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  #761  
Old 08 October 2016, 11:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Cure the Blues View Post
I really think you'll enjoy The Gone-Away World. It's one of my favorite books.
So I started it a couple of days ago, naturally coinciding with a busy period so it's been taken in small doses. I just got to the bit in Chapter 4 where The Narrator is looking for a job and having no luck thanks to his security annexe, and two characters have a Socratic dialogue about government.

I think I skirted an asthma attack, I was laughing so hard. Yes, this is shaping up to be an excellent book; thank you again!
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  #762  
Old 12 October 2016, 03:33 PM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is offline
 
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Finished Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters in less than a day (well, more, but I had work to do). Glad to see that after two books of women relying on the guys to help finish the stuff they start, this one actually has a girl handling herself in a fight. I gotta say, I love the complete and utter trouncing this series gives to the usual "girls can do anything" story.

For those who haven't read the books, they follow Miri Larendaughter, a girl from a quarrying town called Mount Eskel, a territory of the pseudo-Scandinavian country of Danland. When monks divine that the prince must marry someone from that territory, Miri and a handful of other girls are forced into the Princess Academy (it's actually a makeshift finishing school). Naturally, Miri finds herself developing a passion for academia, with a bizarre natural talent for literacy. This of course serves her very well when she gets to read about commerce (Mount Eskel is the only source of linder, a valuable rock with magic communication properties) and diplomacy. Eventually, it is decided that someone not her will marry the prince, but that is nothing compared to the excitement that is to come.

In the second book, Miri is invited to stay with the Prince and his betrothed, in the capital city of Asland. While there, she meets and befriends a fellow academic, Timon Skarpson, unaware that he is using her assignments in their shared Rhetoric class to inspire a revolution.

The third book has Miri sent to start her own Princess Academy, specifically because cousins of the Prince are promised to the king of the neighbouring country of Stora. However, it's not easy for her, as she has to work against three girls who are essentially more sensible, reclusive versions of Pippi Longstocking, as well as a jackass who fancies himself leader of their Province. Not only that, but war breaks out while Miri is sequestered with the girls, forcing Miri to make some of the hardest decisions she has made ever. It all finishes beautifully.

Now I need to read more Shannon Hale. If you need me, I shall be following up with Calamity Jack, then probably the final EAH and Austenland.
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  #763  
Old 12 October 2016, 07:51 PM
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I love the complete and utter trouncing this series gives to the usual "girls can do anything" story.
Um. Really? Because that's not how you describe the stories.

Seaboe
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  #764  
Old 13 October 2016, 04:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
Um. Really? Because that's not how you describe the stories.

Seaboe
I kinda got the vibe that usually, when girls do anything in those stories, it usually amounts to a lot less than restructuring an entire country

Seriously, we learn in the third book that Danland has not had a queen regnant in a very long time, because the last time that happened, the country erupted in civil war (she was one of a male-female twin set, and the oldest got the throne). It turns out that the eldest of the three girls is the older twin of Prince Steffan. This turns out to be very important, because the jig is up once it's revealed that the title of "King of Stora" has been passed to an eight-year-old.
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  #765  
Old 15 October 2016, 04:07 PM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is offline
 
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My weird Shannon Hale kick is extending into the Princess in Black books too. Again, a skewering of princess-y stories, this one features a princess named Magnolia who is secretly a monster-fighting goat-saving superhero (seriously, the monsters she fights only care about eating goats) alongside her faithful steed Blacky (who masquerades as a unicorn named Frimplepants). This one reads like a superhero story as imagined by a five-year-old girly-girl on a sugar high, and god damn is it entertaining.

I actually read the second book, where Princess Magnolia is celebrating her birthday with her other flower-themed princess friends. Of course, the monsters decide to eat goats (why can't they just have goat supplements?), so she has to put off opening presents by playing games just so the others don't get suspicious.
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  #766  
Old 05 November 2016, 09:50 PM
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I just read Penric's Mission, by Lois McMaster Bujold. It's the third Penric book, which is set in the World of the Five Gods. I adore Penric and not only is there a satisfying amount of time with him in this book but there's also crunchy details about what can be done with these books' version of sorcery.
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  #767  
Old 05 November 2016, 10:09 PM
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Other October books were:

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre. This is a murder mystery with the hook that the police detective investigating the story, and the lawyer / investigator called in by one of the suspects, were at school with the suspects and one victim. So the structure intercuts scenes from their schooldays giving the characters' backgrounds, with the modern-day investigation. The school parts are really quite cringeingly accurate at times...

The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I enjoyed this more than The Long Mars, and it seemed a little more Pratchett-influenced, oddly. Although it was published in hardback only shortly after Pratchett died, so it's possible he did have more to do with it than the previous couple. They seemed to have cut back a bit on all the super-race stuff and survivalist stuff in this one, and had people arguing for the more human side of things, which seemed more Pratchetty.

