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Books Read 2020

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Hipolito
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Hipolito »

The Wheel of Time, Book 4: The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (audiobook): There is a lot of great stuff here. The history of the Aiel, told in reverse chronology, is one of the most poignant chapters in the series so far. We meet the Atha'an Miere who live their entire lives at sea. We return to Two Rivers for the first time since Book 1 and witness much character growth there. We finally enjoy some romance and even a bit of humor, with hijinks in Tanchico and a Warder telling a dad joke. But so much of the book is boring. People stand around and bitterly gripe about prophecies and visions. The Aiel wise women are just as tiresome and catty as the Aes Sedai. The unnecessary details are suffocating; do we have to know the name of every innkeeper and stableboy? And I haven't even reached the dreaded "slog" in the series yet. 5 out of 8 Taraboners.
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Redfive
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Redfive »

I can only listen to audio books these days as I immediately start falling asleep any time I try to read a real book.

I just finished Tiamat's Wrath the final book of The Expanse.

Spoiler: If you don't want to know what happens well past the point of the show don't read.
Spoiler:
I was genuinely pissed with what happened to Amos on Laconia--thought it was a terrible way for that character to go. That being said, I wasn't surprised with how that turned out either given what we the readers knew about the repair drones.

And holy shit, the last line of the book was a gut punch.
EDIT: I guess Book 8 is not the final book. It looks like there is at least one more still unnamed that is being written.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by WYBaugh »

Redfive wrote:
Mon Jun 22, 2020 5:25 pm
I can only listen to audio books these days as I immediately start falling asleep any time I try to read a real book.

I just finished Tiamat's Wrath the final book of The Expanse.

EDIT: I guess Book 8 is not the final book. It looks like there is at least one more still unnamed that is being written.
You made me do a double take. Thought I had missed the last book. This was a great book though.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Rumpy »

Rumpy wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 5:28 pm
ImLawBoy wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 4:33 pm
Rumpy wrote:
Thu Jun 11, 2020 3:43 pm
I just finished up The Andromeda Strain and just started The Andromeda Evolution, a sequel written 50 years later.
To be clear, it's a sequel written by a different author (Daniel Wilson) despite having Crichton's name plastered on it.
Yes, I should have mentioned that, but felt it was obvious enough it wasn't actually a lost manuscript or something like that :D That said, it seems to be done fairly well as far as I can tell. It doesn't feel like a simple cash grab, but something that's had some actual thought put into it.
Ok, so I finished this today and holy shit, it's a great sequel. Daniel Wilson does a great job capturing Crichton's voice and style, and feels like something would have written himself if we were around to write a sequel. There's a revelation/twist towards the end over one of the characters that ties it directly back into the original events in the first novel. I never saw it coming, but it makes great sense, and overall, I found it quite satisfying. It even leaves it open for a possible 3rd one. This sequel easily deserves to sit alongside the original, which is no mean feat. It's a really good sequel!
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

simultaneously reading a lot of books right now because i feel like it (also throwing in titles to finish SPL summer book bingo by September - i'm going for 'black-out' if at all possible):

Ocean Vuong - Night Sky with Exit Wounds

Christopher Kul-Want and Andrzej Klimowski - Introducing Kant

Erin Morgenstern - The Night Circus

Anonymous, Elias Lönnrot - The Kalevala

Elizabeth George Speare - The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Ambrose Bierce - Ghost and Horror Stories

Emmuska Orczy - The Scarlet Pimpernel

Samuel R. Delany - Tales of Nevèrÿon


also just finished Kim Gordon's memoir Girl in a Band and Lawrence Ferlinghetti's A Coney Island of the Mind: Poems

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

apparently there are a fair number of free 'classics' eBooks uploaded on amazon that, for some reason, have been translated to another language, then back to English again. a copy of Emily Bronte's _Wuthering Heights_ i received from there had a title page of _Blurry Summits_

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Re: Books Read 2020

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I just finished The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington, the first book in The Licanus Trilogy. Fortunately all three books are out so I can keep reading as I see fit. This is good stuff, with comparisons to Robert Jordan, but I think I prefer this to the braid puller. There is some coming of age content, but I would not consider it YA. It has a good magic system without being overly complex. I give it 7/8 tentacles.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (in hard cover). This book is set in New York City in the period between the dot com crash of 2000 or so until shortly after 9/11. Maxine is a private fraud investigator who happens to know some of the folks involved in the tech scene, including the creators of the Deep Web program DarkArcher and Gabriel Ice, who has emerged from the dot com chaos as the king of the pile and a billionaire. When someone approaches her asking her to look into Ice's finances, she starts to uncover some troubling issues related to the Middle East and . . . well, it's Pynchon, so it's not easy to explain in a quick summary.

