Yearly Reading Targets 2021

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Wilshire

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« Reply #30 on: April 23, 2021, 02:01:21 pm »
I started the Cradle series by Will Wight
Unsouled (7)
Soulsmith (8 )
Blackflame (9)
Skysworn (10)

Each book is a pretty quick read and they all follow a similar pattern. Its a power fantasy (Wuxia?) series that follows a pretty predictable path - in a world where everyone uses magic, a kid of born unable to use magic. Something happens, the hero journy starts, learns he actually can use magic and he's special, gets the call to adventure, finds a master. Each book starts with some calamity he needs to train really hard to overcome, the book ends in a fight and a setup for the next book.

Its entertaining. Mostly just training montages, funny dialogue, and fancy fight scenes. The worldbuilding is done largely with infodumps, but its intriguing enough to want to see how it ends.

Wight seems to write 1 to 2 books a year, with the series currently having 9 books and a 10th coming out later this year. Not sure how long its supposed to go, but with the way Wight has set it up it can go on for a very long time. I'll probably read what's available - the series is currently available for free on audible (at least with my subscription) so its mostly something entertaining and easy to read to occupy my mind while I take care of the baby.
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« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2021, 03:02:03 pm »
Cradle series by Will Wight
Ghostwater (11)
Underlord (12)
Uncrowned (13)
Wintersteel (14)

Made it through book 8, and I think I'll probably stop here until the series is finished. It continues to be cheap entertainment. The dialogue is consistently funny, the fights are fun to watch, and the power progression is fun. You're not going to stretch your literary horizons with this series, but as the first 8 books are free on audible, its absolutely worth it.
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« Reply #32 on: April 30, 2021, 02:17:05 pm »
The Mirror Breaks by Ricardo Pinto (9)

This one started a little slow but picked up a lot at the end.  Things get really dark and brutal, but Pinto doesn't dwell too much on it.  We get to see some of the oddities that comprise the Commonwealth in greater detail, and learn some more about its history, which is nice.  Pinto has what is basically an appendix to the series (book by book, and even sometimes chapter specific) on his website.  Some of this is almost essential to get a picture of what is going on at times.  I think all of the books so far could benefit from more exposition, but leaving all the finer details out keeps the story moving at a good clip.
Some moments in this book bear similarity to TSA, at least superficially.  Pinto is nowhere near the level of Bakker, though.  And again, I think the series is hurt by its insistence on only one pov character.  And that character is often a side actor to the primary driving force of the plot.  I still like it enough.  One book to go.

Wilshire

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« Reply #33 on: May 04, 2021, 07:24:48 pm »
Forgot to mention these two, which I read before starting Cradle.

All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells (15)
This one kept showing up as highly recommended, both for writing and for the audiobook performance. I'd have to say it was just another underwhelming adventure - I have not had great luck with scifi this year. Is it bad? Hmm, no. But its not great either. Scifi Pinocchio story about an android, security robot, who wants to become a real boy. Goes on an adventure, discovers himself in the process, etc. etc. Audiobook performance was passable but nothing to write home about. Honestly I couldn't tell you why this gets so much praise. Its a generic setting with a generic premise, a reused plot, and mediocre writing.

The Awakened Kingdom by N K Jemisin (16)
Jemisin is an interesting writing. She can do impressive thing with prose/voice that surpasses many authors. This book was written from the POV of a newly born god growing up into a god in her own right. Its a novella set in a larger series, which I haven't read. On its own, its executed well but ultimately not something I'd recommend. There's enough talent, and an interesting enough world, to maybe suggest checking one of her The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms books, but I'd pass this particular one as an entrypoint to the greater series.

DNF: Beyond Redemption by Michael Fletcher. Got about 60% through it.
I'm having a bad run here. Another mediocre book. Overly grimdark setting that disappears into its own naval. The setting is a world where clinical insanity leads to magical powers, where the stronger the magician the crazier they are. Eventually their own delusions kill them. The characters are plain paper copies of tropes. The worn-out Veteran gone criminal, the heroic 20-something who sleeps with all bar wenches, the dramatic goth assassin/thief. This merry band of protagonists goes on some misadventures, the classic "one last score" for the Veteran trope, that goes predictably awry.

The bad guys are a group of generically evil scientists and egomaniacs abusing the "perception is reality" delusion to create a god.

