I've been rereading A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn: The Last Great Battle of the American West, by James Donovan...reading it made me realize, despite the Battle of the Little Bighorn's mythic status, and also despite my having read a few other books about Custer and the battle, I really didn't understand how the battle went or the why of it, or much about the people involved.
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Among other things, I'm reading Brandon Sanderson's WARBREAKER.
As with his other stuff, I really like it, and I love the characters. He moves from one character or group of characters to another as his chapters proceed, but he doesn't drive me crazy by ending chapters in cliff hangers--he doesn't need to--and he makes all of the characters interesting enough that I am willing to leave one character or group and read about the next one in the next chapter.
My one struggle as I'm reading this, however, is that it "bodes" some pretty intense stuff, so while I am happy to get back to it, I also find myself having to put it down after a certain amount of reading. It's not a book I can just sit down and read all the way through at once (even if I had the time).
Some of OSC's books have been that way for me as well, by the way.
Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, (RECOMMEND) as good as the first two in series, but the end felt a little too trite
Persona non Grata by Ruth Downie (RECOMMEND) a fabulous continuation of her period fiction mystery series, check out MEDICUS and TERRA INCOGNITA as well
Revamped by Jeremy F Lewis (RECOMMEND) a good followup to his first book Staked, definately appeals to the True Blood crowd
House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds (RECOMMEND) I have loved everything he has written, though some of his work, this one included, can start a little slow, it's worth digging in
Cemetary Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs (RECOMMEND) another Pendergast mystery, I love these guys and reading there books is always a hoot, though I would not describe them as deep, they are great popcorn books, tasty and filling but not really that much substance
[This message has been edited by HuntGod (edited October 05, 2009).]
Posted this in a different discussion here on hatrack, thought it should go here too:
I recommend the book Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid. Not speculative, not what I would usually read either, it was recommended by a friend. Describes living in modern day Pakistan and details the downward spiral of the main character. Warning: a little dark, details drug use.
But what stood out to me was the novel use of POV. Most chapters are told in first person by MC. Some chapters told POV by other characters, giving a different perspective on events, talking directly to the reader. Then, a few chapters use this second person device, telling YOU what you are seeing and hearing, the characters are speaking directly to you. By the end of the novel YOU are asked to make a decision about the MC. First time I have ever encountered this type of reader engagement and it really worked for me!
Just finished Flatland; what a brilliant way to describe the 3 dimensions. Currently reading "Dirty Job", "Spook", "The Medusa and the Snail" and "Valis" Posts: 207 | Registered: Sep 2007
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I'm reading Outcast (book 4 of Michelle Paver's Chromicles of Ancient Darkness) to my youngest two; reverse engineering (tearing down the mousetrap) The Janson Directive and I just opened The Hero of Ages by--who else?--Brandon Sanderson.
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I'm in a princess phase, I've recently read a bunch of Gail Carson Levine princess tales.
Fairest - influenced by snow white Ella Enchanted - some cinderella bits, but mostly its own story Ever - a really unique setting, great world-building in a girl/boy love story with a twist (as all of her books are) - girl is a merchant's daughter in one mid-east type setting land, boy is a god from another land, also mid-east but more mountainous. I thought it was a really good example of how a mainstream author could introduce her readers to a location that is unfamiliar. And a series of short-stories that are bound in a volume called Fairy something or another - each about 10k-20k words, each interesting and fully fleshed out, and giving great backstory to Ella Enchanted and Fairest.
All are really enjoyable, though now that a number of 16-20 year old women have found their hearts' desires, I think I'm ready to move on to something else.
I also recently read (at IB's strong suggestion) Michelle Paver's Wolf Brother. It was excellent. Wonderful world-building, and great mixture of mundane details of survival in the wild with an overarching magical/mystical good/evil type theme/battle, as well as a coming-of-age plot.
I do wish more YA/mid-grade writers would write sci-fi. I'm reading as heavily in the genre as I can because this is what I like to write (and I really enjoy being able to read a book in 2-3 days! I prefer the shorter lengths.) But I just don't see much space stuff in this age range and it depresses me (encourages me to write it, but still it's depressing.)
