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  #821  
Old 10 August 2017, 06:55 PM
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Feeling my need for comfort reading yet again (gee I wonder why? thanks, Obama) anyway I've rediscovered an old favourite, Charlotte MacLeod. She wrote cozy mysteries both as Charlotte MacLeod and Alisa Craig. Luckily she was pretty prolific so once I've read through the Sarah Kelling series I'm going to start in on the Professor Shandy's then on to the Grub and Stakers and Inspector Madoc Rhys books. Should keep me going for while .
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  #822  
Old 10 August 2017, 09:18 PM
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I finally finished Leviathan Wakes the first book of The Expanse by James S.A. Corey. I kept getting distracted and then having to wait for the ebook. I watched the first season over again somewhere in the middle too. This has to be one of the best adaptations I've ever seen. Both the book and the show are fantastic. One of Miller's chapter's describes how the rotation of Ceres works but the show just pauses on a diagram for a second. There is a reason for Alex's accent.

Last edited by Aud 1; 10 August 2017 at 09:41 PM.
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  #823  
Old 01 September 2017, 10:55 PM
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I didn't finish much that was new in August.

I read A Partisan's Daughter by Louis de Bernières, which is about a guy in an unhappy marriage who falls in love with a woman from Yugoslavia - it's set in the late 70s / early 80s before the country broke up. It's narrated alternately by him and by the woman, who is the partisan's daughter in the title. Both of them are unreliable narrators, to different degrees - especially the woman; it's hard to know how much of her story is "real", and there are a few inconsistencies such as her age, and whether or not she's working as a prostitute, to decipher. The man is more reliable but you still get the impression he's dishonest about some of his motives and feelings - and habits. So, interesting overall, and quite sad in the end.

I also read a book about whisky, Still Life With Bottle: Whisky according to Ralph Steadman, which is as much about Steadman's illustrations as it is about the text. My mum gave me a copy from her charity books a few years ago, and it's been on the shelf for a while. The text is in short essays and has a varying degree of coherence, but it's interesting. I didn't learn much that I didn't already know, but there are a few good facts and tidbits, and the illustrations are great.

And I've nearly finished Anathem by Neal Stephenson. I got this in New York last year, because I enjoyed Reamde and hadn't seen many of Stephenson's other books in the UK. This is amazing - I think I have a new favourite living author. He reminds me of Iain (M) Banks in the scope of the worlds and societies he thinks up, but he's a lot more detailed and precise about it, he's more concerned with the science, and in this case, it has a lot of actual proper philosophy in it, although presented in a fictional context. There are plenty of genuine surprises and twists, and as well as the philosophical discussions, some pretty good action set-pieces and explosions as well. I'm going to get a copy for my brother for his birthday, as I think he'd like it too.

And happily, it seems that Stephenson is becoming more widely available in the UK, since I found several others of his when I went to spend my birthday book token yesterday. I picked up a copy of Seveneves among other things I bought. (Not violating my rules as I'm allowed to spend book tokens and gift money!)
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  #824  
Old 02 September 2017, 03:26 PM
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I'm usually more of a fiction reader, but I'm almost done with American Eclipse by David Baron and I'm really enjoying it. It tells the story of a total eclipse that crossed the US in 1878, with lots of background information about the Gilded Age and the state of American science programs at that time. It's also introduced me to a new personal hero: Maria Mitchell, an astronomer and a passionate advocate for women in the sciences. I'd never heard of her before, but she was apparently pretty badass.
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  #825  
Old 12 September 2017, 05:41 PM
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I'm almost done with a biography of Martin Luther. The author not only writes about Luther, but also the political/intellectual climate in Germany at the time.
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  #826  
Old 12 September 2017, 07:53 PM
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Who's the author? I just saw a brief Rick Steves video on Luther, and it was a pretty good even-handed take. It didn't shy away from Luther's problematic stances, particularly his bigotry and especially his anti-semitism. It, too, addressed the reformation in the context of the larger sociopolitical climate of the times.
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  #827  
Old 14 September 2017, 06:11 PM
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Martin Luther: Renegade and Prophet by Lyndal Roper.
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  #828  
Old 14 September 2017, 07:41 PM
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Thanks! Have to check that out.

