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It's the occasional reading thread!

Lily Fairbairn
Half-elven


Sep 29, 3:24pm

Post #1 of 9 (247 views)
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It's the occasional reading thread! Can't Post

Wow! Here it is the end of September. Can autumn be far behind? Smile We capped off the month by spending a long weekend with family members, which was a huge treat. As usual, the rest of the month I spent reading both paper and audiobooks.

Last time I reported on several books that were entertaining but underwhelming. I then went on to find two exceptional books more or less at the same time.

On paper I read A Night in the Lonesone October by Roger Zelazny, who, like Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, was a great talent taken before his time. It's an account of many different occult (and not-so-occult) literary characters preparing for a contest on Halloween. It's told from the point of view of Snuff, the dog who is "Jack's" familiar, and his colleagues who are the animal familiars of the other participants in the competition. Utterly clever and delightful. My edition has illustrations by the inimitable Gahan Wilson.

I listened to The Bookseller's Tale by Martin Latham, who has worked in and managed several British bookstores. I suppose because of the word "tale" in the title I thought it was fiction, but no, it's non-fiction, a witty, erudite, and very enjoyable ride through the history of books, reading, libraries, and readers. It's narrated with a fine use of accents.

What both the above books have in common is how intelligently they are written. Each author expects the reader to be familiar with history and literature, and literary history. I appreciate that!

On paper, I finished Toni Sepeda's Brunetti's Venice, walking tours (complete with maps!) following Donna Leon's fictional detective on his journeys through Venice. So of course that led naturally into the audiobook of a Brunetti novel, Fatal Remedies, in which his wife Paola's protest against sex tourism might---or might not---have led to murder.

Also on paper, I read a book from my own shelves, The History of the English Landscape by W.S. Hoskins. This is a classic of its sort, written in 1955, also with several engaging maps. Hoskins details the traces of generations of people on the landscape, in hedges, in roads, in the names of farms. As often as he deplores the modern world of the 50s, I wonder what he'd have thought of today's landscape.

I started listening to Rules of Civility , another book by Amor Towles, author of the very enjoyable A Gentleman in Moscow, but it just didn't work for me. I didn't care for either the characters or the structure of the book.

I'm now listening to a Jane Austen fan-fiction Smile novel, Death Comes to Pemberley, written by no less than P.D. James. So far she's skillfully recapped her inspiration, Pride and Prejudice and brought the reader up to her own imagined present day, after Elizabeth and Darcy (and Jane and Bingley, and Lydia and Wickham) have all been married for several years. Obviously there's going to be a murder but I'm not there yet. I'm enjoying the late Baroness James's skill with Austen's language, leavened just enough with her modern-day style and plotting.

I'm also listening to Stealing the Show: A History of Art and Crime in Six Thefts, by John Barelli and Zachary Schisgal. Barelli was the head of security at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and has several fascinating behind-the-scenes tales.

Next I'm going to listen to Andy Serkis's reading of The Hobbit, to help me decide whether I should buy his new reading of LotR. I welcome any opinions!

So what have you been reading?

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow....


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Sep 29, 7:21pm

Post #2 of 9 (212 views)
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The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller [In reply to] Can't Post

I've had this book on order for a couple of months at the library and it finally came up! It's such a fast read and an immersive look into the life and character of Achilles as told from the perspective of Patroclus. In this version, Patroclus is his lover and life-long companion, and gods and inhuman creatures touch on the human world as a matter of course.

Miller is so good at making at making gods and demigods ... if not human, then thoroughly understandable from a human perspective. (She did just as well with her previous novel, Circe.)

I'm about three-quarters through and I'm wondering how she'll round out the story of Achilles when the narrator, Patroclus, dies before he does. (At least in the stories he does - perhaps Miller plans a different ending for him? ETA: No spoilers, but she concludes the story in a beautiful, heartbreaking way.)

Anyway, this is an engaging read and an easy way 'in' for those who view Achilles and the war on Troy either as overdone or too dry for interest.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


(This post was edited by Ataahua on Oct 1, 8:54pm)


Annael
Immortal


Sep 30, 4:02pm

Post #3 of 9 (180 views)
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The Splinter King [In reply to] Can't Post

second in the new trilogy by Mike Brooks, a/k/a Our Ufthak. I'm pretty amazed by his world-building, including a strong effort to have people in different cultures speak very differently (one culture has at least five genders and Mike uses diacritical marks to indicate the different pronouns for each; in another people almost always refer to themselves in the third person).

