Sibylline's (Lucy's) 2023 Summer into Autumn & Beyond

É uma continuação do tópico Sibylline's (Lucy's) 2023 Winter Into Spring Thread.

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2023

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Sibylline's (Lucy's) 2023 Summer into Autumn & Beyond

1sibylline
Editado: Jan 6, 12:44 pm

Summer

Buttermilk Falls near Blue Mountain Lake in the Adirondacks



Currently Reading in December


Reading in December
new Captain of the 95th Rifles Jonathan Leach memoir
new Indigenous Continent Pekka Hämäläinen history native american
Daemon Voices Phillip Pullman writing essays
Middlemarch George Eliot

Read in December
80. wbg new The Vulnerables Sigrid Nunez ****1/2
81. new Warriorborn Jim Butcher fantasy ****
82. Agency William Gibson sf alternate history ****
83. Hummingbird Helen Harper DNF
84. new Shyness and Dignity Dag Solstad fiction norwegian ****
85. newish Severance Ling Ma post-apoc ***1/2
86. newish The Doors of Eden Adrian Tchaikovsky sf ***3/4
87. new wbg Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead Olga Tokarczuk fiction polish
88. newish The Return of Fitzroy Angursell Victoria Goddard fantasy *****
89. newish The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul Victoria Goddard fantasy *****
90. ♬ Waterloo Bernard Cornwell history british 19th *****
91. ✔ The Harp and the Grey Rose Charles de Lint ***

That's it for 2023!

audio
lib duh, library
✔ been on my shelf for tooooo long
RR reread
*bbg stands for Bridgeside Book Group
*wbg stands for Wally Book Group
** DNF I read 100 pages attentively, then page through the rest. I count this as read. Any less I do not count the book as read.

2sibylline
Editado: Dez 1, 2023, 10:35 am

Read in July
42. new Extraordinary People Peter May ***1/2
43. new Machine Elizabeth Bear sp/op ***1/2
44. new The Critic Peter May mys french ***
45. ✔ Arcanum Unbounded Brandon Sanderson fantasy NR
46. new Everyone knows Your Mother is a Witch Riva Galchen hist fic NR
47. new Muse and Reverie Charles de Lint urb fantasy ***1/2
48. bbg new Conquering the Pacific Andrés Reséndez history pacific 16th ***
7 books

Read in August
49. ✔ Fortress in the Eye of Time (1 of 5) C.J. Cherryh fantasy ****
50. ✔ Fortress of Eagles (2 of 5) C.J. Cherryh fantasy **** 1/2
51. ✔ Fortress of Owls (3 of 5) C.J. Cherryh fantasy **** 1/2
52. ✔ Fortress of Dragons (4 of 5) C.J. Cherryh fantasy **** 1/2
53. ✔ Fortress of Ice (5 of 5) C.J. Cherryh fantasy ****1/2
54. new Dark Earth Rebecca Stott post-roman britain ****1/2
55. ✔RR Son of Avonar (1 of 4) Carol Berg fantasy ***
Again 7 books

Read in September
56.new Foundryside Robert Jackson Bennett ****1/2
57. new The Banquet of Donny & Ari Naomi Guttman poetry *****
58. lib + WGB The Painted Drum Louise Erdrich contemp fic *****
59. new Shorefall Robert Jackson Bennett fantasy ****
60. new Locklands Robert Jackson Bennett fantasy ***1/2
5 books

Read in October
61. lib + rr + bbg This Boy's Life Tobias Wolff memoir *****
62. lib The Secret Hours Mick Herron mi5 ****
63. ✔RR Beyond the Blue Event Horizon (2/4) Frederik Pohl sf classic ***3/4
64. ✔ Heechee Rendezvous (3/4) Frederik Pohl sf classic ****
65. ✔ The Annals of the Heechee (4/4) Frederik Pohl sf classic
66. ✔ Nile Shadows Edward Whittemore fict magic realism, middle east, ww2 ****1/2
67. new Monster Talk Michael Jarmer spec fic, urb fantasy ****
68. ♬ The Napoleonic Wars Alexander Mikaberidze history france 19th ***** 900 pages . . . . 35 hours of listening.
69. The Wolf at the End of the World Douglas Smith urb fant. DNF (see comment below)
9 books

Read in November
70. new Standing By the Wall Mick Herron mi5 ss ****
71. new The Half-Life of Home Dale Neal contemp fic *****
72. RR This is Happiness Niall Williams (reviewed already)
*****
73. ♬ Wellington's Rifles Ray Cusick history 19th ***
74. ✔ The Aeronaut's Windlass Jim Butcher fantasy *****
75. new Demon Copperhead Barbara Kingsolver contemp fic *****
75.
76. 3001 Arthur C. Clarke sf ***ish
77. ✔ Jericho Mosaic(4th of 4) Edward Whittemore contemp fic ****
78. ♬ The Rape of the Nile Brian Fagan history egypt, archaeology egypt ***1/2
79. new Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters Mark Urban history british 95th ****1/2
10 books

3PlatinumWarlock
Jul 2, 2023, 12:03 pm

>1 sibylline: What a beautiful topper. Happy new thread!

4PaulCranswick
Jul 2, 2023, 12:05 pm

What a lovely name for a waterfall, Lucy.

Happy new thread. xx

5FAMeulstee
Jul 2, 2023, 1:14 pm

Happy new thread, Lucy!

6LizzieD
Editado: Jul 2, 2023, 1:19 pm

Ooooo! New Thread! I'm off to inspect everything you're reading now except maybe for Napoleon...
I look forward as always to seeing what you think of what you read, dear Lucy.

ETA: Yay! I see that I've already put Enzo MacLeod 2 on my Kindle at a bargain price!

7drneutron
Jul 2, 2023, 2:02 pm

Happy new one, Lucy!

8quondame
Jul 2, 2023, 7:15 pm

Happy new thread Lucy!

>1 sibylline: Dreamy!

9sibylline
Editado: Jul 5, 2023, 10:46 am

Well hallelujia, lots of visitors! I don't deserve any of you to stop in these days as despite the best of intentions I don't visit others as often as I would like to, I don't quite know why. Maybe since covid? I use my time less well? I mean, I bought the very last geraniums at the local greenhouse yesterday because I was so late getting around to that!

We're having smoke issues now and all spent an (admittedly rainy) Saturday inside. (155 was our top AQI) Here in Vermont we wait all winter for summer so any day when it is over 50F or so and I can't go outside to do things I am resentful. Any day when it is 65-85F and I have to stay inside I am furious! Today AQI fell under 100 and I went out -- spousal unit kind of has long covid (we think- as they eliminate every else it could be)mostly lung weirdness so he is still staying in.

TMI, bye. But many thanks for visiting.

10sibylline
Editado: Jul 2, 2023, 8:09 pm

Oh and about Napoleon, this is a dormant interest that seems to have re-awoken. I spent a year abroad in France and my history professor with whom I did a rather intense 18-19th century tutorial was OBSESSED with Napoleon. We kind of got stuck there, in fact. So, yeah, I know more than anyone should, really. I have a book on Waterloo lined up too. Nuts, really.

11MickyFine
Jul 3, 2023, 9:56 am

Happy new thread, Lucy! I hope the smoke dissipates and you can get more outdoor time.

12BLBera
Jul 4, 2023, 10:20 am

I love the photo at the top. I hope the air clears soon.

>10 sibylline: We all have our areas of obsession.

13sibylline
Jul 4, 2023, 12:16 pm

>12 BLBera: I think I might have too many.

14sibylline
Jul 4, 2023, 12:22 pm

42. mys french
Extraordinary People Peter May

Even though the 'treasure hunt' style of mystery isn't my thing, really, I will likely continue reading these as we have them all on hand and Enzo and his personal life will probably draw me along. My spousal unit loved them-to me the level of detail is more than necessary, even a bit tedious at times but certainly if you went into the catacombs beneath Paris following his directions you'd probably make it back out. And I spent lots of time looking up this church and that town, etcetera. I guess I like a bit more mystery in my mysteries? ***1/2

15PlatinumWarlock
Jul 4, 2023, 11:25 pm

>13 sibylline: No such thing!!! Embrace the obsessions! 😀 ('Enabling' is my obsession.)

16sibylline
Jul 5, 2023, 10:44 am

>15 PlatinumWarlock: I welcome the encouragement and fully concur. And welcome to LT!