The vast majority of the book is spent naval gazing. Page after page discussing meaning in a meaningful world, rehashing characters inner thoughts with their inner selves (sometimes physically manifested, but its still just inner selves), usually circling around their own insanity and how to save themselves.

I found the book tiring and depressing, with too much repetition for me to want to finish it.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2021, 07:51:25 pm by Wilshire »
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« Reply #34 on: May 05, 2021, 02:40:58 pm »
Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip (17)

Finally, a good book. McKillip is a masterful writer. Her prose is whimsical and beautiful, full of magic. Its a simple story, but told beautifully. Highly recommended if you just want some magical magic.
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« Reply #35 on: May 10, 2021, 02:44:51 pm »
The Third God by Ricardo Pinto (10)

There were portions of this book that were really good.  The beginning was very slow, and had me questioning the division of the original into 3.  The previous book had a huge, horrible, climactic battle, and the first third of this finale made me think the whole book was going to be aftermath and wrapping things up.  Thankfully things picked up.  There were some intense moments and big events, and the ending did not end up feeling too drawn out.

There were a couple points where we actually got some extended exposition.  This is, strangely, my biggest problem with the series as a whole: there is not enough exposition.  The world and culture Pinto has created is so strange and alien, and many things just get dropped on the reader without giving any ground to the why or how things are happening, it makes it hard to be invested in the story at times.  Pinto has a lot of extra notes he shares on his website, which is helpful, but even that often isn't enough.

This series goes into some dark places.  There is slaughter and atrocity aplenty, but story does not dwell on it or glorify it like a "grimdark" story would.  A number of times, I found myself thinking some scene/theme/idea had been inspired by TSA, only to remind myself that these were initially published in '99, '02, and '09.  I'd be surprised if these in any way inspired Bakker, but there are similarities.

Overall, I liked it.  The writing itself isn't amazing, but the story is good and has a very unique setting.  I'd call it Aztec, pre-historic (dinos included), with a healthy Skeksi vibe (from Dark Crystal).  I wish the gods played into it more; I always like more magic and the mythical, but this series is on the low fantasy side.

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« Reply #36 on: May 12, 2021, 02:38:13 am »
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (18)

I struggle to explain why I like this book so much. The dialogue is quirky at best, but is satisfying despite itself. The setting/worldbuilding is honestly a pretty confused mess with a bit of scifi, fantasy, detective/noir/whodunit, horror, yet it somehow manages to mesh together in a way that makes me want more. The plot of Gideon itself is mostly straightforward, but the opening kind of places you somewhere strange and the ending transports you away from the story entire into something new - yet it manages to feel cohesive.

Its weird, but its great, and I had great fun reading it a second time. Muir achieves something fantastic in her first published book, which in itself is impressive, yet her 2nd book manages to outclass and raise up this first one.

... Great things. I expect great things from Tamsyn Muir, and will await her future novels with no small amount of anticipation.
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« Reply #37 on: May 18, 2021, 12:10:46 pm »
Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor (11)

This is technically three novellas and a short story, but I won't pad my numbers.  The three novellas were conceived together, and really tell one story in 3 parts.  It's a great sci-fi story grounded in African culture.  It is not action-packed, but it has more action than I expected.  The premise is, girl from insular tribe gets accepted to galactic university and decides to attend.

I enjoyed it.  There are plenty of aliens, outer space, advanced tech, tech so advanced it might as well be magic, and mysticism.  It was refreshing reading a sci-fi from something other than a Western/Anglo-centric perspective.  The only gripe I have is the pacing of the third story.  It starts with the main conflict, then is almost entirely denouement.  It works well enough, but I found my interest waning a little in the end.

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« Reply #38 on: May 26, 2021, 07:54:18 pm »
Binti got ALOT of attention when it came out (last year?). I'm glad to heard its good from someone here
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« Reply #39 on: June 01, 2021, 04:31:44 pm »
Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu (12)

This was pretty good.  I enjoyed the desert city setting.  The characters are well drawn, if not particularly original.  There are instances of various magics and supernatural dealings, but their effect on the pov characters is secondary.  It is a good start to a series that promises to open up nicely in future books.

My only issue is that the narrative arc was kind of lacking.  We are given the main character's ultimate goal, but it is presented more as an unattainable pipe dream of hers.  The path she takes through the book seems very disconnected from the goal as such.  Things eventually come together in the end and the narrative looks to be more directed going forward.  So it very much feels like a prologue book, which isn't terrible.  I'll be reading the full series (6 books) unless things take a nose dive.

