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Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2024
« on: January 30, 2024, 09:49:55 pm »
Traitor of Redwinter by Ed McDonald (3)

This is the second in the series.  I like it.  It's not as good as his previous trilogy, and tends a little closer to general fantasy than "grimdark."  This one is a little more magic school-ey, but it does a good job of not being annoying about it.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2024
« on: January 24, 2024, 01:49:21 pm »
Hey, I'll try to last longer than 4 months this year.

The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi by S. A. Chakraborty (1)

(for book club) This was pretty good.  Takes place in the Indian Ocean around 3-400AD starring a semi-retired female pirate and her crew.  I like the older protagonist a la Gemmel's Legend, my one real complaint is the characters all seem to think and behave like modern people rather than what would be more in line with the setting.  It's a kinda long ago prequel to some trilogy she wrote, but I don't think I'm impressed enough to read more.

Return to Edan by Philip Chase (2)

This really dragged on.  The second book kinda had the big conflict of the story, and most of this finale felt like falling action.  The writing is pretty good, and I'd maybe consider reading something else he writes since I generally liked the first two books in the trilogy.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: January 24, 2024, 01:38:19 pm »
Better late than never. (31)

Gideon the Ninth: (for book club, my pick) most excellent, probably the best book I read in 2023
The Library at Mount Char: it was ok, not as unique or original as I'd hoped it would be
Black Stone Heart: eh, also ok, nothing special
Ninth House: I enjoyed this one pretty well, one of the better books this year
Popisho: (for book club) it sucks, magical realism with maybe a couple neat ideas, but pointless and pretentious
Age of Ash: pretty decent start to a trilogy, kinda slow start, but picked up at the end
Good Omens: (for book club) perfectly fine, but I don't understand the acclaim, maybe too silly and disjointed
Daughter of Redwinter: not as good as his other trilogy, but enjoyable enough to keep going
Braiding Sweetgrass: (for book club) trash nonfiction written by a native american who seems to herself have bought into the noble savage trope.  everyone seems to love it.
The Way of Edan: a decent start to a trilogy by a self-published youtuber, better than it should be
The King of Attolia: more of the best YA fantasy series no one's heard about
Blade of Dream: sequel to Age of Ash, even better than the first, very much looking forward to the final book
Tress of the Emerald Sea: (for book club) the best Sanderson I've read.
Fourth Wing: (for book club) straight garbage, don't waste your time.
The Prophet of Edan: second in the trilogy, better than the first
A Conspiracy of Kings: continues to be the best YA fantasy
Brother: (for book club) pointless story about backwoods incestuous murdering family, why does it exist?
Dark Matter: fun scifi thriller, but nothing special
Hell Bent: sequel to Ninth House, not quite as good as the first, but still enjoyable
The Mermaid's Tale: surprisingly good, unique fantasy setting, I'd read more by the author
Thick as Thieves: seems like more of an aside from the general Thief story/setting, but still great YA fantasy
Saevus Corax Deals with the Dead: (for book club, my pick) it's K. J. Parker, of course it's excellent

In addition to actual books, I read all of the manga Berserk: it's ok some really enjoyable arcs in there, but also some pretty dull points.  unfortunate it's unfinished.

Also volumes 1-23 of One Piece: starts a little slow, and just gets better and better.

General Earwa / Re: How do the Sranc reproduce?
« on: July 21, 2023, 05:12:55 pm »
Concerning superficially similar sex organs, I assume something going on like with the spotted hyena: females have a "pseudo-penis" so they appear to be male, but there is still sexual reproduction.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: April 10, 2023, 01:16:56 pm »
Into the Narrowdark by Tad Williams (8 )
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (9)

Narrowdark is great, only hurt by the typical Williams style of it being essentially part one of the third book of a trilogy.  There is a lot of build up and a little bit of payoff, but plenty left hanging for the final book.  I was a bit unhappy, we get teased quite a bit about what the big bads are actually trying to do (Williams plays coy with mcguffin-like plots again), and it's clear what they are after by the end, but not why.  And the why is essentially left at "hey, I'm going to tell you, but the book is over now... next time."  It left a slightly frustrated taste.  While I'd still not call it necessary, the Brothers of the Wind ancillary book helped one of the threads to hit harder than it would have otherwise.  This series is a worthy successor to MS&T, if you liked that.  This series gets away from the basic hero's journey of MS&T and is much broader in the disparate threads he keeps going.

The Queen is likewise very good.  Sequel to the Thief, of course, and is again a shorter book that seems to be marketed as YA.  Even more so than its predecessor, this has subtlety and character work that is rarely found in other books called "YA."  Turner has a fairly unique style, which stands out more in this book.  There are big things happening, but she'll take a short paragraph to update on the status of a war or something, but the bulk of the story is her characters talking about and around the action.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: March 08, 2023, 01:41:44 pm »
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (6)
The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley (7)

The Thief is probably YA, but doesn't have the typical feel of a YA.  It is mostly character work while a group is traveling to the thiefing target.  I liked it.  There seems to be more going on under the surface of the pretty basic plot, so I'll be at least reading the next one in the series of five.