17PlatinumWarlock
Jul 5, 2023, 9:55 pm

>16 sibylline: Thank you! 😀

18sibylline
Editado: Jul 8, 2023, 10:40 am

43. sf sp/op ***1/2
Machine Elizabeth Bear

A good story, good characters and I love the homage to James White's Sector General. A distress call brings the space ambulance to a distant and strange location where two ships are discovered, a generation ship and a merchant ship, but everyone is dead or in stasis except a comely golden AI. That's how the story begins, but it rapidly becomes apparent that all is not in the least bit as it appears, the target is . . . . but I can't tell you that can I? Dr. Jens has a severe auto-immune problem and depends on her 'exo-suit' to let her function, she has personal issues beside the constant pain management, to do with loyalty and where to bestow it. She is asked to investigate a problem in the hospital itself, and it slowly becomes apparent that all is seriously not well and she has to think and feel her way through how to handle the matter. I found myself wishing to know more about how the people who survive being re-awakened from 600 years ago, in cryo for who knows how long, were going to cope, but this wasn't their story. At the end Dr. Jens internal monologue really did go on for too long. Kind of gave the ending a bit of the leaky balloon feeling. ***1/2

19quondame
Editado: Jul 8, 2023, 8:33 pm

>18 sibylline: I just started Machine only to notice that I read it in 2020 - and gave it the same rating!

20sibylline
Jul 8, 2023, 10:30 am

>19 quondame: I totally get how that could happen! I keep trying to get my spousal unit to put a checkmark in a book he has read so he won't try and read it again. :)

21sibylline
Editado: Jul 12, 2023, 10:07 am

Here's a link to the flooding in Montpelier, which is epic and truly catastrophic -- the Winooski river went 22 feet above usual height. We are fine -- our river did not flood its banks and the all-important culvert in our driveway did not get clogged as we spent all afternoon before the storm clearing the brook that drains into it. Our water bars on the hill worked too, thanks to the spousal unit's expertise with tractor, back hoe, etc.

Montpelier flooding

22lauralkeet
Jul 12, 2023, 1:25 pm

>21 sibylline: Thank goodness. Since seeing the photos of Montpelier, I've been thinking about you and hoping you're okay.

23sibylline
Editado: Jul 12, 2023, 1:35 pm

>22 lauralkeet: Thanks, Laura -- we are totally fine, no damage at all -- just have to take some roundabout routes to get anywhere. I do go to Montpelier a lot -- and it's going to be a mess for a long time.

24sibylline
Jul 14, 2023, 12:08 pm

44. mys french ***
The Critic Peter May

I think this is it for the series for me -- remember, I am not reviewing -- this is a matter of taste, you might love this type of mystery, very detailed and carefully crafted. And that is a sly dig as 'the critic' in this offering was a wine tasting expert. I did learn something about wine-making, but perhaps more than I really needed to? And the method of murdering, well, unsavory (oops, doing it again). Also Enzo and women, I mean, seriously, the trope gone wild. It's actually a bit funny, but only a bit. May is a good story teller but these just aren't my thing, but they might be yours, can't emphasize that enough. ***

25sibylline
Editado: Jul 14, 2023, 12:17 pm

45. fantasy no rating
Arcanum Unbounded Brandon Sanderson

My daughter loves 'later' Sanderson but this is early stuff, a collection of short stories and a novella, and landed on my bookshelf, somehow or other. I have liked some of the later of his books, although I get weary of all the terminology and methodology of the various magics. Others love that stuff and I like some, just not too much. I'm counting this as read because I got more than halfway through (it's a whopper) and realized I wasn't engaged enough with any of the characters. I do admire how he plunges into a story and keeps it moving. no rating

26sibylline
Editado: Jul 17, 2023, 11:19 am

46. hist fic NR
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch Riva Galchen

I always enjoy Riva Galchen's stories in the New Yorker - however - (sorry, there is an however) I was not drawn into this novel of which I read a little over half before throwing in the towel. I did slowly page through the rest for the gist of the story. I don't know why it didn't take. The story of Hans Kepler's mother who was accused (and eventually acquitted, not a spoiler since it is in the historical record) of witchcraft in the . . . 16th century where the medieval and the stirrings of the enlightenment often locked horns. Well written, often very funny, often very sad but in this 'get on with life' way, I still felt bogged down. The witness statements might have something to do with it? I really don't know and once again must remind anyone who reads my comments that this is not a review. I no longer feel obliged to finish books that don't pull me in. Not fair, I know. So you must decide for yourself. NR

Good quotes: "Being my age is like being woken from a grave and walking the earth to see the alien world of my descendants." 90

"...This day I saw that I was walking to the end of my life, and they were walking into their bloom. They wre walking toward the center of their lives, and I was walking toward my own perimeter. . .It's a curious angle of the sun, of late light." 103

27sibylline
Editado: Jul 18, 2023, 12:49 pm

47. fantasy ss ***1/2
Muse and Reverie Charles de Lint

de Lint is always a pleasure to read and somehow I've fallen wayyy behind. Some stories are wonderful, others are good, and a few get a little too happy-ending/schmaltzy even for me, but that's ok too. He somehow manages to make magic and magical beings plausible and can spin a yarn and in combination that is quite a gift. ***1/2

28quondame
Jul 18, 2023, 10:42 pm

>27 sibylline: Charles de Lint has been a favorite author since I stumbled over Riding Shotgun in an anthology my father deacquisitioned in my direction.

29SandyAMcPherson
Jul 20, 2023, 11:14 am

Delurking in a rare moment of being alone in the house of a morning.
I seem to not handle very much of the summer visiting that commenced with the somewhat fading incidence of Co-Vid.

My psyche doesn't cope so well with a lack of quiet. Somehow, I seem not to "people" well at all anymore. And my reading fell off a cliff. However, the flower (herbaceous) garden is thriving despite the frequent influx of forest fire smoke.

I will post some reviews on my thread by and by, so you know what I've been reading!

30sibylline
Jul 24, 2023, 8:13 pm

>29 SandyAMcPherson: Looking forward to seeing what you've been reading!

I've been busy with music things, so not much reading here either.

31LizzieD
Jul 31, 2023, 10:11 am

Ah HA!!! It's Lucy's birthday!!!! I wish you a very happy one doing just as you please!!!!!

32SandyAMcPherson
Editado: Jul 31, 2023, 10:46 am

>26 sibylline: Hi Lucy,

""...This day I saw that I was walking to the end of my life, and they were walking into their bloom. They wre walking toward the center of their lives, and I was walking toward my own perimeter. . .It's a curious angle of the sun, of late light." 103"

What an amazing quote. Very introspective. I think however, I am not drawn to reading the book myself. Thanks for the candid review.

Edited to add my birthday wishes, a day I didn't know had arrived for you, Lucy. Be well!

33sibylline
Ago 3, 2023, 9:56 am

>32 SandyAMcPherson: It is indeed an amazing bit of writing/wisdom. It'll stick with me.

>31 LizzieD: and >32 SandyAMcPherson: Thank you for birthday wishes!

34sibylline
Editado: Ago 12, 2023, 9:37 am

48. history *** 1/2
Conquering the Pacific Andrés Resendez

The subject is the establishing of a reliable enough method for crossing the Pacific Ocean from the Americas and more importantly returning in one piece and opening another trade route. The Spanish supported the venture and hired the best pilots and captains they could . . . well . . . . not always, but never mind. The focus of the book is Lope Martín, a mulatto pilot so competent and brilliant that he was assigned (albeit to the smallest craft) to the flotilla. Resendez begins with a short geological and meteorological précis of the challenges these sailors faced. No established simple way to determine longitude, indeed no clocks to time anything and determine speed, a huge ocean with fiendish winds and currents. I found this first chapter enthralling, actually. The book then proceeds with the building of the ships on the western coast of Mexico, the trip (details that are known) and then the most important of all the return, 'the vuelta' which never had been done before. Lope Martín was the first pilot to successfully achiever the vuelta (just barely). I don't think Resendez is to blame for long (kind of involved and dull) sections of detail about the politicking and scheming of the various men involved, in Spain, in Mexico, on the ships -- the story is convoluted and treachery was inevitable. Martín's ship, the San Lucas, was separated from the rest of the ships early on, whether by design or by accident, impossible to ever know. The Spanish behaved, as all these early explorers did, abominably wherever they found inhabited islands, but one cannot but marvel that all these men were willing to put their lives in such danger. Desperation, greed, and for some a pull toward risk-taking and adventure, a belief that their luck would hold. Lots of hard research here. ***1/2

35PlatinumWarlock
Ago 12, 2023, 2:01 am

Hi Lucy! Just popping in to say hello. 🙂

36sibylline
Ago 12, 2023, 9:42 am

>35 PlatinumWarlock: Not very interesting here of late, because . . . .

