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


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Jac Jemc's False Bingo. Collection of stories mostly centered around women just ahead of those middle-aged-ish years or so, generally lonely or in painful places in life, or just kind of disconnected and/or strange. Stories don't quite tend to leave the reader with a satisfying sense of dramatic movement and occasionally seem like quasi-fables, going for "gotcha!" kind of endings that really aren't for me.

 

Highlights: A man's daughter's track his odd purchasing habits and basement recreations in "Delivery"; a porn star approaches mundanity in "Pastoral"; accusations run amok in "The Halifax Slasher"; and a couple unhappy with their couples game night seeks new friends in "Trivial Pursuit."

 

 

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Troy Denning's The Veiled Dragon. A Harper novel with a fun enough plot buried in it as the Bedine witch Ruha adventures beyond Anauroch and battles a dracolich holding captive a ruler's spirit with the forced help of some magic-wielding pseudo-Asian spice merchants, etc., etc., etc., this book is unfortunately marred by poor pacing, some rather unsatisfying character deaths/resolutions, and hands-down the most bald-faced racial insensitivity I've encountered in a D&D novel to date. The broken English and general shenanigans of the Shou, the 90s Forgotten Realms' catch-all for all things East-Asian fantasy, was so over the top I honestly thought the author was about to hit us with a "me love you long time" at one point. To go along with the frequent "slant-eyed" descriptors. Even for a time when we weren't all so sensitive and inclusive as today, this one falls way, way, way off the mark.

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Just an FYI. If you aren't a member of Tor's ebook club, now might be a time to join. They are offering the first four Murderbot books for free (one each day starting today) as a lead up to the launch of book 5 in May.

 

Edited by Jasper_the_2nd
can't spell
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It started accidentally. 

 

These Ruins are Inhabited (1961) 

The King in Yellow (1895) 

now im planning out a book from each century .. thanks project Gutenberg. 

currently reading 

 

the life and opinions of Tristam Shady (1759) 

Shakespeare  published plays from 1593 - 1623  so that covers 2 centuries 

???? (something from 1400s) 

Dantes Divine Comedy (1320) is on my shelf 

 

Reviews: 

These Ruins are Inhabited - american family moves to Oxford for a year, memoir.  My parents spent a year in oxford about the time this was published 

 

later ... 

 

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A collection of interlinked stories centered around East- and West-Coast transplants to Oklahoma (and one local) who are members of a grief-counseling group for those who've lost loved ones to suicide. Engaging stories that make the reader care about the characters--though they're kind of jerks, very dismissive of the people and attractions of their backwater fictional college town. There's frighteningly little love to be found for the locals--even the local who headlines a couple of the stories has grown rather contemptuous for all she's known in her life. I never was 100% sure, if I'm being honest, if I was meant to read these characters as snobby outsiders at whom it's okay to have a bit of a laugh or if I'm just kind of a bumpkin of a reader who failed to appreciate how put-upon such sophisticates really are. Still, the group members remain engaging as their lives unravel and draw them back more closely together and forward.

 

 

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Nice collection of stories that pull at the heart strings and often also deftly play with the magical. Highlights: A woman/caretaker finds herself without means of support when her older rich lover dies in "Collections"; an artist turned tattoo artist sculpts seemingly magical creations on flesh that change both him and his customers in the stellar and moving "Tattoo"; a cat takes up with a man's Christmas-celebrating girlfriend in "The Infidelity of Judah Maccabee"; a girl struggles to accept her father's death in "No Shortage Of Birds"; a bride takes in the scene of her called-off wedding in the flash "L'Chaim"; a laid-off businessman delivers pizza while coping with his disintegrating family in "Better Homes And Gardens"; and the wife of a cancer survivor struggles to find happiness as she's haunted by the loss the couple's dogs in "Ghost Dogs."

 

 

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Collection of stories centered in small-town Oklahoma. At its best in the several triptychs scattered throughout that offer up brief slices of the world drawn close together. Other highlights: a girl finds solace from her home- and school-life in the strange sounds of an old telephone museum in "Adolescence In B Flat"; in "Old West Night" an aging gay western-movie actor recalls his brief time and regrets with a local woman while filming years earlier in Oklahoma; and in "The Dot" a twin sister reflects on the diverging lives of her and her dentist brother.

