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What Have You Read Lately?

Started by Parasaurolophus, June 21, 2023, 02:55:03 PM

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Hegemony

Quote from: hmaria1609 on October 21, 2023, 08:59:16 AMThe Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1915)
This children's novel is new to me.
I've read and own her three best known novels (The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and Little Lord Fauntleroy).

I love The Lost Prince! Such a cool and intriguing scenario — how I yearned to be a secret messenger traveling through Europe.

Also it's interesting that one of the main characters is disabled, which is rare for the period. (Also true of another of my favorites, Diana Maria Mullock Craik's The Little Lame Prince.)

hmaria1609

#61
Quote from: Hegemony on October 26, 2023, 06:09:47 PMI love The Lost Prince! Such a cool and intriguing scenario — how I yearned to be a secret messenger traveling through Europe.

Also it's interesting that one of the main characters is disabled, which is rare for the period. (Also true of another of my favorites, Diana Maria Mullock Craik's The Little Lame Prince.)

I wish the Rat's given name had been used more in the novel. He tells Marco (the lead character) early on his name is Jem Ratcliffe. I forgot to mention I read the paperback Aladdin Classics edition from Simon & Schuster.

Morden

Cherryh's (and Fancher now) Defiance--the new installment of the Foreigner series. The story continues (ever so slowly). Fans of the series will buy it, but there's really nothing new, and I can't imagine new readers being drawn into it.
Okorafor's Binti novellas--I enjoyed these a lot because of the juxtaposition of math-based technology and Himba culture.
Scalzi's Kaiju's Preservation Society and Redshirts--fun and light.



FishProf

Stormfront, the first book of the Dresden files.  Harry Dresden is a Wizard/PI.  It is sort of fantasy meets noir fiction meets hard boiled detective fiction.   If Mickey Spillane and Harry Potter had an unintended offspring.

It was a fun read.  The world building has been fun, but there are MANY books in the series (17 at last check) so I expect more to come. 
I'd rather have questions I can't answer, than answers I can't question.

hmaria1609

From the library: Disrupting D.C.: The Rise of Uber and the Fall of the City by Katie J. Wells et al. (NF)
How Uber successfully made it in DC despite strong push back by city leadership.

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: Morden on October 30, 2023, 08:25:45 AMCherryh's (and Fancher now) Defiance--the new installment of the Foreigner series. The story continues (ever so slowly). Fans of the series will buy it, but there's really nothing new, and I can't imagine new readers being drawn into it.
Okorafor's Binti novellas--I enjoyed these a lot because of the juxtaposition of math-based technology and Himba culture.
Scalzi's Kaiju's Preservation Society and Redshirts--fun and light.

Funny you should mention that...



October:

Charles Gallenkamp - Dragon Hunter: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions: A biography of RCA. It seemed fairly comprehensive, and it's got the kind of detail I like (i.e. lots of excavating fossils, and organizing excavation expeditions). But man, is Gallenkamp a fanboy, or what. Also, he sounds like an old man writing about his idol (I gather he was kind of old when he wrote it, so that makes sense). He's incapable of saying a bad thing about his hero, so he just handwaves it all away, when the reality seems to have been that RCA was a real piece of work�. The lack of any critical distance is frustrating, and it also means that the portrayal here is pretty incomplete; we hear almost nothing of his wives, or of his children. We're told about tensions in the marriage caused by RCA's extended absences, but not really shown anything--and certainly not shown anything of how RCA was affected by it all. And the contempt that's heaped on Chinese and Mongolian authorities concerned about having their scientific treasures pillaged... wow. There's no distance at all there between RCA's views and Gallenkamp's.