Very absent from hereabouts of late. My MFA writing program hosts a conference for graduates (run by graduates) every summer, in different locales and this year it was near us at Mt. Holyoke College (beautiful campus) and so I've been immersed in mostly listening and talking my head off, taught a class, went to classes, readings, did some writing and had a very fine time. I haven't been to one of these in well over a decade so it was amazing to catch up with people. Acquired a pile of novels - but while here I've read no more than twenty pages over the eight day residency. Time to go home now!



37SandyAMcPherson
Ago 12, 2023, 12:02 pm

>36 sibylline: Sounds a very fulfilling excursion, Lucy.
I'm unclear... are you teaching in the MFA program or visiting as an invited author? Or...?
It would be fun to see a title list of the 'pile of novels' acquired!

38SandyAMcPherson
Ago 12, 2023, 12:10 pm

PS. I didn't know where Mt. Holyoke is located and finding their website didn't clarify (but google search did: South Hadley, Massachusetts). Looks an attractive college alright.

In a fun, non-literature aside, it was interesting to read this Antarctica discovery.

39sibylline
Editado: Ago 13, 2023, 2:15 pm

>37 SandyAMcPherson: No. I graduated from this program in '88. This is a conference for people already graduated -- many have published novels etc etc.
It's by us and for us. Lots of old friends there and made new acquaintances with folks who I've never met as the last time I went to one of these was in 2004 or so.

Here are some of the novels -- Keep in mind that I haven't read any of these novels listed, except one!

The Half-Life of Home Dale Neal -- I have read two others of Dale's novels and he has a new one coming out. I absolutely LOVED Appalachian Book of the Dead
The Kudzu Queen Mimi Herman
Hurry Home Anne Scott Knight (short stories)
Monster Talk Michael Jarmer
Mrs. Somebody Somebody Tracy Winn **

**Lots of buzz about this one

I mostly traded my book for theirs and so I also brought home a pantload of poetry, one poem a day, I figure, shouldn't do me in.

40SandyAMcPherson
Editado: Ago 13, 2023, 10:31 pm

>39 sibylline: BB for Appalachian Book of the Dead.
I rarely look at the reviews for books I plan on reading. Being cautious that maybe this isn't a BB for me, I prepared by seeing whether my anxious psyche these days could cope.

Upthumbed your review. It was such a heartfelt view of the story. However, the ol' psyche says, no you don't want to immerse in this one.

41PlatinumWarlock
Ago 14, 2023, 1:22 am

>36 sibylline: That sounds like an amazing way to spend eight days, Lucy! I love that part of the world... I've never lived in the Happy Valley, but my partner did for a while, and I've visited a few times. It would be high on my "where could I live?" list if I weren't so happy in Seattle. 😁

42sibylline
Editado: Ago 18, 2023, 1:22 pm

49. fantasy ****
Fortress in the Eye of Time (1 of 5) C.J. Cherryh

Cherryh's favorite trope on display here -- a person lands in a situation where they are either the only of their kind in an alien setting or they have landed in a situation of which they know nothing, a power struggle, rebellion etc. In both, in order to survive, learning has to happen and fast. Tristen is a Shaping and it is unclear if he is essentially a Revenant or if he is something newly fashioned -- the implication from the get-go is that the wizard, Mauryl who Shaped him feels he didn't get his creation quite right. We don't know either exactly what Mauryl had in mind, although it is clear that the Shaping was not to be human, but Sihhë, a race that is human, in essence as the two can interbreed, but the Sihhë are natural magical ability. In any case, Tristen is NOT a human even if he is embodied in a human body that works exactly as any other human body does. The plot is convoluted enough that I won't go into it other than to say that the non-magical humans and those with Sihhë abilities (diluted) do not trust one another, for the most part. Those who live in the south of the kingdom have more Sihhë and are thus looked at askance -- wrongs have been done to both. The big probbo with the Sihhë ultimately is that once in a while there is a baddie who makes big trouble . . . but the humans get fanatically religious and rigid and are equally dangerous. Ok enough. The interest for me is especially in watching Tristen learn. ****

43sibylline
Editado: Ago 18, 2023, 1:28 pm

50. fantasy ****
Fortress of Eagles (2 of 5) C.J. Cherryh

The big tension here is whether the new king, Cefwyn, (Tristen's trusted friend and ally) will get to marry his true love, who is the new reigning monarch of a neighboring kingdom that has a LOT of Sihhë blood and thus can do wizardry OR sorcery (First good, second bad). Tristen, of course, is under suspicion for anything untoward that goes on and Cefwyn has to send him away -- but he raises him to being the Lord of a whole area, next door to this neighbouring kingdom, where the people also have a lot more Sihhë ancestry than usual, sooooo, even though when Tristen arrives there is hanky panky happening, basically everyone but a few at the very top, are thrilled to have him and there are darker hints that many consider him to be the rightful king of their land AND the king of this neighboring kingdom . . . Treachery is EVERYWHERE and both Tristen and Cefwyn have their hands full figuring out what to do. What is rising in this novel too is in what ways Tristen will use his magical abilities -- even with intentions to do good, the power can turn and twist a person into doing more harm than good. So there you go, plot definitely thickens. ****

44quondame
Ago 17, 2023, 9:34 pm

>42 sibylline: >43 sibylline: I've read the series twice, but not recently. I have to have a somewhat higher energy level to enjoy Cherryh's prose than I do for some others of my favorite F&SF authors.

45sibylline
Ago 18, 2023, 1:28 pm

>44 quondame: that makes perfect sense to me! She does demand a lot of the reader--granted she also gives a great deal!

46sibylline
Editado: Ago 24, 2023, 1:11 pm

51. ****1/2 fantasy
Fortress of Owls C.J. Cherryh

The plot continues to Unfold to Tristen and to us, as he begins to perceive the path he is treading, treacherous and lonely. Not much I can say. Either Cherryh will enthrall you or she won't. The core question that penetrates the series and becomes ever more demanding of Tristen and Cefwyn and those who love both, is where to draw the line between Truth and Illusion, the Edge of which can be almost impossible to discern or maintain. A balance of both?

47sibylline
Editado: Ago 24, 2023, 1:15 pm

52. ****1/2 fantasy
Fortress of Dragons C.J. Cherryh

Much that was unknown is settled by the end of this 4th offering: Tristen has made choices and has a deeper grasp of who he is and what he faces, even now, even if no one else knows the extent of it. The remaining mystery is what and who are the Shihhë, if he is not a who, exactly, then what is he? He is embodied in flesh, certainly, and yet . . . And Owl. I do wonder if we will ever know. A further wrinkle that emerges in book 4 amid much much drama, the next succession of the Marhanens and Elwynim, will also no doubt be the earthly subjest of the next and last book.****1/2

48RebaRelishesReading
Ago 24, 2023, 1:20 pm

Hi Lucy -- somehow lost your thread for a bit so just now catching up and glad to hear you didn't suffer any damage during the terrible storms.

49sibylline
Ago 24, 2023, 1:27 pm

>48 RebaRelishesReading: Thanks for stopping by Reba -- I've been worse than terrible about visiting threads, so I hope you are doing well too?? Yes, we are fine -- now on the Cape for a couple of weeks. That is why I am hurling myself into reading the above series, pure bliss!

50RebaRelishesReading
Ago 24, 2023, 1:28 pm

>49 sibylline: Sounds like a lovely get-away. Enjoy!

