Miscellaneous Chatter > Literature

Yearly Reading Targets 2023

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The P:
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.

Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Stover (2)
Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover (3)
Caine's Law by Matthew Stover (4)

Acts of Caine, on a reread, is very good. Its been a few years, I have forgotten many things, and so was still surprised by some things that happened. Each book does a great job at being different than the others, which makes it very readable. Its definitely one of my favorite series. Even the last book, which seems kind of bizarre the first time, stood out as more entertaining than it felt initially.

Sleight of Shadows by Kat Howard (5)
Not great. The first book was an entertaining read by a new author, but I felt like this sequel didn't hold up. The writing is mostly lackluster, and the pacing is completely wrong, with too much happening in too short a time to be believable. Howard writes some really fun Magic though, mysterious and magical  in the style of McKillip, which was enough to carry the first book but not enough for the sequel. I hope she writes more, she could be really fun to read if she learns to write better.

Bloodline by Will Wight (6)
Reaper by Will Wight (7)
Dreadgod by Will Wight ( 8 )
Waybound by Will Wight (9)

Welp, I finished Cradle. I reread Bloodline and then moved on to Reaper, Dreadgod, and Waybound all in a row. It was ... fine. I feel like Wight's writing skills are definitely maxed out with this series. He tries to do some things in these latter books that just don't really work great. The core cast that was around from the start had satisfactory, if entirely predictable, story arcs. The characters added later on in the series are just kind of goofy, with abrupt starts/stops before disappearing.
I preferred the first several books I think, up through the Uncrowned King tournament, which is like 6 books in or something? It kind of stagnates after that.
But its entertaining enough for what it is.

Eragon (10)

I'm rereading Inheritance by Paolini, because a new book was published. I'm primarily interested to see if the writing is improved after the huge gap, presumably after some actual writing classes, and secondly I'm wondering if its generally as bad as the internet says it is. Finished Eragon so far. Its... fine? Feels like pretty standard YA fiction. The writing is pretty basic, buts I've absolutely read worse books. Names, places, and plots are borrowed very heavily from the usual suspects, but I dont find it offensive. I like the depiction of dragons, and hopefully nostalgia will carry me through the rest.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by V. S. Villoso (11)

Unremarkable. Not much else to say. Prose is bland, plot is simple, characters are flat, world building is uninspired. It's probably supposed to be about love and betrayal, coming of age and truth bleeding the wonder of youth from the world. Maybe it is, but there's no reason to spend any time reading it as you can get the same story in about any other fantasy book you could pick off the shelf.

The P:
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.


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