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Valkyrdeath's 2020 Reading Record

Club Read 2020

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Edited: Jan 21, 5:21pm Top

Here we go again, somehow with my seventh year. Looking back at how I started my 2019 thread, I see I talked about the last few months of the previous year having been bad ones causing me to fall behind. Well, the last few years of 2019 were even worse and I could pretty much copy and paste the same stuff over again. Hopefully this year will better, but I try not to hold out too much hope. I’ll be trying to get a nice eclectic mix of books again this year. I managed to read more than I expected last year so hopefully I’ll keep that up. As always, I hope I can fit in more non-fiction too.

Currently reading:
The Dust That Falls from Dreams by Louis De Bernieres
Nobody's Perfect by Donald E. Westlake

Books read:
1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
2. In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
3. Shanghai Dream by Philippe Thirault, art by Jorge Miguel
4. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O'Meara
5. Magic is Dead: My Journey into the World's Most Secretive Society of Magicians by Ian Frisch
6. The Dream Merchant by Nathan Edmondson

Jan 1, 6:45pm Top

Book stats for 2019:
130 books read made up of:
50 novels
36 graphic works
20 non-fiction books
11 short story collections
14 plays / play collections
7 poetry collection

61 books by women, 57 books by men
Books from 28 different countries and by 101 different authors.

Jan 1, 7:12pm Top

My random list of some of my favourite reads of the last year:

Guapa by Saleem Haddad
The Murderbot novellas by Martha Wells
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
Circe by Madeline Miller
The Colours of Madeleine trilogy by Jaclyn Moriarty
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey
Capital by John Lanchester

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Carey Elwes
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans

Graphic works (fiction and non-fiction):
Becoming Unbecoming by Una
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei
Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa
I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason

Jan 2, 11:53am Top

I'm so glad Colours of Madeleine made your favorites list! Obviously glad you liked other things I pushed you to read as well, but that trilogy is just special.

Jan 2, 5:40pm Top

>4 mabith: It was such a good series! Hopefully I'll get to some of her other books this year.

Jan 3, 3:57pm Top

Happy new year, valkyrdeath! I hope all is well with you. I look forward to seeing what's on tap for this year. Star dropped.

Jan 3, 4:31pm Top

Happy reading in 2020. I'm looking forward to following along here. Cheers!

Jan 3, 6:21pm Top

>6 brodiew2: >7 rocketjk: Thanks, hope you both have a good year! I'm looking forward to checking out your reading this year too.

Jan 4, 10:52am Top

Wishing you a good year. Just caught up on your 2019 thread, and then here in your favorites I see Tell Me How It Ends... I hunted down your post to reread it. When you originally posted on it, the title and author didn’t really mean anything to me. But I adored Lost Children Archive, and now want to read more by Luiselli.

Jan 7, 6:10pm Top

>9 dchaikin: I remember you writing about Lost Children Archive and I hadn't picked up on the fact that it was the same author. Tell Me How it Ends was a very brief read but very well done and worth checking out.

Jan 7, 6:55pm Top

Gary - the two books are related, LCA being a fictional response to her work, and TMHiE being a nonfictional response.

Jan 8, 1:54pm Top

I'm stopping by to tell you how much I am intrigued by your handle. How did you choose it?--if I may ask. Valkyries are intrinsically interesting, of course. What is the significance of a death associated with them. Or are you referring to the souls they carry?

Jan 8, 5:50pm Top

>12 sallypursell: The Valkyr part does come from Valkyries and was a group name for internet activities with a friend, though it was mainly just the two of us, mostly for gaming. The Death part is from my original username ever since I first got the internet many years ago, due to the character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books. I've just stuck with it ever since due to not being any good at coming up with new names, even though I worry it just sounds a bit morbid away from the Discworld connection.

Jan 8, 6:06pm Top

>13 valkyrdeath: I have always thought that Reaper Man was the best Discworld novel, because of the death character. I don't think it sounds morbid. Valkyries were involved with death by their very functions. What kinds of gaming do you like?

My favorite game of all time was Civilization III, and right now I am MineCrafting. I don't do first-person shooters, not finding them very interesting, but your name sounds perfect for that.

Jan 8, 8:09pm Top

1. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Well, this was a great way to start the off the new year. In the Dream House is Machado’s memoir spanning the period when she was in a relationship with an abusive woman. It’s an important but tough subject to write about, full of awful events, but the book is beautifully written in a form that’s not quite like any other memoir I’ve ever read. It’s told in a large number of mostly very short chapters, each with a title in the form of “Dream House as” followed by various genres, tropes and themes, from Picaresque to Romance Novel to Time Travel, each looking at aspects of her story from a different angle. One chapter takes the form of a Choose Your Own Adventure book, giving the illusion of choice but with almost everything ultimately looping back to the start again for the cycle of abuse to repeat. And knowing when less is more, in almost the centre of the book, the chapter Dream House as Epiphany contains just eight words: “Most types of domestic abuse are completely legal”. None of this experimentation takes away from the events she’s narrating but rather emphasises the feelings she’s describing. Upsetting and disturbing as it often is, this is a powerful book with amazing writing, and it’s bumped her story collection up my list to hopefully get to very soon.

