading time.

I plan to take the Oculus Quest (Virtual Reality) headset with me and talk some of the family into trying it. I took it to work a couple of times and that was great fun. I had them play Beat Saber and some did better with it than others, but they all seemed to think it was pretty cool. Beat Saber occasionally has barriers that come toward you that you have to dodge, and there was one guy who would run halfway across the room when a barrier came toward him and he had this huge smile the whole time he was playing. He had me in hysterics. I won’t get nearly as much action out of my family, unless I get a chance to show it to my cousins. The rest of the family is older and more sedentary and not particularly into games or computers, so this really isn’t in their wheelhouse by any stretch of the imagination. I do have a scenic app that I can show the people who just want to see what it looks like without having to do anything, though.

Nov 27, 2019, 11:24am

My Trouble with a capital T has managed to activate the Roomba a second time. :) He did it about 5 minutes after it had already finished cleaning. I guess he wanted to watch it go for another round.

Nov 27, 2019, 11:25am

Have a great Thanksgiving! All Quiet on the Western Front may be short, but I thought it was a slow read. Not really cheery subject matter.

Nov 27, 2019, 11:28am

>217 Karlstar: Thanks, you too!

Nov 27, 2019, 11:43am

>216 YouKneeK: ha ha Ernest!

Nov 27, 2019, 2:22pm

>216 YouKneeK: Looks like you'll need to cat-proof the power button...

Instead of a box, you could try a stiff but flexible piece of plastic taped over the button. Something like a wide piece of plastic strapping that you tape in a gentle curve high enough to slide a finger under.

Nov 27, 2019, 3:02pm

>219 Darth-Heather: Must you encourage him? ;)

>220 Maddz: I’m going to wait until it annoys me, then just move it into the other room that I normally keep closed off anyway. That will be the easiest to implement for me and fully cat-proof. At least until he learns how to open doors! For now it's still mostly amusing, but it will achieve the level of annoying if he does it in the middle of the night or starts doing it constantly. I’ve also read that some people prevent accidental activation by children and pets by keeping the bin removed, which would work for my older downstairs model if he ever develops a fascination with that one.

For now, he’s decided to leave the Roomba alone and work on his stretching exercises. He has to stay limber so he can stay a step ahead of the Roomba. (I should have named him Astrophe. Then I could tell people, "This is my cat, Astrophe.")

Nov 27, 2019, 4:54pm

>221 YouKneeK: That picture is rather glorious. It makes Ernest look a bit like a peeping-tom(cat).

Nov 27, 2019, 8:28pm

>222 ScoLgo: Haha, it does. I figured he would take a tumble before I could get the camera up on the phone, so I was hurrying. He was stretched out really far away from the cat tree his hind feet were on, and the blinds are a bit wobbly.

Nov 27, 2019, 8:45pm

>221 YouKneeK: love the picture. As to the name: groan,

Must admit I’ve been wondering why Ernest is a freak. He doesn’t seem to have eight legs or anything ...

Nov 27, 2019, 9:02pm

>221 YouKneeK: What a stinker! He looks like he's having fun :)

Nov 28, 2019, 7:00am

>224 haydninvienna: LOL, sometimes it seems like he must have eight legs to cause as much trouble as he does, but I call him a freak because of his behavior, not his appearance. Part of it is just that, while I know many other cats do these kinds of things, I myself have never had a cat like him before so his every escapade is a source of amusement and amazement. My last cat was a Persian, a cat I adored to bits, but she was pretty much the opposite of Ernest in every way. We had other cats when I still lived with my parents, but I don’t remember any of them ever doing the kinds of things Ernest does.

>225 Narilka: A stinker is another great description for him. :)

Nov 28, 2019, 4:18pm

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 28, 2019, 8:10pm

>227 quondame: Thanks, you too. :)

Edited: Nov 30, 2019, 10:44am

>221 YouKneeK: sorry, I should have probably warned you that I'm a Bad Kitty Enabler... I'm just lucky that my current feline friends are fairly mellow. I do a bad job of disciplining cats; they are just so cute, and also they don't care to be disciplined.

You just be you, Ernest!

Nov 30, 2019, 1:04pm

>229 Darth-Heather: "do a bad job of disciplining cats"
There are some things in this world that are simply logically impossible. "Disciplining cats" is one of them. Belated happy thanksgiving to you and Ernest.

Nov 30, 2019, 7:00pm

>230 hfglen: Thanks!

>229 Darth-Heather:, >230 hfglen: I’ve never figured out how to properly train/discipline cats. Ernest is really the first cat who’s caused enough trouble for me to want to try training him not to do certain things, but I never had any real success. I would pick one tactic and try to be consistent with it for several weeks, and some things were temporarily effective, but Ernest’s determination to do what he wanted always won in the end. :)

In the end, I decided the most effective strategy is to simply ignore him when he’s doing something I don’t like, no matter how difficult it may be. He likes an audience, and he loses interest faster if he doesn’t get a reaction. If I try to make him stop, he’ll stop for a minute and then keep coming back to do it again and again and again. For things I can’t ignore because they’re potentially cat-astrophic, the only real solution I’ve found is to prevent him from accessing whatever it is by either removing it or finding a way to block it.

Dec 1, 2019, 7:25am

Review: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

All Quiet on the Western Front was one of my classic reading selections for the fourth quarter of 2019. I’ve been curious about this book for a while which is one of the reasons I selected it, but I was also a little skeptical that it would hold anything new that modern readers haven’t already encountered in other books that depict wars, especially those that attempt to present an anti-war message. I did find this to be worth reading, and it wasn’t really what I expected at all.

It’s set mostly in France on the Western Front (obviously) during World War I. It’s told from the perspective of a fictional young German soldier who, along with some friends from school, was talked into volunteering for the war by their teacher. We follow him and his friends throughout their experiences in the war which includes fighting on the front lines. There is almost no discussion of tactics at all. There are very few explanations of troop positions and goals and plans or anything like that. In some cases, the characters hardly seem to know why they’re doing what they’re doing, they just follow orders. The main focus is on the characters, the hardships they suffer and the things that make them happy, the horrors they see, how they feel about the purpose of the war, and how they feel about how the war has changed them and how it will affect their society and their ability to relate to society.

While the story is based on fictional characters, the author did spend some brief time fighting in WWI and then spent over a year recovering from wounds in a military hospital, so it had a very authentic feel. My edition had a brief but interesting section at the end discussing the author, how the book came about, and the impact the book had on the world. I really enjoyed that part; it answered some of the questions I had been wondering by the end.

This is not the book you want to read if you’re looking for something uplifting or cheerful. Although there is some humor, especially toward the beginning, this is a very bleak story and all sorts of horrible things happen. The author has no qualms about killing off his characters, which is to be expected in a realistic war novel, so there’s no point getting attached, but I did like the characters pretty well and there were a couple deaths that hit me. One was Kat, even though I knew his death was coming. I predicted it when he was first introduced because the mentor-type figures always die. The other death that hit me was of course Paul, the main character we’ve spent all this time with, whose death happens at the very end when the war is almost over.

It held my attention well. I don’t always do well with what I think of as “message books”, where the message takes precedence over the plot and is always a message I’ve already heard many times before in other forms. Yet this one worked well for me. It had its slow spots, but I think the authentic feel and the day-to-day anecdotes helped keep it interesting. Even some of the deeper thoughts about war, while hardly unique to a modern reader, were inserted in such a way that I usually enjoyed reading them although there were some spots where my eyes glazed over. As I approached the end of the book, I was hovering at around a 3.5 rating for it, but I think the emotional impact near the end combined with the supplementary information about the book and the author pushed it up to a 4.

Next Book
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. This will be my final classic selection for 2019.

Dec 1, 2019, 8:23am

>232 YouKneeK: I've wondered about this book myself, but between it taking place during WWI (WWI and WWII are my two least favorite time periods to read anything in) and that it has been touted by people who I disagree with on a fundamental level, I just never took the time. From your review it sounds like I've made the right choice :-)

I am glad to hear that it went up in rating for you at the end. A book heavy on theme or message needs something to keep the reader going. I've never heard of this author outside of this book. Do you know if he has an extensive bibliography or was he just a one hit wonder with the Literati?

As for 12th Night, I just went and read the little synopsis. Sounds like it could either be really funny or just stupidly ridiculous. I hope it turns out really funny :-) I just looked on Prime and there are 3 or 4 different movie editions. One had Alec Guinness so I might check that one out before I read the play (if I remember by then of course!)

Dec 1, 2019, 9:05am

>231 YouKneeK: Cats, on the other hand, are remarkably good at training their human slaves. Though our Feline Overlords may tell you that sometimes the slaves are remarkably obtuse. Surely they know that Cats must be fed every time one of them enters the kitchen, and humans must fold themselves into the required shape when the Cat deigns to make use of the pre-warmed bed?

Dec 1, 2019, 10:17am

>233 BookstoogeLT: Remarque's Wikipedia page lists 15 novels; most seem to have been translated into English although might be hard to find. Remarque was regarded as a traitor by the Nazis and his books (specifically All Quiet on the Western Front) were banned as unpatriotic.

