July Reading Thread

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The Judge

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I've just finished the thick novel Dominus by Steven Saylor, a rapid look at the 150 or so years of the Roman Empire from Marcus Aurelius to Constantine as seen through the eyes of 7 generations of the Pinarii family -- chocabloc full of incident (plagues, invasions, frontier wars, civil wars, conflagrations, bread and circuses, and the rise of Christianity) but an awful lot of info-dumping and very little characterisation.

I really ought to be finishing The Harsh Cry of the Heron by Lian Hearn, but though I loved and sped through the others in the Otari series I'm finding this one hard going and I've been stuck at the about three-quarter mark for some time, so instead I'm continuing the Roman theme for now with another tale of M Didius Falco in Lindsey Davis's The Accusers.

What are you reading this month?
 

Cat's Cradle

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Thanks for mentioning this one, @Stephen Palmer... I hadn't heard of it. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the book, once you've finished. This will go near the top of my 'To Buy' list, if you regard it highly, CC
 

Simbelmynë

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Finally got round to reading a book which has been on my TBR list for years - ‘The City & The City’ by China Mieville. I enjoyed his fantasy books and the concept of this one appealed to me also, but I have to say I mostly didn’t enjoy it. I’m not a fan of murder mysteries, so this is partially why, but I also found the execution of the concept quite tedious.

I’m also not too sure I understand the resolution properly … I wonder if anyone can help rescue me from my dull-witted head scratching (see the spoiler).

I’m a little confused about the artefacts from the dig. Can anyone who has read the book explain to me - where did they come from in the first place if Orciny is ‘bullsh**’? There were seemingly technologically advanced, perhaps alien artefacts, and a mingling of items with varying cultural aesthetics. Was it all fabricated by Bowden, even the dig? This seems unlikely but the explainer at the end has tied my head in knots.


MINOR SPOILERS
There were times when I simply enjoyed exploring the Orwellian setting, the oppression and fear were well expressed. I wondered about the allegorical implications too - that nations ignore the common humanity they share with other humans because of absurdly arbitrary lines drawn on maps, the degree to which people are complicit in this, or whether it is more top-down. And the extremist nationalism which inevitably springs from this kind of political tension, however unrealistic the setting ultimately is. The Eastern European or Balkan flavour was captured skilfully, and there were echoes of the Berlin Wall, I felt.

Great idea but plot-wise not my thing. Perhaps I will enjoy puzzling over the symbolism in retrospect more than I did the actual reading of the book.



Just started ‘Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution’ by Simon Schama. A couple of chapters in and enjoying getting to grips with the details of this crucial point in history.
 

hitmouse

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Finally got round to reading a book which has been on my TBR list for years - ‘The City & The City’ by China Mieville. I enjoyed his fantasy books and the concept of this one appealed to me also, but I have to say I mostly didn’t enjoy it. I’m not a fan of murder mysteries, so this is partially why, but I also found the execution of the concept quite tedious.

I’m also not too sure I understand the resolution properly … I wonder if anyone can help rescue me from my dull-witted head scratching (see the spoiler).

I’m a little confused about the artefacts from the dig. Can anyone who has read the book explain to me - where did they come from in the first place if Orciny is ‘bullsh**’? There were seemingly technologically advanced, perhaps alien artefacts, and a mingling of items with varying cultural aesthetics. Was it all fabricated by Bowden, even the dig? This seems unlikely but the explainer at the end has tied my head in knots.


MINOR SPOILERS
There were times when I simply enjoyed exploring the Orwellian setting, the oppression and fear were well expressed. I wondered about the allegorical implications too - that nations ignore the common humanity they share with other humans because of absurdly arbitrary lines drawn on maps, the degree to which people are complicit in this, or whether it is more top-down. And the extremist nationalism which inevitably springs from this kind of political tension, however unrealistic the setting ultimately is. The Eastern European or Balkan flavour was captured skilfully, and there were echoes of the Berlin Wall, I felt.

Great idea but plot-wise not my thing. Perhaps I will enjoy puzzling over the symbolism in retrospect more than I did the actual reading of the book.



Just started ‘Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution’ by Simon Schama. A couple of chapters in and enjoying getting to grips with the details of this crucial point in history.
It is good, but not his best. There is a decent adaptation on Prime or Netflix.
 

HareBrain

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Bored Gay Werewolf by Tony Santorella, a book I bought purely on the strength of its no-nonsense title and its lurid trashy cover. An OK start, now picking up.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I have started Ambergris (2020) by Jeff VanderMeer, a trilogy that consists of the three books City of Saints and Madmen (2001), Shriek: An Afterword (2006), and Finch (2009.) The first consists of four novellas, the other two are novels. Apparently the first exists in a variety of greatly expanded versions, but this is the initial version.
 

hitmouse

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A Taste in Time A Food History of Calcutta (2021) Mohona Kanjilal
Purchased this last week in the City of Joy where I have an annual lecturing gig. Now enjoying it as holiday reading in the S of Fr.
Really interesting cultural history, via its foods, of that amazing cosmopolitan place, which has food to rival anywhere I have visited.
Could have used a bit of clever editing, but that is not a major grumble.
 

Rodders

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I finished listening to the audiobook of Life, The Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams. It was very funny and made me laugh a lot.

Considering that these books are forty years old, they have aged surprisingly well. Aged only perhaps by digital watches (which i think is still a neat idea.) I do wonder whether Arthur Dent is the most important man in the galaxy, considering the monumental coincidences that occur to him.

Now on to So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. Book four in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

So Long and thanks for all the fish.jpg
 

Elentarri

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So far this month:

Kingdoms of Wrath and Ice: An Anthology of Icy Villains
A nicely written collection of short fantasy stories involving winter, snow, ice and villains. Some stories appealed to me more than others.
The Tower of the Swallow (The Witcher #4) by Andrzej Sapkowski
This installment of the "Trials and Tribulations of Cirilla and Geralt" is darker, bounces around between POV characters and events too often (making it hard to keep track of simultaneous events), and just not as enjoyable as the previous novels. There are also too many incredibly nasty people in it. Geralt is plodding along at a snails pace, not doing any Witchering, Ciri is being an annoying, hot-headed teenager (no surprises she got caught!) and there wasn't enough Yennifer either. However, the plot does move along... if somewhat disjointedly.​

Over the Edge of the World Updated Edition: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe by Laurence Bergreen [history book]
Over the Edge of the World is a well-researched, exciting and comprehensive exploration of Ferdinand Magellan's attempt to reach the Spice Islands by sailing west, instead of east, and circumnavigating the globe. Magellan wasn't the most congenial of people, but he was obsessed with his mission, having to deal with unscrupulous bureaucrats, mutinous shipmates (and the consequences thereof), shipboard politicking, a vengeful Portuguese King, diplomatic blunders and ticked-off island natives, lack of water, scurvy, storms, shoals, and generally only having a vague idea of where he was going. Magellan set sail in 1519 with 270 men in five ships. Only 18 survivors in one dilapidated ship circumnavigated the world and made it back to Spain in 1522. Magellan was not among them. The majority of this account makes use of the journal a scholarly Italian passenger, Antonio Pigafetta, distributed to Europe once he made it back to Spain. Bergreen includes quotes from Pigafetta's journal, which are fairly interesting, and sometimes amusing, to read. An interesting account of a fascinating, if arrogant, man and his determination to accomplish his mission.​
 
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