I'm currently reading a history of Iran, called Iran: Empire of the Mind by Michael Axworthy. It's interesting - it's a fairly short introductory history but still has a fair amount of depth, and Axworthy is a lot more opinionated than you sometimes get in this sort of history, which stops it being too dry. I've not quite got to the modern day parts yet but I'm looking forward to that.

I'm also reading S. by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst. My brother gave me this for my birthday. It's really good but quite difficult to read - physically difficult, I mean - because of its interesting format. So I haven't got as far as I'd have liked yet. It comes in a box containing a novel called Ship of Theseus by a fictional writer called V M Straka. The novel has an introduction and footnotes by his translator, and was apparently finished by the translator after the mysterious disappearance and supposed death of Straka. (A bit like Nabokov's Pale Fire so far, but lighter). It also has a lot of handwritten marginal notes which are a dialogue between two readers, one of whom is studying Straka, and the other who found the book and picked it up and started reading for fun. Finally, there are a bunch of inserts which are things like copies of letters, news clippings, postcards, a code wheel and so on.

So there are about four different layers of story going on, plus a central mystery about the identity of the author. There's some sort of puzzle to work out, but I haven't got far enough to have found it yet. It's going to take at least a couple of passes through, and it's the sort of book that makes you want to take your own notes so I've started a notebook of my own to write down what I learn about each character. But this all makes it a bit complicated to read - certainly can't read it in the bath, with bits falling out of it. I need a clear space and room to make notes, which makes it slow going as I don't often get a chance...
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  #768  
Old 18 November 2016, 03:10 PM
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I'm re-reading Terry Pratchett's Raising Steam.

One odd thing I noticed this time around was that the writing is a tad clunky -simplistic with occasional non-comically intentional run-on sentences - in parts at the beginning and end, but flows much more smoothly throughout the middle. I wouldn't have guessed it was ghost-written except for those sections, which somehow lacked the author's unique character that was as much part of the Discworld as the space turtle. I wonder why the ghost writing process stumbled at just a couple of points?

Observing the absence of Pterry's distinct tone also hammers home why adaptations of the Discworld don't work very well. His writing style held the world together. His footnotes were the foundations. His voice was octarine. Without his particular brand of word magic, the stories and characters can come across as wacky rather than wry.
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  #769  
Old 18 November 2016, 05:19 PM
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I am reading two books from the 1920's by an expat Pole/Russian, Fedinand Ossendowski: Beasts, Men and Gods, and Man and Mystery In Asia. Assuming minimal dramatic liberties, he led a rather exciting life, escaping the violence and horrors of the Russian Revolution by traveling through Mongolia to get to India - and encountering more violence, adventure and roadblocks on the way. I know he eventually made it to America, but the tale he tells is fascinating and exciting.

Beasts, Men and Gods I got from the Project Gutenberg web site; the other is an actual 1924 first edition that the library had.

On a side note, trying to find the place names of the time on modern Google Earth is a bit challenging; things have changed a lot.
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  #770  
Old 18 November 2016, 05:22 PM
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Whoops - double post. Sorry.
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  #771  
Old 18 November 2016, 06:06 PM
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Is Raising Steam not by Pratchett?

It's very late Pratchett; I thought it might have been affected by his illness. But I just checked two or three sites and they didn't say anything about its having been ghostwritten.
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  #772  
Old 18 November 2016, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
Is Raising Steam not by Pratchett?

It's very late Pratchett; I thought it might have been affected by his illness. But I just checked two or three sites and they didn't say anything about its having been ghostwritten.
I don't know, but I do know I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as I enjoyed most all of his other works. It felt rushed and clunky.
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  #773  
Old 19 November 2016, 12:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Blatherskite View Post
ghost-written
I know exactly what you mean about the style, because I thought so too (not necessarily about the exact same bits). But I think you're using "ghost-written" wrongly to mean "dictated".

To me, "ghost-written" means that somebody else actually wrote it, with only the ideas and information coming from the nominal writer. Unless you know something I don't, it is probably unfair to use the term "ghost-written".

I do agree with you that a large chunk of it reads like an early draft, though. I think I said so at the time. I am only disagreeing with the term you used.
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  #774  
Old 05 December 2016, 10:48 PM
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Finished the history of Iran; I'm still reading S., which is still good but still slow going thanks to not being able to read it in the bath, on trains etc... I know where the codes are now, and the premise behind them but haven't got past chapter 2 of the main book yet. Also, the code in chapter 2 doesn't seem to me to work out quite as it's supposed to. The keyword - if it's what they say it is - is badly chosen for that type of code (since it contains duplicate letters) and I can't make the answer come out exactly as they give it - several letters are wrong, making one word gibberish, and it seems to me there's a typo. Either I'm missing something or they've made a mistake, and it's annoyed me a bit.