I'm kind of in-between books at the moment. I started a couple of things, but don't really want to get involved in a series right now, so put them back on the shelf. In the meantime, I'm reading an anthology of fantasy short stories called FLIGHTS. Some interesting stuff by some very well-known authors, including OSC.
I most recently completed THE CURSE OF CHALION by Lois McMaster Bujold. I recommend that. It ws a very good read. A very interesting MC, at least for me.
It wasn't until after I finished it that I discovered that it is actually the first in a series, too. However, you really can't tell. The book stands entirely on its own.
Just finished Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. It was an interesting read, but more as an exercise in understanding the book's place in literature. As a contemporary reader, I didn't find myself really engaged by either the writing or the character. Now off to read something a little more lighthearted...
...so then read Galahad at Blandings by P.G. Wodehouse. Good fun, some laugh out loud moments, but I didn't find it quite as twisted as Code of the Woosters.
(I didn't see any reason to double post)
[This message has been edited by BenM (edited October 21, 2009).]
Speaking of SHANNARA - Does anyone have a favorite LOTR inspired series? SHANNARA is good but I absolutely love THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT.
There are so many parallels (Reminding myself never to write about a magical ring used to destroy an omnipotent type protagonist) and disregarding the fact that he makes me go to the dictionary 5 times per page...the milieu and characters are so amazing it overrides the rest.
[This message has been edited by Dark Warrior (edited October 27, 2009).]
Stephen R. Donaldson claims he had not read LOTR before he wrote the Thomas Covenant books. Whether he has read them since, I couldn't say, but he was not influenced by Tolkien when he wrote them.
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Giants/Ents One Ring/White Gold Ring Sauron/Lord Foul Rangers/Bloodguard Helms Deep/Revelstone Ravers/Ringwraiths
Well we could probably fill an entire thread with the parallels, but wow...I never would have guessed he wasnt influenced by LOTR. Still one of my favs though...loved the depth of character in Thomas Covenant the anti-hero.
Authors draw on cultural heritage in producing material, whether that be myths and legends, religion, or historical or contemporary social change. Probably the only thing that did seem similar (to me) between the two stories was the use of a ring as a talisman, but it was done differently enough - and rings are talismans in our nonfiction culture too. Just think of how many fantasy stories use a sword as a talisman...
As a random aside - my and my wife's wedding rings are white gold, chosen with a conscious nod to the Donaldson story.
[This message has been edited by BenM (edited October 27, 2009).]
Just finished Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
A great read, RECOMMENDED for anyone interested in mars colonization stories - this is the absolute best novel I have read about it. He really knows his science, and seems to cover all kinds of possibilities that I had never even thought of. Pretty technical hard sci-fi but definitely worth it, I'll be picking up the sequels, Green Mars and Blue Mars next chance I get...
I think one of Tom Shippey's books on Tolkien talks of Donaldson using the word "dour-handed"---and that he had to have gotten this from Tolkien because Tolkien reintroduced the word to English after a gap of some, oh, six or eight hundred years. (Details subject to change if I remember to check the book.)
If you want a recommend on one of the homages to Tolkien, I like Niel Hancock's Circle of Light tetralogy. It was an early effort, both on his part (with later work he got better as a writer) and in the scheme of things Tolkienish (it came out in 1976 or 1977, as I recall)...and he probably owes a great deal to Kenneth Grahame as well as Tolkien...and I've read better-written things...but it comes around to this: I like it better than most of those other things.
Not sure if I mentioned it earlier, but I recently read NATION by Terry Pratchett and would HIGHLY RECOMMEND it. (It's a YA fantasy novel, separate from his Discworld stuff.)
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Donaldson seems to love to use obsolete words for things for which there are perfectly fine modern words (the one I recall being most frustrated about is periapt--I leave the definition as an exercise for the reader), and I accused him of showing off that way. He didn't deny it.
As for the ring, Tolkien and Wagner (The Ring Cycle opera) both got magic rings from Norse folklore, and there's no reason Donaldson could not have done the same.
Ring parallel was just one of many I noticed.
My favorite is the Friendly member of an ancient long-lifed race that towers over man, spends hours telling stories or just saying hello, and the race is dwindling in number because they dont have children and they have lost track of the rest of their race in some far away land....