Every now and then I like to read some YA or kiddie lit as light and fluffy pre-bedtime fare, when I know I'm too tired to stay awake for something heavier. I found two of our own Brad from Georgia's John Bellairs books at a used bookstore at the end of the summer and recently picked them up; I finished The Specter from the Magician's Museum and just started The Bell, the Book, and the Spellbinder. I am once again impressed at how well Brad nailed Bellairs' distinctive style. If anything, I think that Brad manages to inject a slightly more visceral creepiness into his narratives than Bellairs did - I still think that the Cthulu mythos elements in one of Brad's books - The Beast Under the Wizard's Bridge, maybe? - are some of the most unsettling, eerie things I've seen in a book for young readers. The description of the big bad in The Specter... is deliciously creepy (and decidedly not for arachnophobes). Anyway, terrific and fun reads for anyone so inclined (or for anyone with kids of a certain age).
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  #829  
Old 21 September 2017, 07:26 PM
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Just signed out a book called Praise the Lard! In addition to some mouth watering recipes, it looks like it contains a lot of history about BBQ.

Hmmmm...new book smell!
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  #830  
Old 23 September 2017, 10:30 PM
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I recently finished Ann Leckie's Ancillary Mercy and Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist. Ancillary Mercy finishes up Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy and I thought it decently wrapped up Breq's story although the overarching conflict is still unresolved. Really, it was hard to see how just Breq and Co. could affect the Radch Lord controversy all by themselves, so I'm happy Leckie kept the plot localized to this one planetary system. She has a new book coming out next week set in the same universe, so maybe there will be some updates on the current Radchaai politico-military chaos. I loved the Presger translators in the last 2 books. They function as terrifying comic relief and have had their biology greatly modified to the point that a koi can be swallowed by one of them and still remain alive in her stomach days later.

The Rithmatist is on the short side for a Sanderson book, and I wanted something a bit lighter and ATM I didn't feel like starting up a new series just yet. The ending was a bit cliffhangery, but overall it was a good stopping point for the book. It's not like anyone's lives were left in dire peril with fate TBD in book 2. The origin of the chalkings is nagging me and I hope it gets addressed at some point. Bonus points if Sanderson comes up with an in-fiction semi-plausible magicky explanation for where all the human bits go when they're eaten by chalkings that only have 2 dimensions and questionable GI tracts.

I'm about halfway through Grady Hendrix's Horrorstör. It's a semi-comedic haunted house book set in an IKEA knock-off furniture superstore. The book is laid out as if it were a furniture catalog, complete with ridiculously named flatpack furniture such as Frĺnjk tables, Liripip wardrobes, and Wanweird kitchens. I just got to the Bodavest chapter where the haunting has fully kicked into gear and and there's been a tonal shift from comedy to creepy, disturbing horror. Bodavest is the type of chair that would be used in the rest cure popular during the late 1800s. The chapter headings apparently are now going to include furniture that would only be found in a 19th century Orsk catalog that was primarily marketed to prisons and sanitariums.
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  #831  
Old 24 September 2017, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DawnStorm View Post
Hmmmm...new book smell!
Whatever happened to new book smell? Do you still have it where you are?

I used to love sniffing the pages of a new book when I was a child. The first thing I did when I got a new paperback was open it up, stick my nose in and take a big breath. This would have been the late 70s, and I assume that I was effectively glue-sniffing, as was fashionable at the time. It smelled great, though.

Nowadays the glue that the binders use (in the UK) is nowhere near as sniffable. I do miss it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cure the Blues View Post
I'm about halfway through Grady Hendrix's Horrorstör.
I saw that a year or two ago and very nearly bought it... based on your description, I'm wishing I had, as I suspect it might become difficult to get hold of.
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  #832  
Old 02 October 2017, 03:32 PM
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In September I read:

The Rise of the Meritocracy by Michael Young. He's the guy who coined the term "meritocracy" (which actually means the same thing at root as "aristocracy" but is a chimeric Latin / Greek word). This is a satire written (in 1958) from the perspective of a sociologist in 2034 who is wondering why the perfect meritocratic society in which they live is still beset by riots and unrest from all the undeserving lower orders, even though they are being treated perfectly fairly by their betters.

It's interesting, in so far as a lot of it is still relevant (I'd not realised that Theresa May felt she was being "meritocratic" in supporting grammar schools), but it's also quite dull because a lot of it's a discussion of 1950s educational policy, and it's hard to get the jokes because you need the perspective of a sociologist from 1958. Sometimes it's also hard to know which of his quotes are real, and which are made up. Obviously if they're dated after 1958 then they're made up, but some are undated, and some from before 1958 might not be real either (or worse, are real but being presented out of context for satirical effect). It gets better in the second half when the author, who is an extreme meritocrat, starts talking about the place of the lower orders in more obviously satirical terms.