I read Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking by Daniel C Dennett, which was useful for the thread on Newcomb's problem. It's more about thought experiments and how to use them, as well as various pitfalls in thinking (there's a whole section about stuff that Stephen Jay Gould gets wrong) than it is about Dennett's usual subjects of consciousness and the applications of evolution by natural selection. There's a lot about both of those, but the context assumes you're already familiar with the science behind the thinking. Since I've read a lot of his previous books which do go into these things, as well as books by others, luckily I am.

I read a book called Let Live: A Bike Ride, Climate Change and the CIA by John Madeley, which I bought about four years ago when the author was doing a signing in my local Waterstone's and have only just got round to reading. It's self-published, and its climate change message is well-meant and worthy, so I won't rip it to bits as would be easy to do.

Currently, as well as S., I'm currently reading Lost Illusions by Balzac - so far it's been a good one, and I'm starting to see the recurring characters from his Comedie Humaine world, so it's starting to come together.

But it's also somewhat heavy going, so after having finished the first part I've started on Number 11 by Jonathan Coe for a break. This has been good so far. I like Jonathan Coe - he's a fairly low-key author over here, despite having had a big TV adaptation with The Rotter's Club. I've seen much bigger displays of his work in translation in French and German bookshops that I've ever seen in the UK, and I once met a French woman who said he was one of her favourite authors, so he almost seems more popular abroad. But he's good - just the right mix of enjoyable reading with a bit of depth, and he's also good at the sort of subversion where he subverts your expectations twice and manages to surprise you even when you think you've seen what's going on. I'm enjoying it.
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  #775  
Old 06 December 2016, 03:20 AM
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Finally getting around to The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Enjoying it so far, although I'm doing my best to read it without resorting to Google Translate every few pages. (My knowledge of ecclesiastical Latin is pretty good from my musical studies, and a lot I'm able to parse through a knowledge of Latin-derived English, and the rest I'm generally able to pick up through contextual clues.) At some point I should re-read it with laptop at the ready to get the full translated text, but for now I'd rather not interrupt the narrative flow to get the translations.
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  #776  
Old 08 January 2017, 03:19 PM
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I finished Lost Illusions, which gets easier after the first part - the style changes to shorter chapters, and the plot moves to a different set of characters who are less tedious, so I enjoyed it. I have bought the follow-up, A Harlot High and Low but not read it yet. I'm starting to get the hang of Balzac. He is a bit of a depressing author, though - one common theme I'm starting to notice in his books is that the good people who are trying to get on, work hard and do the right thing are always going to be misled and screwed over by the indolent and selfish. Still, even the victims in this get a more or less happy ending, although the villains take their entire business and make a fortune off their work.

I gather (thanks to the good old-fashioned academic style of introduction, that assumes you're not reading the book for anything as vulgar as a wish to be surprised by the plot, and happily tells you the ending not only to the book you're reading but its sequel too) that the next one has a less happy ending for the protagonist, but he's a bit of an arsehole anyway and probably deserves it.

As well as the Jonathan Coe, in December I also read A Little Book of Language by David Crystal, which is aimed at younger readers but is the kind of interesting children's book which isn't too simplistic and from which you can learn a lot as an adult too. I'm going to read more by David Crystal at some point. (I read his book on punctuation earlier last year).

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. This is set in Saudi Arabia, about an American salesman who's waiting to give a presentation to the King in the hopes of winning a big IT contract. It's good on the contradictions of Saudi Arabia (or at least I will assume it is, since I've never been there and probably never will) and the portrayal of the main character is very good, as somebody who used to be a high-flyer but is now a bit washed up and not sure where to go.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Apparently this was a bestseller 15 or 16 years ago. It's about Gladwell's theory of how new ideas spread through a population - as well as epidemics of disease, crime and so on. All the individual parts are interesting but I'm not convinced they fit together as well as Gladwell claims. Still, there are definitely useful ideas in it and a lot that's worth thinking about.

Currently I'm reading Restoration by Rose Tremain, which I was given as a present a year or two ago, as she's not an author I would have thought of buying myself. It's really good though - I wish I'd read it earlier. It's about a guy called Robert Merivel who's the son of a glovemaker but finds himself part of the court of King Charles II as a physician to his dogs, and is then married off to Charles's mistress. It's funny - Merivel is a good comedy central character but also quite sympathetic, and historically it's interesting. The setting is treated a lot more lightly than, say, Wolf Hall's but you still get the impression that there was a fair amount of research behind it. A sequel came out a couple of years ago that I'm going to buy with a book token I got for Christmas.

