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So What Have you Read Lately? And other favorite books!

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Just finished Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Prey. It feels very much like Cornwell was looking for any gap in Sharpe's history into which he could cram a novel, since money is good. (I don't have an inherent problem with this, btw.)

 

The history was very interesting; Cornwell does good research and tells the history well. The character moments were a bit rote, not least because this is the book before Sharpe's Rifles, so anyone who started with the first book written will probably know a fair bit about how it has to end.

 

If you're a Cornwell or Sharpe fan, I'd recommend it. If not, I'd recommend starting the series elsewhere. And I would very much recommend reading the series if you like historical military fiction. It's among the best around.

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I read "The Skill of Our Hands" which is a sequel to "The Incrementalists" by Steven Brust and Skylar White. 

 

General premise is that there is a group that contains the memories of all of history, and can sometimes use that knowledge to nudge events going on to be better than they otherwise would be. Each member is still constrained by being human though, personality flaws and all. 

 

It is a different sort of book than I usually read, but Steven Brust is amazing so I gave those books a whirl. They're odd but enjoyable. 

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Just started reading Destroyermen #11 Blood in the Water. It's a series about an out of date WW2 US destroyer that gets sucked into an alternate Earth along with a Japanese cruiser they are fighting. The 2 main species on this new earth are small tyrannosaurs (bad guys) and giant lemurs (good guys). Many battles and many books but it's held my interest for quite a long time.

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I started reading Fear Familiar by Carolyn Haines... stopped about two pages in.

 

I have no idea whether it is a good book or not, I just know that I will enjoy it more reading it aloud to Megan - one of the characters is meant to be read aloud, in a Humphrey Bogart voice.... (The cat, schweetheart.)

 

***

 

Not the only book I have stopped reading early in, intending to come back - I started reading Slanted Jack by Mark Van Name when I was really in a mood for military science fiction.

 

The main character is a mercenary, with his own APC, and nanites lacing his blood - capable of incredible martial feats...

 

But the book itself is a caper - about him being part of a two man con game.... (Read it later - and it was a really fun book - just not military science fiction....) There are other books in the series that are military science fiction, just not that one. 

 

The Auld Grump

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Finally read the last four parts of the Serpent's Skull AP after starting it last year. Kind of a drag through most of it. Too focused on a location and doing the same thing over and over.

 

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Nice collection of stories centered around characters in West Virginia.

 

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Sutter's second novel following Salim, an "atheist" turned inquisition in the service of the goddess of death. An improvement in quality of writing over the first book; Sutter obviously had been growing as a writer between efforts, which is nice to see.

 

The premise is interesting enough: Souls are going missing. Salim must discover the where and why. In typical Pathfinder fashion, perhaps, the scenery along the way is better defined than the action. Locations and characters receive a lot of attention, but the investigation unfortunately stumbles along from spot to spot until the conclusion is reached in rather inorganic fashion.

 

Too long. Episodic. But I enjoyed it well enough. I enjoy reading Salim's dialogue in the voice of the desert warrior dude from the Mummy movies (aka the gigolo from Deuce Bigelow).

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Reread Dark Tide - possibly the best account of the Boston molasses flood of 1919.

 

Sounds funny, but really, really wasn't.

 

Picture 2.3 million gallons of molasses moving at 35 miles per hour.

 

It swept trains off their tracks, buildings off of their foundations, and killed about two dozen people, including a ten year old girl and boy.

 

Caused by a truly horrible lack of foresight and supervision.

 

The tank was planned by an accountant that could not even read blueprints, and built by a contractor that did not even meet the insufficient specifications that the plans called for.

 

The tests for tank were never performed, as it was deemed too expensive and unnecessary, since it was a tank, not a building.

 

And it was built in a residential area.

 

When the company's attention was called to the numerous leaks on the tank, their response was to paint it brown, so the leaks would not be as obvious.

 

Then, in January of 1919, the tank - fifty feet high, and ninety feet in diameter - burst.

 

Great book, I highly recommend it.

 

When I was a kid in Boston, people would say that on hot, humid days, you could still smell the molasses, from where it had soaked under the cobblestones.

 

The Auld Grump

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2 hours ago, TheAuldGrump said:

When I was a kid in Boston, people would say that on hot, humid days, you could still smell the molasses, from where it had soaked under the cobblestones.

I worked for five years a block from where it went up. I never smelled mollases on those days, just the stench of evaporated canine urine.

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This would have been around 1968 or so - a bit less than forty years after the tank collapsed.

 

The power of suggestion is strong, in regards to olfactory cues.

 

The Auld Grump

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Currently reading Make the Bread, Buy the Butter... it's a cookbook with some biographical stories

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Just finished the audiobook version of Frederick Forsyth's The Dogs of War. I originally read the paper version many years ago, probably within 5 years of its original publication and remembered as having been good.

 

I was surprised to find that it was significantly better than I remembered it. Excellent evocation of a subculture, very strong plot, nicely handled ending that I'll not say more about. The characters are a bit flat, but the research is very good. The book has almost a journalistic feel that some might find off-putting, but that I thought works particularly well for the story being told.

 

Highly recommended as long as long stretches of description of the mechanics of mercenary operations in the 1970s sound like a good thing.

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Going to start reading Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. I was a kid when it came out but I never got around to reading it at the time. Found it at the library recently so I shall soon fix that.

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Decided to read some "classic" scifi/fantasy suggestions. Just finished Neil Gaiman's American Gods. It was decent but not the best thing ever. Also read Alfred Bester The Stars Our Destination. Not sure what to say about it. Strange premise, strange ending but interesting enough.

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Have finished reading Cairo in the War, 1939-1945 by Artemis Cooper, a history book.

 

This is an at times amazingly gossipy history told almost exclusively from the British perspective, with some occasionally biting wit. I feel like the author had access to some pretty private records, possibly diaries, as well as the usual newspapers, government records, small-press poetry magazines, etc.

 

I may want to get my hands on some Egyptian perspectives on the war as well.

 

It was interesting to run across a young Anwar Sadat as a radio technician called in by a couple of comically inept German spies.  Also, Evelyn Waugh seems to be pretty universally unlikeable. 

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Just reread Emma by Jane Austin.  I kinda forgot just how tedious some of it is, but it still manages to interesting.

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