December Reading Thread

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Foxbat

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@Foxbat . I love that book
It’s very interesting and I’m learning a lot about the actors, the movies and the studio. Highly recommended for anybody interested in cinematic history:)

A recent piece of historical trivia I’ve learned from the book: Boris Karloff (William Henry Pratt) had a great aunt called Anna Leonowens. Her experiences as a royal governess in Siam became the basis for the musical The King and I.
 
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Toby Frost

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Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree. This book is about an orc adventurer who retires to open a coffee shop. It's very much D&D type fantasy, and it's just this side of twee so far (I'm about a third through) but it's well-written and entertaining.
 

Orcadian

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So I finished Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), begun in October.

It is rare for me to give a book a five-star review but this book deserves one. It has all the ingredients that make a science fiction novel work for me: Credible, well-drawn characters, a tight plot, strong science (mostly biology here, but some astronomy and physics too), dramatic tension, problem-solving, friendship, loss. Weir sets up a plausible plot with well-drawn characters, all of whom are flawed in some minor way that makes them real but does not prevent them from fulfilling their purpose in the novel. The mystery and the science are allowed to unfold in a realistic way and when the main character Grace finally encounters an individual from an alien race, that character too is well-drawn and convincingly alien. There's even a quirky twist at the end that made me laugh aloud. I didn't always appreciate the device Weir uses to explain what's happening: he has Grace 'work it out' by thinking aloud in a way that I found cocky and unappealing. But the story is so good that I found I could overlook this. :giggle:
 

Mgellis

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Starting around the beginning of November, I initiated a new project.

For years, I have accumulated books I have meant to read but never got around to reading. Last Spring, my wife and I finally sold our house in Michigan and moved to our new house in northern Wisconsin. I trimmed down my book collection to about 50 linear feet and suddenly, it hit me that I just don't want to have a lot of books sitting around that I've never read and might never read. It's one thing to have a few books on the to-read list, but I've got something like 70 or 80, and that's just ridiculous. (Admittedly, as a retired English professor, I had a LOT of books...before I moved, I got rid of about two thirds of my total collection. The 50 linear feet is what's left. But even so...it's time to tackle that pile of unread books!)

So my plan this year is to read every single book in my collection that I haven't read yet. And I'm making a point of not buying many new books (I know better than to say NO new books) until I get through them all. And I'm going to be ruthless about getting rid of the ones I don't want to keep after I read them.

So far, I've gone through about 12 books. And about half of them are in the Donation box. (The local thrift shop/used book store is either going to love me or hate me...I'm not sure yet which it will be.) So I think I'm on track.

Right now, I'm reading...

Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity
by Stephen Thomas Knight

Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons: Nature, Literature, and the Arts
by Haruo Shirane

and...a classic I've never gotten around to reading until now...

Notre-Dame of Paris
by Victor Hugo

We'll see what happens. Wish me luck. :)
 

Elentarri

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Immortal by Jessica Duchen is an examination of one of the many hypotheses regarding Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved". The book is mostly historically accurate with a bit of artistic license to fill in the gaps. Inspired by real events, the novel is narrated in the style of a collection of letters sent from Countess Therese Brunsvik von Korompa to her niece - so that at least one person knows the truth. The letters describe Therese's childhood, her immediate family, her cousin "Countess Vanity" (Giulietta Guicciardi), their their relationship with Ludwig van Beethoven (whose music they all adored), not to mention the turbulent change in Viennese society from a cosmopolitan city of parties to a war torn city under occupation by Napoleon's forces, facing poverty and bankruptcy. A large portion of the letters describes the turbulent and restrictive lives of Therese and her sisters - with Beethoven winding like a ribbon throughout the narrative. I loved how Duchen wove descriptions of Beethoven's music throughout the narrative. Compelling, well researched and beautifully written, with tense and heartbreaking moments.
 

Pyan

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16 Ways To Defend a Walled City - K I Parker

Can't think how I've missed this before. Didn't realise the author also wrote as Tom Holt, either.
 

Orcadian

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Immortal by Jessica Duchen is an examination of one of the many hypotheses regarding Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved". .... Compelling, well researched and beautifully written, with tense and heartbreaking moments.
And does Duchen give us any strong clues as to the identity of the lady? (Assuming she existed at all! Another hypothesis is that the famously-lonely Beethoven dreams of having someone who is his 'immortal beloved', and writes to this imagined love.)
 

Toby Frost

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Legends and Lattes (2022):


Viv, an orc, retires from a life of fighting to open a coffee shop in a fantasy city. As well as the difficulty of starting a business in a crime-riddled city, her past comes back to haunt her.