51sibylline
Editado: Ago 31, 2023, 10:41 am

53. fantasy ****1/2
Fortress of Ice C.J. Cherryh

The final book in the Fortress series, Cherryh takes the reader within view of the challenges the next generation will face--not resolving anything of course! There is so little I can say without spoiling should a person planning to read the series looks at the comments ahead of time, but there are children and there are complications about their births and abilities and nothing at all is resolved with the Quinalt faith which abhors 'sorcery', wizards, magic, etcetera without ever examining the complexities more closely. I greatly enjoyed the process of maturing that both Tristen and Cefwyn undergo during the entire series and the start of maturation of the next generation. One feels they will overcome and endure. Five stars as I read through all five in about 3 1/2 weeks, happily while on holiday! Perfect! *****

52sibylline
Editado: Ago 31, 2023, 11:01 am

54. hist fic, britain post-roman ****1/2
Dark Earth Rebecca Stott

Setting is a couple hundred years after the departure of the Romans from Britain and Londinium in particular where some Saxons have a toehold. They avoid the ruins of the old city as haunted but there are people living there, almost all women, refugees from the harshness of the collapsed and changing situation. Stott does an amazing job at creating characters--two sisters, orphaned when their father, a rare and revered blacksmith dies--and a story that grips while also evoking how unsettling and yet providential the abrupt abandonment of Britain was for all those left behind. They left EVERYTHING they could not take in a trunk or two (or less, were they slaves) tools, weapons, gold, silver, iron, glass, fabrics, bronzes, the very stones of their buildings . . . . the list is endless and of the people remaining few have the skills to fabricate any of these things. Secondly Stott does a fine job at convincingly showing what it was like to live in a society that truly believes in haunts, curses, monsters and the like. Her goal was to bring into the light what life for women during this time of turmoil might have been like and I think she succeeds. A fine book! ****

53sibylline
Set 2, 2023, 8:36 pm

55. fantasy ***
Son of Avonar Carol Berg

Took on this reread because I had collected the rest of the series and thought I wanted to continue, but alas, no, I don't and won't continue. The problem Berg needed a ferocious editor who would have said, ditch the first person and don't overexplain. I'm annoyed really because underneath there is a pretty good fantasy story although it isn't particularly original it has some nice features. The story opens with Seri, formerly a duchess, has married an antiquarian but he is revealed to be sorcerous, except -- he isn't really -- he's a great healer--but now he's dead and she's banished herself to a tiny cottage in the middle of nowhere and along comes this beautiful but utterly feral young man being chased by creeps who can't talk but is . . . well . . . different. Sorcerous? Well, you get the idea. I thumbed through the next three and just thought No -- it shares features with the Cherryh Fortress novels but there is a mile-wide difference in the telling. ***

54quondame
Set 3, 2023, 1:39 am

>53 sibylline: Carol Berg is one of the authors I compare more to Robin Hobb both because they pace the story more deliberately than most and because they inflict major damage on the MCs while not abandoning them to destruction. I love books paced to pull me along chapter after chapter whether much is happening or not, but I rather like these authors as well. I prefer Carol Berg's Books of the Rai-Kirah and the Sanctuary and Lighthouse Duets, but I can't say that the pacing is much different.

55sibylline
Editado: Set 3, 2023, 10:05 am

>54 quondame: I want badly to enjoy Berg and I did like the Books of the Rai-Kirah a LOT, but the first person problem here just did me in. Explanations - - so really hard to do in first person.

56sibylline
Editado: Set 21, 2023, 11:52 am

56. fantasy ****1/2
Foundryside Robert Jackson Bennett

In this universe, a group of humans figure out how to rewrite reality and become, to all intents and purposes, gods. Only . . . not benevolent gods. They fight one another mercilessly, and humankind are made into tools or are simply expendable. The battle appears over, except that remnant technology fascinates a new generation of 'makers' to try to become (like) gods themselves. Enter a young woman who has been 'scrived' by one of these wannabes to be augmented, except . . . she somehow remains independent. Sancia. She ends up in Tevanne where all the big foundries, that do the scriving to make buildings strong and all things to work "better" as a thief and, given her special skills, the best. She gets a job to steal a little wooden box from one of the big foundries but she takes a look and . . . off we go. Great story, excellent characters, as with City of Stairs a variety in the cast that appeals. On to Book 2! ****1/2

57sibylline
Editado: Set 21, 2023, 9:53 am

58. contemp, native american *****
The Painted Drum Louise Erdrich

Can a novel be close to flawless? Indeed one can. Many novels are. And this is one. Compelling in all ways, and also forceful enough to establish a voice that echoes on after you finish. Erdrich achieves, somehow, deep intimacy with the main characters while maintaining a dreamlike distance as if they watch themselves doing things, not quite fully present, which means you watch them at a second reserve. Such as the theft of the drum which lies at the heart of the novel. A woman, living with her mother on a particular back woods road in rural New Hampshire, is part Ojibwe, but her mother has never seriously claimed her heritage, both have lived quietly 'white' while running an estate business, clearing out houses for people. There are secrets, there is a troublesome love affair and difficult neighbors, two deaths. The close observation of surroundings, inside and outside, are sharp and focussed always in tune with what is going on in the human realm. A long section in the middle of the book gives the history of the making of the drum and fits perfectly inside the story in the present. *****

I was unable to find anywhere what pine a 'cavern pine' refers to- Obviously a name like popple for poplar etc. For New England it is likely to be red or white pine or hemlock, but I had no luck.

58RebaRelishesReading
Set 17, 2023, 4:17 pm

>57 sibylline: I've been thinking lately that I should read some more Erdrich so your excellent review sold me easily. A couple of things need to be read in near future but soon, very soon...

59SandyAMcPherson
Set 19, 2023, 6:43 pm

>53 sibylline: I recently decided I have just too much trouble enjoying anything written in the first person style. So I'm pleased to be in good company. It's something about lack of engagement because I'm overwhelmed with the character's thoughts and conversations rather than living the story with a disinterested perspective. It's like tell rather than show failure. I think, anyway...

>57 sibylline: This went onto my September WL. Excellent review!

60lauralkeet
Set 20, 2023, 9:08 am

>57 sibylline: Excellent review of The Painted Drum, Lucy. I enjoyed that one too. I was surprised at first to find myself in New Hampshire, and liked the way Erdrich "book-ended" that around the more familiar Love Medicine setting.

61sibylline
Set 21, 2023, 12:01 pm

59. fantasy ****
Shorefall Robert Jackson Bennett

The battle sure isn't over as the 'first maker' Crasedes is determined to make over humanity, but also to destroy one of his constructs, calling herself Valeria, who has her own agenda. Crasedes, after thousands of years, has come to believe humanity cannot be trusted with their own inventions, sooner or later someone uses their advantage to enslave, dominate etc. others. What is he afraid Valeria will do? The question is, which one should the group (Sancia, Berenice, Orso, Gregor, Polina et al.) believe or maybe even trust? Under the pressure of the present scriving has moved forward a long way and they are able, up to a point, to resist. Things look hopeful and then they go sideways and it becomes quite apparent that there is only Bad and Worse and that they might be getting the upper hand. Worse especially. Make way for Book 3. I have to pause to comment here that the tale is getting a little what I call Sandersonish --problem-solving-with-fancy-tech/magicky-- over character development. Kind of neck and neck in this one, so I worry that my interest will flag in book 3. I like some innovative stuff but not when it takes over. ****

62SandyAMcPherson
Set 22, 2023, 12:46 am

>61 sibylline: You're an intrepid reader for sure.
With all due respect, what that book sounds like it would do to me...


63sibylline
Set 22, 2023, 9:48 am

>63 sibylline: I wouldn't want that to happen! I agree, not at all your sort of book.

64alcottacre
Set 22, 2023, 11:08 am

>42 sibylline: Can you advise as to where the best place to start with Cherryh's oevre is, Lucy? I really need to read some of her/his work.

>52 sibylline: Adding that one to the BlackHole. Thanks for the review and recommendation.

>56 sibylline: I went to add that one to the BlackHole and discovered it was already there. I really need to track down a copy!

>57 sibylline: Dodging that BB as I have already read it.

Have a fantastic Friday, Lucy!

65quondame
Editado: Set 22, 2023, 8:26 pm

>42 sibylline: >64 alcottacre: As another C.J. Cherryh(she/her) fan what I'd recommend for a first read would depend on whether you are a Fantasy fan (Paladin) a hard SF fan (Heavy Time) or more a social SF fan (Downbelow Station or Foreigner). What I would not recommend even if you are a total Russian folklore fan is Rusalka, not that it isn't good but it can be depressing. I selected these partially because Cherryh's use of language can be distracting for readers and I found it less distracting in these books than in others.

66sibylline
Set 23, 2023, 11:42 am

>64 alcottacre: >65 quondame: I would concur with Downbelow Station as a potentially good starter. I LOVED the whole Chanur series and I think they might have been the first ones I read. I think it starts with The Pride of Chanur. There's a special name for dropping a main character (and therefore the reader) into a situation where they have to figure out what the heck is going on --

Rusalka is a tough one, tried to get into it a couple of times and so far have failed.

67alcottacre
Set 23, 2023, 11:44 am

>65 quondame: More fantasy than hard sci fi, for sure. Thanks for the help, Susan!

