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  #841  
Old 05 February 2018, 05:25 PM
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I got a Kindle for Christmas, and I've had an Amazon Prime membership for a few years, so I've been reading a bunch of free books, mostly series, on the Kindle. And, for the most part, one can see why they aren't print books.... to be honest, some of these writers need a whole bunch of editing to make their stuff salable. And a couple of items turned out to be niche porn. So...

Stuff that is as good as or better than most print books I've read:

Expeditionary Force (series) by Craig Alanson. Humorous military SF told in first person by an Army grunt shanghaied, along with a bunch of other humans, into an alien race's space war. 4 novels and 1 novella to date. Pretty good stuff.

The Tome of Bill (series) by Rick Gualtieri. Humorous horror told in first person by a nerd/geek turned into a vampire, to whom the supernatural reality of the world is subsequently revealed. 8 novels and 3 novellas, plus one spin-off (I have not finished book 8 or read any of the novellas or the spin-off). I have no interest in vampire stuff, but a friend told me this would not trigger my revulsion; she was right. Also pretty good stuff.

Frontlines (series) by Marko Kloos. Serious military SF about a crapsack Earth and the unexpected attacks on human extrasolar colonies, told in first person by a kid who escapes the ghettoes of Earth by managing to qualify for military service. 6 novels (I have only read the first two, as a break from the Tome of Bill series; I will be returning to this when I finish ToB book 8). Not quite up to par with the above books, in terms of quality of writing and editing, but still very good.

The Divine Dungeon (series) by Dakota Krout. Somewhat humorous fantasy series, drawing very strongly from both pen-and-paper and computer RPG traditions, about how the dungeons from FRPGs are made, how they work if said FRPGs were "real". Told in both first and second person by the titular dungeon of the series, and by a main dungeon explorer - an "adventurer", if you will. The dungeon is the first person narrator. This one still places above the line for me, as it is well-written enough, and has a sufficiently interesting conceit, to overcome the editing issues and the inherent clumsiness of rationalizing FRPG tropes.

The Bobiverse (series) by Dennis E. Taylor. Humorous sort-of hard SF series about a guy who, through a short chain of unlikely but reasonable events, becomes a disembodied AI for a future crapsack America; it is no spoiler to reveal that he learns to create duplicates of himself and spends 3 novels trying to save the world (the first book is titled We Are Legion (We Are Bob)). Very good read.

Super Sales on Super Heroes (series) by William D. Arand. 2 books. I thought it was just superheroes fiction, but... it turns out it's sort-of "harem porn", as well. It is a superheroes series, told in the first person by a guy with an apparently near-useless super power, who discovers how to properly apply it and suddenly becomes a major super-person. Neither a true hero nor a villain, he tries to do right to those close to him, but constantly skirts a lot of moral grey and black issues to do so. This series is very fannish, with lots of obvious borrowings from anime as well as superhero tropes. The main character's power conveniently manifests to him as a kind of computer screen only he can see, but which makes the brass tacks of it's operation easy for the reader to follow. On the plus side, for me at least, it's a fairly decent superheroes story, the core conceit is interesting if a bit clumsily executed, and the "harem porn" aspect isn't terribly apparent and there is no actual porn - the one sex scene is only alluded to. On the minus side, it needs editing, and Mr. Arand's writing skills could use some tightening up.

Now we drop below the line:

Tamer (series) by Michael-Scott Earle. SF harem fantasy. Neither know nor care how many books in the series, at least 2. Read the first book, about a guy who gets kidnapped by aliens and transported to a planet of dinosaurs; turns out the aliens are doing this all across the galaxy and people from all kinds of humanoid races are being dropped there as well, to survive or die as they will. Everyone has a skill; the hero can tame dinosaurs. Skills level up! Started off OK, but when all the other male characters died and the sex-fantasy female harem was quickly introduced, I was done. The writing was not great and it needed plenty of editing. For me, only the introductory conceit was worth the while... OK, I am also a fan of dinosaurs, but they weren't enough to salvage this for me.