Dec 1, 2019, 10:40am

>233 BookstoogeLT: In additon to what haydninvienna found, I looked up Remarque on Goodreads. Some of his translated works have a few thousand ratings there. Three Comrades is the second most “popular” with 21,910 ratings versus All Quiet on the Western Front’s 331,927 ratings. I’ve never heard of that title or the others I saw, though. I’ll probably watch one of the Twelfth Night movies myself after I finish the play. I'll decide which one after it's safe for me to read the movie descriptions without encountering spoilers. :)

>234 hfglen: Haha, very true! Although food trauma is one thing I’ve managed to completely avoid with Ernest. He’s free fed, has never seen an empty food bowl in his life, and I almost never give him human food. He dive-bombed a salad plate and made a huge mess when he was a kitten, and he was quite obnoxious every time I ate in those early days, so I never fed him when I was eating or cooking because I didn’t want to encourage that. Now he ignores me (or at least my food) while I eat.

Dec 1, 2019, 12:21pm

Dec 2, 2019, 11:10am

I've tried various ways of demonstrating to cats that I wish them to discontinue certain behaviours; all they learn is to do it when I'm not looking. Stubborn little buggers.

I haven't read much of Shakespeare, but I thought Twelfth Night was hilarious.

Dec 2, 2019, 11:49am

>232 YouKneeK: I'm glad you read this one. I hate to use terms like 'powerful', and 'timeless classic' but I think they apply. I guess in this case All Quiet On the Western Front isn't about the time period or the style of war, but the impact of it on a person.

>233 BookstoogeLT: You really should give it a try.

>235 haydninvienna: Banned by Nazis is a great recommendation.

Dec 2, 2019, 6:29pm

>238 Darth-Heather: LOL, yes they are stubborn! I had a somewhat mixed reaction to Twelfth Night, although I did find it funny in parts. I finished it earlier today and followed it up with one of the movie adaptations. I’ll have a review up a bit later.

>239 Karlstar: Yes, I think the story's focus on the war's impact on people helped it become more timeless. I had expected more details about the war itself, but I definitely didn’t miss it not being there.

Dec 2, 2019, 7:34pm

Review: Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked and separated, each believing the other dead. As one might expect with a Shakespearean comedy that features twins, there are mistaken identities and messy romantic tangles. Everything is made all the more complicated by Viola’s decision, for reasons sort of explained in the play, to pose as a man.

I had some mixed feelings about this one. There was humor, and there were parts that made me laugh. There was another subplot that was supposed to be funny I guess, but I thought it crossed too far over the line into cruelty. Also, the romances were a bit difficult to buy into. I’ll go into more detail on those comments in the spoiler tags near the end. More so than with any of the other Shakespeare plays I’ve read in the past few years, I had trouble sympathizing with, or even understanding in some cases, the motivations of the characters.

Seeing a visual adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays is often helpful, because the actors can portray emotion that isn’t always as clear in a play script, and the way they choose to play the scenes can add depth and clarity. I therefore watched one of the movies, the one from 1996, immediately after I finished reading it. That really helped, I think. I still had problems with some aspects of the story, but the actors helped me buy into both the humor and the emotion of it much more. It also helped make some of the romances slightly more believable, although one of them remained ridiculous in my eyes. I usually get attached to the versions of characters formed in my head when I read something, which is one reason I prefer to read something before watching it so that I don’t rob myself of the chance to form my own mental versions of the characters which I often feel are superior. This was a rare case where I think I liked almost every character in the movie better than the versions I’d had in my head from reading the play. I particularly liked the Fool, although he wasn’t remotely like what I had pictured when reading.

The rest of my comments must be confined to spoiler tags:
I really had a lot of trouble with that whole business with Malvolio. At first it was a little funny, but his tormenters took it way too far and I became quite bothered by it. Although I thought Malvolio could have stood to be taken down a peg or two, I didn’t at all think his behavior justified the way he was treated. I was very much bothered by it during my initial reading, but the movie made it even worse by portraying more clearly how he was treated. I did like that the movie made it more clear that the characters felt some actual regret in the end, but that didn’t make it any less disturbing.

The parts that particularly made me laugh were the mistaken identity bits when Viola was mistaken for Sebastian and vice versa. I found the end a bit ridiculous though, particularly when I was just reading it. I could see why Olivia might have become attracted to Viola in her guise as Cesario based on their conversations, but they only met a few times and their conversations were brief. The fact that they barely know each other is made pretty obvious when she mistakes Sebastian for Viola. It made no sense to me that the two of them jumped into marriage so quickly, especially when Sebastian had never laid eyes on her before. I mean at some point, if the girl who wants you to marry her seems to think she’s known you for a while, wouldn’t you ask, “Hey, are you sure you’ve got the right guy?”

Then Olivia finds out that the guy she married wasn’t the person she fell in love with, but it’s ok because she fell in love with somebody who looked like "him" so that must mean they were destined for each other. Meanwhile, Orsino has been pining over Olivia all this time, but when he learns she’s gotten married and oh by the way his servant is actually a girl, well, no problem. Now that there’s another girl available, he’ll just marry her instead! The movie made the Orsino/Viola relationship far more believable by showing their friendship develop, plus a lot of romantic tension on Viola’s part and a hint of confused romantic tension on Orsino’s part. The Sebastian/Olivia relationship didn’t work for me in either format.

I also thought the motivation for Viola dressing like a man and serving Duke Orsino was very, very thin. The movie helped with that a little, but only a little.

I’m rating this at 2.5 stars based on my limited enjoyment reading the play, but I’m rounding up to 3 on Goodreads because the movie helped me appreciate it more.

Next Book
Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon, despite all the dire warnings earlier in this thread against reading her work. ;)

Dec 2, 2019, 10:51pm

>241 YouKneeK: Replying to spoiler section:I agree completely with your reaction to how Malvolio is treated. I suppose we can note that the higher ranking characters who abuse him are actually pretty low morally in other ways, and are egged on by the lower servants, who will have suffered most from Malvolio as a tyrannical superior. It still leaves a very nasty taste though.

I felt the need for a woman if rank, alone, in a hostile city, wanting to disguise her gender was perfectly justified. This was an era where rape-marriages (i.e. rape the woman, then "make restitution" by marrying her) of heiresses was a known way of getting a fortune.

The Viola/Orsino relationship I think can be best explained this way: as in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare is contrasting the idealised "love" pursuit of an unattainable female (Rosalind there, Olivia here), in which the unattainablility is half the point, with a real love built on growing attraction. Given all the references to the "fair" nature of his page, it seems Orsino has been feeling attraction for some time, but has been quelling the feelings as unacceptable homosexual urges.

As to Sebastian and Olivia, see my above remarks about marrying rich women! Unfortunately. It is plausible, but it does not bode well.

Dec 3, 2019, 9:00am

>242 -pilgrim-:
Your explanation for why a woman in a strange city might want to disguise her gender does make good sense, but she wasn’t completely alone and she did have at least some money. She had the captain and sailors with her at the time, and she gave gold to the captain simply for offering her hope that her brother might still be alive. Could she have paid her passage on a ship going to her home or to a more well-known/friendly location? Heck, if she's going to disguise herself as a man, could she have disguised herself as a sailor and, along with her captain and his sailors, have hired on as crew on a vessel? Would the Duke, who the captain spoke well of, have helped her out if she had gone to him as a supplicant? Who knows, maybe the answer to all of those questions is “of course not”, but there’s no discussion of it.

Nor is there any discussion of why she couldn’t serve in the Duke’s court in a female role such as a maid. Nobody there knew her or her rank. Disguising herself as a male hadn’t been her first choice; she initially wanted to serve Olivia until learning Olivia wouldn’t see anybody. I think one can speculate reasonable answers to some of these objections, such as her wanting a servant position of a higher status so she could ingratiate herself with people of influence who might be able to help her, but I don’t think the text provided sufficient explanations. Not that I expect deep explanations in Shakespeare plays, of course. It seems the audience was usually expected to “just go with it” and accept the basic premise with minimal attempt at logical scrutiny, for the sake of the humor and/or the drama. Sometimes I can do that, sometimes I can’t, depending on how much I enjoy other aspects of the story. This time I couldn’t.

When I was reading the play, I didn’t take Orsino’s descriptions of Viola in her Cesario disguise as attraction, just as an acknowledgment of his youthful appearance and possibly an acknowledgement that he might appear attractive to some ladies, much like Viola herself acknowledges that Olivia is fair even though she clearly did not feel a romantic attraction toward her when she was in love with Orsino. People can acknowledge attractiveness in other people of the same gender without necessarily feeling any attraction themselves, and so that's how I read it. The word "fair" seemed to be used freely and in many contexts. As I mentioned in my review, the movie did play it much more like you describe, but that was not how I read it initially, especially considering that I was unfamiliar with the story and didn't know how things would end up. I did eventually guess it, but my initial guess was that Viola would end up with Antonio because of how he kept carrying on about his love for Sebastian.

Regarding Sebastian and Olivia, I thought and still do think that Sebastian was supposed to be one of our good and noble characters. Antonio goes into danger for him and trusts him with his purse, Viola loves him greatly, and Sebastian himself never showed any hint of being opportunistic, that I saw, prior to that point. His failure to insist on discussing Olivia’s apparent confusion before agreeing to marry her therefore comes across more as foolish and bizarre than as evil and manipulative when taken in the context of how we see his character portrayed throughout the play.

Dec 3, 2019, 10:00am

>243 YouKneeK: Not that I expect deep explanations in Shakespeare plays, of course. It seems the audience was usually expected to “just go with it” and accept the basic premise with minimal attempt at logical scrutiny, for the sake of the humor and/or the drama.

A lot of Shakespeare's plays are based on prior works. Could the audience have already been familiar with the story so they they didn't need a whole lot of exposition?