So, for a while I was thinking I should buy a copy for everybody because it so well reveals the problems with a lot of modern politics - many people didn't pay attention to the satire and thought the whole idea sounded great, and the second half is depressingly familiar. But on the whole it's not really a barrel of laughs for a modern lay reader.

I also read Lundy, Rockall, Dogger, Fair Isle: A Celebration of the Islands Around Britain by Mathew Clayton and Anthony Atkinson. This is hand-written and drawn by Atkinson and is a nice little book with lots of interesting titbits, but some odd careless mistakes too, such as inaccurate areas for some islands (which, perhaps coincidentally, match the incorrect figures in Wikipedia) which can easily be checked these days on Google Earth using the scale tools or the polygon tool. And for some reason there are three or four pages about landmarks in Orkney which have been put in at the beginning of the section on the Hebrides, not the Orkney section. But it was a fun read despite this.

And I cracked and bought two new books which I can't justify under any of my book-buying rules. In my defence, I've been getting through the heavier part of the remainder pretty well, and both these were light enough that I've read them already. I picked them up in what appeared to be the "Books for Guardian Readers" section of the Marlow Bookshop - Dad You Suck by Tim Dowling, and Don't Be A Dick, Pete by Stuart Heritage.

Dowling's is a selection of his weekend columns, chosen around the subject of his children and mildly tweaked to fit together in book form. And Heritage's is a sort of combined memoir and biography of his brother Pete (who is a bit of a dick). They're both funny; there was more to Stuart Heritage's than there was to Dowling's columns, although Tim Dowling is a better writer. If you've read any of their columns or journalism you'd probably already know if you'd like them.

(eta - forgot to add my current books). Currently I'm reading Eddas and Sagas by Jónas Kristjánsson (translated from Icelandic by Peter Foote), which I've been reading on and off for months but don't seem to have mentioned. It's less gripping than I'd hoped - not as readable as the sagas, but obviously more historical. It's about the history of the poems and writings themselves, not about the history of the events within them.

Also reading A Harlot High and Low (Splendeurs et misčres des courtisanes) by Honoré de Balzac (trans. Rayner Heppenstall) which is a sequel to Lost Illusions. It's really quite heavily misogynistic in the plot (although arguably mostly through the attitudes and actions of the characters rather than Balzac himself), and there is also a pretty racist description of an Asian servant (which is Balzac himself). I already know part of the ending thanks to the introduction to Lost Illusions giving it away (the introduction to this one doesn't - only a hint!) but will have to see how it plays out.

Last edited by Richard W; 02 October 2017 at 03:39 PM.
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  #833  
Old 23 October 2017, 07:16 PM
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Checked out a library book about the Radium Girls; gonna start reading it tonight.
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  #834  
Old 01 November 2017, 04:28 PM
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October seems to have gone very quickly...

I read The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, next in the Rivers of London series. This was a good one.

How Not To Be Wrong: The hidden maths of everyday life by Jordan Ellenburg. A lot of it's about understanding probability and levels of doubt, so it's more equivocal than you might think about most issues. I can't remember the more specific comments I was going to make - there was one part where I thought he was wrong himself, but he had just given a warning to watch out for any mistakes that he might be making, and might have been aware that he was going out on a limb or perhaps presenting something that he wanted you to look harder at - but I enjoyed it, anyway. I think the dubious part was to do with some sort of Bayesian analysis.

The Brexit Club by Owen Bennett, about the various Leave campaigns and their fights and in-fights. There was surprisingly little about the actual facts of the Leave argument itself - one of the few bits of information about the EU was about Cameron's deal with the EU before the referendum, which was more-or-less set up to fail by the Leave side anyway, by raising the expectations of what he was supposed to achieve to impossible levels and ignoring what he did get. They had no intention of being sidetracked by deals like that. Most of it was about the internal arguments and politics.

What I generally got from it was how unpleasant a lot of the people involved seem to be - although that might just be the style of journalism; anybody might seem unpleasant when written about in that way. Also that the various differences and lack of co-operation between the various campaigns didn't just reflect a different approach to the Leave campaign itself; it reflected fundamentally different ideas of what the problems were and what the ideal outcome would be, which were all glossed over at the time but are causing a lot of problems now. I will grant that the Leave side(s) were far better at campaigning than the Remain side, though.

I'm still reading the two books that I was reading at the end of last month, which I think is because the Balzac was quite slow at the start and so I interrupted it a few times - it's going much more quickly now that I'm further in. It doesn't feel as though it should have taken over a month at my current reading speed.
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