Montague & Strong Case Files (series) by Orlando Sanchez. 6 books, I think. Urban fantasy series about a hardboiled detective who is also supernatural in some way, with a partner who might be a vampire, I think. I can't remember. Only read the first book. Quick read, because it was basically the skeleton of a decent urban fantasy novel, without any of the flesh, and painted with a thin coating of Mary Sue. A friend recommended this to me as the best thing since sliced bread, so I guess YMMV, because I cannot muster up the energy to swipe the screen of my Kindle to check on the facts, let alone try and read book 2. Maybe it gets better, but I probably will never know.
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  #842  
Old 07 February 2018, 10:28 AM
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I've been slowly making my way through all the Dresden Files books again and mostly loving them but the protagonist's sense of "old fashioned chivalry" is really annoying. It's presented as a quirk or even a foible and the female characters regularly point out that he's a misogynist ass so it's not really presented as a positive character trait BUT on the other hand he never ever improves or even tries to improve. Add that to the fact that I just found out that one of the Dresden Files books was pushed by the Sad Puppies to win a Hugo award when they were trying to rig the votes, so even if it's not an out-and-out flagwaving misogynist series there's a whole bunch of right wing anti-SJW trolls who love it.

That's not a reason for me to dislike the books (I outright loved them when I first read them years ago) but it's definitely leaving a sour taste in my mouth.
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  #843  
Old 21 February 2018, 11:40 PM
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Hmm. I'm re-reading the Dresden books at the moment, too, and I don't really see it as misogyny, except perhaps in that he makes some inappropriate jokes from time to time. He admits (insists, really) that it bothers him more to see women hurt than men, and while that's sexist, I'm guessing it's a trait he shares with a large proportion of men and some women. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that he has a lot of respect for the women he works with, and sometimes the ones he works against, too.

I will admit there is an improbable number of extremely attractive women in the books (even allowing for the fact that some of them are faeries, vampires, etc.), and that Dresden invariably has to describe and comment upon them, and that does occasionally bother me a bit.

Anyway. Not what I came here to say.

I'm currently reading a book called Missions Accomplished, which is a collection of short anecdotes (mostly) about travelling, complied by someone who has done a lot of it. Not the sort of book I would have picked up ordinarily, but it happens to have been written by the guy who was my best friend through junior high, high school, and into college, Tim Jenkins. I knew he traveled a lot, but I didn't really know it was this much. (Probably what caused us to drift apart, more than anything else, was that he's as hardworking and ambitious as I am not.) I'm about two-thirds of the way through. I knew a few of the stories before, and know some of the other people involved in many of them, but most are new to me.

To be completely honest: not sure I'd recommend it to just anyone. It's reasonably decent light reading, but the stories are generally not all that interesting or humorous. I also think the book would have been better written as more of a narrative, rather than as a bunch of 4-page brief episodes; the stories could have been linked by destinations, travel companions, or general theme. Instead, they are mostly in no particular order. (There is a general trend from oldest to newest, but many diversions on the way.) On the other hand, that could make it a great book for bathroom reading.

Tim tells me he's working on a sequel, and I'll be in that one. We did take a trip or two together, but not to anywhere so exotic.

Anyway, if interested, the book is available on Amazon, and an e-book version is due out shortly.
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  #844  
Old 22 February 2018, 02:35 AM
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I finished the Tome of Bill and the Frontlines series on my Kindle, and both were very good. There may be future volumes of either series, but as of now, I am all caught up.

I spent some time trying to find a decent free superhero novel, and kept coming up with stuff that seems to be poorly-written YA intended for the slower set of younger YA readers... but I'm pretty sure it's meant to be adult-level stuff. A large handful of disappointment was perused, but then I found Jonathan R. Miller's Gravity Breaker, which was spectacular. Mr. Miller apparently writes books with race and social position as major themes, writes very very human characters, and is also pretty good at the super-power genre. Gravity Breaker, and it's sequel Tallah, were very good reads and well worth the time. Anyone who is interested in reading stories about black people in modern America will likely enjoy these books as well. I don't think it would be wrong to use words like "powerful" and "moving" to describe either volume.
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  #845  
Old 22 February 2018, 05:09 AM
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I just listened to Binti by Nnedi Okorafor and started in on the sequel Home. Loved it. I'm so intrigued by a character who is so immersed in mathematics that she uses it to meditate. I loved how the her skin care was part of the story.
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  #846  
Old 22 February 2018, 01:30 PM
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I’ve just finished “From a Certain Point of View” a collection of short stories set in the Star Wars universe all set during the events of A New Hope.