I kind of see this as a companion piece to Inherent Vice, which is about a slacker West Coast private investigator. Whereas Inherent Vice features a Big Lebowski "The Dude" type as its lead, Maxine is a more stereotypical Jewish mother East Coaster. In fact, Pynchon leans heavily on stereotypes in Bleeding Edge, although that's occasionally used to trick the reader into thinking they know what's coming. With Pynchon, you rarely know what's coming. I mentioned previously that this was light for a Pynchon book, but it does get a bit heavier toward the end. It's pretty enjoyable overall, and it's littered with references to the early 2000s era internet and gaming scenes (including Daikatana, Deus Ex, and Halo). It also contains Pynchon's trademark absurd character names (one of my favorites was Vyrva McElmo). If you like this kind of stuff, I'd recommend the book.

Up next is a bit of a cheat. I ordered James Ellroy's latest novel This Storm, and while I'm waiting for it to come in (I actually just got the call from the bookstore that I can curbside pick it up tomorrow!), I'm finishing up Destination: Morgue! by Ellroy, which I started years ago but never finished. It's a collection of essays and a few novellas, and I never read the last novella. I'm reading it now, and it takes Ellroy's signature super-racist, horrible people LA cops and puts them in the 2000s. I'm also getting close to finishing Point B by Drew Magary as my current eBook.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Scuzz »

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

A few years ago on another forum there was a discussion about Russia during WW2 and Stalin and I asked if anyone had a book to recommend. I have read many books on WW2, Churchill, FDR, Eisenhower etc but really nothing on Russia or Stalin. Anyway this book was recommended and so I have finally got around to reading it. The book starts a little slow, so many Russian names and so many different names for each person mentioned. I think in the first 50 pages we probably get half a dozen different names for Stalin alone.

It is less a book about Russia, or WW2 and more a book about Stalin's managerial style, shall we say. It isn't a biography, as it basically just covers Stalin as head of the Soviet Union, from the mid-20's until his death. And his managerial style was smothering. It was based on controlled, and often uncontrolled terror, and on the likes and dislikes of a man who grew senile after WW2. According to the author, who got his info from Soviet Archives opened in the 90's, and from interviews and various memoirs, Stalin authorized the killing of perhaps as many as 2omillion people, the deportation of another 28 million with as many as 18 million sent to the Gulags. They actually had quotas for how many were to be killed and deported from certain areas. Stalin believed the terror of the masses was good for the future of communism.

An amazing thing about that, to me at least, is that the terror killings extended to members of Stalin's family, to members of his inner circle and to their wives and families. In the 50's he went after the Jews.

I would recommend this if you wan to learn about the atrocities of Stalin and his compatriots. But as a history of the times it is lacking.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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hitbyambulance wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:01 pm
apparently there are a fair number of free 'classics' eBooks uploaded on amazon that, for some reason, have been translated to another language, then back to English again. a copy of Emily Bronte's _Wuthering Heights_ i received from there had a title page of _Blurry Summits_
Someone may have bee using them to launder money if it's not free.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by hitbyambulance »

Ambrose Bierce - Ghost and Horror Stories of Ambrose Bierce : this short story collection was truly a curate's egg and my feelings during reading ranged from irritable impatience to bowled-over astonishment - within are some leaden clunkers, a few wooden plodders, a selection of dated conceits and a scattering of outright ludicrous eye-rollers, mixed with many amusing anecdotes, clusters of clever writing, a talent for setting the scene and mood, a number of genuinely haunting pieces, occasional elegiac meditations on mortality, a tragic tale on the human cost of racism (that i described here) and one hypnagogic stunner that has deservedly secured its place in the history of all-time greatest American short story writing.

Bierce is at his best when relating abnormal mental/psychological states - he seems to have truly lived it. the introduction to this collection is highly critical of Bierce (and both his talents and his character are fair piñata for the stick) and might well be the most unflattering author intro i've ever read, but it helps to construct a portrait of a complex and quite possibly tortured individual.

as this collection originally came out in the 1960s, i would like to see an updated compilation with the dross picked out and perhaps updated with unfairly overlooked stories, if there are any.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Jaddison »

I want to recommend to those who like military sci-fi the Ember War series by Richard Fox and the Terran Armor Corps series by the same author. Terran Armor corps is the closes thing I have read to Starship Troopers. The two series are in the same universe with Ember War being first. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the characters, the politics and the twists and turns. I am now on the third series Terran Strike Marines. These are available as audio books as well.

