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

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The saddest part of the last Star Wars movies is that they had a FANTASTIC storyline of book to draw from. Even if they just did the XWing series or Thrawn, would have been far better than the drivel of these last two movies. It makes me very sad as I saw the original Star Wars when it was out for two weeks and have loved the series.



And Han DID shoot first!

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Claire-Louise Bennett's Pond. Collection of interlinked stories revolving around the reflections of a woman living at an isolated Irish cottage. Beside a pond. Stories are very introspective, tend to meander, and have a voice that's smooth and almost hypnotic, if a bit too given to the faux-folksy talking-to-myself routine. Kind of one-dimensional--hits the same note a lot and kind of makes things run together.




Carmen Maria Machado's Her Body and Other Parties. Collection of stories centered around women, lot of emphasis on sex and bodies. Stories spend a lot of time in that space between the more traditional literary and magical. The writing is skillful and clever but perhaps too clever; too often the fantastic elements of the story seem to derail the tension of the stories, providing an escape hatch that allows the real issues, the drama, to be obscured or avoided altogether. I found it pretty tedious, ultimately.





Eric Puchner's Music Through The Floor. Solid collection of stories. Real breath of fresh air for me. Some lulls here and there, stories perhaps run a bit too long at times, but stellar at its best moments. Strong sense of narrative, driven by characters' wants and actions. Funny and poignant. Highlights: A man adrift takes a job caring for special-needs adults in "Children of God"; a girl recounts a love triangle in a high-school essay in "Essay #3: Leda and the Swan"; on Halloween boys seek their place in the social hierarchy in "Child's Play"; a boy and his father visit an aquarium shop in "Neon Tetra"; a couple vacations in Mexico in "Legends"; children plot to win back their wayward mother's love when she visits her floundering family in "Animals Here Below." And an adult ESL teacher grapples with his students' struggles and successes in "Mission."

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Blessings on those that know my taste in books.


Grump sent me Magic and the Shinigami Detective.


It has the least surprising surprise romance in the history of unsurprising romance.


The two main characters send notes to each other in the chapter headings! ::D: It reminded me of the messages Grump and I leave for each other.


And it completely skipped that whole stage of awkward misunderstandings. Each figured out early on that the other was competent. Judging each other with eyes wide open.


A nice police procedural in a steampunk fantasy setting, an easy 4 out of 5.

Edited by PaganMegan
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I got Grump to read the first part of the next book in the series for me. ::):


When a car bomb goes off I asked him how much explosive would have been used, because it was enough to kill the driver and wreck the car, but not blow it all over the place.


He said one stick, and it turned out he was right.


Then he told me it reminded him of a case in Famous Crimes the World Forgot.


So, I finished the book today, and got to the afterword, where the author says SHE got the car bombing from a case in Famous Crimes the World Forgot.:huh:


Guess what book I am reading next? There's gotta be things I can swipe in there!


  • The book I just finished was Charms and Death and Explosions (oh my!) And it was thoroughly enjoyable. I just wish that the heroine and the hero would jump into the sack already. I swear, the hero is denser than Grump on that. <_<

We already have Famous Crimes the World Forgot on the Kindle, downloading it now. ::):

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Famous Crimes the World Forgot is, indeed, an excellent resource, the second book is longer and more detailed.


Jason Lucky Morrow is on my list at Amazon.


Given that  Charms & Death & Explosions triggered my memory of FCtWF it is likely that the author borrowed a line or so for her description of the explosion.


The original crime was a tragedy of errors.


The Auld Grump


*EDIT* Coming back to edit and expand, several hours later, because I was on The Worst Internet In The World. <_<


The case is in Vol. 2 of FCtWF - the death of Helen Weaver Harris. 1955.

Edited by TheAuldGrump
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Just finished some non-fiction, Simon Sinek's 'Start With Why', about leadership.  I enjoyed it, but I liked his book 'Leaders Eat Last' more.  And I read the entire The Happiness Hypothesis 2 days ago, it was very very good. 

So the reason I am reading instead of painting or playing PC games is that I had a bad fall and banged up my knee pretty good.  Luckily no mechanical damage.  And since I am blood thinners the knee and leg is swelled up rather bad I am on strict orders to elevate my leg for the next few days.  The whole leg is also wrapped, so now I am the mummy mammy.


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I have just finished reading "Vietnam", by (Sir) Max Hastings. It stuck me as a very good book indeed, as it manages to cover both the larger geopolitical history and the "worm's eyeview" of what it was like for the people actually fighting the war. He appears (to me) to be fair in pointing out both the repeated failures in American command and the merciless inhumanity of the Vietnamese communists to their own people.


However, this is a Briton writing about someone else's war. And so far all the (very positive) reviews I have read have been written by other Brits. I do believe that it is possible (perhaps even easier) to write objectively about conflicts in which one is not involved, but I would like to hear American opinions of this book. Have any other forum members read this book? If so I'd be very interested to hear your views.