>66 sibylline: I think I have at least part of the Chanur series here. I appreciate the help, Lucy.

Have a wonderful weekend!

68sibylline
Set 23, 2023, 11:46 am

>67 alcottacre: In that case (fantasy) you might prefer to start with Paladin.

69ronincats
Set 23, 2023, 8:49 pm

The Chanur series is my favorite as well, but you have to commit to the first four books as they are all one long story (and I wish it had been longer as I love living in them so much). And you know how much of a fantasy fan I am.

70alcottacre
Set 27, 2023, 11:37 am

>68 sibylline: Thank you, Lucy!

>69 ronincats: Roni, when we meet in Joplin, I am going to have you guide me to some good sci fi and fantasy.

71sibylline
Editado: Set 28, 2023, 11:58 am

60. fantasy ***1/2
Locklands Robert Jackson Bennett

To say I was disappointed with this series makes me uncomfortable after having found City of Stairs not just good, but remarkable and wonderful. However, I did not experience that same joy here. HOWEVER, as with the case of many fine writers not every book they write will fully hit the mark for everyone and more generally, not every story will work as well even for an individual. Before I continue, I want to remind anyone who does read these offerings that I consider what I write here comments, not reviews, because they are first and foremost subjective. What I write is intended to remind me of what I experienced reading the book, not to convince anyone else to read or not read. My stars reflect that too. The long and short is that I was never pulled fully in. The characters were strong and full of potential but I never attached to any of them, almost not never quite. I thought the scriving idea interesting but a bit too forced especially in book 3. I've noticed in speculative fiction two particular threads that, for me, have to be in balance to keep me riveted. First, characters. It's never only the situation or setting they find themselves in, the problems they face, it is who they are as individuals, which then determines how they approach problem-solving. (Head first, eyes closed, checking and rechecking etc,) And yes, the second is problem-solving. Some books are just one long string of problems to solve and who the characters are hardly matters, they just take each mess as it comes and cope. Here you have plenty of character development potential, but unfortunately, this series, as it continued, tipped the balance into the latter category. Some of the most interesting characters (Gregor) (Orso) were offed and frankly I got bored. One insuperable crazy problem after another and I knew the 'team' would come up with something. I suspect my lack of interest has to do too, with NOT being used to gaming on line? ( I have played D&D around a table, but that is the extent of my experience in this arena. ).With being a fan of 18th and 19th century literature? So so character and setting driven. Ah well. And anyone who loves Cixing Liu and Brian Sanderson etcetera, you'll love it. ***1/2

72SandyAMcPherson
Set 28, 2023, 4:10 pm

>71 sibylline: Your comment about book reviews was 'exactly so' in the way it resonated with me (I consider what I write here comments, not reviews, because they are first and foremost subjective). Perhaps expressed so clearly because of your writerly background, which is experience that would delve into what makes a story engaging (or not).

Last night I finished an ER book (Stone Soup) by EB Mann, which in part, reflects your comment regarding a narrative that doesn't work when the action is all about one long string of problems to solve. Such stories do not engage me and I skimmed to find the meat of the book, coming up empty. It will be difficult to review without my being so personally from my perspective. But then, that *is* all I have to offer really.

73sibylline
Set 28, 2023, 9:04 pm

>72 SandyAMcPherson: Thank you Sandy for a warm and thoughtful reply! I'm glad you understand what I was trying to get at!

74quondame
Set 28, 2023, 9:21 pm

>71 sibylline: The first was OK for me, but I wasn't convinced to continue. It had so many elements I'd seen before, and a lot of unused potential.

75sibylline
Set 29, 2023, 9:58 pm

>75 sibylline: I totally get that!

76sibylline
Editado: Out 2, 2023, 5:24 pm

Here's an Autumn photograph!


After a summer of constant rain we are having a run of lovely days.

77sibylline
Editado: Out 5, 2023, 1:05 pm

61. memoir *****
This Boy's Life Tobias Wolff

A second read, the first was more or less when it was published, thirty years ago. Tobias is ten and he and his mother are fleeing Florida and yet another of her bad relationships, headed for Utah; it is the early 50's. When she and Tobias's father split, each took one child. The other, Geoffrey Wolff is also a writer and among other things wrote about their father in The Duke of Deception- a handsome, brilliant, charismatic man who was unable, basically, to ever tell the truth. Tobias Wolff (who renamed himself Jack for this period of his life) tells the story of this six or so year period of his life in a series of connected stories in sections--each section focussed around a place and a situation and that are further divided into separate vignettes.

If possible the memoir was even more rewarding the second time around because my understanding of both the emotional difficulty and the writing 'craft' that went into the creation goes so much deeper. Wolff achieves (what is more or less impossible) writing a memoir about that specific (and critical) period between pre- and late-adolescence not as a narrative but as a series of stories, dialogue and all, that is utterly convincing as a memoir. While it is written as if fiction, it feels and is, surely, the truth of that period of his life. Perhaps only his truth, but truth. One could discuss why this works for days or weeks. Wolff himself says in his preface: "I remember the past in terms of stories. That's how I think of it, how I talk about it, and how I've written it here." I've written plenty of stories that are based on my life experiences, but I deviate from the facts knowingly to shape the story the way I want it to go. Most of us can't help doing that, interfering with and remaking our past in that way. Here, Wolff ruthlessly re-imagines the past exactly as he remembers it, I say ruthlessly because he doesn't spare himself for one second. He is his father's son and lying and subterfuge come naturally to him, sometimes with (some) justification, sometimes not. Also he re-inhabits the mind of the boy he was, with no judgement from his adult self about the things he did (and didn't) do. Such as regret, yes, or even something like disbelief at his stupidity or naivete but never judgement. He was a kid, this is how I coped. The self-awareness that went into the work is blinding. *****

78sibylline
Editado: Out 5, 2023, 9:36 am

duplicate of comments above, not sure how that happened!

79alcottacre
Out 4, 2023, 12:44 pm

>71 sibylline: I just picked up a copy of Foundryside the other day, but I have not yet read it. Maybe I should find a copy of the City of Stairs series instead. . .

I consider what I write here comments, not reviews That is exactly how I feel about the books on which I comment.

>77 sibylline: I have owned that one for years, but I am not sure that I have ever read it. I really need to remedy that.

80sibylline
Editado: Out 5, 2023, 9:33 am

>79 alcottacre: Wonderful to hear from you. Yes, I would put my Bennett reading into Stairs . . .

I write that comment thing once in a while because I try not to influence anyone to read or not read something just because it didn't work for me. Writing a good book is unbelievably difficult, so I've gotten more sympathetic as I go!

Meanwhile . . . I actually finished something!

81SandyAMcPherson
Out 5, 2023, 9:57 am

>77 sibylline: (and #78), Lucy, such a coincidence, your saying (quoting the book, I mean), "I remember the past in terms of stories. That's how I think of it, how I talk about it, and how I've written it here."...

Yesterday, at #28, I was answering Linda (aka, laytonwoman3rd, #24) to encourage her to go ahead and write that generational book she speaks of creating. I talked about "memoir fiction" which is how I've written stories.

I, too, remember the past in series of stories, sometimes only fleeting vignettes. I think our pasts are better expressed by acknowledging that "...we can't help doing that, interfering with and remaking our past" (as you said). Because if the core of the story is how it is remembered ---> after all, that is all we have to offer. My kids love these stories, and they were for a long while, simply oral traditions. I finally wrote them down (many years ago). I don't feel any need to struggle with trying to publish them, though.

Long-winded reply on why I liked your reviews of the Wolff book.

82LizzieD
Out 5, 2023, 10:11 am

>77 sibylline: Lucy, I love that your personal comments spark different responses from your visitors. When I read that post, I immediately remembered a conversation my DH and I had last week. Somebody had told him that we remain the person we were when we were six. I understand that Wolff was writing about an older self, but what we remember and what we do with or to that memory is fascinating. I look at our kindergarten pictures and see life-long characteristics of both of us. Otherwise, I'm not sure how much of being six I recall. What I do recall is definitely in story form.

83alcottacre
Out 5, 2023, 10:26 am

>80 sibylline: I put Bennett on my list of authors to look for when I am in Joplin in a few weeks. I am hoping that the book shoppe has City of Stairs.