China Miéville - The City and the City: I picked this up on a free shelf five or so years ago, and never got around to reading it, mostly because I'm not a big fan of Miéville's. But this is easily the best of his books I've read--it's weird and ambitious, and doesn't make a ton of sense when you think about the details, but it's really an admirable effort. Basically, it's a noir detective story set in two cities which are superimposed upon one another, but where everyone living in one city has to studiously pretend that everything in the other city (which, to be clear, exists all around them) doesn't exist. It was well worth reading. A bit weird to be reading it as the war in Palestine started up, though; it basically seems like the cities in question are analogues for Israel/Palestine.

Frank Herbert - Dune: I've had it since I was thirteen, but only just decided to give it a go. It's surprisingly good for 1960s scifi, actually. The quality of the writing clearly sets it apart from the rest (apart from Le Guin, of course), and the scope of the story is ambitious in a way that other works from that period just aren't. It's not always successful--indeed, the plot moves too quickly in sections, and would have been better served by another novel or three. But that's okay. The gender politics are regressive, but not too bad for the period. The characters are also pretty much empty vessels, however, which is too bad. I definitely see the similarities between the Fremen and Robert Jordan's Aiel, but the thing is, the Aiel are all real people, whereas the Fremen are just deux (dei?) ex machinae. I'll stick to The Wheel of Time, which is just better, but I'm glad to have read it. I doubt I'll ever pick up the sequels.

John Scalzi - Redshirts: Saw this on the free shelf and grabbed it. For anyone who hasn't read it: basically, the Star Trek redshirts figure out they're expendable redshirts and try to do something about it. It was loads of fun, although I would have liked more redshirt adventures, and could have done without the POV epilogues. On the whole, I'd say it's more fun before the part in the show where they have to go fix things. I would have preferred a wholly in-world resolution. But whatever, it was fun!
I know it's a genus.

Morden

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on November 03, 2023, 09:43:27 PMChina Miéville - The City and the City: I picked this up on a free shelf five or so years ago, and never got around to reading it, mostly because I'm not a big fan of Miéville's. But this is easily the best of his books I've read--it's weird and ambitious, and doesn't make a ton of sense when you think about the details, but it's really an admirable effort. Basically, it's a noir detective story set in two cities which are superimposed upon one another, but where everyone living in one city has to studiously pretend that everything in the other city (which, to be clear, exists all around them) doesn't exist. It was well worth reading. A bit weird to be reading it as the war in Palestine started up, though; it basically seems like the cities in question are analogues for Israel/Palestine.

Frank Herbert - Dune: I've had it since I was thirteen, but only just decided to give it a go. It's surprisingly good for 1960s scifi, actually. The quality of the writing clearly sets it apart from the rest (apart from Le Guin, of course), and the scope of the story is ambitious in a way that other works from that period just aren't. It's not always successful--indeed, the plot moves too quickly in sections, and would have been better served by another novel or three. But that's okay. The gender politics are regressive, but not too bad for the period. The characters are also pretty much empty vessels, however, which is too bad. I definitely see the similarities between the Fremen and Robert Jordan's Aiel, but the thing is, the Aiel are all real people, whereas the Fremen are just deux (dei?) ex machinae. I'll stick to The Wheel of Time, which is just better, but I'm glad to have read it. I doubt I'll ever pick up the sequels.

John Scalzi - Redshirts: Saw this on the free shelf and grabbed it. For anyone who hasn't read it: basically, the Star Trek redshirts figure out they're expendable redshirts and try to do something about it. It was loads of fun, although I would have liked more redshirt adventures, and could have done without the POV epilogues. On the whole, I'd say it's more fun before the part in the show where they have to go fix things. I would have preferred a wholly in-world resolution. But whatever, it was fun!

I haven't read any of Scalzi's more serious sci fi. I'm on a waiting list at the library. I picked out a Mieville while I am waiting, but I can't remember which one. I enjoyed the Dune series as a teenager, but haven't gone back to it since. I think I stopped at God-emperor of Dune, and there might be more now.