Dec 3, 2019, 10:15am

I think much of the humor and plots of Shakespeare depend on whether you are of his time or not. Our cultural mores and expectations have shifted a great deal since his time. Mocking the lame, what we call senseless violence, living up close and personal with death and disease, the way people (both male and female) thought about females, so many deep differences between our gut reactions and the original audience. The miracle is that there is much in the plays which still relates to us.

Dec 3, 2019, 11:38am

>243 YouKneeK: I think disguise as a sailor is out of the question; her hands would give her away immediately. As would most menial occupations; upper servant is her only realistic choice. I also think you are overestimating the captain's ability to protect her; he is the wrong social class to be able to help much. He could certainly defend her against random thugs, but that is not what I was proposing; I was concerned as to the risk from poor gentlemen - and the captain would be in deep trouble for raising his hands against his "betters".

I don't find it surprising that Shakespeare does not give an explanation. His plays generally assume the manners and mores of his own time, even when set conveniently "abroad". I can vaguely remember several rape-as-courtship cases from his time.

And the tone of The Taming of the Shrew is an uncomfortable reminder of how very different his era's attitudes were. Remember that "consent" was very often seen as "permission of the appropriate male relative", rather than reflecting the woman's willingness.

I think it is because of the way we are evidently supposed to approve of Petruchio's actions and motives in that play, that I see the attraction of marrying wealth not being incompatible with Shakespeare's presentation of Sebastian as a "good guy"

Of course one can admire someone of the same sex without being sexually attracted to them. But Shakespeare has done sexual ambiguity elsewhere, and it makes sense to see Orsino as having personal growth, in slowly realising that his feelings for his page are more than admiration. It is analogous to the way a person can come to realise that the person they have considered a close friend is actually someone that they are in love with.

I agree with MrsLee; Shakespeare lived in a very different era. The social attitudes that he takes as the norm are often rather disturbing. His genius is that when he is portraying human emotions, and internal development, he transcends conventions, and portrays something that we can recognise and identify with.

Dec 3, 2019, 12:32pm

Not to divert the Shakespeare conversation, which is excellent, but you managed to pick an Elizabeth Moon book I haven't read! I hope it is good...

Dec 3, 2019, 11:36pm

>244 jjwilson61: It’s surely possible, although I didn’t get the impression that it was based on another story or see any notes about that in the supplemental material.

>245 MrsLee: I do think what you say makes a lot of sense. The different cultural mores undoubtedly make a big difference in how some of these older classics come across to us today versus how they would come across to the authors' intended audience. I think part of the fun of various art forms, literature included, is in seeing how people with different perspectives and experiences interpret it and relate to it. It's fun for me at least, although I'm sure my reviews are terribly frustrating to people who are more literarily educated and know what the "correct" interpretation is. :)

>246 -pilgrim-: I do appreciate your informed perspective on the culture to help me understand how Shakespeare’s intended audience might have interpreted Viola’s motivations. The things you say make sense, but I still find the motivation in the text to be lacking for my own tastes and my own less-informed perspective. However, I can certainly accept that the motivation might have seemed perfectly obvious to Shakespeare’s contemporaries and to people like you who have studied that time period and its literature.

I’m confused about where the discussion about the Orsino/Viola relationship is going. I still don’t disagree with anything you’ve said. Like I said in my previous post, the movie played their relationship much like you described. And like I said when I discussed that in my review, I was able to buy into their relationship better after seeing it portrayed that way in the movie. In my last post I was trying to explain why I read the text differently prior to watching the movie because I had (and still have) the impression you couldn’t imagine how I could possibly have failed to achieve the standard literary interpretation during my initial readthrough.

Please keep in mind that I haven't studied literature at a university level and I've had limited exposure to the classics. My chosen approach is to dive in as blindly as possible and form my own opinions during the initial readthrough without outside influence. For me it's fun to end up with my own version of the play in my head, however bizarre my version and my opinions about it may seem to others. I like to read the supplemental material afterwards and sometimes watch adaptations to get a more formal perspective on the story, and I enjoy reading perspectives here on LT from those of you who are better-versed in the classics. However, I'm not taking a scholarly approach with this and likely never will.

I haven’t read The Taming of the Shrew yet and I don’t know anything about the story, so I can’t comment on the comparisons you made. As my comments above imply, I’d prefer to remain uninformed about that story so I can go into it blind when I do get to it.

>247 Karlstar: So far so good! Remnant Population caught my attention right from the beginning. I haven’t had nearly as much time to read as I would like, which is frustrating me. I’m technically on vacation this week, but I have several things I need to get done while I have the time off and so haven’t had much time for reading. I’ve also had to log in and do at least a little bit of work every day since Thanksgiving for various reasons.

Dec 4, 2019, 1:45am

In Christmas Days, Jeanette Winterson mentions that role reversal is a traditional, even ancient, part of Twelfth Night celebrations - or more accurately - of the mid-winter festival of misrule.

Dec 4, 2019, 6:05am

Please also remember that in Shakespeare's day, female roles were customarily played by boys in drag.

Dec 4, 2019, 8:24am

>249 quondame: Speaking of the title, I had to Google it afterward because I managed to get to the end of my first read having absolutely no idea why this particular play had been given that title. Its alternate title “As You Like It” made more sense to me, but learning about the Twelfth Night traditions of the time did help. Plus apparently that was the day it was first performed.

>250 hfglen: That’s one thing the Folger editions I’ve been reading have managed to beat into my head. They’ve mentioned it at least once in the supplemental material of every play I’ve read to the point where I now consider it while reading the plays before I even get to the supplemental material that reminds me yet again.

Dec 4, 2019, 9:46am

I probably shouldn’t be posting photos in this thread right now since it’s getting a bit full and I’m hoping to make it last through the end of the year, but I managed to catch a picture of Ernest in the act. :) You can also see him messing around with it in this 32-second video.

He didn’t actually manage to activate it this time, but he’s up to a count of 4 successful activations. Plus one cancelation. After he activated it yesterday evening, I allowed it to keep running. It had to come back to its docking station to recharge before it could finish, at which point he hit the power button again. That canceled its cleaning run so that it wouldn’t start back up after it recharged. Fortunately, this model lets you tell it to go clean a specific room, so I can send it to the room it missed rather than going back through the entire cleaning process again. (Of course, I could always pull out the manual vacuum too, but where’s the fun in that?)

Dec 4, 2019, 9:54am

Handsome smart kitty!

Your approach to Shakespeare is exactly the one I have taken. Although I haven't read even one play this year I believe. Sigh.

Dec 4, 2019, 10:51am

Ernest is very handsome and obviously smart too.

Dec 4, 2019, 11:07am

Smart, handsome moggy! What breed is he (apart from "troublemaker", that is), Burmese?

Dec 4, 2019, 11:11am

>255 haydninvienna: He looks like a very aristoc(r)atic Russian Blue.

Dec 4, 2019, 11:25am

>253 MrsLee:, >254 Sakerfalcon:, >255 haydninvienna:, >256 hfglen: Ernest thanks all of you for your kind and of course completely deserved compliments. ;)

His human highly agrees with >255 haydninvienna:’s assessment of “troublemaker”, and >256 hfglen: is correct about his breed.

>253 MrsLee: It sounds like you’ve had much more important things going on this year. I hope next year is better in terms of your having time to do the things you’re interested in.

Dec 4, 2019, 11:30am

>256 hfglen: >257 YouKneeK: Fair enough, I'm not much a cat breed spotter. We always had cats while I was growing up, and I've been owned by a few since, but none of them have been aristocrats, beyond what comes naturally to a cat.

Dec 4, 2019, 7:53pm

>252 YouKneeK: haha Awesome!! Caught in the act :D

Edited: Dec 6, 2019, 1:27am

>248 YouKneeK: I appreciate that a traditional English education, where we studied a Shakespeare play, in depth, throughout the entire year, every year of my secondary education (except for the 6th firm, where I specialised in the sciences, with language extras), and a second degree that had a large emphasis on Renaissance Europe, does probably give me an above average exposure to the cultural context.

I do feel that the points you felt required further explanation in the play would not have been felt as an omission by the author's intended audience, whose experiences are very different from the expectations of a miodern audience.

But I was not at all trying to invalidate how the relationship that we have been discussing appeared to you, or criticise you in any sense.

I have not seem the particular performance that you referred to. However I have seen a lot of modern Shakespeare performances that make considerable alterations to the original play in order to make it more comprehensible/sympathetic/ "relevant" to a modern audience. The directors of such versions believe that by doing so they are making Shakespeare "timeless"; sometimes such versions are interesting, vibrant works, sometimes the changes do (again, in my opinion) make the play better. But I believe that once you have violated the author's intent in that way, the result may be a worthwhile, enjoyable work of art, but it is the director's, not Shakespeare's.

The point I was making was that I do not think the director's reading in this case was such a modernising revision of the author's intent. I wanted to show that such an interpretion was a valid reading already present in Shakespeare's text.

But one of the beauty of Shakespeare, particular in comparison with a lot of his contemporaries, is that he does not beat you over the head with his meaning. He frequently leaves a lot open to interpretation.

Your interpretion on reading the play was different from the one that I got when I did. That does not mean that yours is "wrong". I was just trying to demonstrate why both are possible.

Note: the different editions of Shakespeare's plays often differ substantially. Scholar's argue endlessly over which version should be taken as the "true text". Do the revisions represent the final authorial intent, or do they represent the adulteration of the author's "vision"by the practical requirements of performance, response to audience reaction, and (in some cases) state interference? In fact, they are simply records of different performances. I don't know how the editions of Twelfth Night compare. But it seems to me that it is quite possible that how such things as relationships may have varied in how they were interpreted, even in different performances by Shakespeare's own company of players.