It’s a great fun read from a wide variety of authors. One of the most endearing ones was the tale told from the point of view of a Mouse Droid on the Death Star that is being used as a carrier for a budding romance between two imperials serving!

If you like Star Wars and short stories then this needs to be in your library!

It has also fuelled my desire to write more short story fiction and has given me a few ideas of my own!

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/From_..._Point_of_View
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  #847  
Old 28 February 2018, 05:35 PM
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I saw it for $2 and decided it was worth the risk: I picked up a hardcover copy of Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks, the guy who wrote World War Z (it says on the cover).

This is a weird one. I got it because 1. I like to read and will read almost anything, given sufficient boredom, and 2. I still play Minecraft at least 4 hours per week. So this seemed like a reasonable decision, although I suspected it was going to be a disappointment.

The novel is about a person who quite literally awakens in the world of Minecraft, and has to learn the weird and illogical rules of survival in that world. It's told in the first person, and any player of the game will recognize everything described almost instantly. It is a novel set in the game told by a narrator who is a partially-amnesiac modern-day human.

I don't really know who the intended audience is for this book. Most likely YA, but non-players probably won't enjoy it, and players probably will find the story far more boring than simply playing the game. It wasn't terrible, and the actual writing was good, but it is, to my mind, a very very niche product. Can't say I'd recommend it to anyone except a diehard Minecraft gamer who also likes game fanfic.

Now back to trawling through the abyss of the Kindle free library... and maybe some purchases, as well.
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  #848  
Old 28 February 2018, 07:34 PM
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Dang it. Why do library hold always show up in groups. I still have Binti: Home out in audio book. The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin just became available. I had that on hold since before she died. Now the ebook of #2 of the Expanse popped up in ebook. I started that months ago. It went back into the queue and I had to wait again.
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  #849  
Old 28 February 2018, 08:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hans Off View Post
I’ve just finished “From a Certain Point of View” a collection of short stories set in the Star Wars universe all set during the events of A New Hope.

It’s a great fun read from a wide variety of authors. One of the most endearing ones was the tale told from the point of view of a Mouse Droid on the Death Star that is being used as a carrier for a budding romance between two imperials serving!

If you like Star Wars and short stories then this needs to be in your library!

It has also fuelled my desire to write more short story fiction and has given me a few ideas of my own!

http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/From_..._Point_of_View
Couldn't disagree more, but it may be because I tried to listen to it instead of read it. I would say that it is a perfect illustration of Sturgeon's Law - 90% of it is crap, but there were about 4 stories in there worth reading. It also is supposed to be part of the new Star Wars canon, where everything works together. It couldn't even remain consistent across the stories in the book.

I'm currently reading The Forever War, which is considered one of the classic foundational sci-fi books. I am having a hard time with it. There is a section early on in the book that describes the company they are focusing on arriving at an outpost, and the sex starved men being unleashed on the women of the company, who through both military custom and the law had to have sex with them. There are just so many things wrong with that that I don't know if I'm going to be able to press on or not. I know the book was written in the '70s, but I don't think that excuses it.
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  #850  
Old 28 February 2018, 08:32 PM
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I picked up a graphic novel called "Incognegro" by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece. It's inspired by the true story of Walter Francis White, former president of the NAACP and a light-skinned black man who sometimes passed himself off as white so he could investigate lynchings. The graphic novel tells the story of a fictional man, Zane Pinchback, a journalist who has based his career off of doing the same. He lives in NYC in the 1930's, but frequently makes trips down south to conduct his research (which includes actually attending lynchings so he can expose the people who commit them.)

It's short, so I read it all in one afternoon. Very well done, with surprisingly funny moments considering the subject matter. It's kind of a superhero story, blended with horror and history.

In the back of the book, there was an ad for a prequel about Zane's first time going undercover. It's set in 1920's Harlem and I look forward to getting a copy when I have some spending money again.

