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  #801  
Old 19 February 2017, 01:02 PM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is offline
 
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I'm still on my Shannon Hale kick. She and hubby Dean have a Squirrel Girl story out as part of a Marvel line-up. I'm not familiar with the character, but seeing that I love The Unbelievable Gwenpool (which takes a similar attitude to the story it tells) I figured I'd give both it and a regular SG trade a squiz. For a story set in suburban New Jersey, the novel gets surprisingly epic in scale (maybe not too surprising, when Shannon's novels have actually featured wars), with a moderately effective supervillain, who has to face off against the most ragtag bunch of misfits ever.

Now to get my parents reading these books…
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  #802  
Old 20 February 2017, 03:39 PM
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I'm reading a 45 year-old forensics book on Kindle, and the introduction would make most of the members of this board steam. The author claims a substantial proportion of rape claims are fraudulent, and that the younger the victim, the more likely the claim is to be false.

I was happy to realize that since the book is 45 years old, this troglodyte is no longer lecturing or teaching medical students his antiquated (and false) views.

Seaboe
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  #803  
Old 24 February 2017, 01:49 PM
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Sounds like it makes you appreciate how far we've come (although I'm sure that attitude is still kicking around in some quarters).
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  #804  
Old 26 February 2017, 08:47 PM
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Finished Barrayar. Liked it a lot even though I knew which characters were going to live or die based on the later books. I think somebody at one point asked if Bujold was interested in doing a prequel set during the Mad Emperor Yuri stage and she declined due to "I would feel miserable writing it, and you would be miserable reading it". I tend to agree, although itís more because getting a sympathetic POV seems like it would be much harder. Aral would have been too young to have any agency and Piotr is justÖnot very sympathetic. He deeply wanted Miles to die in replico. Spending a whole bookís worth of Piotrís viewpoint would be rough. I also noticed that Bothariís personality has some similarities to Markís in terms of their responses to severe stress. I wonder if that was intentional by Bujold.

I started up Marie Brennanís Tropic of Serpents. This book is a second-world no-magic fantasy that is written in the style of a Victorian naturalistís memoir. IIRC, Brennan was exulting about winning the cover lottery and Todd Lockwood's art is fantastic. Brennan tries to put in a few bits of sci-babble to explain how dragons can take flight but doesnít dwell on it too much. She knows that wonít *cough* fly. And since there is no magic, I just have to doggedly ignore the square-cube law. I also noticed that these dragons have six limbs, counting their wings, and am curious as to whether Brennan is planning on putting the dragons in a different phylogenetic branch. The cover for the fifth book clearly demonstrates the development of wings from the middle limb pair. Assuming the classification system is similar to the Linnaean, these dragons clearly canít be tetrapods and could be in a more distant branch of the chordates or could be in a different phylum that developed a spinal column by convergent evolution.
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  #805  
Old 27 February 2017, 04:08 AM
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Aud and Thorny, have you read Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen yet?

Seaboe
Not yet. Mirror Mirror was the first one I had to actually wait for in audio from the library. First world problems. I'll get there eventually.
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  #806  
Old 02 March 2017, 08:30 AM
Jusenkyo no Pikachu Jusenkyo no Pikachu is offline
 
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I found a copy of the Bugsy Malone graphic novel and read it. I'm not sure what to make of it. All I can think is: yes, it's a thing that exists.
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  #807  
Old 02 March 2017, 10:00 AM
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I read The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, which (like We Have Always Lived In The Castle) was very good. Less gothic and more straightforward than WHALITC but there was often a little psychological horror twist. And a lot of the stories seem modern given they were published in the 1940s - I can see that they'd be great for using in class, as they're all quite short, they've got clear themes that are still relevant but they aren't at all preachy or obvious about them.

(Jackson seems to be put in the horror / fantasy / science-fiction section over here, which is odd given she barely fits, and with female writers such as Margaret Atwood or Susanna Clarke, who would fit there but never get put there, the convention in the UK seems to be to treat women as "mainstream" if in any doubt. I was going to say, "unless they actually put a troll in the book" but Clarke has fairies and JK Rowling has pretty much every fantasy creature trope you can think of, and they're all still in the mainstream section, so I have no idea what those writers would have to do to get moved over, or why Jackson gets put there simply for writing about uncomfortable situations.)