Dec 5, 2019, 1:38pm

>260 -pilgrim-: No, I definitely would not say the movie I watched made major alterations to make the play more accessible. I noticed some parts that were cut, but the general flow and dialogue seemed to match pretty closely with the written version. The biggest difference was that there was a sequence at the beginning showing the shipwreck and Viola and Sebastian being separated. This aligned with the backstory we were given in the written play, but made the context more clear and added more emotional impact to Viola and Sebastian’s separation.

My primary goal when choosing an adaptation is to find one that’s more “traditional”, following the dialogue as written in the play and maintaining the same setting. This gives me a better perspective on how the play might have been intended to be seen. If I implied somewhere that I thought the movie changed things, that was not my intent because I do not believe that. The movie enhanced my understanding of the play because of the way the actors performed it.

Like I said in my review when I discussed watching the movie: ”That really helped, I think. I still had problems with some aspects of the story, but the actors helped me buy into both the humor and the emotion of it much more. It also helped make some of the romances slightly more believable, although one of them remained ridiculous in my eyes.” And at the end of my review: ”…I’m rounding up to 3 on Goodreads because the movie helped me appreciate it more.”

Yes, it would make sense to me that there would be differences in different performances in Shakespeare’s day due to revisions and different actors back at the time. Also, I would think surely even Shakespeare’s audiences found different ways to interpret the play they had watched. Just like today’s readers of current novels interpret an author’s intent for various scenes differently based on their own experiences and perspectives and have lively book discussions because of those different reactions.

Dec 6, 2019, 7:19am

Review: Remnant Population by Elizabeth Moon

Everybody who told me I needed to try one of Elizabeth Moon’s books was right, I really enjoyed this. :) Although the story itself is based on a familiar science fiction trope, it’s one I usually enjoy, and it had some unique elements. It held my attention from beginning to end. Sometimes a certain part of the story would start to feel like it had been going on a bit too long, but then something new would happen to fully recapture my interest again.

The story is told mostly from the perspective of Ofelia, a woman in her 70’s. The protagonist’s age is one of the unique aspects of the book. Although the book appears to be set in the far future, there isn’t any discussion of medical advancement at all. Sometimes books with an older protagonist have that character acting like they were decades younger due to modern medicine or magic or whatever, but Ofelia’s health is about what you’d expect from a person in their 70’s today who has been able to stay mobile and mentally sharp but isn’t getting around as easily as she used to.

Ofelia lives with her son and daughter-in-law as colonists on another planet. Near the beginning of the book, the people sponsoring the colony decides that their efforts are failing and their goals cannot be achieved, so the colonists will be relocated to a different world. Ofelia, who feels under-appreciated and over-bossed by her family and the people around her, doesn’t want to give up her garden and everything else she’s worked so hard at for decades, and she just wants to be left alone to do her own thing and have some peace for a change. Having an entire world to herself sounds great, so she determines she’s going to do whatever she can to get left behind when the colonists are removed from the planet. For anybody who wants a bit more detail about what kind of story this is, although it’s fairly easy to guess, I’m putting it in spoiler tags since it isn’t blatantly revealed until you get a good ways into the book: This is a first contact story.

I really liked Ofelia. She was believable, but quirky and fun. I think many people, regardless of our ages, could identify with some aspects of her personality. I particularly identified with her love of solitude and her desire to just be left alone so she could do what needed to be done in the manner she thought best. This book paints a pretty bleak picture of what humanity will be like in the future. It took certain negative aspects found in today’s societies and depicted them as being even more prevalent, maybe as a cautionary tale to make readers consider their behavior more carefully. The way women were treated across the board particularly made this book feel older than its 1996 publication date. There’s also a lot of ageism and “educationism”, by which made up word I mean that characters who lacked a formal higher education were dismissed out of hand because they couldn’t possibly know anything about anything.

This is a complete story that stands alone, and I was very satisfied with how it ended. It’s been quite a while since I last read the type of science fiction story described in my spoiler tag above, so it was great to read another one. I had quite a bit going on in the real world, so it’s probably a reflection on how good this book is that it held my attention so well when I had time to sit and read it.

Next Book
The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher. I know nothing about it and have never read anything by the author before. This is the other main group selection for the month in the group I’m in on GR – Remnant Population was the science fiction pick and The Raven and the Reindeer was the fantasy pick; they do one of each every month. I wasn’t sure I’d have time to fit this one in and still meet my other reading commitments, but it’s still pretty early in the month and this is a short standalone. When I can manage it, I like to do the group reads if they meet my criteria for "standalone". I’m probably going to read them eventually anyway since the group's bookshelf is where I get most of my reading selections, and it’s more fun to read it when there are so many people to discuss it with afterwards.

After this I’ll read Embassytown as mentioned a while back since I committed to reading that one this month, and then I’ll finally get back to Feist!

Dec 6, 2019, 8:19am

>262 YouKneeK: T Kingfisher is the pen name for Ursula Vernon. I've read some of the stories - the Clocktaur War duology and the related Swordheart and enjoyed them a lot. Very funny and rather subversive of the whole RPG fiction trope.

Dec 6, 2019, 8:30am

>263 Maddz: That name sounds familiar, not just because she shares Le Guin's first name I don't think, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t read anything she’s published under Ursula Vernon either. It sounds like something I should check out, though.

Edited: Dec 6, 2019, 8:36am

It looks like this has been around for a while, but this was my first time seeing it and it made me laugh so I thought some other people here might appreciate it if they haven’t seen it before -- or maybe even if they have. It’s a parody of “Let it Snow”, Star Trek: The Next Generation style.

I think the "shut up, Wesley!" is the funniest part. :)

Edited to correct spelling of the name in my spoiler tags.

Dec 6, 2019, 5:06pm

>262 YouKneeK: Well, you liked it! So now you have another author to explore and all her back catalogue. That'll teach you to like books!

I've never heard of Kingfisher or any of her books, so I'm looking forward to that review already just to expand my general SFF knowledge base :-)

Dec 6, 2019, 5:24pm

>266 BookstoogeLT: LOL, hopefully it won’t teach me!

I’m only about 50 pages into the Kingfisher book, but it’s very fairytaleish. I have mixed reactions to those kinds of stories, but so far this one is holding my interest ok. Favorite phrase of the day (from the book): “some unknown vegetative logic”.

Dec 6, 2019, 6:35pm

>262 YouKneeK: Direct hit! Adding this to my wishlist.

Dec 7, 2019, 6:51am

>261 YouKneeK: That's what I love about Shakespeare; 400 years after his death, we can still enjoy arguing over what he had to say!

>265 YouKneeK: Thank you for that link; it brought a much needed smile to my day.

Dec 7, 2019, 7:46am

>268 Narilka: Woo hoo! :) I hope you enjoy it if/when you get to it.

>269 -pilgrim-: That’s the truth. I’m glad you enjoyed the link!

Dec 7, 2019, 4:12pm

>262 YouKneeK: See! Now queue up some other Moon novels! Thanks for the review, since I haven't read that one and it sounds good, I'll put it on my list as well.

Dec 7, 2019, 5:06pm

>271 Karlstar: LOL, I'll probably try to cycle back around to her within a year or so. I look forward to reading what you think about it if you get to it!

Dec 7, 2019, 5:07pm

Review: The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher

The Raven and the Reindeer is a standalone story based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. I’ve never read the original story, so I can’t speak to how this book compares, but based on the author’s notes at the end I think it’s safe to say that this one has a different ending. I don’t always enjoy books that are based on fairytales if they’re too fluffy or silly or chaotic or illogical. Others have worked for me though, such as the ones Naomi Novik has written. This is one that worked for me, aside from one main complaint which is the reason I’m giving it 4 stars instead of 5.

The story opens up with the introduction of two children, a boy named Kay and a girl named Gerta. The first sentence in the book tells us Kay was born “with frost in his eyes and frost in his heart”. Gerta sees Kay as her best and closest friend and, as she gets older, believes herself to be in love with him. When Kay is taken away by the Snow Queen, Gerta sets off to rescue him. In the process, she has many adventures, makes some new friends, and also gets to know herself better.

This story is definitely not a comedy, but there’s a lot of humor in the way it’s told. I loved the way the author phrased certain things, and the dialogue was often humorous. I liked Gerta very much despite some of her poor decisions, and I really liked some of the other characters that were introduced too. The one thing I had any real issue with was the romance, which I thought started in the worst way possible and would have been better if it had been developed differently. More on that, along with a couple other comments, in the spoiler tags.

The spoilers:
I did not like the way the relationship between Gerta and Janna was introduced at all. At that point, Gerta still considered herself to be Janna’s captive and wasn’t entirely convinced that Janna wasn’t going to kill her. Then Janna kisses her, almost completely out of the blue (she did make a comment earlier about Gerta being pretty), and Gerta learns for the first time in her life about the possibility of two girls kissing and decides she likes it, even though she's not so sure about Janna yet. At that point, I found it all a bit creepy and disturbing. Gerta’s attraction seemed based more on the novelty of it, and she was also at a disadvantage in their “relationship” because Janna had threatened her against trying to leave. I do understand that it wasn't necessarily a relationship at that point and that Janna didn't push anything, but I was still uncomfortable with how things started off because it didn't feel like they had a solid foundation. If the romance had developed toward the end after the girls had continued on Gerta’s adventure and gotten to know and trust each other better, then I could at least have bought into it.