Jan 8, 8:14pm Top

>14 sallypursell: As with my reading, I like some of most forms of games, though I still really love the old point and click adventure and puzzle games, RPGs or anything that focuses on story. I've still yet to play a Civilization game though I keep meaning to. I play the occasional first-person shooter but it's not a main genre for me these days.

Jan 9, 1:05am Top

I read Her Body and Other Parties last year, and one of the stories was a fictionalized account of her abusive relationship.

Jan 9, 8:54pm Top

>17 arubabookwoman: That should be interesting to compare when I read it.

Jan 9, 9:58pm Top

>15 valkyrdeath: Good start. Noting Machado

Jan 11, 5:09pm Top

2. In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
By complete coincidence, here’s another book with Dream in the title. This is the fourth book is McGuire’s Wayward Children series, though it’s a standalone story. As with the second book, this is a prequel showing the backstory to one of the characters from the first book. This tells the story of Lundy, a quiet girl who likes to live by rules and has adjusted to a life without any real friends due to her father being the school principle. She finds her doorway to the world of the Goblin Market, a place built on strict rules of fair value. It interestingly focuses on the characters and their relationships and jumps forward through several years, the characters only mentioning in passing questing events that would have been the primary focus of a normal fantasy book, and it works pretty well here. There’s some really good writing here. The second book was my favourite and this has the feel of that book rather than the other two set in the Home for Wayward Children. Remembering the character from the first book gives the approach to the end a sense of sad inevitability, but the book is written as a standalone with no knowledge of the other books required. Another good read, and I see the fifth book just came out the other day, so I’ll be trying to get to that soon.

Jan 11, 6:29pm Top

>20 valkyrdeath: I've been reading Wayward Children in a leisurely fashion, and there is not a doubt as to its quality. But I don't think many children would respond to a place where one has to stand still for long periods. In fact, that was the weakest thread to me, that it was hard to believe many children would be drawn to the lives depicted here. Still, their disaffection with their current lives was quite believable. I wondered if I was missing something; maybe these activities were standing in for something else, something symbolic, perhaps. Finding symbols is not a big part of my reading. I like to read, not interpret. It is probably a flaw in my reading.

Jan 11, 9:33pm Top

>21 sallypursell: I'm the same, I don't usually read looking for hidden meanings or symbols. I think in the Wayward Children books it's not supposed to be that many children would be drawn to those lives, just those particular ones all with their own specific preferences, making them disaffected. As a child who never really wanted to go outside and play or do any of the stuff that everyone else around seemed to like and want me to do I can definitely understand the concept of kids wanting to find a world where things are closer to how they like it, even if their particular worlds aren't ones I'd want myself.

Jan 12, 10:33am Top

>22 valkyrdeath: That certainly makes sense, and I was another of those children, like you, who didn't do or want the typical. Naturally, that meant I was bullied in school, and didn't seem to belong anywhere.

Jan 14, 5:47pm Top

>23 sallypursell: Bullying sadly seems to be almost always the result of those circumstances.

Jan 14, 5:48pm Top

3. Shanghai Dream by Philippe Thirault, art by Jorge Miguel
After the coincidence of having Dream in the titles of my first two reads this year I thought it would be fun to look through my ever increasing to-read list and pick out some more books with the same title word. This one is a graphic novel following a Jewish film-maker who intends to flee Nazi Germany with his screen writer wife, only to end up in Japanese occupied Shanghai, where he tries to get his wife’s script filmed. It’s interesting to read about an aspect of WW2 that isn’t written about quite so much, though it didn’t do as much with it as it could have, and the plot leans a little too much on convenient cliches to be truly great. It’s another of those graphic novels that feel like they might have worked better if they had a bit more space rather than trying to cram everything into 100 pages. Still, it wasn’t a terrible read, just not one that really stands out, which is a shame considering the potential of its setting.