The only other new book I've started is Sketches by Boz, by Boz. I mean Charles Dickens. I've read some before in other collections, but most are new to me and they're enjoyable little vignettes.

So now I'm reading that, The Diary of Samuel Pepys: A Selection, and S.

Pepys's diary is surprisingly readable and very interesting - I had worried it might be something I'd never finish. It covers ten years, and I've read 2.25 years so far (about a year per month) but should be able to read it at least twice that rate - one month's worth of (selected) entries is about the right length to read in the bath in the morning. Then I can read one of Dickens's sketches at lunchtime, and that only leaves S, which I have been managing to read in bed if I go to bed early enough.

I'm still not sure about S. The production and planning is amazing - it must have taken a lot of work to put together, and (even though it costs £30) I'm wondering how many copies they would need to sell to make any money at all on it - it would have to be tens of thousands, and I've not heard of its being a best-seller.

There are so many nice little touches; at one point, one of the note writers suddenly uses a different pen and this manages to seem like a plot twist. (She uses what looks like the same pen that the other guy had been using originally. The various pens and pencils generally indicate when the comments were written - later comments use different pens from earlier ones - so at the very least it means that this comment was written much later than others, but it could mean that the characters met. No idea whether it does mean that yet, but it could do, which is nice.)

On the other hand, the nature of the plot and structure means that it's all very vague - nothing can be stated outright; the book they're annotating is quite slow and allegorical, and a lot of its supposed significance has to be pointed out in comments by the annotators because they've been researching the (fictional) circumstances around it. It's hard to get into the flow - I gave up my idea to read through the printed text in one pass, then go back to read the notes, because the notes are just so distracting and there are loads of them on each page. It's like being interrupted all the time, and it stops me getting deeply involved in either the story in the book - which doesn't seem that involving anyway - or the "real life" story, which is potentially better but is being revealed very slowly in oblique hints only. Plus I still feel I need to make a note every time we find out something significant, because sometimes referring back to my notes is the only way I can remember who's who; otherwise I'd be flicking backwards and forwards the whole time to work out what's going on as well.

So overall, this is still proving harder to read than either Pepys or Dickens... who I've never found hard, to be fair.

I've only finished four volumes from my shelf so far this year - all the Earthsea novels were in a single volume - and I've bought two, so the shelf is going down very slowly. Once I've got S out of the way (or put it aside for a while) things should speed up. I've not broken my New Year's resolution by buying those two books, because I was spending the book token I got for Christmas, and I put in an exemption for that. Also they're both sequels or parts of series I've already read.
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  #808  
Old 07 March 2017, 06:57 PM
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Currently reading a bio (?) of the Byerley Turk, one of the foundation sires of the breed we call Thoroughbreds. I'm not sure how true the first part of the story is, I've been learning a lot about Turkish horse breeds, the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman presence in the Balkans.
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  #809  
Old 02 April 2017, 02:31 PM
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Books that I read in March and haven't already mentioned:

11.22.63 by Stephen King. Very good - this has jumped up there with It as one of my favourites of his. It has a good It reference in the middle, as well. One criticism might be that too long was spent on the main character making a life for himself in the early sixties, and less on the more science-fiction / fantasy aspect of the time travel alternate worlds - which could have made a very interesting, twisty story in its own right - but if he'd done that, it would be a different book, and the depth that his life in the 1960s adds was necessary for the story he actually told. I still wouldn't mind reading an alternative version with different emphasis, though.

The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. Also great, as is pretty much everything I've read by her. I had thought that this was one of her last pieces that I hadn't read, but she wrote more novels than I realised - I've still four more of her less-well-known ones to go. I've read Burning Your Boats, which includes all her short story collections. So I still have others to look forward to - and Nights At The Circus on my pile to re-read, which I think is still my favourite so far.

Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker, about sex workers in a northern town who are being preyed upon by a serial killer. This was brilliant as well - a lot more blunt, bleak and gritty than I remember from her other works that I've read (The Regeneration Trilogy and Another World, all around the time they came out, which would have been at least eighteen years ago). But very human. Again, I will look out more of hers when my book-buying ban expires.

The last two of those are both very short, so that's not as many as it looks. I realised I've inadvertently bought more books by changing my subscription to The Guardian to a level which means they send me four non-fiction books of their choosing per year, but I haven't received any of those yet, so I've so far removed a net five books (volumes) from the to-read shelf, which is still very slow progress. I'm not going to get through the whole shelf this year, I don't think.

