February 2022 Reading Thread

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Halfway through book 2 of Deed of Paksenarrion and enjoying it a lot still. The D&D influence is showing stronger, with the first quarter a trek through ancient elven ruins and the second ridding a town of a gang of criminals. Now that she's headed off for paladin training I'm taking a break (also so my wife can borrow my Kindle to try it out).

During the break I'm finally trying out my first Guy Gavriel Kay book. I somehow had never realized he was so heavily involved in The Silmarillion, which is my favorite Tolkien and have heard great things. I skipped Fionovar Tapestry, as I've heard mixed reviews and have never liked the "real modern people transported to fantasy world" trope. So I'm well into Lions of Al-Rassan and already starting to see why he's held in such high regard.
 
Four days into Feb and I'm up to 53 titles for the year. 497 to go to reach my goal. On pace for ~552.

The good:
Re-read The Witcher series and it's every bit ass good as I remember.
Started my re-read of The Obernewtyn Chronicles and am enjoying them more this time than I did the first time.

The bad:
The Last Survivors series by Bobby Adair and T.W. Piperbrook. Ugh. Bad post-apocalyptic zombie fiction. There are enough (barely) high points to get through the series, but it was really disappointing after thoroughly enjoying Adair's Freedom's Fire series.
"South Sea Tales" by Jack London. The story wasn't that great and his nearly constant dropping of the N-word, especially in the second half of the book added up to a really bad experience.

The Ugly:
Four DNFs since my last update.
"City of Stairs" by Robert Peter Jackson. *
"The Royal Bastards" by Andrew Shvarts. Really, really (really, really, really) bad YA fantasy fiction.
"Daughter of Smoke and Bone" by Laini Taylor. *
"The Demon King" by Cinda Williams Chima. *

* I'll give these another go at some point. I've got a sneaking suspicion that I simply wasn't in the mood for the genre at the time, especially the last two.
 
Finished lately rereads of The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, and completed a first reading of The Fall of Gondolin. Starting another Tolkien reread, The Notion Club Papers (in Sauron Defeated). Nearing the end of a second reading of Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit, so enjoyable!
 
During the break I'm finally trying out my first Guy Gavriel Kay book. I somehow had never realized he was so heavily involved in The Silmarillion,
Many thanks: I had no idea.
 
Professor Alice Roberts: "Ancestors"
A discussion of a number of burials uncovered in Britain, and the societies they might reflect, ranging from Neanderthal @200,000BC (just a piece of jaw, a tooth, and fragment of vertebra), "The Red Lady" in the Gower peninsula @34,000BC, the Cheddar Caves @14,000BC and also @9000BC, Neolithic sites @3000 - 4000BC, "The Amesbury Archer" @2300BC, the Pocklington Chariot Burial @200BC.
The style is a bit chatty and this can at times be irritating, but fortunately never for long. I only realised about a third of the way through that the author is a well-known TV presenter on archaeology/prehistory and that I'd seen her twice on TV recently ( "Digging for Britain") - once I realised that, the style made sense. I found the core of the book very interesting, the more so as it incorporates recent findings and theories, but there's also the scent of a book written in lockdown in that there are tangents towards the end of the book that I think could have been edited better: one involves the life and work of the Victorian archaeologist A.H. Pitt-Rivers, the other is a lengthy discussion on modern biases in assignment of gender of skeletons from societies about which we know little.
One real point of interest for me: I hadn't appreciated that Britain has only been continuously inhabited since @13,000 BC when the glaciers from the most recent Ice Age retreated. That seems like just yesterday.
 
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Finished Imperium last week. About to start Lustrum (a trilogy of sorts re Roman times, by Robert Harris).
 
Best book I read in a while - Churchill's Iceman. Astounding true story of a quirky inventor/spy/ educator named Geoffrey Pyke.
 
One that I'm sure has been reviewed recently in here
Fearless by Allen Stroud

It seems ok so far, a whodunnit on a spaceship
 
Our local book group met last Wednesday and the two books are: Porterhouse Blue, by Tom Sharpe, & The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer.
I am reading the Peter Ackroyd, translation.
 
Ogadinma: Or, Everything Will Be Alright.
by Ukamaka Olisakwe.
 

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Our local book group met last Wednesday and the two books are: Porterhouse Blue, by Tom Sharpe, & The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer.
I am reading the Peter Ackroyd, translation.
Porterhouse Blue is terrific, and there is a very good TV adaptation from the late 1980s, which is available on Youtube.
Tom Sharpe seems a bit forgotten these days, which is a pity.
 