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Lara Williams's A Selfie As Big As The Ritz. Collection of stories mostly about women, just on the way out of their twenties or a bit beyond, navigating fairly standard college-educated middle-class problems. Highlights: A woman works through the holdovers of a relationship with a friend's help in "One of Those Life Things"; a woman chooses between boys in "Both Boys"; a couple's relationship grows strained when he takes a job in another town and she remains behind in "This Small Written Thing"; a woman grows old in her marriage and job in "Treats"; a woman has a encounter on a plane in "Toxic Shock Syndrome"; a woman contemplates meditation and a love affair in "Safe Spaces"; and a woman navigates parent-teacher meetings in "A Single Lady's Manual for Parent/Teacher Evening."





William Trevor's Cheating At Canasta. Collection of stories focused on everyday but significant moments in the lives of Irish folks. And I guess Brits in some cases. Tend often toward the heavy side, weighty in terms of subject matter and delivery. Introspective, unhurried, perhaps to the point of reading a little slow at times. Sometimes lays it on a bit too thick as in the To Catch A Predator-esque "An Afternoon." Highlights: A young mechanic in affected by a roadside incident in "The Dressmaker's Child"; a woman reflects on the effect of a legal incident on her life and marriage while carrying on an affair in "The Room"; a man intrudes upon another couple's life while dining abroad in his wife's honor in the title story; a girl witnesses great violence on the way home from the club in "Bravado"; a woman faces the unpleasant transformation of her family's lands in order to maintain the estate in "At Olivehill"; and a woman reflects on her husband's youthful affair in "Old Flame."




A.M. Homes's Days of Awe. Collection of stories following people through various changes and realizations and traumas in their lives. Some great stories in here; some too that seem to drone on or drag out a little aimlessly, particularly when they revolve heavily around dialogue. Highlights: An aging doctor reflects on his life spent among rich friends upon his brother's visiting in "Brother on Sunday"; a novelist tries to sort out her life partly though an encounter with a war reporter and old friend while at a conference on genocide in the title story; a woman recounts the falling apart of her marriage while at lunch with a friend in "All Is Good Except for the Rain"; a man retraces a childhood family trip to Disney Land in "The Last Good Time"; a family builds toward some mechanical end in "Omega Point"; and a young woman returns home from college to seemingly unending familial tragedy in "She Got Away."




Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You. Collection of stories that rarely lets you forget it's working hard as it can to be quirky, weird, different. Disconnected, purposefully odd characters. Obtuse. Highlights: A woman dreams of Prince William in "Majesty"; a neighbor's child mystifies in "The Boy from Lam Kien"; a woman tries to make a connection with her boss's wife in "Ten True Things"; and a relationship fizzles for a disaffected couple turned movie extras in "Mon Plaisir."

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Today’s reading:


Robert Sheckley, Dimension of Miracles: A man on Earth is selected to win the Galactic Sweepstakes, goes to Galactic Center, and wins a Prize.  Now how does he get home?


This book was recommended to me by a friend a year or two ago.  It’s a fun read and absurd.  The best comparison I have is Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Waiting for Godot.  Like I said, absurd.



Orson Scott Card, Eye for Eye: This is part of a Tor double book release with the next story.  It is a story about a young man is born with the ability to kill with his mind.  The story is better than it sounds... but not a whole lot.


I picked up this book really for the other story but... it’s here, so why not read it?  The story thankfully misses most of the tropes associated with the premise and handles the human aspect of this better than the movie Scanners (although that’s not hard).  Mr. Card is a little fixated on locations, which has always struck me as weird.  This story primarily calls out Roanoke, VA and Eden, NC, but there are other references to North Carolina geography.  (If you’ve ever read Ender’s Game, do you remember that bit where Ender takes a vacation (with Valentine, I think? — I haven’t read the book for years) to a place called Lake Jeanette?  That’s a real place.  It’s just northeast of Greensboro, NC.)



Lloyd Biggle, Jr, The Tunesmith: In a future, the only music in general consumption is advertising jingles, and the last real musician/composer on Earth wants to reintroduce music for music’s sake.


I’ve been looking forward to reading this for years...  I’m not convinced it’s as great a story as I remember being told but it’s a good story.  It’s a good example of a non-violent revolution.  It might be a little hopepunk.


The only previous work I had read of the author’s is Monument, which is a very interesting sci-fi novel.  I recommend that one to most people who ask.  (It is also one of the few books I deliberately keep a loaner copy of.)

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Just finished The Kinds of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames. The premise begins with a world much like a fairly typical D&D campaign: monsters of a variety of descriptions, corrupt kingdoms, rowdy taverns, and more heroes than grains of sand on a beach. None of which makes for a peaceful world. In this world, the daughter of a retired (and broken down by time) hero is caught in a siege by a rampaging horde of monsters.


And that hero decides to get his old adventuring band back together to rescue her.