I'm not really the arguing type...just talking about the parallels that I noticed in two of my favorite epic quest stories. It may be blasphemy but I actually enjoy The Chronicles more than LOTR and just ordered The Last Chronicles.
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I've been rereading a couple of A. Bertram Chandler's John Grimes novels...I like 'em a lot, and I may dip into my collection for another pass at several more...back when I was buying them, I could never get a complete list and, to this day, I wonder if there were any I missed. (Somebody on line must have a list...I'll take a look.)
(This started a couple weeks ago when had a dream complete with plot, which would have been perfect to write up---if I hadn't immediately recognized that it came from Chandler's Rendezvous on a Lost World. The only difference between his plot and mine were several characters---in my dream, they were various sitcom stars from the 1960s.)
I've also been rereading Bob Spitz's The Beatles...it's a thorough account of their lives and histories, up to the breakup...though it does put most of its weight on "before they were famous" times and glosses over the glory years. I do pick up on this error or that here and there---I'm pretty savvy about what happened in the lives of the Beatles and when it happened---and wonder about the accuracy of what I find here for the first time.
Am I reading anything brand-new? Well, the latest volume of The Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon is out...Volume Twelve, titled Slow Sculpture. The stories might not be new, but the collection is...and most of Sturgeon is well worth another pass through. I've read the back-of-the-book notes and a couple of stories. (The original series editor, Paul Williams, has departed due to illness, and the notes are weaker for it.)
I finished reading The Eternal Prison by Jeff Somers recently. Excellent, excellent book. Those that say cyberpunk is dead need to read this one. It's a good read.
Also, I eternally read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing and Publishing Science Fiction by Cory Doctorow. I read it in between books because it has a lot of good information in it. It's right next to OSC's how-to books. They have, more than anything, given me helpful information and inspiration to write.
Recently finished the "Frakenstein" trilogy by Dean Koontz. This was a major disappointment. The first two books were entertaining but the third was a huge letdown. Worst thing I've read from Koontz by far.
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Re-reading Jim Butcher's Dresden Files, currently on Turn Coat. Needless to say, recommended. Whoever the heretic was who said Dresden stories were awful, I will be magnanimous and not attack with flames of fire...this time. Anyway, they get better later on.
Posts: 71 | Registered: Feb 2008
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For a change, a book I hated from the first line. I picked up a book this morning, that I'd had for some time, but thought I'd give a look through. I won't name it, but it supposedly dealt with the time frame between the end of the Cold War and the September 11th attacks.
But the first sentence in the first paragraph read something like "After Bush II's presidency, the Clinton years are starting to look like a model of sanity."
That was it. I would read no more, and the book nearly wound up in my garbage can---a rare thing even for a book I don't like. And I didn't like that.
I guess there is something to the theory of the first lines being important, after all. If I had read that in the store, I wouldn't have bought the book.
Um, I maybe should wait for a little more distance between this post and Robert's post, but I have to say that The New Yorker is a faaaantastic magazine. It's a little left of center (especially the brief opinions that comprise the first few pages of the mag), but the articles are nicely balanced and nuanced. From articles on the use of drones in Pakistan (of which the Obama administration has used in more situations than the Bush administration ever did) to whether or not the nuclear arsenal in Pakistan is really safe to profiles on Wes Anderson and James Cameron to this week's issue of articles on flavor makers and Michelin guidebooks.
From the article (and I think it's still on sale on newstands):
"There is no molecular distinction between synthesized vanillin or vanillin extracted from vanilla beans, but the way the molecule is made determines whether it will be advertised as 'natural' or 'artificial'. Flavor chemicals often make up less than one per cent of the ingredients in processed foods, and many flavorists regard the terms 'natural' and 'artificial' as largely meaningless--an indulgence for consumers who happen to believe that one is more likely to be toxic than another, even if the perception is not necessarily true. (After all, snake venom is natural.)"
Good and intersting stuff.
[This message has been edited by rich (edited November 22, 2009).]
