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Venneh, 9 January
Posted 9 January
Have at it kids.
Posted 10 January
Chimes at Midnight, Seanan McGuire: And now we have another escalation of the series, in revealing that one of October's main enemies is a pretender to the throne, goblin fruit as a legit drug, and the restoration of the rightful heir. Good first book for the year.
Hagseed, Margaret Atwood: Part of the Hogarth Shakespeare remixes project. An artistic director of a play festival in Canada, with a dead daughter, is exiled, and uses a theater course of prisoners staging the Tempest to get his revenge against the ones who stalked his career. About as meta as you'd think it'd be, and well done. 300 pages total, breezed through it on the bus ride back down here. Definitely worth a read - maybe not at full retail price, but still worth it.
Books read: 2
Should there be a different thread for audiobooks that we listened to? Or can we post here?
Post here, I think, still counts.
Posted 12 January
Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the House of Caesar, by Tom Holland: Via Audible. Covers Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (i.e. the ones featured in I, Claudius). Not much new much new to me personally, but should engage more casual ancient history readers and it's well-narrated throughout. Writing's pretty formal for the most part, but his use of fucks and other naughty words in the lurid bits is refreshing.
Posted 13 January
The Gene: An Intimate History, Siddhartha Mukherjee: Like with The Emperor of All Maladies, Mukherjee takes a chronological look at the history of our understanding of the gene, and how that's affected the way we look at the world. The book doesn't hesitate to go into the hard stuff, including how genetics gave rise to eugenics in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, and poses ethical questions about the use of genetic testing on fetuses that doesn't give you the answers, but leaves to you to answer, which I really like. He also weaves in his family history to make it personal, but doesn't make it all about him. This is a book I had to take in small doses (usually three chapters at a time) because of the density of the information, and sometimes because of the weight of the material. It's definitely worth the read though.
Books read: 3
Posted 15 January
The Secret of Evil, Roberto Bolaño: A collection of short stories found on Bolaño's computer after his death. This explains the somewhat fragmented nature and abrupt endings of some of these pieces. The ones I like the most mostly come at the halfway point of the collection, but it's still a nice quick read. Under 150 pages, and finished in the space of an evening.
Books read: 4
Posted 16 January
The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire: Eighth book in the series, and the last of them that I've read so far; everything after this is new. This book is the biggest game changer so far; it reveals a lot about our main and her allies, and someone we'd thought was dead (but through subtle narrative clues that I'd written off as inconsistencies, it was actually made clear she wasn't) shows back up to cause havoc. She's apparently had this book plotted since the start of the series, which I'm impressed at. Probably the biggest turning point in the series so far. Can't wait to read the two new ones. Also, has a nice bit of symmetry in having the title of the first book in the opening quote for this one.
Books read: 5
Posted 19 January
A Red Rose Chain, Seanan McGuire: Finally at the part of the series I haven't read. It's great to see consequences from events of past books happening, to see Toby being put in situations she can't easily punch her way out of (most of this book is politics), and to see revelations on some old side characters (see: one of Toby's allies is trans, and also part of a deposed ruling family from a neighboring kingdom). You can tell that she's getting more conscious about representation as these books go on (especially as they compromise a good decade of her writing career), which is neat to see. The evolution of a writer through her series is always a wonderful thing to watch.
The Beautiful Struggle, Ta-Nehisi Coates: Coates writes about growing up black in West Baltimore, his unusual family structure, and his and his brothers' childhoods. Wonderfully lyrical writing, and a quick read - I got through a chapter or two on my daily commute. I saw a criticism that the book othered the black experience too much, and I disagree with that - Ta-Nehisi does make it sound like a mythical experience, but with what he liked growing up, that isn't that much of a surprise to me, and seems like a natural expansion of those childhood D+D sessions.
Books read: 7
Posted 22 January
The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood: I first read this in Honors/AP English in high school, and I've reread this on a regular basis ever since. Started this on Inauguration Day, finished it yesterday morning. There's always new details that come out every read in this, which I've always loved. Feels more foreboding than it has on normal reads.
Books read: 8
Posted 24 January
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, Helen Oyeyemi: A collection of short stories by Helen Oyeyemi. Only about half of them hit for me (and I'm convinced I've seen part of one in Mr Fox), but when they hit, they hit hard. Would personally recommend Books and Roses, Sorry Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea, Presence, A Brief History of the Homely Wench Society, and If a Book Is Locked (title is too long so I'm not gonna finish it) from this collection.
Books read: 9
Posted 25 January
The House of Binding Thorns, Aliette de Bodard: Sequel to a book I mainlined in the space of one night back in '15. Technically an ARC, so I'm not sure how much detail I can go into here, but. She upped two of the things I really liked from the original, and wove in old and new plot threads in a wonderful way. Started this Sunday, and already done. Highly recommended.
Books read: 10
Posted 28 January
Vampire Viking angel Isis book: Fuck this fucking book. Going to annotate this and then I'm done with it forever. Combination of racist, sexist, and just awful half assed ideas.
books read: 11
Posted 2 February
Samskara by U. R. Ananthamurthy. An Indian classic novel from the 1970s, I think. It's a fine book, but hobbled by the heavy handed translation. Like reading a fully carnal Faulkner novel translated by an academically good British prude.
