February 2019: Reading thread

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pixie druid
Staff member
May 4, 2005
I may live in Yorkshire but I'm a Scot
Second month of the new year, I've decided to branch out of my comfort zone and picked up some new authors.
Reading the first of the three authors I picked up today.
Francesco Dimitri, The Book of Hidden Things.
I've given up for now on my Iain Rob Wright book "The Gates" - too many interesting characters keep getting killed just when I feel I'm getting to know them. (I might try it again in a week or two)

I'm instead having a go at one by Joe Haldeman .. 1968… a so far intriguing look at a young recruit in the Viet Nam war
Well I am reading one of the book group's suggestions Tangerine, by Christine Mangan. It's a murder mystery set in Tangier. (In case you forgotten I'm go to a book group locally. )
As light relief after Max Hastings's superb Vietnam, I read The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole and Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, both by Sue Townsend. They did the job.

At a loss for anything else in the house, I am now about to attempt a re-read of Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I gave it as my favourite novel on a thread here recently, so i thought I'd better see if it holds up.
Right now reading a 1950s novel, Edelman's A Dream of Treason. I'd describe it as a novel with an espionage element rather than as an "espionage novel" so far; there's a lot about the main character's marital problems (his wife drinks too much) and the possible development of a romance between himself and a friend's daughter who's about half his age. I expect the espionage plot will come to the fore in the author's good time. The main character (Lambert) "leaked" a Foreign Office document to a French newspaper at the command of his boss, who died in a plane disaster.

Also reading Marshall's Bob Dylan: A Spiritual Life, which seems really well-researched and level-headed.

Also reading William Ready's Understanding Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings (1969 paperback of a 1968 book), basically for historical interest as, I think, the first book on JRRT. It's a pity it had to be such a poor thing. but at least it's short. Cringe-making errors, opinionated remarks, and unintelligible passages are plentiful.

Also reading, a little bit at a time, the Penguin Classic of John Aubrey's Brief Lives -- very interesting item in my 17th-century reading project.
Reading Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan. Well, a reread. I found out about this book about a decade ago from someone looking for it in Book Search and bought it based entirely on the description in that thread.

I remember it being just one long scientific investigation and really enjoying it.
I decided to defer Foucault's Pendulum and reread the graphic novel Monstress vols 1-3, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.

This vies with Grant Morrison's The Invisibles as the best graphic novel series I've ever read. It might even top it. The lush, beautiful, detailed artwork is certainly a lot better.

The writing makes it one of the best fantasy stories I've ever read too, pictorial or otherwise. It very much repays repeated readings.

Hugely recommended, and not just by me -- the back cover of vol 3 is plastered with Eisner laurels, plus a Hugo and BFA. If anyone who reads graphic novels happens not to have heard of this series, do yourself a favour and take a look.
I finished Ursula Le Guin's City of Illusion. I thought the book started and ended strongly but was maybe less compelling in the middle of the story. The story is a journey of discovery for the protagonist, at the start of the book he is discovered naked in the forest with absolutely no memory of anything. Throughout the book he learns more about the largely depopulated Earth during his journey to what is meant to be the last remaining city, which may have the answers he seeks. The people who take him at the start of the story say that Earth was largely destroyed by an enemy known as the Shing, but admit that they're not actually sure who the Shing were, or if they ever actually existed. The story does manage to keep a sense of mystery throughout (although the ending does clear up most of the ambiguity). I'm not sure I necessarily find the world-building to be entirely believable, but it is a memorable setting.

Next up I'm going to start Robert Jackson Bennet's Foundryside. I really liked his Divine Cities trilogy, so I'm looking forward to this.
I was going to read The Diploids, but as my Kindle was charging I picked up, and just finished, The Sirens Of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut.

It was ok on the whole, but there is something about KV's writing style that mildly irks me, though I'd find it hard, even if pushed, to say say exactly what it is.

If I manage to stay up tonight to watch the Superbowl then I doubt I'll start anything new, but unless another choice leaps unexpectedly into my head, I'll have a second attempt to begin The Diploids.
Just finished a couple I was reading in tandem:

C S Forester: Payment Deferred - I very much liked the style of this and the control of language
O. Preussler: Krabat - a thoroughly entertaining mid-European folktale.