Just finished Michael Chabon's The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I was left feeling a little ambivalent about this book. On some levels, it was brilliant, and (I think) I can see why it won a Pulitzer. But on the other hand, the occasional wordiness became (at times) so incredibly hard to digest that I wondered if I was intended to understand the writing or just be dazzled by it. Perhaps it says more about my current limitations as a reader, but it was, at least, a good book with which to push my boundaries. I'd call it Recommended - and let you make up your own minds
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With a couple of exceptions, I like to come 'round to this thread on the first of the month and say what I'm reading now (or just finished). But a lot of what I read would be called "political" stuff, and both by ukase from Kathleen and from prior personal experience, I don't want to discuss politics here. Besides, how any of you react to one of these will be shaped a great deal by your own political opinions and beliefs.
I think I can comment about Sara Palin's Going Rogue, which I finished over the holidays, without going into the politics of it. I found it an enjoyable lightweight read, no deep thoughts...and I found the saga of Palin's experience as governor of Alaska of considerable more interest than her account of the presidential campaign. (Maybe because the former didn't play out in the media as it happened but the latter did.) No great insights, one way or another, but a fair amount of fun.
Brandon Sanderson's Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians - Recommended
I loved it. It made me laugh outloud several times. It's written for children though and I wonder how many of the jokes they would get. There are so many jokes about writing and books. He purposely puts cliffhangers at the end of chapters and says he does it because all authors are really sadists who love to torture their readers. Anyways lots of great parts, the story was good too. Some funny books often lose story because the witty dialog is more important than the plot but this novel manages to pull off both. This book reminds me of The Princess Bride and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl - Good
I didn't love it, but I liked it. It was fun, not too engaging; I found it easy to put down. I wanted to be more immersed into the characters and the author was too present, but it was a cute story and a fun twist on Leprechauns and other fairy folk.
Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown - Good
Another nice story that I liked, but didn't love. I never felt like I knew the characters well and there was too much that seemed to just happen without explanation. I did enjoy reading it though.
I've heard about Sanderson's book only recently, satate, I'm going to have to get it. Sounds right up my alley (I read in mid-grade/YA almost exclusively these days.)
I'm sorry you didn't love Hero and the Crown, though. It's one of my all-time favorites. The Blue Sword, which follows that book chronologically (it takes place much later when people know of the legends of Aerin and Tor) but I believe was written earlier, is my favorite of McKinley's book, and higher in my list of all-time favorites than Hero and the Crown. There are some bits that just aren't explained or just sort of happen, but the book does such a good job of taking me elsewhere, I really love it for that.
Meanwhile, I've read recently the books in the series 39 Clues, which is a children's series. They are quick and sharp and a good lesson for how to write a plot-driven story, and how to be economical while still making things happen. None of the books are earth-shattering, and they feel a little repetitive when you read them all in a row like I did, but they are nice, tight stories and I think there's a lot to like about them.
My kids have been reading a series of books from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, by Patricia Wrede. The first is called Dealing with Dragons. Highly recommend! The princess learns things like fencing from the fencing master and how to make cherries jubilee from the chef until her father finds out and shoos her back to her deportment lessons, or what have you. When her parents try to marry her off, she runs away and ends up becoming a dragon's princess. The prince she was supposed to marry as well as other knights come to try to rescue her and she gets annoyed, busy helping the dragon. She meets the other dragon's princesses and helps solve their problems, as well as the overall problems the dragons are facing. She's plucky and funny and has great voice. There are four books in the series and the kids have really enjoyed all of them, which each take a different spin/direction. There's a lot of funny stuff with existing fairy tales, and a strong presence of cats. All makes for fun fiction.
The other book we're really excited about is The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. We're listening to it on audio book and I can't recommend it highly enough. The author does such an excellent job of using description to give us important details of plot, things that move the story forward, help reveal character, etc. But the descriptions are all so rich, you can't help but feel like you're there experiencing things. The book is long, divided into three parts, and I believe is playing off a fable (which i was unfamiliar with.) We're not finished with it yet but we keep finding ways to make time in our day to listen to more (it's what we do while I make dinner and when driving.) The audio is performed by Full Cast Audio, so it's read by a cast, which makes it wonderful. And it's a cast of audio talent, so they know how to act for audio. We listened to the audio recording of the first of the dragons books I mention in the previous paragraph, and it's performed by a group of stage actors. I didn't care for the way they played to the back row, it felt a bit much for audio. But Goose Girl's audio cast is excellent, and it's a really enjoyable read.