I was sad at the end when Gerta could no longer understand the raven’s speech, so I was happy and amused when it turned out Mousebones could speak human and just hadn’t wanted to. I really liked Mousebones; he was funny.

Although I liked the ending, with the main issues being resolved and a hint at happiness to come for Gerta and some of the other characters, I was annoyed that we didn’t find out if the grandmothers were still alive.

Next Book
Embassytown by China Miéville.

Dec 7, 2019, 8:24pm

>273 YouKneeK: Well, the opening is quite different to The Snow Queen - in that Kay and Gerda are good friends until the Snow Queen's mirror is broken, and "a shard of ice enters Kay's heart"; Gerda is trying to both rescue and cure him. So this does sound like an "inspired by" version, rather than a retelling.

Dec 7, 2019, 8:59pm

>274 -pilgrim-: That does sound very different then. In this book (this is all from the first several pages), Kay and Gerta grow up as next door neighbors born close to the same time. Their grandmothers are friends and Kay and Gerta do spend a lot of time together. Sometimes Kay is friendly with her and confides in her, but he has a “cold” personality before he ever encounters the Snow Queen. He snubs Gerta when they’re with other kids, and he can also be rude or impatient with her when they’re alone together.

The girl’s name must also be spelled differently in the original story, since I saw a couple people spell it as Gerda over in the GR discussion too. The book spells it Gerta. I’m not sure why the author would have changed it.

Spoiler about how the Snow Queen takes Kay in the book: Gerta’s grandmother tells the two kids about the Snow Queen and Kay, who loves the snow, is enthralled with the idea of her. It’s his desire to meet her that calls her to him and he goes with her willingly without any outside influence.

Edited: Dec 8, 2019, 12:57am

>275 YouKneeK: The part in your spoiler is the same, because the shard has entered Kay's heart.

Dec 8, 2019, 1:37am

>273 YouKneeK: Good luck with Embassytown; I got part way into into it and got bored. It's one of Paul's culls from the paper library; I really must try it again. If it wasn't for the fact I have a major hand sewing project on my hands which I really ought to get cracking on, I'd try and get round to it over Christmas.

Dec 8, 2019, 8:20am

>277 Maddz: Thanks! It would be interesting to find out if you like it better during a second attempt. I didn’t read much of it yesterday, but so far I’m moderately interested.

>276 -pilgrim-: Thanks for that link. I read it and it was different in almost every way aside from the main premise. I can appreciate T. Kingfisher’s cleverness more now though, because I can see how she wove little elements from the original into her book but used them in completely different ways.

In the original, Kay and Gerda just kind of find themselves in their situations through no clear intent of their own and then just go with the flow. In the book, Kay and Gerta began each of their journeys on their own initiative.
  • Kay (spoilers for both original story and the book): In the original, Kay hitches his sled to a random passing sleigh, apparently expecting a brief thrill ride, not realizing it was the Snow Queen in the sleigh or that she would take him so far. He wants to get loose but can’t. It’s only after they stop and he realizes it’s the Snow Queen that he relaxes and goes willingly. In the book, the Snow Queen shows up at his house in her sleigh at night because his desire to meet her calls to her. He knows exactly whose sleigh he’s getting in and does so intentionally and willingly.
  • Gerda/Gerta: In the original, Gerda only intends to go down to the river near her home to ask about Kay, and she only gets in the boat so she can throw her shoes further into the river. It’s the sentient river that sends the boat sailing down the river a long way, against Gerda’s will, but she thinks that maybe it will take her to Kay so eventually she relaxes a bit. In the book, Gerta wakes up and sees Kay get into the Snow Queen’s sleigh through her window. At first she thinks she was just dreaming, but eventually she gets up the nerve to tell her grandmother what she saw and intentionally sets out on a journey north to rescue him.

Dec 8, 2019, 10:47am

>278 YouKneeK: Spoiler question: Is the Janna that you referred to in your original review a version of the "robber maid"?

Dec 8, 2019, 12:45pm

Dec 8, 2019, 1:06pm

>273 YouKneeK: >277 Maddz: Over the years I've encountered enough versions of this story, written and animated, that without going back to the Hans Christian Andersen one, I can't separate the elements. I have The Raven and the Reindeer on my kindle, and your description sounds familiar, but if I've read it I didn't record doing so.

Dec 8, 2019, 5:21pm

>281 quondame: I can see where it would all start to blur together! I’ve likely seen it in some form before and didn’t know that’s what it was since I hadn’t been at all familiar with the general story.

It’s not too high on the list, but I also have a book called The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge on my list. It looks like it’s some sort of science fiction series, but that’s all I know about it. A science fiction take on the story might be interesting, although I’ll definitely let some time pass for fear of overdosing on the Snow Queen. I'd be very interested in any spoiler-free general opinions if anybody here has read it.

Dec 8, 2019, 7:54pm

>282 YouKneeK: I like Vinge's The Snow Queen as well as The Summer Queen though the latter suffers because it doesn't have the 'mythic' background which is a weakness in the former. Strange. I haven't read them since shortly after they came out, so maybe it's time to re-visit them.

Dec 9, 2019, 12:53am

>282 YouKneeK:, >283 quondame: I, too, have both books (and it's been many years since I read them). Despite the title, it's not an SF take on the fairy tale.

Dec 9, 2019, 4:43am

>282 YouKneeK: I enjoyed The snow queen. It has very loose references to the fairy tale, although you have to look quite hard for them. Arienrhod equates to the Snow Queen, Summer and Sparks to Gerda and Kay. That's all I will say, other than that I hated Sparks.

Dec 9, 2019, 6:32am

>283 quondame:, >284 Maddz:, >285 Sakerfalcon: Thank you all, those comments help a lot!

Dec 9, 2019, 1:55pm

>286 YouKneeK: There are two other books in Vinge's Snow Queen cycle: World's End, and Tangled up in Blue. I have not yet read the last one but greatly enjoyed the first three.

While Summer Queen is a direct sequel to Snow Queen, World's End is more of a side-trip. While it's not fully necessary to read it between the two main books, I still recommend it because the events in World's End do tangentially relate, and help underpin, The Summer Queen. It's also a short book, (almost a novella) so including it is not a huge time commitment.

Dec 9, 2019, 4:55pm

>282 YouKneeK: Another one to move up on your list! The Snow Queen is pretty much straightforward SF - alien planet with humans who have adapted and developed their own distinct culture and a Dune-ish struggle for supremacy. Don't take that for a criticism, it is just the way I thought of it at this moment. I liked it. The Michael Whelan cover is great, I used to have a big print of it on the wall.

Dec 9, 2019, 9:07pm

>287 ScoLgo: and >288 Karlstar: Thank you both!

I did have this marked down as a four-book series. My read-the-whole-series-at-once-or-else-neurosis means I keep track of the # of books and a rough estimate of total pages for books on my list so that I can better decide when/if to fit something into my schedule.

The main reason this isn’t higher on my list is because I don’t have the first book on my Kindle. I could always borrow it from the library, or just buy it, but I prioritize the books I already own on Kindle and those are usually books from my list that went on sale and that I grabbed because I knew I intended to read them. I’ve never caught The Snow Queen on sale. Every now and then I get in a weird mood where nothing on my owned list appeals to me and I pick something I don’t already own though, so this may be a good candidate for the next time that happens. (How the books I own can “not appeal to me” when I usually don’t know anything about them anyway is something I’ll never be able to explain. Fortunately it doesn’t happen often.)

Dec 9, 2019, 11:05pm

>289 YouKneeK: Haha... I have an entire bookshelf filled to the edges with books that I have not yet been in the mood for. In the past 18 months I have made a concerted effort to winnow that down and am actually starting to notice progress, (a few open spaces in the front row of a couple of the shelves). And those are just the print books. I shudder at the thought of the deep, dark recesses of my kindle! ;)

Whenever you get around to it, Vinge's Snow Queen series is a good one, IMHO.

Dec 10, 2019, 7:06am

>290 ScoLgo: Congrats on your progress on the physical unread bookshelf!

Dec 14, 2019, 9:15am

I’ve been reading extra slow this past week. I’m a little over halfway through Embassytown, hoping to make better progress this weekend.

I've had some minor chaos at home over the past week. Some sort of hidden shower pan thing, that lives under the shower in my master bedroom and prevents water from going where it shouldn’t, apparently broke. Water had been running into my floor under the tiles where I couldn’t see it for who knows how long. I realized I had a problem when I noticed water spots on my ceiling downstairs. They were fairly big spots before I saw them, because I don’t look at my ceiling that much and the spots weren’t super noticeable unless the dining room light was on, which it rarely is since I don’t use that room. By the time I caught it, some of the wood under the tiles in the master bathroom was rotted and the water damage, to various degrees, extended across half the bathroom floor and into the adjacent laundry room. Plus the damage to a small part of the downstairs ceiling.

From stories I’ve since heard, my damage isn’t that horrible compared to what other people have experienced, but it was my first time dealing with anything like this so I was a little stressed out. This was also my first time dealing with my home insurance. I was worried they would try to be difficult and find reasons not to cover it, but they didn’t give me any trouble at all. The adjustor walked in, mentioned he’d been out to a couple other homes in my neighborhood for the same issue, and started taking his measurements so he could write up the estimate. There were no questions, no ifs or buts, just an immediate assumption that it would be covered. I was very much relieved.