The Loney.  A friend wanted to start up a monthly-ish book club, and this was one of his suggestions.  It's ok.  It's billed as a horror novel, complete with a Stephen King cover blurb and some awards.  I'm not sure why.  It has some creepy vibes like, "here's a strange local," or "why did the church get vandalized," or "we found a dead animal in the field."  But it all builds to absolutely nothing.  There is no payoff for any of it.  That said, the writing is good, especially the characterization.  So I guess King liked it because it also flubs the ending?

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: February 24, 2023, 01:55:44 pm »
The Great Ordeal by Bakker (2)  likely my favorite
The Unholy Consult by Bakker (3) likely my second favorite
Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison (4)
Lora Selezh by Katherine Addison (5)

Witness for the Dead was good.  Addison must get enjoyment out of using as many unpronounceable proper names as she can.  This elf-goblin society she's made is also very proper and there are titles and forms of address further muddling everything up, but it makes for a very atmospheric read.  It's not terribly long and doesn't have a typical narrative structure.  It is just several weeks in the life of a Witness for the Dead, which is kind of a half priest half detective government position.  The book has very loose ties to Goblin Emperor, and is a quicker read if you just want to taste what Addison offers.

Lora Selezh is just a short story prelude of sorts to Witness.  It gives an outisder perspective to the Witness 1st person narrator, which was interesting.  That character's view of himself seems to be at odds to how others in Witness see him, but we never get outside his pov within that book.  It's a nice little story, and yes, i'm padding my numbers.  These Addison books all have a very wholesome feel to them that is absent from much of modern fantasy.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2023
« on: January 11, 2023, 04:26:07 pm »
30 last year for me.  That also seems low from the halcyon days of no kids or other responsibilities, but I'm on the rise.  Does that mean I'm taking less responsibilities?  Maybe the kids are less demanding.

For sure (maybe) reading this coming year:
Reread of TGO and TUC
Last two of the new Osten Ard books
Books 3-5 of Ruocchio's Sun Eater series
KJ Parker short story collection out in spring some time
Muir's Locked Tomb series

But so far
Isolation by various authors (1)

Short story "horror" collection broadly around the theme of isolation.  This was actually pretty good all around.  The last horror anthology I read last year (Howls from the Dark Ages) was... amateurish and often not that good. All the stories here are good.  There is a lot of variation in how each author tackled the theme, whether physical isolation or social, emotional, spiritual (?), etc.  The best story came from Laird Barron (I read some collection of his a while back that was lovecraftian), who had a completely wild far future "true crime" kind of story.  The worst, easily, came from Ken Liu.  Surprising, because he's one of the few authors I'd heard of.  His was kind of a "what if the pandemic was the first of many" kind of thing.  It wasn't very creative or interesting.  It felt like he just wanted to make some commentary about the social and political climate of the past few years, while kind of making it a sci-fi story in the dullest way possible.
That one aside, I fully enjoyed the other stories in this collection.  Worth checking out even if only to read the Laird Barron submission.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: December 21, 2022, 01:25:36 pm »
The White-Luck Warrior by R. Scott Bakker (29)
Brothers of the Wind by Tad Williams (30)

WLW is great of course.  It makes a good case for being the best of TAE.

Brothers was great.  Another shorter background story of Osten Ard.  Takes place 1k years before MS&T and involves Ineluki (big bad from that story) and his brother hunting a dragon.  It was not the story I expected it to be.  It deals more with surviving trauma and the limits of duty than dragonslaying.  But it was a very good read.  It was fun to get some ancient fleshing out of Osten Ard and what it was like before mankind had really established itself in the area.  I have two books left in the Last King "trilogy."  I might wait a little bit to start the third since the fourth isn't coming until Nov '23.  I'm very much looking forward to it.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: December 06, 2022, 06:09:44 pm »
I keep forgetting about the Goblin Emperor sequels (I think they are only loose sequels).  I'll have to read them before I forget again.

After Tigana, there just doesn't seem to be enough fantasy in GGK's books for me.  Under Heaven might as well have been historical fiction, from what I remember.  I think the "barbarians" had some spirit magic thing going on, but even that was "maybe they have magics."  I read it when it came out 12 years ago, and haven't really desired to read GGK since, despite him being a good writer.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: November 30, 2022, 03:36:56 pm »
Hmm..  I haven't updated in a bit.

The Thousandfold Thought by R. Scott Bakker (24)
The Judging Eye by R. Scott Bakker (25)
Pulling the Wings Off Angels by K. J. Parker (26)
Empire of Grass by Tad Williams (27)
Howls from the Dark Ages ed. by P. L. McMillan (28)

Bakker doesn't need to be talked about.  The reread on discord is trucking along.  The new KJP novella was, no surprise, great.  It kind of thematically revolves around guilt and judgement, and is quite fun, humorous, and dark.

