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  #541  
Old 16 July 2014, 08:01 AM
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I'm trying to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog but am struggling with it because it's so depressing and the characters are so bleak. (I already dislike the concierge, and as for the suicidal 11-year-old, I'm already in favour of her offing herself.) Should I soldier on with this, or should I set this book aside? I guess I'm asking if the book is worth the time and energy it would take to finish reading it.
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  #542  
Old 18 July 2014, 07:36 PM
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Barbara: Life is too short to slog through books you aren't into when there are so many other books out there.
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  #543  
Old 18 July 2014, 07:47 PM
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Having finished "The Night they Raided Minsky's" I can recommend it highly, particularly if you love reading about Vaudeville/Burlesque and colorful characters in early 1900 New York. It's obviously well-researched, if not entirely based in fact, and very fun. And, while the movie is *based* on the book, it's a very loose interpretation of some of the details of the plot.

Now I've moved on to re-reading all the Harry Potter books in order. Again. We'll be visiting Universal Florida in December and I had a hankering to leisurely revisit the books, particularly the parts that differ from the films.
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  #544  
Old 18 July 2014, 10:24 PM
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I recently finished Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the first in the Lunar Chronicles series. It's a futuristic Cinderella retelling in which Cinder is a cyborg with a ~mysterious past~ that the reader will have entirely figured out by the second chapter. Absolutely unputdownable, and not for any reason the author intended. Bad writing, worse pseudoscience (the mind control is totally not magic, you guys), and shameless theft from other media. It's like a trainwreck.

I can't wait to read the rest of the series.

-Tabby
the princess with claws
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  #545  
Old 27 July 2014, 02:21 AM
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Finally got around to Life of Pi, and now I can see what all the fuss was about. A very artfully constructed and compelling book, and from what I understand the movie is pretty fantastic too (have to check that out).

(Possible spoilers ahead, but I'll do my best to obfuscate.) There's an episode near the end of the novel that seems to draw pretty directly on aspects of Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis' "Space" trilogy. I wonder whether Yann Martel, by invoking this similarity (I find it hard to believe from the detailed physical descriptions that it wasn't intentional), was intending the reader to recognize the source, and whether that was meant to be a clue as to the probable veracity of the initial narrative. As a young man seeking to explore Christianity on his own, it's very likely that Pi would have come across Lewis' writings. Martel has stated in interviews that this episode was designed specifically to strain the reader's suspension of disbelief, but as far as I know he hasn't mentioned the Lewis connection directly.
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  #546  
Old 04 August 2014, 06:47 PM
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I haven't read that CS Lewis book so I can't comment, but I know which bit you must mean. Interesting.

So, in July, after finishing Pompeii I read:

After You With The Pistol by Kyril Bonfiglioni. Still good but I didn't enjoy it as much as the first one in the Charlie Mortdecai series. There's only so much joke sexism and racism you can get away with before it starts to look uncomfortably like real sexism and racism - at the least, it's diminishing returns.

The Double by Dostoyevsky. There's a film out, directed by Richard Aoyade, which I might see, so I was interested in reading the book first. It's ages since I've read any Dostoyevsky and I enjoyed this - it reminded me of The Idiot. It's about a man whose more charismatic double turns up and starts to take over his life. I think Dostoyevsky must be a Buffy fan, because it's quite similar to the plot of Season 5 Episode 3, The Replacement, where the same thing happens to Xander.

It also reminded me of Despair by Vladimir Nabokov, which I then re-read to check out the similarities and differences. Nabokov wrote the most different interpretation of the theme that he could, I think, so the books aren't much alike, but for Nabokov that would probably count as an in-joke. (This is the re-written in English edition from 1962, as published in Penguin Modern Classics. I wonder if you can easily get his straight translation of his earlier Russian version).

I finished reading Ariel and liked some of the poems, but I'm not a massive poetry fan and a lot of it made me quite squeamish...

I read Cross and Burn by Val McDermid, since I'd read some interesting interviews and reviews by her lately. It was good - a whodunnit, for which I worked out who dunnit before she told us, which is always best, as otherwise it seems arbitrary. But it was also the latest in a series, so now I know what happens in the book before it as well. Not that I'm very bothered by spoilers in general (not for series like this anyway). I've bought a couple of the earlier ones too, but it always annoys me when bookshops sell a series but never have the first one, or a good enough selection to get them in order. I tried a couple of places. Anyway, as I said, I don't really mind - they're still a good read.