I haven't blitzed through a series like this in a while and haven't grown tired of it yet. If you have kindle unlimited every book is free. I think the author is offering a free download of the first book in Ember Wars for free as well
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Re: Books Read 2020

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The Burning, Book 1: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (ebook + audiobook): This is the rare fantasy novel to be inspired by African culture. Its hero, Tau Solarin, is short in stature and not a fighter by nature. But cruel circumstances drive him to become the best warrior he can be. His people, the militaristic Omehi, have a fascinating caste system, history, and magic system. Even their units of measurement for time and formation size are cool little details.

The first half of the book is about Tau's development as a soldier, often with blow-by-blow descriptions of fights. I generally don't find martial minutae very interesting, but the author writes it well, taking into account the force and angle of impact, as well as the combatants' fatigue, speed, agility, and sense of balance. It's the second half of the book, full of secrets that dramatically alter and enrich the story, that really blew me away.

I read the ebook while listening to the audiobook. Although this is a slow way to read, it helped me stay focused on the story and learn its vernacular. The narrator, Prentice Onayemi, has a soft intensity and is great at giving characters distinct personalities and accents.

I look forward to the sequel that's expected to come out in November. 6 out of 8 cups of masmas.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished Destination: Morgue! by James Ellroy. As mentioned previously, this is a cheat because I only read the last novella (I read the rest of the book some years ago). The last novella is called Jungletown Jihad, and the racist language only escalates from there. It's written as a first person account of an LAPD detective who is investigating a cold case that may or may not be related to potential terrorism. It's more modern than most of Ellroy's stuff, and the cop is more racist than most of Ellroy's cops (which is saying something, as his cops are almost always pretty racist). This cop patterns his writing style after Hollywood tabloids, so alliteration follows fast and furious. I think the book as a whole was pretty decent, but I didn't enjoy the last novella as much as usually enjoy Ellroy's stuff.

Speaking of, up next is This Storm by James Ellroy. This is book two of Ellroy's second LA Quartet (the first quartet consisting of Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz; the first book of the second quartet is Perfidia). The first quartet was set in the 1940s-1950s, while this quartet precedes it in the early 1940s during World War II.
Hipolito wrote:
Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:22 pm
The Burning, Book 1: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (ebook + audiobook): This is the rare fantasy novel to be inspired by African culture.
Have you checked out Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James? I thought it was amazing and am looking forward to the sequels.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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ImLawBoy wrote:
Mon Jul 06, 2020 4:39 pm
Hipolito wrote:
Sun Jul 05, 2020 2:22 pm
The Burning, Book 1: The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter (ebook + audiobook): This is the rare fantasy novel to be inspired by African culture.
Have you checked out Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James? I thought it was amazing and am looking forward to the sequels.
Interesting, thanks for the recommendation! I also plan to check out the Thomas Pynchon books you recently wrote about.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Finished Point B - A Teleportation Love Story by Drew Magary on Kindle. I had high hopes for this coming on the heels of The Hike by Magary. Magary is most well known as a sports blogger (late of Deadspin) and online provocateur, so The Hike surprised me by being a surreal epic journey of man trying to return to his family with the help of a talking crab. Point B is entertaining, but it doesn't reach the heights of The Hike. It's set in the near future of 2030. In about 2024 or so, a company developed not just the technology behind teleportation, but the ability to put that technology into the hands of everyone. Goodbye iPhone, hello PortPhone. People can transport "You Plus 2", meaning their bodies plus up to 2kg of non-organic material (like I'm supposed to believe Americans are going to willingly go metric?). This has absolutely revolutionized the world - trains, planes, and automobiles are now only needed for material transport, so global warming is receding. People have virtually unlimited freedom to move about, impeded only by port walls (think firewalls for porting) and governments. That's the darkside, though. America is cracking down severely on port migrants (PINE is like an even more cartoonishly evil version of ICE), and large swathes of urban locations are now undesirable and falling into decay. The Kirsch family owns PortSys and closely guards porting technology, led by matriarch Emilia and Chief Creative Officer Jason.

Point B tells the story of Anna Huff, who is a poor girl who lucked into a scholarship at Druskin Academy, an old school prep school that has an infamously strong port wall (plus a really big brick wall) and does not permit porting on campus. As fate would have it, Anna is assigned to be roommates with Lara Kirsch, the youngest daughter of Emilia. She falls deeply, madly, instantaneously in love with Lara. The rebellious Lara doesn't last long at Druskin, though. As the book progresses, we learn the dark secrets of the Kirsch family as Anna and her friends try to take them down (while also trying to reunite with Lara).