I recently enjoyed Emma Newman's four Planetfall books: a dying Earth with an extreme contrast between rich and poor (often indentured) and a colony on a mysterious planet with an alien city/entity. Each novel has a central mystery or secret that the reader is trying to figure out, but the main characters, settings, and secrets are different. They can be read as stand-alone novels, but I would start with the first, Planetfall. Unfortunately, Newman has said she won't write other books in the series because publishers aren't interested.

I've also been reading Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis trilogy.

hmaria1609

Started from the library: Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron
The final and #15 installment in the "Jane Austen Mystery" series.
In spring 1817, Jane is in Winchester as her health is declining. A student is discovered dead at Winchester College, and the teenage son of Jane's friend is accused of the murder of his fellow student. There was some shady things going at the College, and Jane is determined to clear the teen's name.

I discovered this series about Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth in college and have read each installment as it was published. It's been worthwhile!

Larimar

Quote from: hmaria1609 on November 06, 2023, 02:43:25 PMStarted from the library: Jane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron
The final and #15 installment in the "Jane Austen Mystery" series.
In spring 1817, Jane is in Winchester as her health is declining. A student is discovered dead at Winchester College, and the teenage son of Jane's friend is accused of the murder of his fellow student. There was some shady things going at the College, and Jane is determined to clear the teen's name.

I discovered this series about Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth in college and have read each installment as it was published. It's been worthwhile!

Cool! I love Jane Austen's novels, and I love cozy mysteries. I'll need to give those a try.

hmaria1609

#69
Quote from: Larimar on November 06, 2023, 04:13:44 PMCool! I love Jane Austen's novels, and I love cozy mysteries. I'll need to give those a try.
Here's the complete list from the author's website:
https://francinemathews.com/stephanie-barron-books/jane-austen-mysteries/
Enjoy!
I checked out the books from the library over the years. The covers on the earlier books were well-illustrated and I liked them better than the later ones in the series.

Parasaurolophus

I forgot to say that I also started Arkady Martinez's A Memory Called Empire, but found it unreadable and gave up.
I know it's a genus.

RatGuy

Quote from: FishProf on October 30, 2023, 11:52:15 AMStormfront, the first book of the Dresden files.  Harry Dresden is a Wizard/PI.  It is sort of fantasy meets noir fiction meets hard boiled detective fiction.   If Mickey Spillane and Harry Potter had an unintended offspring.

It was a fun read.  The world building has been fun, but there are MANY books in the series (17 at last check) so I expect more to come. 

The novels get so much better in quality — I noticed a huge shift around book 4. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

apl68

Energy:  A Human History, by Richard Rhodes.  An overview of how humans have gone from being limited to whatever technology could be powered by burning wood or human and animal muscle effort to the use of first coal, then petroleum and electricity and nuclear power.  The advance of technology has been inseparable from advances in the use of energy. 

There's a lot here on how steam power was developed, how the petroleum industry arose (with a look at lighting technologies like whale oil and turpentine "burning fluid" along the way), how electricity was pioneered and adopted, etc.  There's also some detail about the rise of nuclear power.  I had already read about most of these in other places.  Rhodes pulls it all together nicely, and has details that I had not seen before.  He really seems to know his stuff.

Unfortunately, every energy source has its dangers, shortcomings, and environmental impacts.  Rhodes says something about these as well.  As our energy sources have become more and more powerful, their global environmental impacts have grown as well.  And have come to pose truly dire threats to our future. 

Rhodes opines in later chapters that renewables like wind and solar are all very well, but are far too low-calorie to meet global civilization's needs and continue the all-important advance of progress.  He champions natural gas, which is at least a less-destructive fossil fuel, and nuclear power, which he points out has gotten a much worse rap than it statistically deserves.  I'm inclined to agree with him on both of these judgements.  Where I part company with Rhodes is his sanguine expectation that the continued onward march of science and technology will deliver us, if only we put our trust in them.  To which I can only say, as others have said before, that denial is not merely a river in Egypt.
For our light affliction, which is only for a moment, works for us a far greater and eternal weight of glory.  We look not at the things we can see, but at those we can't.  For the things we can see are temporary, but those we can't see are eternal.

apl68

#73
The Kingdom of Slender Swords, by Hallie Erminie Rives.  This 1910 book is a thoroughly bizarre combination of travelogue of exotic late-Meiji-Era Japan and romance novel.  With a stiff dose of 1930s Saturday morning serial-style science fiction adventure.  The heroine is an American lady who comes to Japan and becomes involved in a romantic triangle.  The obvious hero of it is an American diplomat.