I’m pretty clueless about home repair/maintenance stuff, and I was thinking that I wished I had known this might be a common issue and how to detect it. I would have bought one of those moisture meter things that the person who investigated my damage used and maybe caught the issue before it had gotten so bad. I’m probably still going to buy one in case it might help me with early detection of future problems. I’m also probably going to spend the rest of my life walking around my home with my nose (and eyes) pointed at my ceilings…

They spent two days demolishing the damaged area. Poor Ernest was terrified with all the noise. My home is very quiet on a normal day, and he’s certainly never heard the kind of noises that were going on during the demolition. I was starting to worry that he was so scared it would have some sort of permanent traumatic effect, but he seems to have bounced back fine and is his usual bratty, mischievous self. Unfortunately, with the holidays and everybody taking vacations, it’s going to be at least after the New Year before anybody can come out to do the actual repairs. I’m also going to have to do some business travel in January and I don’t have the travel dates yet, so there may be some conflicts and further delays caused by that. I’ll just have to work it all out when I know more.

It’s not too bad right now. I have the construction areas closed off and I moved all the lighter junk that was sitting around (pieces of shower, wall, metal frames, a detached door, etc.) into my spare room and closed that off so the cat can’t get into it and I could let him out of his confinement. The stuff I couldn’t move I figure would also be too heavy for him to knock over. I have some random odd décor in my bedroom like a toilet, and I have to walk across the house to the guest bathroom, but they’re minor inconveniences I can live with for a few weeks. They had dehumidifiers and fans blowing in the affected areas for several days to make sure everything was dried out, so I was very happy when they came and took back that equipment yesterday. The constant noise wasn’t horrible since it’s mostly white noise, but every now and then it started to grate on my nerves. They also put out some heat which confused my thermostat and resulted in some cold rooms. I bet it would have been a lot worse in the summer!

So that’s a very long story to explain why, after 7 days, I’ve only read something like 200 pages. :) Even in the evenings when nothing was going on in the house, I was too distracted to settle down and read much. Now that I know I’m not going to have anybody back for a few weeks and the house has been put as much to rights as it can be and the cat has been released from confinement, hopefully I’ll be able to get back to my normal routine for a while.

Dec 14, 2019, 9:43am

>292 YouKneeK: Good thing you caught it relatively early! It sounds like you've had the best possible result for a difficult situation.

Dec 14, 2019, 10:14am

>292 YouKneeK: Oooph! We have Condo Association mandated alarms at our water heater and washing machine in our condo for just such a thing. Plus a little plastic seat that they both sit in to prevent drips from getting through.

I know I wouldn't be reading hardly anything if I was experiencing this so I hope Christmas is a good time for you to make up for it.

Dec 14, 2019, 10:25am

>292 YouKneeK: Good luck with the repairs. We're renting at the moment to get a break from repairs, though I've already had to call the homeowners to report water coming in through the window frame and the refrigerator is mostly dead.

Dec 14, 2019, 11:30am

>294 BookstoogeLT: Wow, hope your mellow returns soon.

Dec 14, 2019, 11:51am

>296 MrsLee: I'm assuming you mean >292 YouKneeK:?

Dec 14, 2019, 11:55am

>296 MrsLee: Heh, yes, but if you need mellow, I would not deny you. :)

Dec 14, 2019, 12:05pm

>292 YouKneeK: Hidden leaks like that are a problem. Paul had one in his flat - the overflow from the immersion heater / tank wasn’t installed very well and had a slow leak from the joint. I spotted it while Paul was in Germany - we had to use the flat to take baths because my boiler had been condemned. We walked in one evening and I wondered what the musty smell was and discovered a load of damp bedding in the airing cupboard covered in black mould. We’d also been noticing soft patches in the floor; it turned out the seep had been rotting the MDF sheets under the carpet.

If the loss adjuster had been to other places in your community for the same problem, it’s possible it’s a building issue. I think you mentioned your community is fairly new? It might be worth talking to your neighbours or to your community association as there may be other people with the same hidden problem.

Dec 14, 2019, 12:08pm

>293 Narilka: I feel like I should have caught it sooner if I’d been more knowledgeable, but I've learned from the experience so hopefully I'll be able to avoid or at least greatly reduce the impact of future problems along these lines.

>294 BookstoogeLT: That sounds like something I should check out too. Sometimes I forget I even have a water heater, I pay so little attention to it or the room it’s in. I had a horrendous smell coming from that room once several years ago and called my plumber thinking something horrible was wrong with the water heater. He taught me about drain traps and I haven’t had that problem again! I may be ignorant, but at least I’m teachable. ;)

>295 Karlstar: Thanks. I hope your owner resolves the issues quickly! I had been thinking I never had any significant issues in any place I rented, but then I just now remembered the time I had a waterfall in the kitchen of my first apartment when a water pipe burst in the ceiling. I can’t believe I forgot about that because I was quite traumatized at the time to have water pouring out of my ceiling! Fortunately I was home when it happened, and fortunately the owner was home and lived just down the road. I called him in a panic and he ran over and got into the locked water heater room to shut off the water. There was a ton of water on the floor -- a pool in the kitchen, completely saturated carpet in the dining and living rooms -- but at least it was something that had just happened so there wasn’t any long-term damage once they got it all dried out.

>296 MrsLee: LOL, thanks. :)

Edited: Dec 14, 2019, 12:17pm

>299 Maddz: Oh wow, that sounds like a similar sort of mess! Yes, I was planning to write to my HOA about it. I think the community is about 13 years old and probably everybody who hasn’t already remodeled their bathrooms has the same shower setup from the original installation.

I found myself wondering why home insurance companies wouldn’t communicate to homeowners* in a neighborhood if they’ve noticed a recurring problem in the neighborhood. Maybe “a couple homes” just isn’t enough of a pattern yet, and I don’t know if other adjustors with the same agency have been out for the same thing. Maybe that's just not a thing they do, but it seems like it would be to the insurance company’s benefit to help customers avoid serious damage they would have to cover for us.

*Edited to clarify: Homeowners who also use the same insurance agency, of course. I don’t expect them to communicate to customers of other insurance agencies!

Dec 14, 2019, 5:31pm

>301 YouKneeK: But... wouldn't that imply some level of knowledge sharing that might run up against privacy rules? If it was really vague - 'you should inspect your house for shower related leaks', would people pay attention? 'People in your area with homes built in the last 30 years have experience shower leaks' - might be too much information?

Dec 15, 2019, 7:41am

>302 Karlstar: Hmm… legally speaking, I don’t know. In my own mind, I don’t see any privacy violations if you aren’t revealing individuals or addresses. I guess like any other non-personally-identifiable information that an organization shares, there could be an opt-out option.

I’d be comfortable being included in an anonymous aggregate statement saying, “Some people in your neighborhood with their original <insert type> shower installation have experienced broken shower pans resulting in hidden water leaks and severe damage. We recommend that you purchase a moisture meter and periodically check for moisture under the surrounding tile floors. This will allow you to detect and address the problem before the damage becomes extensive if you experience the same problem.”

To me, that doesn’t reveal anything specific about anybody. As one of the “some people”, I would be thrilled to save other people the trouble I’ve been through. I would have been even more thrilled to have received a notice like that before I became one of the “some people”.

I should add that I’m talking about neighborhoods where the homes were all built around the same time by the same builder and the original owners had little if any input in the fixtures that were installed, like in my neighborhood. It would of course be completely worthless in a neighborhood where each owner contracted their own builder and/or chose all their own materials.

I would expect the larger problem to be the technical matter of aggregating the data. To not rely on anecdotal evidence from individual agents who happen to notice patterns, which would then require research to double-check that they were in fact the same issue, it would require some consistency of data input and a database that holds all the relevant information in fields that could be compared.

Dec 15, 2019, 12:19pm

>303 YouKneeK: I don't think this could happen because of liability issues. Because if the insurance company sends out something like that notice they are, legally, taking responsibility, even if they really aren't. I can imagine someone suing them for not notifying them, even if the insurance company wasn't THEIR insurance company or something. You know how sue-happy people here in the States can be :-(

Dec 15, 2019, 4:15pm

>304 BookstoogeLT: In my naïve world, with almost no legal experience whatsoever, even as sue-happy as people are here, I can’t imagine somebody suing a company they don’t do business with for not providing them with a service. It would be like suing McDonalds for not selling a Frosty, or suing a lawyer they’ve never spoken with for not providing them with legal advice. Well, I can imagine somebody trying to do those things because people can be crazy, but I would hope they wouldn't win! I definitely buy into your points about liability, though. They'd need lawyers to help them write iron-clad disclaimers to avoid liability issues with their own customers.

After I started thinking about it some more though, I do see the technical information-gathering aspect as being a lot more difficult than I was initially considering. Their existing systems probably wouldn’t have the necessary capabilities already built in, and it would be expensive and time-consuming to implement them unless they incorporated it into a new/upgraded system implementation they were already planning for other reasons.

Unrelated, but I just finished Embassytown a bit ago. It’s going to take me some time to get my thoughts together about that one! I'm looking forward to getting back to Feist.

Dec 15, 2019, 4:23pm

Some of the stuff Narilka was telling us over on her thread about her cats and Christmas ornaments reminded me to share the “entertainment” I’ve been having with Ernest over the last couple of nights. I mentioned previously that, due to the water damage in my master bathroom, I have a toilet sitting in my bedroom. I'm now getting woken up in the middle of the night to the sound of the toilet handle being jiggled, or the lid on the tank clattering around when he jumps on or off it. I’m a light sleeper, so it’s normal for me to get woken up by his nighttime shenanigans when he doesn’t sleep through the night. It's just that these sounds are a little more unusual!