Doing better than usual on books by women this year. I've finished eight books by women (Rose Tremain, Ursula Le Guin, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter and Pat Barker) and only two by a man (Stephen King). Two of the women (Tremain and Le Guin) I'd not read before, either.
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  #810  
Old 03 April 2017, 02:43 AM
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Quote:
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11.22.63 by Stephen King.
Enjoyed this one, but thought the ending "twist" with the return to the present day timeline was a bit trite (and has been done to death in time travel stories in just about every medium imaginable, including Saturday morning cartoons). To me, this was largely King's love letter to the teaching profession (he trained as, and was for a short while a high school English teacher before making it as a writer). Like you, I really enjoyed the tie-ins with It.

I'm currently reading a short story collection titled "The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories," edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer. This has to be one of the best anthologies I've seen - 110 (!) stories, and so far they've all been terrific. They're arranged more or less chronologically, and include authors ranging from Franz Kafka and H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, and Neil Gaiman. I particularly enjoy the translations of several foreign works that I've not seen elsewhere in American anthologies.
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  #811  
Old 30 April 2017, 01:27 PM
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I finally finished S, and the rest of Sketches by Boz. (There are no great revelations in S, the final code is inane, and in fact the whole presumed plot - taken at "face value", whatever that means in a book this convoluted - makes no real sense anyway, so aspects of it were disappointing. However - spoilers ahead! - reading even further between the lines I decided that the most sensible reading is that Eric is a fantasist, he himself burned down the barn and wrote symbols about the place to deliberately drag Jen further into his paranoid world, whatever intrigues were going on between the writers in the mid-20th century were more or less irrelevant, and now Jen's where Eric wants her and their relationship is falling apart in their garret in Amsterdam. The last part about the relationship falling apart is implied in the text at least, and I was happy to see that I was right about the significance of them both using the same black pen for the last lot of comments).

So in April I read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which was really good - I found it the most memorable of hers, certainly, as although I know I liked her others I can't remember a lot about them, whereas this is quite gripping in parts.

I also read Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All by Jonas Jonasson (trans. Rachel Wilson-Broyles), which is light fun, and worked better than I'd thought it might from the beginning. I'd thought it might get heavy-handed about religion, but it didn't.

I'm now reading 1914 - 1918: The History of the First World War by David Stephenson, which is very dense and will probably take months, although I've got past the first chapter on the build-up now, so the war itself might be easier to read. Also just started Sebastian Faulks by Charlotte Gray... sorry, I mean Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks, which looks like being good. And Pepys's diary, ongoing.

The trouble with the state of my to-read shelf, is that it's mostly been the longer and heavier-looking books I buy that have accumulated over time, since inevitably I read the lighter ones more quickly. So I'm getting through them at a slower-than-average rate when I compare with my rate in other years as well...
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  #812  
Old 04 June 2017, 12:27 AM
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Charlotte Gray was good, although I'm not sure how deliberate it was that I felt she really hadn't achieved a lot in her spy mission, and (through the whole thing) had it a lot easier than most of the people around her in Vichy France despite the danger she was in. I guess Faulks didn't need to explicitly point this out in order for it to be a theme, but it left a bit of a sour taste to an extent.

I also read Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov (translated by Dmitri Nabokov, his son). This was a slightly odd one about a guy who's been sentenced to death for being "opaque" and therefore not fitting in to his society. It's somewhat surreal and dreamlike. Nabokov complains in the introduction about people calling it Kafkaesque, because he'd apparently never heard of Kafka when he wrote it and came up with it all himself, but of course this means that it is quite Kafkaesque.

And I read two Sandman collections, number 5 (A Game of You) and number 6 (Fables and Reflections, short stories) which were both good.

I'm still reading Pepys - nearly at the Great Fire - and WW1. And I'm half way through The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, which is the source for a lot of Norse / Icelandic mythology. It's not quite as often represented in popular culture... I was pleased to find the bit about the goat Heiūrun though. There's a bar in High Wycombe called Heiūrun and although we knew it was named after a goat from Norse mythology, nobody seemed to know more than that. But Heiūrun lives at the top of Valhalla, eating leaves from Yggdrasil the World Tree, and her udders produce streams of mead which are enough to get all the warriors in Valhalla drunk. The bar's logo has a goat's head, and now I see that she's also surrounded by the leaves that she eats. I showed some of the bar staff the relevant passage and they were interested too.
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  #813  
Old 04 June 2017, 02:37 PM
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I discovered I'd somehow missed one volume of Iain M. Banks' Culture novels, so I got Surface Detail from the library and finished it last week. Yet another good entry, though a bit saddening to know that no more will be forthcoming.