Posted 12 February
Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese SF In Translation (translated by Ken Liu): This collection seems to confirm to me that Liu does best when he's translating other peoples' work, or at minimum that he's better at short stories than he is longer formats. There's a few odd choices in here (including the inclusion of a chapter of The Three Body Problem), but overall these are some really well selected pieces, especially for their breadth and depth. Worth a read if you find it. Highlights from this collection: Chen Qiufan's "The Fish of Lijiang", Xia Jia's "Tongtong's Summer", Hao Jifang's "Invisible Planets", and Tang Fei's "Call Girl".
Books Read: 12
Posted 17 February
The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño: Finally tackled this. I didn't really start getting into this until we got to the second part (dude in the first part cared way too much about his dick, thank god he drops that when we come back to him in part 3), which is you learning about these two characters through the stories of those they met and interacted with (which is kind of my thing). It'll take you a while to get through (it's about 600 pages), but it's time well spent.
Books read: 13
Posted 28 February
Look, Solmaz Sharif: This collection weaves in terms from the Department of Defense's dictionary, throughout a collection about the post war experience in the Middle East. Go get it, now. This collection hits hard and has some unbelievably beautiful and gut wrenching lines. When read in tandem with The Shock Doctrine, it's a hell of an experience.
Books read: 14
Posted 28 February
House Of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard: Exactly what I wanted from this book. More intrigue, more brutal post-apocalyptic Paris.
The Last Days Of New Paris by China Miéville: Hell yes. A short (padded out with an unnecessary afterword) novel about a surrealism bomb detonating in WWII Paris, where Parisians and Nazis fight each other and also manifestations of surrealism. There's one awesome HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE moment in there, and the rest is breakneck fun. Think of an art-damaged, berserk Mignola-verse spinoff and you're about there. An unchained Dial H, perhaps? I haven't read one of his in a while, and damn, I miss his work.
Posted 2 March
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein: read this now. Especially now. Depressing as shit, and it will take you a while to get through, because you will have to take several day pauses after finishing a chapter. However, the explanation to the shock doctrine, the University of Chicago's economics school's world view, and how it played out on the international and domestic stage over the span of about fifty years in several countries is massive and honestly explains a lot of how things have played out in the world. Especially in light of the orange one trying to implement policy similar to this, and us still being in the window that he can try for it. You're going to learn a lot about the Latin American coups, and what happened after communism ended in certain countries, and how that all plays into Iraq and post Katrina. Would love to see a follow up on this, especially as we come up on its tenth anniversary this year. And it ends on a bit of hope at least!
Books read: 15
Posted 4 March
The Last Days of New Paris, China Mieville: Agreed with Jim on the unnecessary (and slightly masturbatory) afterword. It took me a bit to get into it (right about when Sam showed up is when it took off for me), but it's a lovely quick read, and, as expected about a novella with surrealism come to life fighting Nazis, pretty damn off the wall and fun. We got the subterranean press hardcover, which is lovely, except for the random Vincent Chong illustrations and cover.
books read: 16
Posted 5 March
Will Save the Galaxy for Food, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw I have not watched Zero Punctuation for years so I was surprised when I saw this on display at the front of the Main Library, so I gave it a try. I really enjoyed the story. I was expecting copious references to video games but I think there were more times pointing out how orange the villain is over any references to video games. It was a story where I enjoyed the book and then realized that the author was showing his perspective on purist vs. idealized looks at great events in the past. According to several news sources, the book will have a graphic novel release from Dark Horse Comics.
Posted 6 March
Borne, Jeff VanderMeer: Technically an ARC, so I'm not sure how much I can say about this. But holy god, this is wonderful and just utterly creepy in some places in the best kind of way. Mainlined this in about nine hours tops. There's one paragraph where I just went NOPE in a very visceral way. Comes out at the end of April, get this. Also - amazing spot gloss on that cover.
books read: 17
Posted 10 March
Universal Harvester, John Darnielle: Not sure how to parse this just yet. Gorgeous writing, as expected, but this never seems to quite come together, or at least not in the sense I was expecting it to. Suspecting that this is a story that's supposed to be defined more by the absences and grief and dread in these peoples' lives than it is about any grander mystery, which is what a lot of what I've heard so far framed it as. Will probably need a reread down the line. Either way, quick read, just over 200 pages and read in the space of about three nights.
Books read: 18
Posted 12 March
Once Broken Faith, Seanan McGuire: The most recent of the Toby Daye books, and book 10 in the series overall (until book 11 comes out... soonish I want to say?). Seanan attempts to mix politics with the locked room mystery, and while it doesn't always get pulled off well (there's a lot of monologuing in this book by necessity), it's a neat escalation of things. Seanan is starting to show her hand as to where the next of the books is going, and it involves more Ludiaeg, which I'm a fan of. Also includes a hundred page novella set in the aftermath of this, and also contains major revelations about a few of the side characters, which I like. Also, a map of the world, finally! Fun read, can't wait to see where the series goes next.
Lagoon, Nnedi Okorafor: Well this book... happened? Alien invasion of Lagos, with several third and first person povs (including some POVs that are only around for one chapter), riots, Christians, native Nigerian spirits/gods, aliens, and just all kind of craziness. It eventually comes together in some sort of way? Like, I like having read this, but it's just kind of a glorious mess? There's also a lot of places where you can tell the authors opinion is butting in.
Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh: A short, quick novel that's just over 200 pages; I started it earlier this afternoon and literally just finished it. It's a story of a week that changed a girl's life, told by her older self. She draws us in with the details of her life and herself, how she relates to her body, and as things slowly unfold, you're drawn in and invested in what happens to this person, and wonder what exactly happens to her to become the person who's narrating to us. Nominated for the Man Booker prize, and you can see why.
Books read: 21
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