Solid characterization with likable protagonists, interesting (if a bit chaotic) world building, entertaining (though frenetic) plotting. I would wholeheartedly recommend the book, especially for people who have played and enjoyed fantasy RPGs.


Which doesn't mean that anyone else will like it, but there you go. :B):


Note: I listened to the audio book version of this piece and was pleasantly surprised not to get the typical British reader with an RP accent. I don't have a particular problem with that style of narrator, but it gets a bit cliched after the first few dozen times.

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Glen Cook, The Dragon Never Sleeps: In a science fiction universe, immense GuardShips keep the peace in civilized space but there are conspiracies from within and without that will jeopardize the peace.


I enjoyed this book a lot, which I didn't really expect to.  It's not "high brow" science fiction by any means but it's still fun.  There's a lot going on, most of which is related, but I didn't find it confusing.  I plan to reread it in the future to mine it for ideas.



Harry Harrison, The Best of Harry Harrison: A collection of short stories written by... Harry Harrison.


I am most familiar with Mr. Harrison's work from the Stainless Steel Rat books and Bill the Galactic Hero.  He also wrote a book called Make Room! Make Room! which was turned into the movie Soylent Green.


Most of the stories are thoughtful science fiction stories.  Highlights include "The Streets of Ashkelon" (an atheist tries to prevent a missionary from preaching to aliens without religion with regrettable results), "I Always Do What Teddy Says" (in a bleak future, teddy bears are used to educate, and brainwash, children and well-meaning people modify a bear), "An Honest Day's Work" (in which a sewer cleaner is recruited to help save the world), and "Space Rats of the C.C.C." (in which two people graduate from the C.C.C. Academy and hijinks ensue).  "Brave Newer World" is an interesting story (in a future, people are dysfunctional and there are issues at a genetic guidance clinic) but it may be a little outdated for modern sensibilities.


(I've read "I Always Do What Teddy Says" before but I don't remember where.  I could swear I heard a radio show or audiobook adaptation at some point but I can't remember.)



Tomorrow's Cthulhu: An anthology of Cthulhu-ish works billed as being set at "the dawn of posthumanity" but really ranging from modern day to the edge of the technological singularity.  Available via Drive


Overall, this was hit-or-miss for me.  A lot of the stories are weird, horror-ish tales, which should be expected.  Highlights include "The Stricken" by Molly Tanzer (a zombie apocalypse tale with an old friend from Cthulhu mythos stories), "Beige Walls" by Joshua L. Hood (scientists are studying an alternate dimension unofficially called the Elder Reach, what could go wrong?), "Tekeli-li, They Cry" by AC Wise (a haunted woman goes to Antarctica to help prevent a universe-shattering disaster from occurring), "The Sky Isn't Blue" by Clinton J. Boomer (a detective visits a psychologist who specializes in alternative healing methods), "Friday Night Dance Party" by Thomas M. Reid (an artificial intelligence develops unexpected by leaps and bounds and solves a puzzle), and "The World Ends in Neon Yellow" by LA Knight (the world will end soon, a theater is performing "The King in Yellow", and one woman tries to make a difference; probably my favorite story from the collection).

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I finished the 3rd book in Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive book.  The first two were phenomenal and I eagerly read them in a short period of time because they were riveting. The third book is good, but it lacks some of the energy and excitement of the first two. Still, a very good read.


I started reading The Dinosaur Lords  by Victor Milán and I barely got 1/3rd of the way through it before I completely gave up. It is bad. Like exceedingly bad. I have never actually thrown away a book that I have purchased until this one. 


I don't know what to read now which is very depressing. I was thinking maybe reading the LOTR books again but not sure I'm up for Tolkien's writing style. 

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Hmmm... Laura Anne Gilman is getting the rights to her Cosa Nostradamus books back, and will be reissuing them.


She is one of the best plumbers in writing - and lays a lot of pipe.


And the Cosa Nostradamus books have one of the most gameable magic systems I ever saw in fiction. (Years later, discovered that she plays RPGs... so very much not a surprise. ::D: )


Any way, keep eyes open - they are are worth a read.


The Auld Grump - I read author blogs....

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I'd like to recommend the Jay Kristoff's Lotus War Trilogy series, starting with Stormdancer, then Kin Slayer, and finally Endsinger. They're a trilogy of fantasy steampunk dystopian novels set in an alternate universe feudal Japan. There's a lot of really interesting worldbuilding and some pretty awesome characters, and I have forced both my wife and my mom to read them already.

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19 minutes ago, Disciple of Sakura said:

I'd like to recommend the Jay Kristoff's Lotus War Trilogy series, starting with Stormdancer, then Kin Slayer, and finally Endsinger. They're a trilogy of fantasy steampunk dystopian novels set in an alternate universe feudal Japan. There's a lot of really interesting worldbuilding and some pretty awesome characters, and I have forced both my wife and my mom to read them already.

I will second this!


I've read several of Kristoff's series now, and I would say any of his books are worth picking up.

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