Edited: Jan 19, 11:16am Top

4. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara
This book tells the story of Milicent Patrick, the woman who designed the Creature from the Black Lagoon but was then depressingly pretty much written out of film history after her boss fired her because he wanted to take full credit for everything himself. Patrick is an interesting woman and one very worth reading about. As well as working on the Creature, she was also one of the earliest female animators at Disney and worked on Fantasia. Sadly, the writing of the actual book isn’t as good as it could be. It’s another of those books where the author often seems to spend as much time talking about herself as the subject of the book. I think this could partly be because of the sparsity of information on Milicent available. She spends a lot of time talking about how difficult it was to find any information on her at all. It might have been nice to focus on Milicent Patrick while also telling the story of other women working in the industry at the time, but instead it often feels like O’Meara is stretching to find things to write about to fill the space. The first half of the book in particular often seems to spend more time on barely relevant topics. She talks about Patrick’s father, who was an architect, who worked for William Randolph Hearst, which leads to pages of biography of Hearst, someone who certainly doesn’t need the extra exposure Patrick does. The second half of the book is much better and focuses more on the making of the film and Patrick’s role in it, and I really enjoyed a lot of that, and given the lack of other information about her it’s worth reading for that reason. It’s infuriating what happened to her, and also all the people who dismissed her since with ridiculous reasons such as the fact that she must only have been at the film set because she was someone’s girlfriend or claiming that she didn’t really design the monster because the publicity photo of her working on designs was clearly staged (because all other publicity photos are taken on the spur of the moment with no posing at all of course.) I’m glad I read it, but wish the book had found a better way to frame her story.

Jan 16, 7:37pm Top

>26 valkyrdeath: That really does sound disappointing, Valkyrdeath! I am interested in the woman, but not in that book. It reminds me of how much I wish there more on Rosalind Franklin, the real person who discovered the shape of DNA, and since she was a woman, and a tech, and because Watson and Crick were young, and jerks, she got no credit. Then she died before the Nobel committee got around to it.

Jan 16, 8:44pm Top

>26 valkyrdeath: I've been meaning to read Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA for some time now, but I've yet to get hold of a copy. I read a play about her a couple of years ago.

Jan 19, 9:43am Top

>25 valkyrdeath: a memoir about Jewish life in Shanghai would interest me. But a clichéd graphic novel, well maybe still since I know so little about it, but it seems that one is not ideal.

>26 valkyrdeath: what Sally said. Fascinating topic.

Jan 19, 5:49pm Top

>29 dchaikin: I'd certainly be interested in reading a more detailed work about that aspect of history in Shanghai but the graphic novel didn't really look at much of what was happening around the main character aside from his film making.

Jan 20, 6:25pm Top

5. Magic is Dead: My Journey into the World's Most Secretive Society of Magicians by Ian Frisch
From one non-fiction book that felt like it didn’t live up to its potential to another. The52 is a highly secret group of magicians. So incredibly secretive that they have a tattoo to show they’re in it and invite a journalist to join and write a book about them. Or in other words, they’re a group of magicians involving some who have come up with a good marketing gimmick to get noticed. Ian Frisch is a journalist who befriends some of these magicians and starts to get involved in their world. As with the book I’ve just finished reading, the author once again gets far too obsessed with the subjects of his work, and it just starts to feel untrustworthy quite quickly. As someone with more than a passing acquaintance with the magic world I’m familiar with a lot of the people he talks about during the book but sceptical about some of the claims. According to Frisch, these young magicians are completely revolutionary and all the older generation of magicians are awful. The reason he thinks they’re revolutionary is because they don’t wear top hats or work with rabbits, which I believe applies to almost every magician since Victorian times outside of a Looney Tunes cartoon. There’s nothing wrong with these magicians he’s discussing, some of them are very good, (Shin Lim, who is only mentioned briefly, is about the closest I’ve seen to something that looks like real magic) but the idea that because they develop their own style that makes them unique is ludicrous since that’s what pretty much every great magician has always done. A large part of the book feels like advertising for his friends, particularly Chris Ramsay, and the rest is another case of the author talking about himself. There’s a full chapter of him talking about the time in his past when he met with Shaquille O'Neal, which I’m sure would be a great chapter in his memoir but I’m not sure what it’s got to do with magic. It isn’t all terrible, there’s the odd magical history lesson and it does occasionally bring up important points, such as the lack of women in magic, something that’s only changing very gradually, as evidenced by my shelf full of magic books with not a single female name amongst them. And I can’t really get too upset over criticisms of magicians in general since as much as I love magic, both watching and performing, I’ve found a lot of communities of magicians to be fairly obnoxious. But the book is just overall a bit dull and doesn’t really do much to make the subject seem interesting. It might have a different impact to someone who didn’t have as much familiarity with magic though, which is probably the intended audience.

Jan 21, 5:31pm Top

6. The Dream Merchant by Nathan Edmondson
A science fiction comic about a man who discovers his recurring dreams are actually visions of another world that is about to invade ours in some of weird vaguely explained metaphysical way. It’s readable but nothing special, and it doesn’t really go anywhere interesting with it. It also ends in a way that seems set up for a sequel but this is all there is.

Group: Club Read 2020

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