Dec 15, 2019, 6:22pm

>306 YouKneeK: I wonder if he does that when the toilet is in its regular place. What a curious boy :)

Dec 15, 2019, 6:31pm

>307 Narilka: LOL, I know he doesn’t, but probably only because I keep all toilets behind closed doors. When he was a kitten, maybe 5 or 6 months, I caught him dragging a toilet bowl brush out of one of the bathrooms and into the hallway. I was horrified and from that day forward have kept all toilet bowl brushes (which are kept next to the toilets) closed off unless I’m in the room! Who knows, maybe by now he would be flushing toilets if I didn’t keep them closed off. He is a strange little thing, but the source of many laughs. :)

Dec 15, 2019, 7:25pm

Review: Embassytown by China Miéville

This is the fifth book I’ve read by China Miéville and I’ve finished each one, including this one, with mixed feelings. Embassytown is more science-fictiony in flavor than his other books that I’ve read, although I’d say it’s more of a “soft” science fiction.

It’s difficult to give a coherent and yet spoiler-free taste of how this book starts like I usually try to do in my reviews; I’ll have to be super skimpy with the details. It frankly doesn’t make much sense in the beginning, and part of the fun in those early parts is in trying to figure out what’s going on and get a handle on the weird setting we’ve been thrown into. It’s told from the first-person perspective of a woman named Avice. She lives on a remote colony on a world shared with an indigenous sentient species that has an unusual type of language.

As I mentioned, part of the fun was in trying to figure things out in the beginning. Miéville as usual goes nuts with his thesaurus-style writing, using uncommon English words in place of more common words. Mixed in with that are a lot of made-up words, or made-up modifications of real words, unique to his setting. I didn’t notice as many odd sentence structures as I normally find in his books though, and most of the unfamiliar words made sense in context even before I looked them up. The setting isn’t described in a particularly linear or logical progression, and I had read about 15% before it all clicked and I felt like I understood all the pieces presented up to that point. After that, everything was easy to follow. I should add that I went into this book with no knowledge beyond the title. It’s possible the book blurb explains the basic premise a bit more clearly for those who aren’t as blurbaphobic as I am.

Overall, my interest in the story fluctuated a lot. It had a somewhat slow start, although figuring out what was going on in the beginning helped hold my interest some. After that, my interest fluctuated. The second half actually became pretty fast-paced, but things got too chaotic and destructive with humans and Ariekei dying right and left and the city falling to pieces and that kind of thing tends to make me lose interest. I did kind of like how things ended.

There were things I wanted to see explained in more detail. Miéville comes up with cool concepts and creates unique settings, but I’m often left unsatisfied by some aspects of his stories that I feel aren’t fleshed out sufficiently. In this case, some suspension of disbelief was required of me because I thought some of the language-related explanations were a bit vague or contradictory. I’m not a linguist by any stretch of the imagination, so for the most part I’ll buy into anything language-related if you use the excuse of “aliens”, but some of this stuff seemed like a pretty big stretch. Aside from that, I initially thought there were some plot-related logic flaws, but as I thought back through it and reviewed a few relevant sections, I decided the answers were there but just obscured a bit by all the window dressing and possibly by my fluctuating interest. So I’d say this was a 3.5 star read for me. I had mixed feelings and some complaints, but overall I'm glad I spent the time on it.

Next Book
Krondor: The Betrayal. Back to Feist! This is the book based on the video game that prompted me to try Feist’s books and led to my fantasy addiction. This book and the next two are the last of the books I had read previously, then I’ll get to move on to new territory.

Dec 22, 2019, 7:00am

Review: Krondor: The Betrayal by Raymond E. Feist

Krondor: The Betrayal is the first book in the Riftwar Legacy subseries in the middle of the very large Riftwar Cycle series. It’s set about 10 years after the end of the original subseries, chronologically before the last two subseries I read while going in publication order. As I mentioned in a previous review, it’s less confusing to read these subseries in chronological order rather than publication order since this story is referenced in earlier books due to the fact that it’s based on a video game that was published earlier.

Yes, this book is actually a novelization of a video game, Betrayal at Krondor, released in 1993. I played it a few years after its original release when it was released as freeware to promote the sequel. I enjoyed it so much that I sought out Feist’s books. That led to my addiction of the fantasy genre itself. The book follows the same basic story as the game and hits the same major plot points, but it fleshes things out and changes some details, adding more realism and back stories.

It doesn’t really read like it’s based on a video game to me, maybe because I started (re-re-re-)playing the game at the same time I started the book so the differences were more obvious. At least, it skips most of the battles and treasure finding and dungeon crawling and such and even skips or glosses over a lot of the travel. It’s basically the story parts of the game fleshed out, with more character interactions added.

It was fun to go back in time and hang out with some of my favorite characters. Arutha doesn’t get as much page time as I would have liked but he does get some, and Jimmy gets quite a lot as does Locklear. (Spoiler for an earlier subseries that's set later chronologically.) There’s a point in the book when Jimmy jokingly predicts how Locklear will die which was kind of a funny-not-funny moment. The unique characters created for the game are just as prominent in the book and they’re interesting and likeable characters. I found the plot a little thin, and maybe a little more convoluted than necessary, but it’s based on the video game story which was not originally written by Feist as per the author’s notes at the end. I was able to buy into everything well enough to enjoy the story which for me was more about the characters than the plot.

Next Book
Krondor: The Assassins, the next book in this series. I don’t remember even the tiniest thing about it, although I’m sure I read it. The third book was also based on a video game and I remember a bit from that one, but this one is a complete blank in my mind.

Dec 22, 2019, 7:29am

>310 YouKneeK: Good thing the end of the year is coming. This thread is growing big! :-D

So Feist didn't write the story for the computer game? I wonder what kind of creative control he had, if any, then? Using some of his main characters seems like he would HAVE to had been involved to keep them from doing things completely outside of how he created them.

Dec 22, 2019, 8:42am

>311 BookstoogeLT: Ha, yeah. I didn’t think I could get a new thread up to 151 before the end of the year without the involvement of spam, so I decided to try making this one last until the end of the year.

Feist’s notes didn’t have too much info about the creative process or the legal agreement, but this is probably the most relevant bit: ”I got to review things, but they wrote it. I talked with them about the story, gave them ideas, listened to their ideas, and the game took form.”

He didn’t talk about it, but I don’t think he had any input on the graphics. In my opinion, the images for Arutha and Pug in the game are completely wrong. I don’t care for Jimmy’s either, but it’s not as far out of line as the other two. Feist didn’t say anything about what he thought about them, but it sounds like he didn’t see anything except the raw story text until just before his first press interview when the game was complete. Then he said, ”It was a revelation. It was my world, but it wasn’t. These were my characters, but they weren’t. They came alive and ran around and fought and died and started over and fought again. When it came time to give the interview, I didn’t want to stop playing.”

Dec 22, 2019, 2:21pm

>312 YouKneeK: Well, that took a lot of guts on his part to let his creation go. I don't see any authors nowadays doing something like that...

Dec 23, 2019, 4:54pm

>309 YouKneeK: Going back a bit - your review of Embassytown reads more like a 2.5 star review than a 3.5 star. Your interest fluctuated a lot, there's some similar type of mixed feeling sentiments sprinkled through it, etc. I don't know a darn thing about the book, your review is the first time I can recall seeing it mentioned. Am I reading your review too negatively?

Dec 23, 2019, 9:08pm

>314 Karlstar: I suspect a lot of my reviews sound more negative than my actual feelings about the books because I find it easier to explain the things I dislike than to explain the things I do like. Embassytown was on the lower side of a 3.5 because I rounded down to 3 on Goodreads, but I did enjoy it and considered it a slightly above-average read. It had some cool concepts and ideas, and I liked the story overall even if there were parts when it failed to hold my interest.

Some of the things I liked are embedded in the review, but maybe could be interpreted as negatives. For example, I liked being confused in the beginning, because it kept my brain engaged and I appreciated the moment when I connected the dots and everything started to make sense. Also, when I mentioned going back and reviewing some sections to clear up some confusion I had, that’s something I wouldn’t normally have taken the time to do if I hadn’t cared for the book anyway.

I usually give 3 stars for something I consider an average read, something I enjoyed well enough while I was reading it but found it easy to put down when I had other things I wanted to do. 3 stars for me can also mean I had mixed feelings and liked some things too much to rate it lower, but disliked some things too much to rate it higher. I think the latter is more the case with this rating, with the things I liked slightly outweighing the things I disliked.

Dec 24, 2019, 12:41pm

Have a comfy, caring, and very

Merry Christmas!

Dec 24, 2019, 3:15pm

>316 quondame: Thanks, you too! :)

Dec 24, 2019, 4:30pm

>316 quondame: And to you too!

Dec 24, 2019, 10:01pm

Review: Krondor: The Assassins by Raymond E. Feist

This is the second book in the Riftwar Legacy, part of the much larger Riftwar Cycle. Theoretically I had read this book before, but I remembered absolutely nothing about it. While my memories of most of these books have been very faint after 20 years, I usually remember something, however minor or vague.

I enjoyed this one a lot. It features Jimmy heavily, which definitely contributed to that enjoyment. There’s also quite a lot of Arutha, at least compared to the last several books, and lots of fun dialogue. The story itself was quite suspenseful at times. There were some overly-convenient things, a fairly common occurrence in these books really, so I might have rolled my eyes a few times, but the story held my attention well. We also spend quite a bit of time with William, Pug’s son, a character who showed up quite a bit in the previous subseries which is set many years later but whom we never really got to know.