84sibylline
Out 5, 2023, 1:42 pm

62. mi5 ****
The Secret Hours Mick Herron

Herron follows a new thread (or should that be threat) facing 'the Park' in the present taking us back to a past debacle that all Slough House fans wonder about, just what the heck did happen in post-wall Berlin? He also highlights in the most serious way he has yet, the lunacy of a government thinking to safely sub out stuff like vetting spies for their internal (and presumably external) security organizations. Also the lunacy of thinking any of us thinking we are safe: we are preyed upon by the ultra rich and even some of the lesser rich. Also of thinking any of us, even some of the ultra media savvy are safe from the media and internet in general. You are not. Period. While there are some slouchy, likeable characters this is a book in a darker key. For all his drinking and farting and smoking and being rude to people, Jackson Lamb is a serious dangerous angry and person and don't you forget it. So is First Desk, bless her nerves! ****

85sibylline
Out 12, 2023, 10:18 am

63. sf classic ***1/2
Beyond the Blue Event Horizon Frederik Pohl

It's difficult to write sensibly about a book written forty years ago in which some of the concepts are still fresh and exciting and others are dated and jarring. Same goes for the characters. Some sf writers, say, Arthur C. Clarke have managed to be vague about exactly the right details, the things not invented or named or even quite conceived of yet, and some seem to write about people with that wisdom and generosity or whatever it is, that keeps the book fresh over the decades. It's also somewhat unfair to judge by today's standards, but that can't be helped. Pohl works some of the time but not all the time, but I will finish the Heechee series because I am sufficiently drawn by the 'big idea' -- who the Heechee are and what they fear -- and the story itself, people and all, is just intriguing enough to keep me interested. One of the ironies is that the AI (not called that yet -- and not recognized as such yet) are pretty much the best characters -- Pohl feels freer to invent, more playful perhaps? ***1/2 or maybe a ****?

86alcottacre
Out 12, 2023, 11:50 am

>84 sibylline: I keep telling Peggy that I need to get to the Mick Herron books and one of these days I actually will! Unfortunately my local library does not have any of them.

>85 sibylline: Having read so little science fiction while I was "growing up" as a reader, I am trying to remedy that now. I will have to see if I can find the Pohl book.

87sibylline
Out 12, 2023, 9:26 pm

>86 alcottacre: I did run across something saying that the story, with the Heechee and all were, at the time, excitingly inventive. 'Classic' sf can be . . . less engrossing due to that change in attitudes or whatever. Anyway you might want to look at my comments on Gateway the first book -- I was not happy with some aspects, but those seem to have been improved if not entirely remedied in book 2 and we shall see what comes along in the last 2 books. I never read all the way through although something about the story seemed familiar as I read. But I know I went no further.

88quondame
Out 13, 2023, 7:01 pm

89sibylline
Out 13, 2023, 10:51 pm

>88 quondame: How exciting! That will go into the xmas books for the family pile, we all love V. G.

90sibylline
Out 17, 2023, 9:56 am

64. sf classic ****
Heechee Rendezvous Frederik Pohl

From the title you will guess that the Heechee, wherever they are, will come out of hiding. Meanwhile, Broadhead's health is failing and his desire to 'save' mankind, save the planet has not abated. His generous wife Essie has come up with a new version of Albert who is . . . . indisputably a full person despite being made of electrical energy and not embodied. Wan reappears as awful as ever. And yes, we meet the Heechee, within (in the mind of Captain) and without, as seen by humans. By the end everyone understands what the real threat is, and is NOT Heechee but the Assassins! On to the final book! I don't know the history of 'stored intelligence' but I detect the source (or some of the inspiration) for the second Star Trek series with their 'just as real as real' computer-generated reality
programs where they can let off steam. However, my ongoing plaint is that Pohl, while trying, really cannot imagine women, no matter how brilliant, as anything but cuddly, there to serve men, cook, clean etc. No man ever cooks anything for a woman and no women at all in any position of real authority. By 1984 he could have been a little further on? Nonetheless a ****.

91sibylline
Out 23, 2023, 11:18 am

65. sf classic ****
Annals of the Heechee Frederik Pohl

The fourth and final (although it turns out there are a few Gateway bits and pieces around) of the series and All is Revealed . . . as throughout some bits didn't work for me (polite for were annoying) and some were terrific. The 'story' overall is more interesting than the characters and people come and go as they are useful to the uber-story. Pohl does a good job too at explaining (or speculating about might be more accurate) difficult theoretical things (like wtf IS the universe all about? Why is it the way it is? etc) But that's ok, this is sf, not Ulysses. I'm glad I read them. I still loathe the name Heechee. It continues to sound silly to me. ****

92sibylline
Editado: Out 23, 2023, 12:50 pm

66. fict magic realism, middle east, ww2
Nile Shadows Edward Whittemore

The third of four in the extraordinary and strange novels of the Jerusalem Quartet is very different from the first two. For one, it's serious, shadowed, dark. This is not a John LeCarre mystery, clever layers within layers, this third book is a meditation on purpose and what happens if a person loses hope. Stern, the son of Plantagenet Strongbow, born in the desert around the turn of the century is a child of everywhere and everyone, nowhere and no one. He is a big quiet, intriguing, kind, loveable and mysterious man. His dream is of helping to create a Palestine where the monotheistic monoliths, Christianity, Islam, Judaism can exist in harmony. Directly opposed to this sort of blasphemy (although they are only one among many) are the Nazis who, in love with death (in their own sick way recognizing that in death is the perfection they seek--absolute control, absolute authority). Cairo, unthinkably, is under threat. Rommel is impossible to stop. How do the Germans always seem to know what the British have planned? Stern has worked as an agent for decades and comes under suspicion. Joe O'Sullivan Beare (from the previous novel who, appropriately, has lived as a shaman in the American Southwest for the last ten or so years but is an old friend of Stern's) is called in to unravel the mystery of Stern. Instead he finds that Stern is unraveling, for as the war rages on, he is losing fait, suspecting that his cause is hopeless, that the difficulty is within the human soul -- that humans are impossible to manage, life itself is impossible to manage because all is in constant in motion, changing, evolving . . . and at the core? Life and love, life and suffering and loss are inseparable. Some kind of fundamental, almost impersonal wickedness is inevitable. The story itself is a vehicle for these meditations and if you don't like thoughtful books, don't bother. It feels as if there ought to be a plot, what with all swirling secret agents and agencies at loggerheads, but there really is not. What Joe does find out is . . . well, I can't spoil, but it has more to do with the state of a soul and what I was writing of above so if you're looking for a clever plot, etcetera, stay away. Honestly, I never did figure out, not for sure (if there even is an answer in the text I might have missed it) whether Stern did betray anything to the Germans by accident or on purpose. And it's not really the point, is it?

Correction: The review below mine on the book page states that the novel is set during WW1. No. It is WW2.

93sibylline
Editado: Nov 3, 2023, 9:42 am

67. contemp fic ****
Monster Talk Michael Jarman

I'll begin by offering my own name for novels which draw inspiration from classic works: Homage fiction. Recently there have been so many, and many of them marvels, from Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet to Michael Cunningham's The Hours. The best ones enrich understanding and appreciation of the primary work and offer intriguing possibilities and avenues of further thought. Enough. Here we have a what-if made real: What if the Frankenstein story was true, but also . . . crafted carefully by Mary Shelley to be ambiguous . . . (ok and does require a considerable ability and willingness to suspend disbelief and go with the flow). In our time there is a little boy named Victor and in 2nd grade he introduces himself as the great-grandson of the original 'monster' created by Frankenstein. This causes consternation and ridicule that follows him through 5th grade when he and a girl named Michelle become friends and begin reading the original book together. Frankenstein's creations live for twice as long as 'normal' human beings so Victor's grandmother, Elizabeth's father was the original 'monster' (who named himself Adam). She is a normal human, in looks, anyway, just insanely long-lived. Things happen, good and bad during the course of the story, but at the heart of the novel is a fine combination of wit, empathy for difference, a recognition of the propensity for violence in humans (born of not acknowledging, duh, the monster within) counter-acted by the pervasive and miraculous nature of love that the story brings to light. Jarman captures the simplicity of an eleven year old boy's understanding with great effectiveness. He also illuminates the emotional complexities of the original novel -- the betrayals, cruelties, mistakes, misunderstandings that underpin the awful occurrences. And I may just have to reread Frankenstein one of these fine days! ****

94sibylline
Editado: Nov 3, 2023, 9:42 am

68. history europe 19th, napoleon *****
The Napoleonic Wars Alexander Mikaberidze