On the plus side, I procured a paperback copy of Charles Stross' The Annihilation Score, the most recen - what? another one came out last year? and there's a new one due out this month?! How did I fall so far behind? - the, uh, first of the Laundry series of Lovecraftian bureaucratic secret agent novels that isn't from the viewpoint of Bob Howard. Very enjoyable, although as a reader of all of the previously published novels, novelettes and short stories in the series, I am getting a tad tired of the repeated references to matrix management and associated bureaucracy-speak. Very minor quibble, and I am aware it's necessary for readers who have dived into the series late. A proud addition to my collection.
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  #814  
Old 05 June 2017, 05:37 AM
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I am reading "Out of Time" by Lesley Dimmock. It is self published by a member of my Gym and she was there the other week selling copies.

Queen Elizabeth the first somehow travels through time to end up in present day Brisbane in the narrators backyard and they are try to figure out how to get her back to her own time but I am not that far into it. It is ok but you can tell it is self published and could have used a good editor, but hey a lot of books published today could do with more editing in my humble opinion.

The Queen seems strangely excepting that she has travelled 450y years into the future and halfway around the world and very excepting of the what you think would be unbelievable advances in technology but apart from that it is very readable. And it is always nice to read something set in Brisbane, cause it doesn't happen that often.

One thing that made me go was when the Queen asked if she ever married and the narrator started thinking about Dr Who, since the book was first published before the 50th anniversary special of "Dr Who" was made (Where the tenth Doctor married the Queen.) But of course this was just her thinking about time travel in general.
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  #815  
Old 01 July 2017, 10:37 PM
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Snagged a copy of Stephen Kng's "Four Past Midnight" at a used book store last weekend, and it includes "The Langoliers," which has long been one of my favorite movies despite how corny parts of it are. I haven't seen the movie in a few years but it is very, very close to the book (at least so far), and I'm enjoying remembering it as I read
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  #816  
Old 02 July 2017, 01:16 AM
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I got a copy of 'Discount Armageddon' by Seanan McGuire, it's an urban fantasy novel based around cryptids. Good fun. The main bad guys are a secret society of Christian hunters called The Covenant of St George who have vowed to wipe out all crytpids and the protagonist is a member of a family who used to belong to that secret society but left several generations ago when they realised that cryptids are just fellow beings trying to survive, now they're using their secret hunter/assassin skills to protect them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Crius of CoH View Post
On the plus side, I procured a paperback copy of Charles Stross' The Annihilation Score, the most recen - what? another one came out last year? and there's a new one due out this month?! How did I fall so far behind?
I'm a big fan of that series too but I'm also a few books behind. They're awesome but having worked for the government in several departments myself I also struggle to get through all the bureaucracy-speak.
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  #817  
Old 02 July 2017, 02:24 AM
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Finished the most recent book in Jonathan Howard's horror-fantasy comedy series Johannes Cabal, The Fall of the House of Cabal. Alas, I've been reading the series via the library, and they only had the first two and the last books, so I missed out on volumes 3 and 4. Still, a great read. I hope that more volumes will be forthcoming.

Also finished Elizabeth Moon's first new novel in the Vatta's War series, Cold Welcome. Apparently the first volume in a second series, actually, apparently dubbed the Vatta's Peace series. I loved the first series and this book was an excellent entry.

Just started the most recent novel in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey, Babylon's Ashes. Thickest book of the three and I'm only about 10 pages in; it'll be another couple of days before I'm through with it (the positive of a long holiday weekend is cancelled out by the social obligations of a long holiday weekend ).
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  #818  
Old 02 July 2017, 09:37 PM
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I'm almost done re-reading Last Call by Tim Powers. This is part of a trilogy, which I was unaware of during the first reading, so I wanted to read it again to refresh my memory. This book is hard to describe. It often gets brought up when people are looking for books like American Gods, but it's much more abstract. It's urban fantasy/magical realism that draws heavily from T. S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. Powers cast Bugsy Siegel as the avatar of Osiris/The Fisher King/Other Archetypes of Renewal of the Land, and his assassination was part of a long-range plot by the Big Bad to usurp the position and become immortal by using the nefarious Lombardy-Zeroth tarot deck to play the poker game Assumption on Lake Mead.

