December 2018 reading thread

Hugh

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#21
"The Harvard Psychedelic Club" by Don Lattin: informative and interesting, very readable. The focus is the well-known psychedelic furore at Harvard in the early 60s, and the differing perspectives of four individuals involved in it: Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert/ Ram Dass, Huston Smith, and Andrew Weil. While it doesn't explore the psychedelic experience in depth, being more interested in the personalities of those involved, I did enjoy one or two anecdotes. For instance, on one occasion, as an experiment, Richard Alpert locked himself in the Millbrook bowling alley with five others, where they took a massive dose of LSD every four hours for two weeks, only to find that not only did they build up tolerance very quickly, but also by the end of the two weeks they hated each other.
 

janeoreilly

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#23
Finished the shining girls which TBH I didn't think was that great although I know there was a huge fuss made about it when it was published. High concept that lost something in the execution. Now reading Barbara Kingsolver the Poisonwood Bible and that is brilliant within the first couple of pages.
 

Randy M.

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#24
Finished The Haunting of Lamb House by Joan Aiken.

Lamb House is real and numbers among its owners/inhabitants Henry James and E. F. Benson. Aiken breaks the work into three sections, the first a ghost story narrated by Toby Lamb (fictional character) detailing the tragedies that afflict his family after he sights a ghost said by townspeople to appear in the vicinity of Lamb House. The document is found later by Henry James, and its existence reported still later to E. F. Benson.

The lingering effects of ghostly visitation merge with the way in which writers think and choose what they write, as Aiken deftly evokes the style of James in the second section and equally deftly evokes Benson's wry humor in the third. With this the novel becomes not just a ghost story, but a contemplation of writers and writing.

I'm glad I've finally read this, and it's prompted me to pick up The Collected Ghost Stories of E. F. Benson and continue from where I left off at least for a time.

Randy M.
 

althea

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#25
I have just finished Tombland by C S Sansom.
It is the seventh book about Matthew Shardlake,a hunchbacked lawyer.
This story takes place in 1549,two years after the death Of Henry VIII.
Because CS Sansom did a history degree,then a law degree,you can be confident that legal and historical facts are accurate in his stories.
This story begins as a murder mystery,with Matthew called in to discreetly look into events and see that justice is done. It all takes place in Norwich at the time of the revolt of the tenant farmers and common men.
I knew little of this time in history and found it all horrifying and fascinating in equal measure.
Caught up in the rebellion and taken to the rebels' camp,life is difficult for Matthew and his assistants,Jack Barack and Nicholas.The experience affects their views on justice very deeply.
I could write pages on this book. If the title puts you off,Tombland is just an area of Norwich where the rich and privileged live.
This is a big book and it's a treat to read. Everything described clearly and in Matthew's precise and detailed
way. The atmosphere of the place and time come to life. The suspense keeps you guessing until the very end.
If you are looking for a book to divert you away from everyday problems,this is for you.
Go on,give yourself a wonderful treat. Writing like this doesn't come along very often.
 

Fedos

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#26
I just finished reading Salem's Lot by Stephen King in an effort to further familiarize myself with the works of this popular author. I haven't read too much vampire fiction--in fact I believe the only other vampire novel I've read was Dracula by Bram Stoker--but it was good reading all around. Next up is The Shinning by the same author.
 

Hugh

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#27
Jack Vance: "Wild Thyme and Violets and Other Unpublished Works". This seems to be a final collection of various odds and ends that hadn't previously made it into print. It includes outlines for novels, revisions of earlier stories, a couple of screenplays, the novella that preceded "The Blue World", even a fragment of a 1946 story in which 32 cats are shipwrecked on an uninhabited island.

SPOILER ALERT
One curiosity sticks out for me: there's a 1976 screenplay "The Magnificent Red-Hot Jazzing Seven" which Vance pitches as a continuation of "The Seven Samurai" and "The Magnificent Seven". In it, Joe Bush, an over-the-hill cornet-player is persuaded to reassemble his old band to save the livelihood of the Blue Goose roadhouse. Joe then seeks out the various musicians in a variety of seedy circumstances, and of course, once reunited, they play brilliantly.
This is very reminiscent of The Blues Brothers which I see came out in 1980. I think it very likely that there's a connection somewhere along the line, but google hasn't yielded me any information on this. Certainly an unusual coincidence.
 
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The Big Peat

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#28
So I finished The Poppy War after being interested then losing interest then regaining it about 3 or 4 times.

The darkest parts of this book are, for once, among the best. Its darkness for a reason and Exhibit A of how Fantasy can be great at tackling real world problems - there's not much appetite for a book on the Rape of Nanjang and other instances of Japanese cruelty, but there is an an appetite for a fantasy book that includes them tactfully in an interesting story. I can see how it would jar but it didn't jar me.

And then I raced through the ending so I could end it.

I really don't know what to think about this book. It feels like 5 different books in once, some breathtakingly good and others that I would not finish. I suppose that taken as a journey I'm happy I read it and read it all. I'm happy enough to have read it that I was mildly excited to see a publication date for the sequel.

Would I recommend it to others? Yes, but with reservations.

In a weird way, I'd say the book is a lot like Eye of the World. Its an interesting story with an emphasis on internal growth and truama that's somewhat let down by the decision to start it in a super cliched way that doesn't really add much unless you're a fan of that cliche for the sake of that cliche.
 

Paul_C

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#30
I just finished reading Salem's Lot by Stephen King in an effort to further familiarize myself with the works of this popular author. I haven't read too much vampire fiction--in fact I believe the only other vampire novel I've read was Dracula by Bram Stoker--but it was good reading all around. Next up is The Shinning by the same author.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#31
The Lady In The Lake by Raymond Chandler. Finished The Long Goodbye. Towards the end of that Chandler really opened up the throttle, including a couple of rants by the characters about early 1950s life. He particularly disliked the growing tendency of TV commercials that used men in white coats to sell anything.
 

kythe

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#33
I've been too busy to read much for the last couple of months, but now the semester is over and I have time.

I've started The Empyreus Proof by Bryan Wigmore. Somehow this book has a different "flavor" than The Goddess Project. Some characters are much more complex than they originally appeared.
 

Fedos

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#34
Today I finished up reading volume one in the complete collection of tales from Clark Ashton Smith called The End of the Story. Clark Ashton Smith is turning out to be an amazing writer. The poetic flair he implants in these stories (even the science fiction ones) is impressive, and while I may have not read much dark fantasy what I am reading from Smith makes me want to explore it the more. Next up is volume two called The Door to Saturn.
 

Bick

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#39
I paused in my reading of The Book of the New Sun, after the first novel Shadow of the Torturer, to read the first four Pratchett Discworld books in my long-term aim to read many of those. I'm now back to Wolfe for another round of working out what the hell's going on in Severian's adventures on Urth, and I'm about half way through The Claw of the Conciliator. Very similar thoughts to the first book: great language, a literary experience in the sense of depth and meaning and pace; and hard to know exactly what's happening all the time. I've read opinion elsewhere that this is a bit like Joyce for SF enthusiasts - many have it on the shelf, but fewer make it through to the end due to the byzantine plotting and style. I'm enjoying it though, even if the world unfolds and is revealed at a slow pace. I suspect the whole will ultimately be more satisfying than the individual books, which leave many questions unanswered and the mind slightly fatigued. Discworld books in between will probably be a good tonic :)
 

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