In the meantime, I'm reading "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters. I've already seen both adaptations - the BBC's and the movie "Handmaiden" by Park Chan Wook - so I know the story pretty well by now. Still, Waters's writing is beautiful and I'm enjoying the book anyway. Plus both movies had so many plot twists that I'm not sure I can remember them all anyway!
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  #851  
Old 28 February 2018, 11:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Credence View Post
It also is supposed to be part of the new Star Wars canon,
Is it? Why would that make any sense at all?!!
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  #852  
Old 01 March 2018, 07:20 AM
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I am reading March by Geraldine Brooks. I found it on my book shelf when I was looking something to read and couldn't afford to buy anything and didn't feel like going to the library. As far as I can remember it was book for my book group but I don't think I ended up reading it.

It follows the father from Little Women when who goes off to fight in the American civil war. Well fight is incorrect as he is a pacifist and is offering support that doesn't involve fighting. I am enjoying it but they has just been a raid on the farm he is stationed at and there is some violence.
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  #853  
Old 01 March 2018, 02:01 PM
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I read quite a lot in February but mostly short and easy books.

Numero Zero by Umberto Eco. I think I mentioned this somewhere else - it's about somebody setting up a newspaper in the early 90s, that's nominally going to expose wrongdoings by political and business figures, but he's actually never intending it to be published because he thinks he can get a bigger payoff by using it as a blackmail threat. His staff are creating dummy issues, hence "number zero". It's got some quite decent stuff about the ways newspapers operate(d) and a conspiracy theory around the death of Mussolini. I enjoyed it.

The Last Days of New Paris by China Miéville. This is set in an alternate occupied Paris during WWII, which has carried on until the 1950s. Somebody created and set off an "S-bomb" which brought to life manifestations of surrealist art which then proceeded to attack the Nazis, and anybody else they felt like attacking. Meanwhile the Nazis worked out how to summon demons in a counterattack. The protagonist is one of a group of surrealists fighting the occupation and trying to harness the various manifests to help them. It's an interesting premise (as usual from China Miéville) and gives plenty of scope for weird goings-on, but I thought it was less than the sum of its parts - it didn't say a lot to me beyond the descriptions of some artworks that I didn't know much about. It's sort of a surrealist ekphrasis, really.

A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich (trans. Caroline Mustill). This was originally published in 1935 but Gombrich updated it in the 1980s and was working on the English version when he died in 2001 - his assistant finished the translation. It's a children's history, and because it started in the 1930s tends to be a traditional history of western Europe, north Africa and the near east with only a few chapters about other goings on elsewhere. It was originally written for an Austrian audience so concentrates more on central Europe than the same book would have for a British audience. Part of what Gombrich was doing was to add chapters to the English version for a British audience, but he died before finishing. In some ways it's old-fashioned, and by nature it's simplistic, but it's very clear and interesting, and was pretty progressive for its time and place (the Nazis banned it; Gombrich had already left Vienna for the UK by then). It fitted together a lot of things that I hadn't quite put in place.

The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (a comic). Blatherskite was reading this back on page 1 of the thread. It's about an abused runaway girl trying to get her life back together, while inspired by and inadvertently following in the footsteps of Beatrice Potter. Really good - lovely illustrations, and more hopeful than grim.

Pissing figures 1280 - 2014 by Jean-Claude Lebensztejn (trans. Jeff Nagy). I picked this up a bit randomly at the checkout of the art section in Foyles last year. It's pretty much what it says - an examination of pissing figures throughout the history of art. I hadn't realised quite how much of a recurrent motif this was, but it's very interesting and pretty good on the symbolism and how that's changed over time from an earthy symbol of innocence, to an indication of prosperity or even fertility, to something more confrontational or territorial, and fetishistic. I learned some new words, like "ithyphallic" (that might be useful), "puer mingens" and "ekphrasis"...

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Since this was very popular a few years ago I thought I'd give it a go. I enjoyed it, but really almost all the characters in it are pretty unsympathetic, even when you can identify with their weaknesses. It's quite cynical in its way. I felt the ending was a bit contrived and not quite as neat as it seemed meant to be.

