April Reading Thread

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The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Nov 10, 2008
nearly the New Forest
I'm starting the month half-way through another historical novel -- Witch Wood by John Buchan, set in Scotland in the 1640s where the civil war between the Covenanters and royalists is raging and a minister of the kirk is confronted with satanic rites in the dark woods! Gripping stuff!

What are you reading this month?
The Fifth Elephant, my third read of it
The book that inspired the GNU on Pratchett sites.

I actually saw some bloke who posted for a GNU for his wife who had passed away that morning!
Like I think the last thing on my mind if my missus died would be "Hmmm, I'd better go onto the pterry Facebook site and tell them my wife died a couple of hours ago"
I'm currently rereading The Liveship Traders by Robin Hobb. Just finishing off the 2nd book now, and enjoying it immensenly. She writes beautifully. And her magical setting is so masterfully done. It feels so deep and interesting yet really allows her characters to shine.
This month I am also hoping to read 16 Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J Parker. Based off great reviews and the title alone.
I've been trying to get to grip with my ARC pile. First up, Shannon Chakraborty's The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi

It is very detail heavy, very much set on establishing character and world first and foremost.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it is when neither's coming alive. The world is both too detailed and not enough. I sort of understand what it is to look at it, but I don't understand what it is to live there (bar beyond what I already knew of medieval Arabia, which isn't a ton but not nothing either). It also flashes little senses of modernity in renfaire costume rather than the real deal - the use of the word kids is what caused me to close the book on the latest open - which isn't a big thing unless being the real is the book's thing. In which case it's really big.

As for Amina... she's colourful, but big bad badasses that know it are less interesting to me than people who don't know who they are, or who are in conflict with themselves, or doing things they're not badass at.

I think this book either needed to drop the worldbuilding and backstory and get straight to Amina showing off, or to go even heavier and include the sort of deep history that lets me see the world and Amina. This is the unhappy middle and Admiral DNF is checking where the plank is.
Amy Jeffs "Storyland"
I'm not sure what I think about this, and it's had varied responses here. There are 30 stories that rework mythic tales of the British Isles, each accompanied by commentary on the historical sources and an illustration by the author. The author writes well, the book is well-presented and looks a great read. I like the illustrations. One aspect that works well is that the stories are usually told from a woman's perspective.
But.... I found it difficult to get into, the stories were, for me, usually too short or too reworked. I read a story a day, and this may have meant it took time to build continuity. It may be that with time it will grow on me, but at the moment I see it as one of those well-packaged books that looks ideal for birthday or Christmas presents, but never gets read beyond a few pages. I think the author's a good writer and has the potential to write something really good, but she has yet to do that.
I've gone rogue and am starting everything.

Gareth Hanrahan's The Sword Defiant reads like someone's cheesy D&D campaign. I will only accept these things if they're upbeat and full of great banter, and this wants to be more emo. Don't see this going well.

RJ Barker's Gods of the Wyrdwood is going hard on the atmospheric world that's really nasty and it's not quite working. My ARC has a few too many glitches in the prose (that or it just has too many glitches) and, honestly, I want to be with the person discovering the nasty world than someone who does nothing but live how nasty it is as they've done for a while

AY Chao's Shanghai Immortal has a very net kid does noir vibe and I'm not sure whether I love it or hate it but there's potential

Henry Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis has been forgotten with good reason. Thud and Blunder.

Mercedes Lackey's Into The West proves I should stop reading her books. I still have an ARC of hers after this and I'm afraid.

Max Gladstone's Dead Country reads just like Max Gladstone. I'm so jealous of the way he glides from thought to thought and weaves everything together.

MK Lobb's Seven Faceless Saints is potentially going to be good

Finally Nicole Jarvis' A Portrait in Shadow feels too modern for something set in 17th century Venice for me. The phrase "client base" is one that made me twitch.

This is why I start so many books, I don't like most of them...
That's too bad about the Mercedes Lackey novel. I've given up on them too, but was hoping for something better from Into the West and sequels.
I’m now starting Salvation, by Peter F. Hamilton. I’ve not read ‘enough’ of the all modern British space opera stuff by the likes of Hamilton, so I’m going to do something about that this year.
I just finished reading The Hidden Palace, by Helene Wecker, sequel to her highly acclaimed The Golem and the Jinni. Like the first book it evokes a strong sense of time and place (immigrant communities in New York City in the early twentieth century, with some forays into the Middle East during the same time period) which grounds the story and gives it a very serious tone, in spite of the fact that the main characters are magical beings and many fantastical events drive the plot. It's a story about being part of a culture within another dominant culture, about being separated from your own community, about loneliness when you have to hide who and what you are. As a result, there is a sense of melancholy throughout. And yet it is not a downbeat book.
I finished the audiobook version of Iain M. Bank's "Use of Weapons". Excellent.

I will listen to Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" next. Read by Stephen Fry, which will make it all the more enjoyable.

Charles Williams "The Greater Trumps"
Another read - last one was in 2019.
I liked it better this time, perhaps because I wasn't looking to gain insights into Williams and the Waite pack, but the underlying philosophy remains somewhat over my head (not that that matters - much goes over my head).
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Rereading an early 20th-century drama, The Wish, by Jóhann Sigurjónsson. Jóhann's drama is drawn from the old Icelandic tale of Galdra-Loftur, Loftur the Magician.

Hugh's mention of Charles Williams brings to mind that author's sustained examination of another magician, Simon the Clerk, in All Hallows' Eve. It would be interesting to compare Jóhann's treatment with that of Williams. My sense is that Jóhann sees Loftur tragically, as a man of great ambition who could not fully master his destiny (i.e. Jóhann sees him in modern secular terms), while Williams's treatment of magic is more probing, revealing necromancy's innate destructiveness and the costs it exacts as the magician is increasingly duped by his vanity and by the forces he has called down upon himself. Jóhann does see Loftur as culpable, e.g. in his exploitation for sexual purposes of a servant girl.
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