Unlike the first book in this subseries, this one is not based on a video game. However, it bridges the gap between that book and the third book which was also based on a video game. Although the most immediate problems are wrapped up by the end, there are still quite a few open questions. Much of what is introduced in this book is actually setup for the events in the next book.

I’m probably being overly generous with my 4.5 star rating. There’s nothing earthshattering or groundbreaking here, and it’s not even one of Feist’s best books if I were being completely objective about it. I just really had a lot of fun reading it and my ratings are almost completely based on my enjoyment level. I’m rounding down to 4 on Goodreads since I can’t justify 5 stars.

The comments in my spoiler tags will explain one other silly reason why this book made me so happy. Although it's a somewhat minor spoiler, it also spoils things in some of the previous subseries that are set chronologically after this one.

I remember being quite annoyed in Prince of the Blood when Arutha announced his intentions to send Jimmy to Rillanon to become the Duke there. I was so annoyed by it that it’s the main thing I remembered about the book 20 years later. We all knew Jimmy loved Krondor, knew the city like the back of his hand, was very loyal to Arutha, and had always aspired to become the Duke of Krondor. So why on earth would Arutha send him to Rillanon? He does end up Duke of Krondor many years later in the Serpentwar Saga, but the business with him being sent to Rillanon was never explained or even really mentioned again from what I remember.

Well, that’s explained in this book -- twice. Even though the explanation was written later, it didn’t feel shoe-horned in because it tied with things mentioned in those earlier books and felt like a perfectly logical explanation. Having the satisfaction of that 20-year-old-annoyance being resolved would have been worth the time spent reading this book even if I hadn’t enjoyed anything else about it. This makes me wonder if maybe I somehow missed reading this book altogether the first time around. I thought I had read it, but between not having made such an obvious connection and not remembering anything else about this story, maybe I didn’t. Since this book was written later, it also made me wonder if it was added because it was something Feist himself had wanted to clarify, or if it was a response to fan reactions because other readers were as annoyed by it as I was.

Next Book
Krondor: Tear of the Gods. This should be the very last of the books from this series that I had read previously. The final 15 (yes, after all this time, I’m still only halfway through the series!) will be new to me.

Dec 24, 2019, 10:11pm

>319 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed that one again! I might have to get that out for a re-read. Merry Christmas!

Dec 24, 2019, 10:18pm

>320 Karlstar: Thanks, merry Christmas!

Dec 25, 2019, 4:56am

>319 YouKneeK: Well, that is nice! Getting questions answered that are 20 years old is a good thing :-)

And a Merry Christmas to you...

Dec 25, 2019, 6:53am

>322 BookstoogeLT: Yes, very. :) Thanks, merry Christmas!

Dec 28, 2019, 5:27pm

Review: Krondor: Tear of the Gods by Raymond E. Feist

This is the 3rd book in the Riftwar Legacy, a subseries in the middle of the very large Riftwar Cycle. This also marks the last of the books from this series that I had previously read 20 years ago; the rest will all be completely new to me, although I remembered many of the past books so poorly that they practically felt new anyway.

This was probably my least favorite of all of them so far. Even though it features a lot of Jimmy, one of my favorite characters, it felt very formulaic. This book was also based on a video game, Return to Krondor, and the novelization felt much more formulaic to me than did the earlier novelization of the first game. The characters encounter enemies at predictable intervals, much like in a video game, and there are the occasional “side quests” although most of those do tie into the main story.

I don’t know, I didn’t think it was bad, and there were times when I enjoyed it more than others, but sometimes it felt tedious and a little flat. I did enjoy the banter between the characters, and Kendaric particularly made me laugh. It’s been a long time since I’ve played the game so I don’t remember it very well, but this novelization seemed to follow the story of the game far more closely and without much extra meat. Even a lot of the dialogue brought back echoes (possibly imaginary, but they sounded pretty convincing in my head!) of the video game characters saying the same things.

Next Book (Novella?)
Jimmy and the Crawler, the fourth and final book in this subseries. I didn’t read it in the past because it wasn’t available in the US. I had to order a physical copy to get it. Fortunately it’s only 144 pages, because there will probably be a lot of griping in my head about how much I miss reading on my Kindle. :) After all the vague build-up in the previous 3 books about the Crawler, it would be nice to get some more tangible info and hopefully a resolution. That's what I expect this book to have based on its title.

Dec 28, 2019, 9:34pm

>324 YouKneeK: Do you want an electronic copy of Jimmy and the Crawler?

Dec 29, 2019, 7:03am

>325 BookstoogeLT: Nah, I can tough it out. ;) It's short, so I'm hoping I might have time to finish it today.

Dec 31, 2019, 10:05pm

>324 YouKneeK: If you like that one I might have to get it, I don't have it!

Dec 31, 2019, 10:24pm

>327 Karlstar: I actually just finished it a bit ago and came over to post my review. :) A few things came up over the past couple days that kept me from making much progress on it, but I finally had a chance to sit down and finish reading it today.

Dec 31, 2019, 10:25pm

Review: Jimmy and the Crawler by Raymond E. Feist

Jimmy and the Crawler is the fourth and final book in the Riftwar Legacy, one of the many subseries in the larger Riftwar Cycle. It’s a short and fast read at only 144 pages.

I didn’t realize it until I sat down to write my review, but it was actually published in 2013, thirteen years after the previous book, so this is something he went back to later. The previous three books had left some open plot threads dangling, and this book (novella?) tidies them up pretty well. It fits nicely in its chronological position, at least among the books I’ve read so far.

The story focuses primarily on Jimmy, as one would guess from the title. Two other characters who have featured in this subseries are working with Jimmy on his mission and so we see a lot of them too. There was one aspect of the story that was super predictable if you’ve read the earlier-written but set-later-chronologically books. I’m referring to Jazhara’s death, since something had to happen to explain her absence in the Serpentwar Saga, and due to her relationship with William it was unlikely that she simply chose to go elsewhere. There was one thing I thought was a little too coincidental, but the story held my interest well and was mostly fun to read.

It’s a bit difficult to get a hold of this in the U.S., at least if you don't want to purchase a physical copy of the UK-published version. I’m not sure I’d call it a must-read, but it may be worth your time if you’re looking for some closure on the larger plot threads from the previous three books. If you don’t really care, then this book probably won’t hold anything special for you unless you just really want to read everything possible about Jimmy, which I could also understand!

Next Book
This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman. I believe this will be my first time reading anything by her. It’s one of the January reading selections in the group I’m in on GR.

Dec 31, 2019, 10:30pm

… and that should be my final review for this year!

I’ll post my year-end stats and start my 2020 thread tomorrow. Right now, I’m barely keeping my eyes open. Midnight is 90 minutes away here; I’m not sure I’ll make it! But I can count on the increased firework intensity to wake me up, so I still won’t miss it completely. :)

Jan 1, 2020, 7:02am

>330 YouKneeK: Glad you enjoyed the story about Jimmy.

I only made it until 11pm and then I gave up. But considering I was expecting 10pm, I consider it a moral victory :-D

Happy New Years...

Jan 1, 2020, 8:16am

>331 BookstoogeLT: Happy New Year! 11pm was all I managed too. I did get woken up by the fireworks at midnight as expected, but I then fell right back asleep.

Jan 1, 2020, 9:28am

Here are my year-end stats as reported by my Access database.

Reading Stats – Comparison by Year
My reading pace dropped a lot in the second half of the year. The end-of-year numbers don’t show that as clearly because I’d been reading well above average in the first half of the year. I expect my numbers in 2020 will be quite a bit lower, but I’m ok with that as long as I feel like I’m making good decisions about how to use my time.

Star Ratings
Despite my (as usual) high average rating of 3.8, I apparently didn’t give a single book a full 5 stars this year. I must have been feeling stingy! Last year I gave 5 stars to 9 books. While I’ve read plenty of great books this year, I can’t think of any that I regret not giving a full 5 stars to.

Decade Published
There’s nothing particularly unusual here. My median year last year was 2009 versus 2006 this year, which is pretty close. The small #’s from the older years are of course from my quarterly classic reads.

My science fiction vs fantasy ratio was much improved this year. In 2018 it was 55 fantasy versus 17 science fiction. This year it was 45 fantasy versus 30 science fiction. This reflects progress in my goal to knock out some of the science fiction series I had on my list. I do prefer fantasy a little bit more than science fiction, so I expect fantasy will continue to maintain its lead.

Authors Read
This is more-or-less in line with last year, but I only read 26 new-to-me authors this year versus 30 last year. The male versus female aspect of the charts is more a “because it’s easy to pull and I’m mildly curious” thing than something I strive to equalize, but the female to male ratio is also a little lower this year than it was last year.

The End
And that’s it for 2019. Thanks to everybody who has discussed books, cats, insidious water leaks, and other things with me this year! I do very much appreciate all the conversations, and especially the chance to discuss books that nobody I know in real life has any interest in.

I’ll start my 2020 thread soon, at which time the link will show up below, but feel free to continue posting in either place.

Jan 1, 2020, 10:26am

>333 YouKneeK: Goodness, 3.8 with NO 5stars? That is pretty good...

Jan 1, 2020, 6:42pm

>334 BookstoogeLT: Apparently I went overboard with the 4’s and 4.5’s this year instead. :)
This topic was continued by YouKneeK’s 2020 SF&F Overdose Part 1.