July Reading Thread

I finished the first three Faerie books by Herbie Brennan: Faerie Wars, The Purple Emperor, and Ruler of the Realm. This is a re-read of Faerie Wars for me, but the first time I've continued the series. I plan to finish this time.

This is a fun young adult fantasy adventure centering around portals between human, faerie, and demon worlds. It is full of surprises and every time I think I have it all figured out, it turns out little is as it seems. The series is not strong on character development. I'm disappointed that a few interesting characters from the first book were increasingly side-lined until nearly "forgotten", rather than having their respective storylines wrapped up more succinctly. However, each new character introduced brings a new and interesting dynamic, and I keep reading. The main adventures always leave me wanting to move on to the next escapade.
 
The Eagle and the Cockerel by Alan Rhode.

A near future political thriller - Germany and France unite to create a new superstate "Charlemagny" and jointly secede from the European Union
 
The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason

This is Daniel Mason's ode to Burma. A charming, lyrical and often dream-like, travelogue-esque story involving the journey of a shy, unassuming London piano-tuner to the jungles of 19th century colonial Burma. All to tune a rare Erard grand piano that belongs to the enigmatic British army officer, Surgeon-Major Anthony Carroll. Slow moving, but compelling. Evocative - one can hear the singing stones, smell the flowers and taste the food. I liked watching the piano tuner becoming progressively more attached to Burma and it's various people, and also his personal growth in this new land. The ending was also not at all what I expected. The dialogue was a bit strangely written and the plot a tad meandering, like a river, but overall, I enjoyed the novel.​
 
The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander This book is quite good. :cool:
 
I finished listening to Alistair Reynold's Chasm City. Still very enjoyable.

Now on to Redemption Ark, book two in the Revelation Space series also read by John Lee.

Redemption_Ark_cover_(Amazon).jpg
 
This afternoon I've started The Wrong Hands by Mark Billingham - book 2 in his detective Miller series set in Blackpool.
The typical lone wolf quirky copper books, this one's obsessed with the Beatles, pet rats and ballroom dancing.
 
Still going slow on RAISING DEMONS,1953 ,Shirley Jackson. Humor.

Stories by Raymond Chandler. Pulp era.

Comic book AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.LD.
 
fledgling - Octavia E. Butler

The story begins with a lone, injured, amnesiac, ten-year old, black girl. She is lost outside, somewhere in the USA, and doesn’t know who or what she is.

Vulnerable, or what?

Butler’s brilliant idea is to give her small protagonist significant power, tempered by a virtuous character. Shori turns out to be a vampire and doesn’t mean anyone any harm, but hey, a girl gotta eat.

Shori doesn’t recall anything and so we find ourselves along for the ride of finding out with her, all the while knowing that ignorance spells danger. Protective and loving of those whose blood she craves, Shori is brave and self-assured, but at risk.

She is 53, but a child in appearance, so that when she and Wright have sex, you’d expect all kinds of alarm bells to be going off, but Butler has the delicacy and the skill to present it as legitimate and adult. The vampire is the stronger, the faster, the one in charge. She has a robust intellect and it is her choice. Rather than innocent or mature, Shori has an ageless self-possession.

Butler is superbly organized and deft in the unforced way that she presents new information and characters, so that one is always clear about what is going on and why. I admire this as a writer as much as I appreciate it as a reader. She also achieves the difficult feat of making ethical leadership not just admirable, but interesting.

Fledgling is a book for truth, and respect for justice, and diverse consensual relationship arrangements. The vampire-human symbiosis is a reflection on human interdependence and the responsibility that corresponds to power over others.

But primarily, or ultimately, it’s a stirring human story, of a plucky young woman with the chance of a life, if she can but survive.
 