Then I started to read The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter, but realised I couldn't remember half the detail of The Long Earth, including who any of the characters were, so I had to go back and read that again first. The Long War is good, but I sense more of Stephen Baxter's influence on this one. There are more adult themes and more explicitly political stuff than Pratchett tends to go for - seems like slightly more right-wing politics than I would expect from Pratchett alone, too.

I'm currently reading The English Civil War: A People's History by Diane Purkiss, even though it's the wrong war to be reading about at the moment. The propaganda and paranoia is all still quite familiar from current religious and political concerns, though.
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  #547  
Old 04 August 2014, 06:53 PM
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Ha! I picked up the Long War, gave up and got the Long Earth. I need to go back to the Long War.
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  #548  
Old 05 August 2014, 11:36 AM
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I honestly didn't see a huge connection between Long Earth and Long War - a one-paragraph recap of the pertinent info would have been sufficient to clue in readers of Long War, and I'm pretty sure there was one (read them both over a year ago, so memory is getting hazy). But really, it was like two almost completely separate stories set in the same narrative universe(s) (ha!). And yeah, Earth was definitely more Pratchett, while War was definitely more Baxter.

Oh! According to the Wikipedia page on The Long Earth, there's 3 more books a-comin'. Something to look forward to.

I have to admit, while I liked both books, they were not must-buys. Nor must-read-agains. Oh well.

Edit: Ack! The third book, The Long Mars, came out in June! This is the second Pratchett book that flew in under my radar!

Last edited by Crius of CoH; 05 August 2014 at 11:40 AM. Reason: New info!
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  #549  
Old 05 August 2014, 12:52 PM
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Whatever was there obviously wasn't enough to make the second book feel stand alone.
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  #550  
Old 05 August 2014, 06:25 PM
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I just started The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. It's about the Dustbowl. Very fascinating read.
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  #551  
Old 05 August 2014, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
Whatever was there obviously wasn't enough to make the second book feel stand alone.
Well, no - for a start it dropped you in it with all the characters and you were supposed to know who they were and remember their backgrounds, otherwise the setup didn't make much sense. I only read a few pages before realising I'd forgotten the significance of everything in the first couple of chapters and needed a recap. But it starts off by mentioning a plastic monkey bracelet and a gold ring with sapphires, and specifically saying that one of the characters would "remember the significance" (from the previous book) without explaining that significance. Since I couldn't remember the significance at all, I thought I had better re-read the last book to remind me. The ring at least turned out to be much more significant in this one than in the last one, but it did help to know where it came from.

In another case it turned out I'd forgotten the main character getting married because he'd only just met his future wife at the end of the first book, and the second one is set ten years later. But I hadn't even remembered enough to know that.

So even though the plots turned out not to be all that related, I still wanted a recap about who everybody was, which characters we were supposed to know about and why, and so on.
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  #552  
Old 06 August 2014, 03:15 PM
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Continuing my summer streak of reading bestsellers everyone else read at least five years ago (thanks, Goodwill bookshelves!), I just finished Water for Elephants. Enjoyed it thoroughly; I found the present-day framing segments particularly well-done. Based on what I've read online regarding the movie adaptation, it's a shame that they chucked these bits out, especially given that they had as talented an actor as Hal Holbrook as the elderly Jacob.
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  #553  
Old 06 August 2014, 03:37 PM
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Since I enjoyed Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, I pulled out his bestseller Helter Skelter for a trip down memory lane. I've read it twice, but the last time before the year 2000, so a lot of the detail is new again to me. I was surprised when looking up some information on the internet that there is a sizeable group** of people that think that the Tate-Labianca murders are a false flag operation. I find it laughable, but I also think, especially as we are going through all this, that if today's modern forensic techniques existed then, the Manson Family would still be locked with 100% absolute knowledge that the right people were convicted.