 

 

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Good collection of stories that suffer from running a little long and trying to do a little much, heap on just a few too many details and tricks and twists so that things feel a bit too busy. Venture often into that George Saunders-esque wacky-near-future sort of territory but do so competently (reminiscent of what I've read of Jim Shepherd, too). Feel a bit off the mark (ha?) or overdone in stories like "Teen Sniper" but get more effectively to the heart (again, ha?) in those such as "Trauma Plate." Other highlights: A high-school graduate tries to find his way into really living life while chauffeuring cancer patients on a night out in "The Death-dealing Cassini Satellite"; a man unravels his relationship with his father and step-father while recalling summer shenanigans involving a caiman and a wind tunnel years ago with a friend in "Cliff Gods of Acapulco"; a Louisiana girl experiences her first taste of love and want ahead of an ATF raid on her smuggler father in "The Jughead of Berlin"; the Canadians shoot for the moon in the wild "Canadanaut" and a young man first experiences life's complications alongside a married woman at court-ordered counseling for alcoholism, his brick-laying father, and the Power Team in "The Eighth Sea," the closer and probably strongest piece in the collection.

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@Evilhalfling Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales would just squeak into the 1400s having been written spanning the years 1387-1400.  The Lumiansky version is a great translation.  I used to teach it and students who liked to read in general said they actually liked it as a series of short stories with a connecting plot.  

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Wayne Price's Furnace. Collection of thoroughly competent stories set mostly in Scotland or thereabouts. Tend toward the transitory and in-between, work to maintain distance and don't want to wrap up too neatly, and do, I suppose, warrant the Carver comparisons in some regard. Highlights: A teenager embarrassing family situations in "The Golfers"; a young traveler skirts desert disaster in the overtly Bowles-esque "The Wedding Flowers"; a barrister remembers a youthful affair in "Underworld"; a father tries to bond with his distant daughter in "Five Night Stay"; an immigrant student tracks a wounded, lost bird in "Rain"; a woman retraces a dead lover's steps in the Spanish countryside in "In The Valley"; and a man returns his son's underage girlfriend to her home in "There Is A Savior."

 

 

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Madison Smartt Bell's Zero db. Collection of stories that feels very much of its time in the 80s and somehow isn't quite sure what it is, maybe. Or began as one thing and ended as another. A pair of tightly written triptychs focused on a rural black family and the daughter or the white woman for whom they work early in the book, along with the wild young artist of "The Naked Lady" and the wistful shrimping and drinking lovers of "The Monkey Park," evoke past Southern days quite clearly only to give way somewhat rambling stories of apartment hopping and job hunting in New York City and nearby New Jersey in stories such as "Irene," "The Lie Detector," and "The Forgotten Bridge." Bell closes with a piece equally again out of place with the rest in "Today Is a Good Day to Die," a stellar portrait of an unnamed lieutenant under Custer's command heading into the general's final campaign.

 

 

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Peter Carey's The Fat Man In History. A compilation of stories from Carey's first two collections, these Australian-set stories, in which America, capitalism, and space aliens are a constant threat, quickly bring to mind the near-future sociopolitical dystopias and soft sci-fi of Saunders but were written thirty years earlier. A bit given sometimes to gotcha/weird/twist-ish endings (see: the title story, "Peeling"), these stories generally carry an often surprising emotional weight that make them a pleasure to read beyond their gimmickry. Highlights: The son of a mapmaker watches the world and its people as they begin to disappear in "'Do You Love Me?'"; a man finds love under alien occupation with a privileged woman determined to destroy her body in the name of revolution in "The Chance"; a journalist recounts an ex-businessman's redemption among the islanders he once harmed in "The Puzzling Nature Of Blue"; a couple's marriage struggles beneath the weight of expectations and the ministrations of an alien bird in "Exotic Pleasures"; a town ponders the meaning of a dead man's legacy in "American Dreams"; and a mad executive reforms a frozen-dinner manufacturer at great cost in "War Crimes."

