2017 Reading Challenge

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DrG2
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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:49 pm

57. The Rules of Magic, by Alice Hoffman. *****. It's a prequel to "Practical Magic" which I only know from the bad movie.
This novel follows three siblings (2 sisters and a brother) who are born with magical ability. It follows them from their youth to old age (I'm not sure which of the characters will move on to "Practical Magic"). Told with a "contemporary adult fairy tale" kind of omniscient narrator. The family is clearly the "character" of the novel for none of the siblings dominate (the brother disappears for the last 1/3 or so, but he has a daughter and then grandchildren which flow in and out of the story.

It was very good. Made me "misty" at the end.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Sat Nov 11, 2017 6:18 pm

58. Hannibal Rising, by Thomas Harris. ****. The backstory of Hannibal Lecter (of Silence of the Lambs, etc.). He was traumatized as a 13 y.o. by the chaos/violence that surrounded the end of world war II (which included the death of all of his family).

I dunno. The writing was fine, but it's basically giving Lecter a "reason" for becoming a cannibalistic serial killer.

59. Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames. A fantasy novel where the premise is that mercenary groups were treated like "rock bands". It keeps coming back to that "We gotta get the band back together" The inciting event is when one of the retired mercs goes to one of his friends "to get the band together" to rescue his daughter, who is in a besieged city. The writing isn't bad, but the premise got on my nerves and I quit reading about 1/3 of the way in. The author's "ideal author" was Ed Greenwood, who wrote D&D game content and some novels. So, if you like that, this would be a good choice. It read way too much like a D&D adventure to me.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:19 pm

60. An Essence of Malice, by Ashley Weaver. A "cozy" mystery set in 1930s (goes from Lake Como to Paris). Amateur sleuths Amory and Milo Ames try to find the murderer of the boss of Milo's old nursemaid. Written well.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby Brien Sz » Fri Nov 24, 2017 7:29 am

Finished Ron Chernow's biography on Grant. Spectacular. Right up there with Team of Rivals and John Adams.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Fri Nov 24, 2017 8:29 pm

61. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. A Russian count returns to Moscow after the revolution, and is placed in house arrest in a 5 star hotel for the next 40 years or so. The writing is superb, damn beautiful. But the count just goes along with the flow, taking the path of least resistance, accepting a job as head waiter, accepting the proposition of a woman who becomes his on-again, off-again lover, even accepting to take care of a woman's child. He briefly considers suicide, but doesn't really act of his own accord until 30 pages from the end of this 460 page book. The passivity of the MC totally ruined this book for me, regardless of how well it was written.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:39 pm

62. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. *****. Starts with a night at he white house where the Lincolns are throwing a party while Willie is in bed with a high fever. Willie dies soon after. The story continues until Willie's spirit departs the Earth. Much of it is basically a ghost story, told from the POV of the ghosts, setting up the experience as something that determines Lincoln's future decisions to free the slaves and more strongly prosecute the war against the South.

I THINK EVERY WRITER SHOULD READ THIS. Primarily for the "Oh, I can do that," innovation regarding how the story is told. There are dozens of POVs, most either excerpts taken from writings (not sure if they are real publications or if Saunders made them up), or the ghosts that linger in the cemetery where Willie is brought.

63. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 7, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Published 2013. There are a bunch of best-of anthologies in SF& F, and they vary considerably, depending on the editor. These stories (generally)have huge, stinking piles of worldbuilding, with minimal plots and not much characterization, either. For example, the last story (which is well-written) spends eleven pages on worldbuilding (It's a huge solar-powered colonizing spaceship), with just a little bit of characterization. Then something happens on the last two pages, resulting in the death of the MC.

Yuck. Do people really want to read that kind of story?

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:06 pm

64. The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. ****1/2. I think I had seen a movie based on this novel, which iirc was straight horror, so I was surprised at the amount of humor in it - - primarily coming from one character, Lord Henry. A beautiful young man has his portrait painted, and his soul is somehow transferred to the picture. The consequence of this is that he acts rather regardless of the effects of his actions on his soul. He stays young and beautiful but the image on the canvas gets older and shows the ugliness of his soul. Oscar Wilde should have written more novels!

65. How to be a Victorian: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Victorian Life, by Ruth Goldman. *****. A great, detailed examination of what life was like in Victorian England. I couldn't rate this higher. A must-have for anyone who sets stories in the Victorian age.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:42 pm

66. The Golden House, by Salman Rushdie. The narrator is a young film maker who has grown up in a semi-exclusive neighborhood in Manhattan. He's the observer here, watching the family who recently moved in from an unknown country (turns out it's India). The father is rich, old (70's), and has a source of income that is partially a mystery, though he quickly becomes a mover and shaker in NYC. His eldest child is a high performing autistic who makes millions writing games for smart phones. His middle son is an artist, and his youngest son is contemplating a gender reassignment.

Bad things happen to most of the characters.

It's Rushdie, so the writing is very good. I didn't really get into the story because it was all told by an outside observer (though he became an intimate of the family). It's much like The Great Gatsby in that way, except it's pushing 400 pages. Like Gatsby, the father's wealth comes from an unsavory source, and it is one of the things that causes the family's downfall.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm

67. London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets, by Peter Ackroyd. More research for me. This one was underwhelming. It would have been better with maps and pictures to illuminate the text.

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Re: 2017 Reading Challenge

Postby DrG2 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 4:24 pm

68. The Tiger's Daughter, by K Arsenault Rivera. In a fantasy world which evokes Asia, the heir to the empire (because her uncle has no heirs) is the childhood friend of the heir to the leadership of the steppe people. They are precocious, killing a tiger when they are 8, killing a demon when they are 16, and the closest of friends. The two girls' sexuality awakens about 40% into the novel.

The writing is very good. The characterization is very good. The plotting is pretty random. It's basically a fantasy lesbian love story.

69. Harry Potter, The Wand Collection book, by Monique Peterson. A picture and a story about each of the wands possessed by just about all named characters in the movies. This is a great bit of characterization.

70.Victorian London Street Life in Antique Photographs, by John Thompson and Adolphe Smith. About 40 or so photographs with essays written about the people shown in the photographs.

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