I've also been browsing through the books in the room where I'm currently a guest. Found the last in the Grishaverse trilogy by Leigh Bardugo; hadn't read the first two but I saw the miniseries, so I read that to see how it all turns out. Then I tried Jade City, which imagines a country where things are run by a Mafia-type organization (with different families trying to get control), but all the Mafiosos have superpowers.

And I realized that most of the fantasy & sci-fi I've been reading or watching lately usually involves a lot of fighting and a Big Bad villain that must be battled and destroyed . . . and I'm getting kinda tired of that. One thing I love about Ursula LeGuin's works is that usually, that's NOT the story; the thing that must be overcome or got past is either within, or involves people coming to a greater understanding of themselves and others. I'm tired of the traditional hero story, in other words -- even when the hero is female -- that ends in conquest and destruction.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


(This post was edited by Annael on Sep 30, 4:11pm)


Ginger
Rohan

Oct 1, 5:14pm

Post #4 of 9 (145 views)
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The Black Coast by Mike Brooks [In reply to] Can't Post

I really enjoyed this book and am 2/3 of the way through The Splinter King. I agree with what Ataahua and Annael have said about the books. Heís created a very interesting world with different cultures. I sometimes forget who some of the lesser supporting characters are, but do catch on.

My quibble would be that The God-King Chronicles are only a trilogy and not more books and I have to wait for the next one!


Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 1, 8:56pm

Post #5 of 9 (134 views)
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I also like that while he has dragons, [In reply to] Can't Post

they aren't the dragons you expect. He's really thought through the fantasy tropes and reworked them for this series.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


cats16
Valinor


Oct 2, 4:30am

Post #6 of 9 (128 views)
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This and that *spoilers for The Name of the Wind below* [In reply to] Can't Post

I finished The Name of the Wind a week ago (cc: Ataahua). In the end I found it mildly entertaining in a few spots, but overall a bit disappointing due to the relentless hype from friends. Also very tedious at times and lacking in terms of pace and overall story direction (the entire subplot about the dragon in the forest was almost maddening in how poorly conceived it felt, to me). I read the book more so out of a desire to finish it and move on than a true hunger for what was to come next. Angelic The funny thing is that I'd been reading along with a friend at work, who ended up getting Covid a month ago and fell quite behind in her reading. So she's still hundreds of pages behind me while I've moved on. I feel bad, knowing that it's much easier to continue reading when you know everyone else is around the same spot!

I've also started The Fall of Gondolin, to finish out the last of Christopher Tolkien's contributions (aside from HoME). The delicateness with which he treats his father's work will never cease to amaze.

Lastly, I've started David Markson's experimental novel Wittgenstein's Mistress, which is a perfect book to read before bed - much like Beckett, there's a reason to the madness of a free-flowing consciousness on the page that cannot be stifled. But it also has a rhythm that can put one to sleep if one is tired enough. BlushSly

Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




Ataahua
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 2, 7:18pm

Post #7 of 9 (113 views)
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I think 'meandering' is a good description [In reply to] Can't Post

for The Name of the Wind. There are some superb passages but the bulk of the novel is lingering bumpf. It's clear that the author loves the world he's created and the magic that infuses it and wants to explore them both as much as possible, but he should have left a good deal of it in his head. A hard editing would have benefitted the story.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded beggar with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Fantasy novel - The Arcanist's Tattoo

My LOTR fan-fiction


cats16
Valinor


Oct 2, 7:41pm

Post #8 of 9 (111 views)
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Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

I liked the *idea* of having the hero and Denna (or Diane or whatever other variants he gives) off on some dangerous quest, but it just didn't work for me.

About 2/3 through the book I said to myself "is this book actually all about his time at university??" Laugh

Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Oct 8, 12:43am

Post #9 of 9 (77 views)
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Historical Whodunits, and Tolkien encounters "Jaws" [In reply to] Can't Post

I've started a thick volume of 23 short stories, all set at various times in the past. Edited by Mike Ashley with a foreword by Ellis Peters, the stories start in ancient Egypt and end with Conan Doyle himself as the investigator. (Yes, a Brother Cadfael mystery is included.) Very enjoyable.

I've also started processing a new batch of Junior Library Guild books for my library, so of course I'm doing some quick perusals. One graphic novel I brought home to read in full, "Shark Summer" by Ira Marcks, a group of kids decide to make their own movie while a filming crew is on their island making an iconic movie about a shark. Along with enjoying the Vineyard locations, I chanced upon this gem, as one of the kids relates a ghost story attached to a particular ruin, ending it with: "But that is now so long ago that the hills have forgotten them, though a shadow still lies on the land...All right, I admit, that last bit I stole from Tolkien, but the rest is mine."

I shall be putting "The Bookseller's Tale" on my must-read-sometime list, thank you!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

 
 

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