Meanwhile, a Western mad scientist has invented some kind of nuclear death-ray device.  He plans to use it to zap a couple of foreign battleships in Japan for a goodwill visit.  His hope is to start a world war, to punish the world for refusing to recognize his genius, and to somehow make a killing in the global stock market.  Fortunately the hero also happens to be an amateur aviation pioneer.  He saves the day by swooping down in his experimental airplane.  The villain perishes at the hands of an angry mob, the heroine and hero get each other in the end, and the heroine finds her long-lost father just in time to be at his deathbed.

The travelogue part of the book is actually pretty good.  The author knew her stuff by virtue of spending time in Japan with her American diplomat husband.  She is unfortunately remembered mainly for an earlier novel that sympathetically portrayed mob action in the American South, and in this one portrays the Japanese in a way that would not pass muster today on "Orientalist" grounds.  However, she is actually fairly respectful toward the Japanese.  Unlike in other stories of the era, this does not depict scheming "Yellow Perils."  The Japanese here are innocent of any wrongful intent--the villainy is all the work of a crackpot Westerner.  Those looking for subtext might even see the mad scientist as an allegory for fear-mongering Yellow Peril sensationalists seeking to stir up needless trouble with a friendly Japan.

But that would be taking the story more seriously than it deserves.  Quaint though the plot and characterization might be, there is something modern in its wacky genre-mashup quality.  I could almost see this adapted into a Hollywood steampunk blockbuster.  I could easily see it turned into an anime.  Readers who are fans of anime/manga, and have a tolerance for dated prose, might want to check this out.  I have a hard copy I stumbled across--odd finds like this are why I give forgotten old books a chance now and then--but the text can easily be found at Project Gutenberg.
For our light affliction, which is only for a moment, works for us a far greater and eternal weight of glory.  We look not at the things we can see, but at those we can't.  For the things we can see are temporary, but those we can't see are eternal.

apl68

When Books Went to War:  The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II, by Molly Guptill Manning.  In the pre-video age of the 1940s reading was a very popular pastime.  When the U.S. went to war after Pearl Harbor, librarians, communities, and the U.S. government went to impressive lengths to give the military's greatly expanded service personnel good reading for their moments of down time.  This is the story of those efforts.  Many librarians did their bit for the war effort by helping out with it.

The military ended up printing millions of copies of hundreds of titles in special "Armed Services Editions" meant just for the troops.  Titles included recent bestsellers, quite a variety of genre fiction, some classics, and some nonfiction.  Covers made a point of proclaiming that these were not abridged versions.  The troops got their books uncut, and few of the titles were wartime propaganda pieces.

Armed Services Editions can be recognized by their distinctive format.  They were unusually short, wide paperbacks, with two short columns of print on each page.  The format was carefully sized to fit within a large pocket on a service uniform.  It was also ingeniously designed so that books could be printed in pairs on presses normally meant to print magazines like Reader's Digest, with minimum waste of rationed paper.

Evidently some G.I.s brought some of the books home as souvenirs.  Since first reading Manning's book a few years ago, I've seen several vintage Armed Services Edition books in antique malls and used bookstores.  I've collected a couple of them.  The story behind them is a fascinating tale that Manning tells well.

For our light affliction, which is only for a moment, works for us a far greater and eternal weight of glory.  We look not at the things we can see, but at those we can't.  For the things we can see are temporary, but those we can't see are eternal.