It's a fun story, but Magary lays the anti-corporate stuff on pretty thick (which isn't surprising if you keep up with him). The bad guys are almost cartoon level evil, and the characters all around could have used more background and depth. Still a fun read, though.

Up next in ebook format is A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James. This is the same author who wrote Black Leopard, Red Wolf that I just mentioned. This book is a fictionalized telling of what happened to the seven would-be assassins who tried to kill Bob Marley at one point in the 1970s (at least, that's what I think it's about). It's not so brief at 688 pages, so it may take a while to get through this one.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Eel Snave »

I read Voices From Chernobyl this year. The thing that strikes me is how the people who lived through it made jokes about it. Like, "Here are some apples from Chernobyl! Give them to your mother-in-law!"

One of the most devastating things is how people would flee violence in places like Krygyzstan (sp?) and settle in the Chernobyl exclusion zone because, while there was radiation and they were probably going to get cancer at some point, at least no one was shooting at them and they could live in peace.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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I recently read a book about Stalin and the 30s-50s of the Soviet Union and you get the feeling that there are groups of people in Russia who have been abused for centuries and just have learned to live with the crap they get in life.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Murder the March Hare by H. Lyall (ebook, LibraryThing Early Review): Teenagers in a psychiatric hospital launch their own investigation when one of them is found dead. They have to struggle with the hospital staff and their own delusions to find answers. It's like The Breakfast Club meets One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It's a decent story overall with compassion for mental illness sufferers and observations on how trauma can shatter the mind. But the book feels a bit too long and some of the POV characters (particularly Tia and Kelly) aren't as fleshed out as the others. The ending is not completely satisfying, but that fits one of the book's themes: you have to move on even when you can't get all the answers you want. 4 out of 8 imaginary cartoon squirrels.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by stessier »

I'm almost done Book 3 of the Expanse series. I think I started the first one around April and I'm really enjoying them. Would highly recommend.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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stessier wrote:I'm almost done Book 3 of the Expanse series. I think I started the first one around April and I'm really enjoying them. Would highly recommend.
Just wait...next book is an interesting deviation from the norm, then the story really takes off in amazing directions for the rest. It's one hell of a ride.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobbs

This is book 3 of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy. This was a damn good book. Hobb's is a little wordy, as always, but by now the characters are so flashed out that if you are still reading them it is because you love the characters and the world they live in. Hobb's takes us thru a tour of the world as the books heroes quest to a faraway land to do what they all know must be done. I don't want to spoil anything so I am being kind of vague. All the action in the previous books becomes more clear as we learn why some things happened. And the ending is about as gut wrenching as I have read in this type book.

I don't know if this is my last trip to this world, although I missed one series and so will probably go back and read that now, but it has been a great ride.

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Re: Books Read 2020

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Have you ever bought a book you've already read? I have done it twice now. They make decent gifts I guess.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Scuzz »

Jaymann wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:39 pm
Have you ever bought a book you've already read? I have done it twice now. They make decent gifts I guess.
My wife started doing that. My daughter helped her put her list of books on some phone ap a few years ago so it doesn't happen again.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Rumpy »

Anyone with any sense should avoid reading Thrawn: Alliances. I made that mistake recently. I liked the previous one about his rise to the top, but this one is just utterly pointless. It has Thrawn joining Vader on a Holmes/Watson type of mystery/adventure, only the dynamic never works. Thrawn acts smart and Vader pouts. In the previous book, there's a line that's referred to twice, where Thrawn mentions he'd met General Skywalker in the Clone Wars. In this book, we see this meeting between Anakin and Thrawn trying to save Padme at a super secret droid factory on a moon of Batuu. Yes, that same world that was created for Disney's parks. The story flips back and forth between Clone Wars era and OT era, both of them set on the same two locations, and it mainly feels like soulless advertising for their park. It was a terrible and pointless story.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Hipolito »

Image

Dark Harvest by Cat Sparks (ebook, LibraryThing Early Review): a collection of the author's postapocalyptic short stories. She has neat ideas and an eye for culture. Also, her characters are often middle-aged or elderly women, who typically don't get the spotlight in other tales. But she rarely ends her stories properly, preferring to just leave an impression or even a postscript explaining her intended message. The occasional non-ending can be cool, but most stories shouldn't leave the reader asking "that's it?"