I'm currently reading Romola by George Eliot, which is set in Florence in 1492 just after the death of Lorenzo de Medici. (Overlap with some of the art history and history above). A young Greek man called Tito has arrived claiming to have been shipwrecked and having some jewels to sell. He's been introduced to Bardo di Bardi, Romola's father, who can introduce him to the right people to sell them. He's also a scholar who's going to help di Bardi with some work, and he and Romola clearly fancy each other. I've not got far enough to know where it's all going yet, but there's a suggestion that Tito isn't what he seems and may be a spy or a con-man or something.

di Bardi and Romola are a bit like a prototype version of Dorothea and Casaubon from Middlemarch, in that di Bardi is a similarly disillusioned elderly scholar (who blames his son's departure a few years ago for his lack of progress, even though he'd have already been 60 when his son left), and Romola is trying to help him with his work, but (whether through her own limitations, or her father's refusal to believe that a woman is capable of doing this stuff) isn't able to do so to the extent she'd like.
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  #854  
Old 01 March 2018, 04:28 PM
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I am reading the book I just wrote because I'm into the revision process.
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  #855  
Old 01 March 2018, 08:09 PM
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I am reading the book I just wrote because I'm into the revision process.
Showoff.

I only say that because I'm jealous. I end up revising orders, directives, technical papers and manuals. Yours sounds like an easier time.

I am currently reading Trumpocracy: the Corruption of the American Republic by David From

link to Amazon

It is an incredible read. Very little about Trump himself. But a lot about how the system and its players created the conditions by which Donald Trump could be elected and maintain his power. The book covers up until the one year anniversary of his election. So, the events are fresh in memory.

I would love for David Frum to be working on a sequel. This is mostly because at several points in the book there are question marks about where certain threads are going... and I know now where they went, but I want to see Frum's analysis.

I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in how the US has devovled.
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  #856  
Old 25 March 2018, 03:05 PM
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I’m currently reading the leaked Wonder Woman script by Joss Whedon.

It’s very much 2006 Joss, with the story set in modern times and Steve being the kind of noble gruff guy Nathan Fillion would have played (and yes, before you ask, I did see that movie). Bizarrely, the story is told from his POV with the first scene being his crashing on Themyscira. After a brief stopover in Vague Junta Land, we end up in Gateway City, where Diana faces off against a businesswoman using weapons to sow fear. And, of course, we get Ares (this time around accompanied by Strife), who just sort of mills around until it comes time to face off against Diana.

Twitter user @_sashayed did bring up some issues with the script…and in doing so, had to overlook a few issues:

First off, she uses the fact that a character named Milan Goshnak calls Diana a “whore” to paint the script as sexist. This ignores that Goshnak is actually used to clue Diana in to how unpleasant the world is, being a higher-up in a junta. And then she says that Diana insults Goshnak by telling him to be a man because girls do that? (Ignoring that Goshnak is male and Diana is looking for a fight at this point).

Then she uses Ares for a similar example…ignoring the fact that Ares, being the god of war, is usually portrayed as an aggressive dickhead (in fact, remember that Diana herself makes this assumption in the 2016 movie) and probably wouldn’t take the time to learn the name of a mere woman.
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  #857  
Old 05 April 2018, 10:57 AM
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In March and at the start of April I read:

The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon. These are short stories that are loosely themed around things going horribly wrong. They're really good, and some of them are quite disturbing in various ways. One of the strangest, and probably the one I'll remember longest, is called Wodwo, which is a variant spelling of a sort of pagan wild man (woodwose) that seems mainly to have been used in the past by Ted Hughes as the title of a poem. I found a copy of the poem and read it, but (on a single reading) Hughes's poem is ostensibly about a curious little being that's exploring the bed of a stream in a wood. There wasn't an obvious connection to the story apart from the elements of wildness, and that a river and a wood come into it.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin. Since she died I thought I'd read more. This is about first contact between an ambassador from an interstellar civilisation (the narrator) and the various factions living on a planet, whose unique characteristic is that most of them spend their time as non-sexual hermaphrodites apart from a few days per month when they briefly become either male or female at random, and spend all their time having sex. That was really just the background, although it was supposed to affect the ways that the societies on the planet behaved. Most of the story is about a long journey across an ice-cap. It was good, anyway.