I've also dusted off my copy of Devil's Gate by Clive Cussler. Cussler is my crack cocaine. I know he is formulaic, and not anything to look at too critically, but once I crack the spine on a book, I can't put it down until I'm through the adrenaline filled book. Cussler has several series of novels still producing stories (he's teamed up with other writers, hence his immense productivity) and this is the first Austin story I've read in about three or so years. But, it sure was a treat to get into the first few pages and have all the familiar characters back in action. I'm purposefully pacing myself as I don't want to burn through the few Cussler books I've got on my bookshelf that are unread too quickly. I still have a lot of time left and not a lot of books.

**Or a very vocal minority. It may be only 50 people, but they do have quite a bit of information on the net. I downloaded some pdf stuff and it is the usual tenuous links (Jay Sebring spent 4 years in the Navy, Sharon Tate's father was a US Army Colonel in intelligence, therefore, in order for Sebring to undertake covert Ops, he had to "disappear") and speculation passed off as fact. And, as usual, undisputed facts are ignored or passed off as propaganda by those who want a fake message put out.
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  #554  
Old 15 August 2014, 01:55 AM
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Got and read The Long Mars, by Pratchett & Baxter.

Another interesting book. Again, the overall "feel" is not very much Pratchett; I have no idea how much he's actually contributing to the series - his touch was quite evident in The Long Earth, but after that, if I were to guess, either it's mostly Baxter, or Pratchett's work here is very different from what I'm used to (granted, mostly the Discworld stuff).

Characters from the previous books continue on; however, years have passed - hell, 4 years pass in just the first 40 pages of this book! Again, from my own standpoint, the connections to the previous books are oddly tenuous - what you need to know is pretty much presented in this book, and so much has changed between the books that rereading doesn't (to me, anyways) really make the connection stronger.

Cosmology is developed more, and rather excitingly in spots. The Mars stuff is actually less than half the material presented, and in some ways not the most interesting, either. A bunch of Mars-related science-nerd and pop-culture-geek references/inside jokes are made, which was kind of fun.

If you liked the first two books, you'll probably like this one. If not, probably not. I don't think jumping into the series here is particularly detrimental to the overall understanding or enjoyment of the story, though as always (everyone in chorus) YMMV.
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  #555  
Old 15 August 2014, 07:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crius of CoH View Post
Another interesting book. Again, the overall "feel" is not very much Pratchett; I have no idea how much he's actually contributing to the series - his touch was quite evident in The Long Earth, but after that, if I were to guess, either it's mostly Baxter, or Pratchett's work here is very different from what I'm used to (granted, mostly the Discworld stuff).
My copy of The Long Earth included Pratchett's original short story (called The High Meggas, I think) that the book was based on. It was interesting as it contained quite a lot of the major events from the novel, in short story form - it almost made the novel look like it was padded out a bit around the interesting parts. Pratchett was planning the continuation of the series on his own but he wrote it at exactly the time the first couple of Discworld novels took off, and so he went on to them instead and dropped it. (eta) Style-wise it was just at the point when Pratchett was starting to get really good, so it was not quite his top form but getting there. The novel was sharpened up a lot, which could be attributable to Baxter, but then Pratchett himself would probably have sharpened it up if he'd rewritten it later too. Although Pratchett's style is more rounded than Baxter's seems to be.

So, for the first book he came up with most of it, and I guess Baxter just re-wrote and extended the existing short story (with help). For The Long War I spotted the occasional line or resolution that was obvious Pratchett, but I reckon from that point on, he will be acting mostly in an advisory capacity and passing on the ideas he'd had originally, and Baxter will be doing the writing, with Pratchett maybe going over and doing a bit of editing afterwards. Since he came up with the universe and basic ideas, his name will stay on them.

Just my guess but it seems to fit what I've read so far. It also makes sense as a long-term plan for somebody with deteriorating health who may not know exactly how long he'll be able to contribute to the project.
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  #556  
Old 15 August 2014, 11:26 AM
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That makes all kinds of sense. I wasn't aware that the premise was a short by Pratchett from back in the day; nice to know.