Tink I'm going to move on to 'Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy' next.

Best Wishes,
Started Yoon Ha Lee's The Raven Stratagem, but am finding it a little dense and unfriendly. Having followed a character's deep POV through the first book, I'm put off by the fact that we are now expected to follow lots of other characters simply to look at that original character - I don't like the distance.

In the meantime, picking through a study textbook, The European World 1500-1800, which is coming across as incredibly generic, and when it isn't, too focused on North West Europe. This is supposed to be a textbook to accompany courses on Early Modern Europe, but it's in desperate need of more detailed examples, and covering a wider geographic area. Ended up picking up Guy de la Bedoyere's Roman Britain and am engaging with it, though the initial stage setting for Iron Age Britain is coming across a little thin at the moment compared to Barry Cunliffe's Britain Begins.
I'm reading Oathbringer, the third Stormlight Archive book. Reading it faster than expected, which is nice (still not very fast). Also reading After the Ice, about what happened between the end of the last Ice Age and the first stirrings of what we might call civilisation.
Opened Unfinished Tales to find a quote, got hooked in, and started re-reading the whole of JRRT/CJRT's History of Middle-earth yet again.

I estimate that if I re-read all the books that I'd like to, I won't need to buy a new one until about 2025...
It was a bad start to the year. I picked up Arcanum Unbound, intending to read through it cover to cover, but got stuck in the second section. I love Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight and Mistborn novels, but I haven't got into the other branches of the Cosmere. I finally dropped it and picked up a recommendation from a friend, A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie Czerneda. I wanted to like it, but lost track of the aliens and who was who. So I picked up the book I was saving for a holiday , Persepolis Rising by James S.A. Corey, and have finally settled into a great read.
I'm currently reading Requiem by Tim Page and Horst Faas.

This is a remarkable tribute and a haunting, emotional book. It contains photographs taken by the photographers who died during the French Indochina and Vietnam War. There were 135 photographers from all sides recorded as missing or having been killed. This book includes many of the last photo's they took along with very moving stories about the photographer and the pictures.

Both Tim Page and Horst Faas were photographers themselves during the conflict.
For the first time in a long while, I find myself very torn in coming to an assessment of something I've just read.

Having just finished 'Annihilation', Part 1 of Jeff VanderMeer's 'Southern Reach Trilogy', I'm not at all sure whether it's one of the most creative and imaginative pieces I've read for some time or whether it's pretentious twaddle.

I had set aside the rest of this week to read the trilogy through but I think I'm going to take a break and read something else before ploughing on.

Will probably make a start on 'Five Days Of Fog', the debut novel by Anna Freeman about a female criminal gang in London, set against the backdrop of the crippling London fog/smog of 1952.

Best Wishes,
Just finished The Pedant in the Kitchen by Julian Barnes, which is excellent.
Having just finished 'Annihilation', Part 1 of Jeff VanderMeer's 'Southern Reach Trilogy', I'm not at all sure whether it's one of the most creative and imaginative pieces I've read for some time or whether it's pretentious twaddle.

Interested to hear you say this David, I had the same feelings on Part 1. I found Part 2 to be less engaging and Part 3 simply unreadable and was one of only two books in the last 20 to 30 years that I didn’t finish!

When you get round to parts 2 and 3 drop me a line with your thoughts if you don’t mind?
"Dear Christo" Memories of Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter" Edited by Fergus Garrett and Rosemary Alexander
"Christopher Lloyd, His Life and Work at Great Dixter" by Stephen Anderton
Biography and memories of colourful gardener and gardening writer.
Christo(pher) lived all his life in a Lutyens restored 15th century manor house known as Great Dixter. The exceptionally shy youngest of six, obsessed with plants from an early age, his life began to take off after his dominating mother died in 1972 when he was fifty one.
My interest derives from driving into Great Dixter on a whim a few years ago, and ever since I've visited several times a year.
Here's a picture of what it looks like in late May:
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