The Furthest Station by Ben Aaronovitch, in the Peter Grant / Rivers of London series. I don't know what it is with novellas these days - everybody's at them. This one seems to be intended as a short more-or-less standalone introduction to the series, for the American market and for people who don't want to start right at the beginning with the first full novel. Chronologically it's somewhere in the middle, probably at the same point it would be if in the "main series" now, but it doesn't reference any long-term plot strands or more complex mythology, and its own plot is self-contained and all tied up in the book, so it's a good introduction to the characters and settings. The reason I think it's for the American market is that Grant (as the narrator) adds occasional footnotes to explain a UK English term, ostensibly addressed to an American colleague from some of the previous books. This would save a US editor from having to make any changes to the text!

I re-read Nineteen eighty-four by George Orwell, which was still a classic.

And I read Fool's Errand, the first of the Tawny Man trilogy by Robin Hobb. These characters still annoy me more than the Live Ship characters do. It starts traditionally with Fitz "in retirement" after his previous adventures, but with various visits that mean you know he's going to be dragged back into some quest or other. But instead of treating it as a relative "reboot" that lets the characters have a bit of a fresh start, the first third at least is taken with recapping bits of the previous series, and going into (I thought) unnecessary detail about some of the non-events that had happened between, so that by the end of it I'd remembered all the things that had annoyed me about the characters and setting in the last trilogy. Fitz still seems to think that everything in the world is his sole responsibility, even when it's things happening to people he's never met and who were born after he supposedly "died". And the other characters still sometimes seem happy to let him think this. Anyway, it was a good story - it could be a stand-alone in that the plot doesn't carry through to the next one. Some of the things that annoyed me before, such as the vagueness about what Fitz can actually do, or does, have been resolved.

I started to read Fool's Fate afterwards and had got about 20 pages in before I realised it was the third book, not the second - its setting could follow immediately from the first, and to begin with I thought the slight time-skip was just a device to show that he'd settled back into a routine. But then Hobb started referring to things that I knew hadn't been mentioned in the previous book, and seemed too significant to drop in as an aside, and I checked the cover and realised my mistake. I have the second one, The Golden Fool, too but I only started the other and realised my mistake this morning so I've not started it yet.

I'm still reading Romola and have just got to the start of book III. Eliot is very good at writing persuasively from points of view I know she disagrees with - Savonarola's speech to make Romola come back to Florence is infuriating; from many perspectives (certainly modern perspectives, and probably from George Eliot's perspective) Romola was being extremely courageous and taking action to remove herself from a bad situation and take control of her life. But add a bit of patriarchy and religion and suddenly she's selfish and cowardly and needs to come straight back and throw herself to the control of the church for the good of others, and it all sounds horribly reasonable and inevitable. Savonarola's a manipulative bastard...
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  #858  
Old 05 April 2018, 11:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia View Post
I am reading the book I just wrote because I'm into the revision process.
Did you get the author to sign it?
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  #859  
Old 05 April 2018, 12:44 PM
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Icon86 The Definitive Guide to Animal Flatulence

The FM station I listen to mentioned this this morning; I thought it was a joke until I looked it up on Amazon.
I inadvertently woke up DH because I kept saying What?! and Oh my lands!
I really need to keep it to a dull roar in the future, but once I explained to DH why I was practically shouting at the radio, he was slack-jawed.
Written by a man for men I say, right ladies? Because we're so much more mature.... Oh wait, it looks like one of the authors is a woman.
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Old 05 April 2018, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by DawnStorm View Post
The FM station I listen to mentioned this this morning; I thought it was a joke until I looked it up on Amazon.
I inadvertently woke up DH because I kept saying What?! and Oh my lands!
I really need to keep it to a dull roar in the future, but once I explained to DH why I was practically shouting at the radio, he was slack-jawed.
Written by a man for men I say, right ladies? Because we're so much more mature.... Oh wait, it looks like one of the authors is a woman.
A project spawned from a twitter conversation about snake flatulence...
I read the twitter moment, it is gold.
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