In some ways, this is a really odd book, but in others it’s actually a pretty logical one: it’s the culmination of that kind of Dungeons & Dragons, Renaissance Fayre kind of fantasy, where there are thousands of different species which are basically humans with slight variations*, and technology is more or less modern, but with magic instead of machines. The story is what it ought to be: simply and clearly told, with interesting characters and entertaining adventures. Although the stakes are small for Viv’s world, they are very high for her. I suppose you could call it the opposite of grimdark: instead of a bunch of not-Vikings growling into their beards about whores and axes (a crude stereotype) you’ve got lots of magic people being lovely and magic together (another crude stereotype).

The fact is, I’m not the ideal readership for this. I have a pretty low tolerance for sickliness, I don’t really like coffee, and the phrase “found family” makes me want to yack like a cat with a furball. And yet it does work: there’s enough world-building and story to keep it from becoming too twee. In particular, the gradual development of the coffee shop is entertaining. I’m not sure that I’ll remember this book all that long – the author calls it the fantasy equivalent of a Hallmark film – but it definitely does what it sets out to do. I enjoyed it.

One small complaint: the story actually ends almost sixty pages before the end of the edition that I’ve got, which then contains a short story, an interview with the author, three pages of acknowledgements and two chapters of the sequel. This is fine, but I think there should have been some warning that it was about to stop. Perhaps the additional pages could have had darker edges, as I’ve seen done in other stories? This was slightly annoying.


*I originally imagined Viv as one of Games Workshop's hunched, apelike monsters, and then as one of the red mud-demons from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films, and then as the attractive green bodybuilder with little tusks that she's probably meant to be!
 

williamjm

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I finished Roger Zelazny's A Night In The Lonesome October, which I thought was excellent. It is definitely a unique book, written as a series of 31 diary entries through the month of October by an unusually intelligent dog who, together with his master, is part of a metaphysical game whose stakes are the future of the world. In his introduction to this edition Neil Gaiman described reading it as being like attending a Halloween party where all the guests have come as famous literary heroes and villains and who are playing a game whose rules you only gradually start to understand. It is a lot of fun trying to work out what is going on and who is on which side (even the competitors don't initially know who their allies or opponents are). There are also some clever twists along the way - just when you think you have started to figured out what is going to happen the picture changes.

It does also have some interesting characters in it, particularly among the animals. Snuff is a likeable narrator and there are some good subplots as he finds himself becoming friends with others when he knows there is a risk they may end up being foes when Halloween comes along.
 

Hugh

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I finished Roger Zelazny's A Night In The Lonesome October, which I thought was excellent. It is definitely a unique book, written as a series of 31 diary entries through the month of October by an unusually intelligent dog who, together with his master, is part of a metaphysical game whose stakes are the future of the world. In his introduction to this edition Neil Gaiman described reading it as being like attending a Halloween party where all the guests have come as famous literary heroes and villains and who are playing a game whose rules you only gradually start to understand. It is a lot of fun trying to work out what is going on and who is on which side (even the competitors don't initially know who their allies or opponents are). There are also some clever twists along the way - just when you think you have started to figured out what is going to happen the picture changes.

It does also have some interesting characters in it, particularly among the animals. Snuff is a likeable narrator and there are some good subplots as he finds himself becoming friends with others when he knows there is a risk they may end up being foes when Halloween comes along.
A wonderful book. And totally different from all other Zelaznys.
 

Elentarri

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And does Duchen give us any strong clues as to the identity of the lady? (Assuming she existed at all! Another hypothesis is that the famously-lonely Beethoven dreams of having someone who is his 'immortal beloved', and writes to this imagined love.)
Oh yes. I just didn't add it to the "review" because of spoilers.
You can find more information if you look up Countess Josephine Brunsvik on wikipedia.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Just finished T. Kingfisher's latest entry in The Saint of Steel series: Paladin's Faith. This time the main characters are Shane, the most tormented (and self-tormenting) of the paladins, and Marguerite the spy. Those who have been following the series will remember Marguerite from the first book, where she appeared as the eponymous Grace's best friend.

It started out slow, though it was a pleasure to spend time with old friends—and any book which features the Temple of the White Rat is a book I want to read. (Who doesn't love those guys?) And as the story began to near the end, things became ever-so-much more interesting and unexpected. A satisfying ending, but it left some intriguing questions open for the future. Just how did the Saint of Steel die, anyway? And what's up with Judith?
 
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