Mind you, not a fun read (or listen) but, in its own way utterly absorbing. Mikaberidze's achievement is, besides being written clearly, to present a global (and I mean global) understanding of the effect of the French Revolution and the consequent spawning of Napoleon on every part of the world. So, in a way he is presenting two stories, the one is about Napoleon himself, although Mikaberidze is not writing a psychologically motivated portrait or biography of the man, yet it is unavoidable not to notice his Janus-like character, his brilliant talents for organizing (whether for battle or for weights and measures) versus his compulsion to create and then obsessively enlarge his empire -- until, of course, the balloon pops. Bang. But what Mikaberidze really gets across is how, given that trade and colonization had become global, and the ideas of the French Revolution caught fire here, then there, especially in the Americas and Caribbean the sheer amount of money, manpower, and effort put into defeating Napoleon had an effect that rippled as far as Japan. Not much more than a ripple for the lucky few, but a ripple, usually in a diminution of trade and economic problems. China, perhaps, was the least affected, but even they had run ins with the British Royal Navy that were in part inspired by pushing to expand trade to make up for losing it elsewhere. Some of the changes that came were the result of the way Napoleon turned Europe on its head, rearranging whole countries as he conquered and schemed and giving other countries new ideas (Russia in particular) that after he was vanquished there would be a power vacuum left open for someone else to give empire building a whirl. Mikaberidze presents (perhaps others have too, but I'm not up on that) that it was Napoleon who gave rise to the whole idea of nationhood too -- as the countries he conquered woke up to the fact that he was messing with their identities and actually motivated them to fight back as a result. And that this change would resonate down the entire century and beyond, still going on, of course. This was a 35 hour listen, would be over 900 pages to read. I had a motivation which is research (for a novel) to give me a solid background for that time period and Mikaberidze delivered. Not for anyone who isn't either already obsessed with that time period. He does describe some of the battles, but even there, he gives what is necessary, usually vividly and efficiently, not getting hung up anywhere as his purpose is so much wider. *****


95sibylline
Editado: Nov 3, 2023, 9:46 am

69.
DNF urb fantasy NR
The Wolf at the End of the World Douglas Smith

All the ingredients are here, good story, good characters, interesting situation and setting, Set in Canada, someone has it in for the Heroka, shapeshifters, mainly Ojibwe, but things are not what they seem. Charles of Lint gave it a great recce . . . but I'm not sucked in. I've encountered this problem before and I don't know if it's me, no wait, I do know it's me. The thing is I respond to a certain joie d'ecrire, love of writing, of words, love of the turns and twists of character, human ingenuity, the unending miraculousness of this world in spite of so much pain. All topped off with a dash of humor, almost a shrug, at the craziness of it all, even being a writer.
When I don't feel at least some of that I just don't get drawn in. I think it's me. If I was on a long plane ride and this was my only book I would happily read on. I may even come back to it sometime.

96sibylline
Editado: Nov 3, 2023, 10:42 am

For November and December
Two photos, same landscape, taken two weeks apart:

97sibylline
Nov 3, 2023, 10:42 am

70. mi5 ss
Standing by the Wall Mick Herron

Four 'novellas' that round out some of the characters and their predicaments. I confess to not remembering every story perfectly so here and there I'm not sure of the chronology of the stories vis a vis the novels, but no matter. We learn more about John Bachelor, perhaps more than we ever wanted to know? No, I am being facetious, of course we want to know. We also get a little close to 'Lady Di' which I appreciate, as complex a person as Lamb and for many of the same reasons. One of Herron's gifts is being able to show how a person simultaneously knows what the 'right' thing is to do, wants very much to do just that, but then . . . other interests and needs barge in. A weakness of character that perhaps we all recognize and share (at least a little bit?!). The last story is a 'Christmas' offering and while it has a bite to it, naturally from Lamb himself, it readies us for the return of River to the fold. So worthwhile for all Herronites. ****

98sibylline
Nov 6, 2023, 11:24 am

71. contemp fic *****
The Half-Life of Home Dale Neal

Set in 'Altamont' North Carolina (Asheville) Neal tells the story of three generations (and a bit more) of a family long settled in Beaverdam, a town settled in the 19th century by Scots-Irish Baptists in a remote mountain valley that the native people avoided as unhealthy. Turns out, rightly. This family too has harbored some unhealthy secrets and in the way of things, all comes to the surface at once, large and small, to be reckoned with. What I love about Neal's novels is that he doesn't flinch from the gritty but neither does he take you down into the dark and leave you there. He's an accomplished storyteller and he knows to balance the good news with the bad and to show us, deftly and firmly, that while change is inevitable, not all is lost, and that there is often hidden gain. Maybe not for you, but at the deeper level, metaphysical or whatever you want to call it. An excellent novel and highly recommended. *****

99sibylline
Editado: Nov 6, 2023, 11:29 am

72. ♬ RR bbg&wbg
This Is Happiness Niall Williams fict irish *****

A reread, reviewed already! Superb novel, highly recommended *****

100sibylline
Editado: Nov 6, 2023, 9:23 pm

73. history peninsular wars, history british military 95th rifles

Read this as research for something I'm working on, a character is in the 95th Rifles. I now know more than anyone should about the development of British Light Infantry. Only for military boffins (I am not one!).

101sibylline
Nov 12, 2023, 11:05 am

74. fantasy/steampunkish *****
The Aeronaut's Windlass Jim Butcher

Wonderful! On my TBR shelf for yonks, who knows why . . . in a way I'm glad 1) perfect book for this moment and 2) Book 2 has just come out so I won't have to wait (well, until after Xmas as everyone here loves fantasy so it will go in the for everybody present pile, then we can fight over it.) Why is it so perfect? In balance: characters, story, setting. Nothing is over or underdone. Even some of the most awful characters have characteristics (like being overly polite) that add a dollop of humor into them, reveal some weakness; different characters talk and think differently, some can learn some find learning hard. The story never stops once it starts but never feels forced or going off the track, same with the setting. These ships, powered by crystals and the ether, well, they are ridiculous marvels and Butcher doesn't go too far explaining them either, just the right amount to convince the willing reader to happily suspend disbelief and plunge into the fun.*****

102LizzieD
Nov 13, 2023, 10:34 am

Hooray for *Windlass*! I thought my reread would be skimming, but it's been so long that I'm reading instead. I'll get to the next one soon, but Roni says that we need to read the novella first for richness of experience in The Olympian Affair. (Merry Christmas!)

103sibylline
Nov 13, 2023, 7:59 pm

There's a novella? Oh la. I must go and find it!

104sibylline
Editado: Nov 22, 2023, 10:05 am

75 contemp fic *****
Demon Copperhead Barbara Kingsolver

Sometimes a book draws you in so thoroughly that when you finish, you feel bereft. The first analogy that came to mind was going into withdrawal, rejected as beyond tactless. Kingsolver takes the basic outline of David Copperfield and brings it forward to western Virginia. Demon (Damon) is born to a 16 year old, herself brought up in foster care. The boyfriend was a young man with potential but he dies in a stupid accident at a dangerous waterfall before Demon is born. The years of the story cover 11 to somewhere around 18 plus and if you've read Copperfield you know there will be many downs before there is a slow steady rising. Kingsolver takes the reader on a tour of what it is like to grow up poor and ignored and even ridiculed by the rest of the country, and through Demon you experience the neglect of the (poorly paid) DSS supervisors, of the difficulty in finding good foster care, of the problem of who to believe, of despair and chronic pain leading to addiction (Kingsolver sets the novel so that it coincides with the oxycontin debacle with which we are still living), the rapacity of pharma--targeting these vulnerable populations and so on), the irony/tragedy of the already vulnerable preying on the even more vulnerable (foster parents who put Demon to work, take his money to pay their rent . . . have him sleep in the laundry room, don't feed him). All that would feel unbearably preachy if it weren't for Demon himself. He's just . . . somehow or other . . . born whole, born decent, born smart and self aware and funny. He goes wayyyy down but he will survive and thrive. And it works. Don't miss out! *****

105RebaRelishesReading
Nov 22, 2023, 5:21 pm

>104 sibylline: I agree Lucy! It's a chunk (and I had to read Copperfield first since I had never read it) but it's well worth the effort.

106FAMeulstee
Nov 23, 2023, 9:05 am

>104 sibylline: Congratulations on reaching 75, Lucy!

107quondame
Nov 23, 2023, 7:42 pm

Congratulations on 75 books! And what a book that is!

108BLBera
Nov 24, 2023, 8:58 am

Congrats on reaching 75! I also loved Demon Copperhead and thought Kingsolver was brilliant in her adapting David Copperfield to the modern world. Demon's voice is so great.