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« Reply #40 on: June 06, 2021, 07:56:22 pm »
Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb (19)

A conflicted review. I like Hobb's writing a lot, generally speaking, which includes this book. But Ship of Magic seemed to have pacing issues. It just takes too long to get to the end of the book, to the point where the entire thing feels like a prequel. This is in opposition to Assassins Apprentice, where the book feels like something great in-and-of itself while still allowing for a much greater story to unfold. So that's my major complaint. Ship of Magic feels like a book filled with sidequests and finally at the end you get to where you wanted to be all along.

« Last Edit: June 08, 2021, 10:57:00 pm by Wilshire »
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« Reply #41 on: June 08, 2021, 11:06:25 pm »
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (20)

Now there's a great book. GGK did something amazing with A Brightness Long Ago. The first book I read by him was Tigana, and while quite good,  it doesn't hold a candle to A Brightness Long ago. The pacing is wonderful, actions and consequences piled up without feeling rushed. The way he tells the story through a series of flashbacks and mixed POVs is crisp, unique, and refreshingly. The whole book feels like a brilliantly connected series of short stories, just long enough to make you feel something profound but not so long as to get mired in the telling. You skip lightly across the surface of the world, catching glimpses of the depths beneath.

The way the story is told, maybe even more so than the story being told, is what turns this book into something magnificent.

And who doesn't love a quote about books inside a book:
Quote
So many stories can be told, in and around and braided through the one we are being given. Don’t we all know that stories can be sparks leaping from the bonfire of an offered tale to become their own fire, if they land on the right ground, if kindling is there and a light breeze but not a hard wind?

Someone is deciding what to tell us. What to add, what not to share at all or when (and how) to reveal a thing. We know this, even as we picture in our minds another young man, a tailor’s son from Seressa, remembering a spring ride, how we used to like to sing…

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of an artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Loved it.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2021, 12:46:02 pm by Wilshire »
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« Reply #42 on: June 11, 2021, 01:31:19 am »
A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (20)

Now there's a great book. GGK did something amazing with A Brightness Long Ago. The first book I read by him was Tigana, and while quite good,  it doesn't hold a candle to A Brightness Long ago. The pacing is wonderful, actions and consequences piled up without feeling rushed. The way he tells the story through a series of flashbacks and mixed POVs is crisp, unique, and refreshingly. The whole book feels like a brilliantly connected series of short stories, just long enough to make you feel something profound but not so long as to get mired in the telling. You skip lightly across the surface of the world, catches glimpses of the depths beneath.

The way the story is told, maybe even more so than the story being told, is what turns this book into something magnificent.

And who doesn't love a quote about books inside a book:
Quote
So many stories can be told, in and around and braided through the one we are being given. Don’t we all know that stories can be sparks leaping from the bonfire of an offered tale to become their own fire, if they land on the right ground, if kindling is there and a light breeze but not a hard wind?

Someone is deciding what to tell us. What to add, what not to share at all or when (and how) to reveal a thing. We know this, even as we picture in our minds another young man, a tailor’s son from Seressa, remembering a spring ride, how we used to like to sing…

We want to sink into the tale, leave our own lives behind, find lives to encounter even to enter for a time. We can resist being reminded of an artificer, the craft. We want to be immersed, lost, not remember what it is we are doing, having done to us, as we turn pages, look at a painting, hear a song, watch a dance.

Still, that is what is being done to us. It is.

Loved it.

Damn. I suppose I know what I'm reading after Leadership, Strategy, and Tactics.
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Wilshire

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« Reply #43 on: June 18, 2021, 03:45:26 pm »
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (21)
I'd have to say I was impressed by this one, though admittedly because it was written in '86 which makes it stand out against its peers. Bujold actually wrote and published some scifi in the 80's that wasn't strictly a futurist vision with characters built to explore the setting, though the 80's aren't quite as egregious as earlier decades... There was actual characterization, good prose, amusing dialogue.

Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (22)
This one was less impressive from a prose standpoint. It was the first book published in the series (Falling Free is first chronological but was written a few years later), and imo it shows.

Overall I was mostly underwhelmed. Bujold is a good writer, and I can see why the Vorkosigan saga was popular at the time and decades later. But today I'd say it falls more toward good than great. I don't see myself reading the other 20ish books in the series - there's just better alternatives now. I got these two for free from audible so no harm done, though I am glad I didn't have to pay for them.
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