Powers does thorough research and he mixes up real quotes with the imaginary so well that I sometimes have to cross-check them. I had to look up the Virginia Hill testimony to verify that it did not in fact actually happen ("In March of 1951, testifying before the Kefauver Senate Crime Investigating Committee, Virginia Hill stated that Siegel had told her the Flamingo Hotel was ‘upside down'..."). It probably would have helped if I had remembered that the supposed author of the Siegel Agonistes had appeared in Powers' The Anubis Gates
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  #819  
Old 05 July 2017, 01:11 PM
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In June (and so far in July) I've read:

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King - "book 4.5" of the Dark Tower series. It's mostly Roland telling stories in flashback as they all shelter from a storm, so it doesn't add anything to the main plot, which is why it's touted as stand-alone and why it can fit in after the others. Although you'd have to ignore a lot of stuff that you didn't understand in the framing narrative if you were coming to it as a standalone novel. I quite enjoyed it, anyway.

Merivel: A Man of His Time by Rose Tremain. This is the sequel to Restoration, and it's set in the 1680s, later in Robert Merivel's life. He's been restored to his good graces with the King (as at the end of the previous book) but is still unhappy. I didn't enjoy it quite as much, as it seemed a bit disjointed, especially towards the end. There were threads that didn't really come together, and the ending was pretty abrupt - justified in a meta- sort of way in that he was "a man of his time", and his time was over, but rather depressing in story terms.

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow. I enjoyed this - despite spotting a one-word mistake in the first chapter that almost made me conclude that Mlodinow didn't understand his subject or examples either. That was an isolated mistake, though. There isn't a lot of detailed maths in this, and the bits that there are are fairly basic, and theoretically I knew most of this anyway since I've studied statistics and various bits of mathematical physics involving probabilities, but it was still interesting.

Since I was on holiday I allowed myself a few of the remaining lighter books on my shelf. I still haven't finished the others but am plodding on...
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  #820  
Old 01 August 2017, 01:58 PM
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In the rest of July, two books I actually bought this month. I'm not slipping - they're both allowed under my "sequels or ongoing series" rule, and the first is a special case. The second did feel a bit like slipping, even though it didn't break my rules about not buying books.

Mabel Jones and the Doomsday Book by Will Mabbitt. The third in the Mabel Jones series, and I think the best. This actually came out in February, but I missed it. The reason it's a special case is that there is a character named after me in it (Wilkinson, in the chapter Ursula and Wilkinson). He gets eaten by weasels. And I get a credit in the thank yous at the end for letting Will use my name, even though I didn't do anything to earn it!

The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Last in this series, and again I thought it was a good one. Stephen Baxter wrote a foreword explaining the writing process, and apparently he and Pratchett had submitted drafts of the entire series several years ago, a couple of years before Terry Pratchett died. So in fact the plots of all of them have been more of a collaboration than I realised, and it's the editing and rewrites that have mostly fallen to Baxter in the later ones. I still don't think their styles mesh as easily as they might, but this one had some nice obviously-Pratchett bits like the planet full of self-replicating editions of the works of Shakespeare. A good end to the series.

I have also nearly finished 1914 - 1918: The History of the First World War by David Stephenson. Only 80-odd pages to go, and that's three-and-a-half relatively short chapters! The war is over, and now they're arguing about the peace. It feels as though it's taken me as long to read as the war itself, even though it will only have been about six months. It will take me another few days to finish but I'm adding it here because I don't want to mention it again.

It's very dense and detailed, but it goes into enough of the social, political and economic background and motivations as well as just the fighting that I got far more of an idea of the overall picture of what was happening than I've had from other, similar books. One criticism I have is that it could do with a lot more sub-headings and paragraph breaks. The smallest formal unit is the chapter, many of which are very densely-written and 50 pages or so long. There's the occasional section break, but that's just a blank line between paragraphs. The chapters are actually structured, so you could add a few more breaks and headings and a bit of whitespace here and there and it would make it less daunting.

I've still got two years' worth of Pepys's diary to go as well. I've not picked that up for a bit. I will finish it eventually, but I'm not going to mention that again here either.
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