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Entertaining collection of stories that leans hard into an informal sort of tone and keeps a level of distance between narrator and reader. Lot of flash. Feels very much of the current moment. Highlights: A single mother and recovering addict struggles with life and obligation in "Pet"; perpetual travelers face dangers both immediate and deeper in "Stay Where You Are"; an elderly couple seeks a return to form in "The Vice President Of Pretzels"; a woman counts her somewhat hidden blessings in "A Crossroads"; a woman works to wean herself from the Internet in the quite relatable "Online"; trauma is confronted in a trading of stories in "Voltaire Night"; a man looks for purpose from a prisoner rehab program in his middle years in "Mr, Simmons Takes A Prisoner"; a family and a potential mass shooter come together in "The First Full Thought Of Her Life"; a man takes a detour while revisiting a past love in "Bride"; a man is surrounded by mother figures, some unexpected, in "The Mothers"; the illness a couple's friend worsens in "Final Days"; a lit of time spent is composed in "37 Seconds"; obstacles arise while moving in "Boulder"; and trick are revealed in "Magicians."

 

 

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Collection of stories centered around Vietnamese refugees and their children. Stories are competently written but tend to run a good 25% too long pretty much across the board and wind up feeling a bit dry at times, perhaps a little too on-the-nose. Highlights: A family running a Vietnamese grocery face the demands of those who've yet to cease fighting for their homeland in "War Years"; a transplant recipient seeks out and becomes friends with the donor's son in (the perhaps a bit overly orchestrated) "The Transplant"; a wife tracks her husband's decline in "I'd Love You To Want Me"; an American G.I. Returns to Vietnam at his daughter's behest in "The Americans"; a father's sternness and even cruelty shapes his divorced son's life in "Someone Else Besides You"; and a long-lost daughter returns to visit her father's other family in Vietnam in "Fatherland."

 

 

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A coming-of-age novel following college student Toru Watanabe as he comes to understand love and sex and adulthood, amid the turmoil of friendships and relationships and loss, as his teen years and the 1960s draw to a close. Not Murakami's best, kind of heavy-handed with the sexual contemplation and all, but an engaging read. Kind of reminded me of Eva without the robots and stuff, but that's because I'm a dweeb and I reckon that's my way of saying it fits into place with other things I know of Japanese narrative, which is not a lot at all.

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Haven't gotten to read much this year, but I finally got to finish the latest Dresden Files series, Peace Talks and Battle Ground. For me, a pair of fairly disappointing entries into the series. No spoilers; they had a few good moments, but fairly blah overall for something that took so long to be released. I'd hoped for better. And with proper editing, both books could have been combined into a single volume, as I suspect they were originally intended.

 

Every book post-Changes has been rather underwhelming for me... with the exception of Skin Game, which I felt was getting back to being on the right track of things.

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I didn't feel that PT and BG were the best, but maybe I was just thrilled to be back in the Dresdenverse.  There was enough there to keep me happy, although I thought that BG was definitely better than PT.  I honestly felt a little worn-out after BG, whereas PT left me going, "where's the rest?"  

 

We're getting close to the end, and Butcher hasn't gone and done a full-LKH (why, oh why didn't I stop after Obsidian Butterfly?) on his series, so I'm pretty happy with that.

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16 hours ago, strawhat said:

I didn't feel that PT and BG were the best, but maybe I was just thrilled to be back in the Dresdenverse.  There was enough there to keep me happy, although I thought that BG was definitely better than PT.  I honestly felt a little worn-out after BG, whereas PT left me going, "where's the rest?"  

 

I could fill up the entire thread with my thoughts on them, but that would probably reveal too many spoilers for anyone who wants to read them, so I won't. However, I am willing and would be eager to discuss and share thoughts in a PM thread with anyone who would want to?

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I’ve been on a historical fiction kick recently.  Last week I finished rereading Sword Song by Rosemary Sutcliff (Vikings), and this week it was The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault (classical Athens).  As is typical with my family, I mentioned the first to my sons, which led to a quick discussion on Viking books, and a reminder that I should reread Frans Bengtsson’s The Long Ships, originally recommended to the family group by my elder son. I just got a paper copy, so that should be the next book read...

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I'm currently reading _Into the Forge_ by Dennis L. McKiernan.  The basic setting is reminiscent of Tolkein with elves and halflings.  The major plot driver is a journey through hostile lands during wartime.  I've got the duology.  The sequel is _Into the Fire_.  Anyone want them?  I'd be happy to send them to a good home.  As a former English teacher I have a hard time getting rid of books but I love giving books as gifts.  This just hasn't captured my attention sufficiently.  If you think you might like them, read some reviews online to decide.  If it's a go, send me a PM with your address and I'll have them to you by Christmas.

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