I wonder if it's real, or if it's manufactured memory/opinion, but now that you say this, I'd have to say that the obviously Pratchett material in the first book was more reminiscent of Strata than any of the Discworld stuff. Knowing me, my opinion on this has probably been shaped by new knowledge rather than realization.
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  #557  
Old 25 August 2014, 12:12 PM
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I just finished Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's sequel to The Shining. Great book, but I found the confrontation with the villains to be a little lopsided. Abra and Dan just kept kicking their butts. Clearly The True Knot are monsters and I wanted to seem them destroyed, but it would have been nice if they put up a bit of a fight.
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  #558  
Old 26 August 2014, 04:56 PM
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At a lot of science fiction conventions, you get a freebie book or two in your membership bag. They are quite often of the "Third in the thrilling 14-volume 'Gorplag vs the Death Robots' saga!" or "If you liked 'War Maidens of the Flomiad' you'll love this book!" type, so most of them we toss them in our box to go to charity. Some we hang on to and eventually read.

Last year at the San Antonio Worldcon, we got a copy of "Darwin's Elevator" (volume one of the Dire Earth Cycle) by Jason Hough. Last Monday I shoved it in my bag to read during my commute. Later in the week I stopped at a book store and bought the second volume, "The Exodus Towers" and I'm nearly done with that one. Just popped on to Amazon to order the final volume, "The Plague Forge" (they didn't have it in stock at the book store) to read during the long weekend.

I don't do that very often, but the books (at least what I've read so far) are well-written and addictive. I highly recommend.

Last edited by Tootsie Plunkette; 26 August 2014 at 05:02 PM.
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  #559  
Old 01 September 2014, 11:06 PM
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In August, I finally finished reading Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, ed. Reza Aslan. I think I mentioned before that it has, to my mind, an odd definition of the Middle East - everything from Arabic through Turkish, Persian to Urdu - which since some of it pre-dates the partition of India, even includes literature from places that are now in India not Pakistan. (OK, Amritsar, which is in the Punjab).

A lot of it was good, but a lot of the good bits were extracts from longer works that I wanted to read more of. No reason not to in future, of course. There was a bit much poetry for my liking - especially as poetry in translation is even harder to evaluate than poetry in the original; I'm not even sure sometimes that it's worth people trying to translate poetry. I wasn't convinced by some of this but that's more likely to be the translation than the poetry itself. And a lot of the book, especially the Palestinian and Urdu stuff, was rather angry. I don't know whether that was a deliberate selection or whether it reflects the literature as a whole, but other books from Pakistan I've read haven't been as angry and political.

I read a couple of Val McDermid whodunits, The Mermaids Singing and The Wire In The Blood, because I'd heard that the baddy in that one was based on Jimmy Savile. Clearly a lot of people were well aware that Savile was a nasty piece of work even while he was alive. I enjoyed these but there always has to be a bit of contrivance to keep the police behind the reader (or behind the other, cleverer police) and although there's enough in them for the readers to work out what's going on, she seems to rely on the police having a final unlikely leap of imagination a bit. Still, most murder mysteries are like that.

Then The English Civil War: A People's History by Diane Purkiss which was really interesting. We don't get taught much about the Civil War for some reason, beyond the basics about Royalists / "Cavaliers" and Parliamentarians / "roundheads", and Charles II being beheaded and Cromwell taking over, and I was surprised how little I knew. Also I now know who invented bacon and eggs for breakfast. (It was Sir Kenelm Digby).

I also read Introducing Lacan: A Graphic Guide by Darian Leader and Judy Groves. I read others in this series a couple of years ago - some are good, others a bit less so. From this one, I couldn't tell whether Lacan had clever insights - occasionally something seemed to make sense - or whether he just talked utter nonsense which people with no understanding repeat because it sounds clever and bits of it might match up with the occasional observation of behaviour. Certainly it would be easy to take it as utter nonsense, especially since he appears to have liked misusing formal logic in contradictory ways.

Since I was between books I started to read some Wittgenstein - Philosophical Investigations (he should see off Lacan, I should think), and I've read a bit more of Canterbury Tales - the Franklin, Physician and Pardoner's tales. I'm also about to read My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad, another Iranian writer.
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  #560  
Old 02 September 2014, 03:02 AM
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I've been reading the Peter Whimsey novels in order. Five Red Herrings is not a fun read. It was tedious and torturous. I'm almost finished with Have his Carcase. I might have to take a break and start a new Robert Rankin. Why, yes, I did get my free month of kindle unlimited.
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