I've heard good things about The Goose Girl Kay Ti. Maybe I'll give The Blue Sword a try. I've been reading mid-grad/YA lately too since I've started writing a mid-grade fantasy novel.
Posts: 962 | Registered: Jul 2008
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Recently finished "Under the Dome" by Stephen King. It was better than I thought it would be. I'd give it a high GOOD. In truth I've forgotten the grading scale--what I mean is I wouldn't call it a "must read", but it's entertaining, and I found an interesting metaphorical look at the risks of certain diplomatic tactics worked into the story. Don't know if it was deliberate on King's part or not.
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Just read Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini and I loved it! It was such a pleasant surprise. It was sort of like having a Horatio Hornblower type character written by Charles Dickens. I started to read Captain Blood by the same author and wasn't nearly as hooked. I finally put it down because I had other library books I wanted to read more, but I'll probably finish it someday.
I don't think I mentioned that I read The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Highly recommended.
I recently reread City of Bones, City of Ashes and City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. They are YA urban fantasy and I think Jace is currently my favorite hero. I recommend the books, although there are things about them that bother me. Jace makes up for it.
Next on my pile is The House of Many Ways--the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle!!!! by Dianna Wynne Jones. I'm so excited!
I also love Shannon Hale's books Kay Ti. I loved [/i]The Goose Girl, Enna Burning[/i] and River Secrets but I haven't read the last one in the series. I think it's called Forest Born. Her book The Book of A Thousand Days is one of my favorites. If I could write like that, I would be happy.
Posts: 938 | Registered: May 2008
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I hardly have read anything in the past six months with all the novel drafting I've done. I just finished Sanderson's Elantris. Never picked it up and knew nothing about it.
I was shocked at the ending. It is just about the same ending for the antagonist as I wrote for the novel draft I wrote in the summer. What do I do? Luckily, the antagonist is a different kind of devil, so perhaps it will stick.
Recently finished Sandman Slim and must RECOMMEND it. Richard Kadrey just rips the lid off this one. Fair warning, it's unabashedly rude and brutal.
Also finished Breathless by Dean Koontz. Koontz could probably make Federal emmissions regs an enjoyable read, but I literally can't believe where he took this story. I'll give it a BLORF, a word I've just made up which means, "Keep it in the bathroom and read bits at a time. You won't miss a thing, and you'll finish eventually."
Put paid to Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese, a surprisingly good freebie for the Kindle. If you enjoyed Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens, this is a passable surrogate. Worth a GOOD.
Gnawing on Hidden Empire by OSC, loved Empire, high hopes.
Altar of Eden by James Rollins is nipping at Mr. Cards' heels, so he dare not lose a step.
Edited a typo- somebody stop me, I've been on here for days....
[This message has been edited by DaveBowen (edited December 31, 2009).]
On my usual first-of-the-month post, right now I'm reading Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell. I've read a fair share of his earlier work---he's a prominent economist. There was Black Rednecks and White Liberals---a hoot, though it's a serious scholarly work.
This one is a study of how intellectuals shape society---and what goes wrong when they do. As the old saying goes, more or less, "Dumb people make mistakes; smart people can royally [time-tried word beginning with "F"] things up."
Recently finished Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. This is the "complete" manuscript that was published after his death. It's unlike his other work I'm familiar with in that it doesn't have the same medical/science presence to the story line. The best way to describe it is probably historical fiction, although it's maybe more imaginative than what you might expect with that.
It was a fun book. I'm not widely read in the realm of pirate stories, so can't say what it compares to. I don't know if it was what he intended to publish next before he passed, or something he had done earlier and set aside. But it was interesting in how it differed from what I expected based on the other 3-4 of his novels I've read. But not a "must read" in my opinion.
Just used part of my Christmas gift card to buy an anthology called THE DRAGON BOOK. It was the story by Tad Williams titled "It Was a Stark and Wormy Knight" that sold it. I've got to read that story! So that's next up for me.
[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited January 06, 2010).]