I finished Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo. For those who may not know, this is the first in his ongoing ‘zombie’ SF series. In this case, the zombie apocalypse is mediated by a rapidly spreading new virus that is both airbourne in its initial flu-like stage, and then morphs into a blood-bourne rabies-like neurological virus. One family of far-right survivalists take to the seas to survive the spreading pandemic. I can see the appeal here in a sense. I did finish the book, and Ringo is clearly a professional artisan who knows how to keep the pace up, meet the shallower side of reader expectations, and provide a fun holiday read. All that said, this is not a good book, as there are too many problems. Firstly it should be pointed out that it is the start of the story, and just stops at the end with the words “to be continued”. Just because this is book one in a series doesn’t preclude a satisfying conclusion. The other issues I had are concerned with the ‘message, or perspective on show and the fact that far too much that happens is ridiculous. The characters (who are not that appealing) speak in militaristic jargon throughout, not only I felt to bring some verisimilitude but mostly to bring a sort of military cool to the goings on. The zombies are infected, living humans, and yet Ringo delights in having the 13 year old daughter of the protagonist shoot, stab, butcher and bludgeon these infected people in their hundreds. The 13 year old is described as a ‘hottie’ who just loves killing zombies. She is the best zombie killer ever! Various other adult characters ‘joke’ that as soon as she’s ‘legal’ they’ll marry her, even going so far as to suggest that it would be legal at 14 in some States. I maintained an uncomfortable feeling about the action scenes and dialogue throughout, as it comes across as rather unsavory and voyeuristic; Ringo seems to have created a ‘cool’ scenario that allows (even requires) extreme violence and extreme perspectives to flourish. There will be many who find this extreme fun (and in some ways it is), but for those looking for some humanity or depth in their SF, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m now moving on to The Devil’s Eye, by Jack McDevitt.
 
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There isn't. Just a personal challenge. :D
I keep a record myself, but I realized I was beginning to target a number by year’s end, and it was influencing my reading and slow enjoyment of some books, so I’ve made a conscious effort to read only as many or as few as happen. I read more last year than any other year, ironically, having just said that, but it was by chance, and included far more re-reads. My goals are more author orientated now. By the time I keel over I want to have read all Dickens and Twain, but running totals each year? I don’t care about that much anymore.
 
I finished Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo. For those who may not know, this is the first in his ongoing ‘zombie’ SF series. In this case, the zombie apocalypse is mediated by a rapidly spreading new virus that is both airbourne in its initial flu-like stage, and then morphs into a blood-bourne rabies-like neurological virus. One family of far-right survivalists take to the seas to survive the spreading pandemic. I can see the appeal here in a sense. I did finish the book, and Ringo is clearly a professional artisan who knows how to keep the pace up, meet the shallower side of reader expectations, and provide a fun holiday read. All that said, this is not a good book, as there are too many problems. Firstly it should be pointed out that it is the start of the story, and just stops at the end with the words “to be continued”. Just because this is book one in a series doesn’t preclude a satisfying conclusion. The other issues I had are concerned with the ‘message, or perspective on show and the fact that far too much that happens is ridiculous. The characters (who are not that appealing) speak in militaristic jargon throughout, not only I felt to bring some verisimilitude but mostly to bring a sort of military cool to the goings on. The zombies are infected, living humans, and yet Ringo delights in having the 13 year old daughter of the protagonist shoot, stab, butcher and bludgeon these infected people in their hundreds. The 13 year old is described as a ‘hottie’ who just loves killing zombies. She is the best zombie killer ever! Various other adult characters ‘joke’ that as soon as she’s ‘legal’ they’ll marry her, even going so far as to suggest that it would be legal at 14 in some States. I maintained an uncomfortable feeling about the action scenes and dialogue throughout, as it comes across as rather unsavory and voyeuristic; Ringo seems to have created a ‘cool’ scenario that allows (even requires) extreme violence and extreme perspectives to flourish. There will be many who find this extreme fun (and in some ways it is), but for those looking for some humanity or depth in their SF, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’m now moving on to The Devil’s Eye, by Jack McDevitt.
Good review. While I think Correia's Monster Hunter International was probably better than the Ringo sounds, they also sound like they have a similar sensibility and effect. Basically, if you like or dislike one, you'd probably feel the same about the other, with a slight variance on the edge.

As far as the McDevitt, if I'd have reviewed it, I'd have had to give it a mixed one but it was semi-ironically the one where I finally felt like I was "into" the series.
 
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