I have made a New Year's resolution not to buy any more books (apart from spending any book tokens I'm given!) until I've almost cleared my to-read shelf, so my reading list for this year is mostly pre-determined. I've got 40-something books on there at the moment, although some (such as collections of letters) may not be strictly readable. That probably won't last me all year, but it will be a big chunk of it.

My resolution does allow for buying books that continue series I'm half-way through, though - this exception is mostly there in case The Winds of Winter (next book in A Song of Ice and Fire) comes out this year.
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  #777  
Old 14 January 2017, 09:14 PM
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I finished up Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’ Locke and Key series. Since I had the audiobook version from back when it was a free offer, I went through both the comics and the audiobook at the same time. The audiobook's basically a radio play much like the Doctor Who audio plays from Big Finish. The marquee voice actors are Haley Joel Osment, Kate Mulgrew (apparently a favorite go-to for Joe Hill audiobooks) and Tatiana Maslany, but they all voice secondary characters. I was amused to notice that Maslany was cast as the gender-swapped Big Bad. Even in audio, she gets to play a role where she pretends to be a different character. The actors for the Locke children are fantastic and really sell the story. The story translated into audio really well with only a couple moments—usually battle scenes—where it became a bit unclear as to what exactly was going on. And, of course, going full audio means you will miss out on Rodriguez’ excellent artwork. For example, at one point during Bode’s POV, Rodriguez switches to a Bill Watterson-inspired art style and later he opens and closes Rufus’ sections with full-page panels drawn like old pulp SF comic book covers. Some niche observations are that I’m assuming that this is set in an alternate world where some people never existed. Because who among us would move to Lovecraft, MA, especially right after a bloody, traumatic family tragedy? There’s a Voorhees High where the hockey team has old-school goalie masks and later Hill makes a nod to dad with a Carrie-style prom scene, and none of the characters has even a shadow of “just like in the movies!” déjà vu.

After that, I steamrolled through The Hero of Ages, the final book of the first Mistborn series. Man, it was really dark, moreso than I had been expecting. For all the flak GRR Martin gets for killing off characters in a crapsack world, though, I have to think that Sanderson’s apocalypse is actually quite a bit more terrifying than White Walkers. Essentially the entire world is an ecological disaster that on a 1-10 scale would be an 11, aka Worldwide Mordor but Even Worse. All of Sanderson’s major fantasy works are linked within the same universe and there are some hints here and there. Specifically, the hemalurgy blood magic resembles a magic system I’ve seen in one of his novellas. This is the first time in any of the Cosmere books I’ve read that the number 16 was explicitly stated as being important. Oh, look 2016 was awful and here is 16 in the context of a Dying Earth scenario, except apparently this 16 is ultimately supposed to be a good sign. Overall, I enjoyed the book, and thought it stuck the landing. I was a bit surprised that [spoiler] he killed both Elend then Vin at the end, though.[/spoiler].

I’ve just started up Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword, the sequel to Ancillary Justice. Presumably this will have a lot more current-day action than the previous book. A good part of Ancillary Justice flipped back to the Justice of Toren POV 20 years in the past. There have been some mentions of the alien Presger but for the most part the scenes stayed focused on the human worlds. I’m expecting them to make an appearance at some point later in the series. Assuming all their guns are like Breq’s Chekhov Gun o’Doom, it’s abundantly obvious why all the Lord of the Radch’s bodes is/are so freaked out by them.
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  #778  
Old 15 January 2017, 02:20 PM
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... Hill makes a nod to dad with a Carrie-style prom scene
I'd not heard of Joe Hill and thought, "Does that mean he's Stephen King's son?". So I looked him up and the first thing I saw on the results page is a photo of him on a panel discussion... Yep, definitely Stephen King's son!

I started reading A Selection from the Diary of Samuel Pepys (Penguin Classics edition) and I've worked out that at the current rate it will take me all year, so I'm going to have to mix it up a bit. So this morning, coincidentally, I read the first few pages of King's On Writing.
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  #779  
Old 16 January 2017, 03:23 PM
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Over the weekend I read my first Kindle book: The Philadelphia Chromosome. Great book, loved it.

Seaboe
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  #780  
Old 16 January 2017, 03:42 PM
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It took me a while but I'm finally comfortable using a Kobo (Canadian equivalent to a kindle) and the last few books I've read have been on it. I do love the ability to read in the dark . I've been reading a new to me author M.M. Kaye. She's probably best known as the author of The Far Pavilions but she wrote a bunch of mysteries in the 50s and 60s set in various countries "Death in Zanzibar" and "Death in Kenya" being two examples. Anyway they're dated but they're good!
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