Book two in the Williams trilogy is very good.  Things are ramping up and coming together for the finale (which is in typical Williams style, so big it's split into two books).  There is a shorter prequel novel I'll read first which is thousands of years in the past starring Ineluki and his brother.  It's probably not necessary for the series, but I enjoyed the other unnecessary prequel "novella" he wrote.

Howls was fine.  It's a short story horror collection vaguely set in the dark ages.  None of the writers stood out, and the only one I'd even heard of before only wrote the introduction (Buehlman).  There were a couple good stories, but most weren't memorable.  I've got another horror anthology, Isolation, which should be better.  There are a number of authors I recognize in the list.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: September 28, 2022, 12:00:42 pm »
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay (23)

I liked this one well enough.  It was highly praised by a friend of mine, and they're making a movie sometime next year.  I figured I'd read it to see how much M. Night ends up making it worse.  About 50 pages in, I was worried the book was just going to end up being a 300 page elaborate Trolley Problem.  It ends up being more than that, but really drops the ball on some other more interesting concepts it gets close to but then ignores.  Maybe that was chosen with a view to keeping it short and quick.  What I really think is the author came up with a "wouldn't this be cool/crazy/intense!" scenario and just churned out a story without taking the time to think through some implications.

It was enjoyable to read, plenty of tense moments like any thriller.  And there is some good character work; although every pov, of which there were 7 or so, pretty much spoke with the same voice, so I never really felt like I was seeing through different peoples' eyes.  It's mostly written in present tense, which is fine I guess.  Flashbacks are in past tense.  I always feel there needs to be a good reason to choose a present tense narration, and often times it seems it's chosen just to be "different."  There was an excessive amount of unnecessary positional descriptions, like the author wanted to write a screenplay or stage directions at points.  I don't need to know the detailed layout of the cabin and positioning of everyone in a scene.

That's a lot of criticism for something I ultimately liked.  I read it in about a day.  And it should make a better movie, but....  we've seen what M. Night is capable of.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: September 21, 2022, 12:28:13 pm »
The Warrior Prophet by R. Scott Bakker (21)

Great, of course.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (22)

This is pretty standard Tad Williams fare.  Solid writing, meticulous pacing.  For those who've read MS&T, this sequel series starts slower.  It has a much broader scope than The Dragonbone Chair, which is mostly a singular pov character with occasional chapters of ancillary characters.  This one has something like 15 pov characters, which is maybe a bit much, but I trust Williams's plotting that they'll all be significant, though some don't have much of an arc in this first novel.  Williams does a great job of organically referring back to pertinent events of MS&T.  He also does well at aging up the returning characters and making it feel like they've grown/changed in the intervening 30 years, while still being recognizable to their younger selves.  While a lot happens in this book, it mostly feels like set up and establishing the pieces needed for the greater story.  Things really ramp up in the last 100 pages or so, and I look forward to the next book.

As far as the necessity of the bridging novella I read earlier this year...  probably not required to enjoy this series, but I think it helps connect better with the Norn ("bad guys") povs, which were mostly absent from MS&T.  There are several references to significant events of the novella, but you could get the gist without having read it.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: August 15, 2022, 02:17:55 pm »
Blindsight by Peter Watts (19)

I read this not long ago (2020), but I convinced a friend to read it so I audiobooked it so we could discuss.  Not bad, this was my first audiobook experience.  It was nice being able to listen while I did boring stuff at work or drove, but I don't think I'd want to multitask if it wasn't a book I was already familiar with.  In that case, I'd just read.

The Darkness that Comes Before by R. Scott Bakker (20)

For the slog reread on discord.  Really slowing down my reading of The Last King of Osten Ard "trilogy," which are massive books of course.  I'll get through it when I get through it.  The reread has been enjoyable.

Literature / Re: Yearly Reading Targets 2022
« on: July 05, 2022, 12:23:31 pm »
The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams (18 )

I read this because I intend to read his sequel Osten Ard "trilogy."  It was enjoyable, but not the top form I'm used to getting from Williams.  It's also kind of a coda to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, so the whole book being falling action from the trilogy keeps it from reaching the heights the author usually achieves.  I've been trying to decide why he felt the need to write this bridge book, and I think the main purpose of it is to introduce an inside perspective on the "bad guys" from MS&T (and presumably the following series).  There is also a little appendix here that gives kind of an origin/history of the Sithi/Norns.  I'm not sure if it has any new information (been a while since I read the trilogy), but it was good to get a refresh on the lore.

It was nice to dip my toes back into the world before I dive into the new series.  I will revisit how important I think this book is after I read further.

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip (10)

That's disappointing.  I feel like I see it on all time great lists, and planned on reading it someday.

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