I just finished reading Sharps, by K. J. Parker

After decades of war there appears to be a chance for a long-lasting peace between neighboring countryies. As part of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations, a team of fencers has been sent from Scheria to Permia, where the sport is wildly popular. The Scherian fencers are reluctant recruits (all appear to have been threatened in some way) and what it is they are actually supposed to accomplish by their participation is something of a puzzlement. Are they really there to inspire good will and help establish peace—or on the contrary, meant to provoke a new war? Their problems begin almost immediately: various disasters along the road, riots in towns, murdered officials, bad food (when they are fed at all). The political officer who accompanies them, ostensibly to shepherd them through the dangers of a hostile country, seems to be singularly shifty character.

This is a typically twisty Parker plot, where it is impossible to guess what will happen next. Politics, religion, and finance provide one complication after another. As the plot thickens, the mysteries deepen. Even for Parker, this book was violent and bloody, and while the characters had their quirks and there were some moments of dark humor, I didn’t find the story as engaging as some of his others. However, for any readers who like to be kept in suspense, continually off-balance, and taken by surprise, this might be exactly what you are looking for.
 
Leonard Woolf "The Wise Virgins" (1914)
Dull. Dull. Dull. A discontented young man frustrated by the superficiality of conventional society. There's some interest in the portrayal of pre-WWI suburban life, but the main reason for the book being in print is that the characters are modelled on real people, notably the sisters Virginia Woolf (who'd only recently married Leonard) and Vanessa Bell, Leonard Woolf and his family. No one comes out unscathed and there seems something almost pathological in the author's need to portray friends, family and himself in this way.
 
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Origins: How the Earth Made Us by Lewis Dartnell
This is a broad and general overview of how human history has been shaped by our environment - by the evolution and extinction of plant and animals species, to the geography and geology of region. Dartnell covers things like plate tectonics, rift valleys, mountains, rivers, islands, plains, ocean currents, wind circulation, mineral and clay deposits, coal and oil, changing climate and how these all influenced human history in terms of what we eat, what materials we used for tools and shelter, trade and trade routes, migrations and war, the industrial revolution, and various states of politics from the various Ancient Greek city states to the current U.K and USA voting blocks being influenced by what lies under their feet. The book is interesting and concise, but I do wish Dartnell had gone into more detail and included more examples. This is, after all, a fascinating subject.​
 
Tales - E.T.A. Hoffmann

What makes for interesting fantasy literature?

For me, writing or reading it, there is a clear answer: when it is set in a recognizably real world, grounded in the everyday. Everyday existence being, on the least reflection, absolutely astonishing. This is precisely what the wild-angled lenses of fantasy and science fiction can suggest.

The best writing in these genres is always talking about the real world and reflects an experience of it. Even Tolkien and Ursula Le Guin, whose tales take place in imaginary lands, made sure to create consistently believable worlds in which mature “human” stories play out, and characters must grapple with similar limits and laws of nature to our own. Magic, when available, is used sparingly by the wise because every action has a consequence and exceptional power is an exceptional responsibility.

E.T.A. Hoffman’s gothic stories are extravagantly imaginative treatments of mundane reality. In this, he is a precursor of the likes of Tim Powers and Neil Gaiman. His modern fairy tales take place in settings such as Hoffman’s early 19th century Dresden or Paris, which the author renders with deliberate faithfulness. Strange powers and creatures break through from an immanent, parallel reality, bringing opportunity and mischief. It’s a rich seam to mine, one that has a compelling appeal for me.

Two centuries before Philip K. Dick and The Matrix, Hoffmann was positing the falseness of the familiar world and long before Freud, he was portraying split personalities/doppelgänger and individuals in dire conflict with repressed subconscious desires, battling with dreams. Fantasies presented as quite real might be psychological projections of dark, hidden urges and exasperation with humdrum quotidian existence.

In some stories Hoffman makes long narrative detours and plot construction can be weak, but don’t let that put you off. Go into Hoffman’s rousing urban tales and encounter the macabre and demonic, the sinister and the erotic: all, gentle reader, at a street near you.
 

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