Overall rating: 3 guns out of 8. Below are my thoughts on each story.
  1. Hot Rods: I like the Elvis-impersonating preacher who, if you pay him enough, will fly a crop duster and persuade God to make it rain. But Ms. Sparks describes the action too haphazardly. Her sentences often lack clear subjects and are overloaded with strained analogies. It's hard to follow what's going on. One of my favorite authors, William Gibson, sometimes writes like this. But he always puts something grounded in every sentence, something I can latch onto even when things seem alien. With Mr. Gibson, I always have the gist of what's going on. Not so with Sparks.
  2. Cassini Falling: An assassin on a cruise ship looks forward to retirement after this one last job. Has a good ending, but the same unclear writing problem as the first story.
  3. Hacking Santorini: An 88-minute war fragmented the world's electronic records, making all written records, even postcards, ultra-valuable. That's a cool lore detail for an otherwise flabbergasting story.
  4. Dragon Girl: the first story that I could understand, and which has strong characters. But this tale about a girl who falls in with a desert-wandering tribe doesn't have an ending. It turns out to be a side story for the author's novel, Lotus Blue. I might actually check that out someday.
  5. You Will Remember Who You Were: I really liked the main character: an elderly self-centered art snob who lives in an arcology and is obsessed with finding out whether the graffiti attack that ruined her performance was a posthumous prank by Bansky. She's preciously annoying and ignorant, but also curious about the artistic implications of everything around her. No ending except for the author's explanation that it's a message about climate change.
  6. Fate Morgana: an elderly woman rides the desert in a talking mech. I found it fascinating that sufficiently sophisticated AIs would learn to be just as passive-aggressive as humans. It's an alright story, though I'm puzzled and dissatisfied by the ending. And I don't like being asked to believe that a mech twice the height of a human can transform into something the size and shape of a human.
  7. Before Dominica: finally, a story with a reasonable ending. A decent, if not memorable, tale about an impoverished middle-aged waitress who pines for her friend who had disappeared while trying to move up in the oppressive new government.
  8. The Seventh Relic: I had to re-read the first part as the writing style had the same problem as the first three stories. But one re-read made the premise clear, and it's a good one despite being horror instead of postapocalyptic. A Buddhist monk has, for 1,300 years, kept the soul of her lover alive by feeding spiritual energy to a monster. But she sees a chance to break the curse when a vapid white American girl visits the monastery. Unfortunately, the story ends just when things are getting really good.
  9. And the Ship Sails On: the longest and best story, full of adventure and terror. A luxury cruise ship has roamed the plastic-filled seas for years in search of habitable land. The rich people on board try to maintain their privilege and exclusivity, even though a good part of the ship is so overgrown with weeds that you can have a legitimate safari in it. The author includes some interesting details on how the ship can stay in operation for so long and what society is like on board. The ending, though ... I guess it's meant to be allegorical instead of literal. Like the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Speaking of movies, I'd like to see the Fellini film that inspired the title.
  10. Jericho Blush: scavengers loot a hastily abandoned town and get more than they bargained for. A decent story with a proper ending.
  11. No Fat Chicks: fat-shaming douchebros cope in a world where a viral infection has made most women obese. Good dialogue, introspective look into the stunted psychology of many men. Ends abruptly and ambiguously when things are getting good.
  12. Veterans Day: street urchin finds out firsthand the truth about the city's virgin sacrifice ritual. Too brief and insubstantial.
  13. Dark Harvest: mercenaries try to evacuate a planet they plundered, contending with the mysterious natives. Pretty cool revelation at the end.
  14. Prayers to Broken Stone: a series of loosely connected stories about tradecraft. I like the first and last ones.

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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Redfive »

disarm wrote:
Mon Jul 20, 2020 5:04 pm
stessier wrote:I'm almost done Book 3 of the Expanse series. I think I started the first one around April and I'm really enjoying them. Would highly recommend.
Just wait...next book is an interesting deviation from the norm, then the story really takes off in amazing directions for the rest. It's one hell of a ride.
Yes, without deviating into spoilers, the story of everything after book 3 looks quite different from what has been seen up to this point for TV watchers only.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by Redfive »

Jaymann wrote:
Thu Jul 30, 2020 2:39 pm
Have you ever bought a book you've already read? I have done it twice now. They make decent gifts I guess.
My wife has done it more than once. I find it hard to believe but she will often have to read the first few pages to see if she has read it before.
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Re: Books Read 2020

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Continuing to listen to books via Audible as that is the only way any 'reading' is getting done.

After finishing The Expanse I decided on a whim to pick up The Eye of the World. I'll finish book 2 The Great Hunt today and I'm really enjoying it. There is something to be said for having a talented reader (readers in this case) perform. It puts a new spin on the words that was not necessarily there when I read them myself.
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Re: Books Read 2020

Post by coopasonic »

About 70% through The New Jim Crow. I really need to get back to reading fiction. Reality is depressing.
-Coop

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