Love your photos.

I'm not much of a sf or fantasy reader, but I noted the Williams book, which is on my WL, and The Painted Drum is one of a few Erdrich's that I haven't read, so I am looking forward to that.

109sibylline
Nov 24, 2023, 12:40 pm

>105 RebaRelishesReading: I think my best Kingsolver read yet. And that is saying something.

>106 FAMeulstee:, >107 quondame:, >108 BLBera: Thank you so much! I was thrilled to have Demon C. be the 75th book too.

Thank you all so much for stopping in.

110SandyAMcPherson
Nov 24, 2023, 12:41 pm

Hi Lucy. No BB's for me this time 'round. Simply delurking to say I'm happy to see you posting.

111sibylline
Editado: Nov 24, 2023, 12:56 pm

76. sf ***ish
3001 Arthur C. Clarke

From my spousal unit's sf/f collection -- I've been trying to fill in some gaps. 3001 was written to answer questions a d while not lifeless is not full of the energy of his earlier work. Nonetheless Clarke knows how to put a story together, how to balance fact with dramatic scenes, and just a wee bit of character, really not his thing, though. The 'reveal' of what those monoliths are up to was, is just the right degree satisfying. Not entirely explained, but enough, with plenty of mystery. And suspense too, a further millennium down the road. Clarke's (barely disguised) rant on religion, more or less in line with my own views, was lucid and entertaining both (and will offend many, so be warned). I particularly liked his descriptions of the moons of Jupiter. I cringed a bit with giggling (all women) nurses and a few other mishaps, but they were minor. ***ish

112sibylline
Editado: Nov 24, 2023, 1:11 pm

77. contemp fic ****1/2
Jericho Mosaic (4th of 4) Edward Whittemore

In this final book of the Jerusalem Quartet Whittemore follows the career of one Yossi, an Iraqi born Jew who becomes a deep agent for the Mossad in Syria, the Runner, who poses and then, in some way, becomes a Syrian and for decades successfully transfers information that, among others, enables the successful fight for the Golan Heights and some shifting of the borders to the west. In the end he works for the Syrians as well and the stress overwhelms him but it is hardly surprising. The man who is his 'handler', Tajar, the first head of the Mossad (I have no idea of any of the historical accuracy of any of this but I suspect names are changed and the essence is true) is a very minor person in the previous novel as is 'Bell' who in the previous book was the head of 'The Monastery' a British undercover organization in Egypt. Whittemore was undoubtedly an agent himself for the US, deeply knowledgeable about all things Middle Eastern. His description of the implosion of Lebanon is masterful. I grew up reading endlessly about the chaos there and it was helpful to read about how it came about in this more intimate way. I think, having read all four books, Whittemore is attempting to show how generation after generation the same theme, with variations, plays out between Arabs, Jews, and Christians, nothing resolved, nothing changes (as in improves). There are merely periods of quiet punctuated by extreme violence and reshufflings. A few die in the crossfire, a few survive to sit on the sidelines watching history repeat itself very much like water, always different, always the same. Any person interested in the Middle East will find the Quartet worthwhile reading. ****1/2

113sibylline
Editado: Nov 24, 2023, 1:59 pm

78. ♬ history 19th, Egypt, archaeology ****
The Rape of the Nile Brian Fagan

Read mainly for research purposes but the story is one that still resonates as this plundering of the Nile treasures began in earnest with Napoleon and continued pretty much unabated until after World War I. The Great Powers (England, France and gradually through the 19th century, Germany and the US) were motivated by a complex mix of greed and true fascination with and desire to understand the pharaonic period. Trying to understand the intersection of proving national superiority by increasing understanding of history while also collecting priceless loot is a little hard to wrap one's mind around, but nonetheless. England and France were engaged to a greater or lesser degree in competition with one another throughout this entire period. Fagan, in this updated version, focusses on the gradual shift from almost pure acquisition of the biggest and most fascinating treasures, to a gradual shift to respecting the sites,studying the smallest finds, digging with obsessive care, while honoring the people of the cultures you disturb and unearth in the name of increasing knowledgle. The men themselves, from 'the Great Belzoni' in the early 19th century to Howard Carter in the 20th are the giants of archaeology and one can watch the developments through their ever-evolving methods and approaches and purpose. Fagan does a solid job in outlining this evolution and giving us the characters, the details of each period, what was happening politically in Egypt itself. Informative and entertaining. This was a listen and the reader had some odd quirks and occasional bizarre pronunciations that I am fairly sure were neither standard English nor American (alas, this is the downside of listening, not easy to go back to remind oneself . . .) but he was bearable. ****

114SandyAMcPherson
Nov 24, 2023, 4:43 pm

>113 sibylline: I'm always saddened by the plundering throughout the world for any reason, but largely to 'make a reputation' in (for example) paleontology/archaeology, stealing to own/sell artifacts of great value, or to satisfy egos.
Much of it admittedly by greater powers of the day, but undeniably by the locals because sympathetically, why not? They were so impoverished and were *there*.

When I lived for a time in the Middle East (mid-1960's), we travelled fairly widely including to the north of Kirkuk, Iraq. I will always remember visiting the sites like Nineveh, and coincidentally on another adventure, 'The Garden of Eden'. Many culturally ancient areas were still being explored by archaeologists, though digging had been happening for eons with plundering in mind.

The saddening aspect was seeing some of the local villagers with blankets spread out with artifacts for sale, claiming these were genuine finds. Others claimed (for less money) the items were replicas (not!). This doesn't let off the Westerners who pillaged as well. Such lost cultural history, especially when soldiers looted the museum of Antiquities in Baghdad during/after the 1990's Gulf War.

In case you like maps and want to know where my family and I journeyed~


I am tempted by Brian Fagan's story. I'll need to feel 'in the mood' though, because it's an emotional topic for me. I'm sure you can understand (and that you aren't dismayed I usurped your thread with my anecdote).

115alcottacre
Nov 24, 2023, 4:51 pm

Wow, you have been doing a ton of great reading, Lucy!

Congratulations on hitting 75!


116RebaRelishesReading
Nov 24, 2023, 5:13 pm

Hitting 75 with Copperhead is lovely. I did it the other way around Copperfield and Copperhead were my first and second books for 2023 :)

Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving.

117sibylline
Nov 25, 2023, 10:32 am

>114 SandyAMcPherson: No worries, Sandy. It certainly is difficult to think or write rationally about behaviours from the past that we now find anywhere from puzzling to nauseating. It helps me if I place my own views aside and accept this is how things were then. The relationship between the British, French and Egyptians became so complex and inextricable from all the other things that were changing everywhere.

Fagan does a nice job showing the awareness increasing through the 19th century into the early 20th that the past is worth studying and preserving, the gradual professionalization that evolved, each (serious) archaeologist bringing new ideas and methods. One thing that is happening now -- with lidar, for example -- is minimal to no digging at all in many instances as most archaeologists believe that the methods of looking into the ground will keep on improving!

One factoid I read (and can't tell you where!) is that it is believed that upwards of 80% of artifacts along the Nile are still buried under the sand!

118sibylline
Editado: Nov 27, 2023, 10:46 am

>115 alcottacre: -- it looks that way, doesn't it, but they were all books I've been reading for weeks! Like lightbulbs going all over the house at once!

BTW the picture did not come through. I can only see pix that have gone through LibraryThing, through your own collection.

>116 RebaRelishesReading: That is nice. I'd like to reread Copperfield now, or listen to it, but I have somehow landed in two marvelous book groups and for one I am tackling Middlemarch for the 3rd time! This time on audio, I think. Anyway that means D.C. will have to wait. (For the other we are reading The Vulnerables Sigrid Nunez (that's the all-writers (on-line) group, so v. intense!)

119drneutron
Nov 26, 2023, 8:25 pm

Congrats!

120RebaRelishesReading
Nov 26, 2023, 9:08 pm

>119 drneutron: You are member of several groups too so I'm sure that takes up a lot of your reading time. I'm only a member of one but our book for January is The Covenant of Water which is going to dominate my reading the second half of December.

121figsfromthistle
Nov 26, 2023, 10:27 pm

Congrats on speeding right past 75 books!

122sibylline
Nov 27, 2023, 10:51 am

>116 RebaRelishesReading: I can see the WOO HOO now! Thx

>119 drneutron:, >120 RebaRelishesReading:, >121 figsfromthistle: Thank you all for stopping by. Reba -- I have to go see about the book you are reading!

Reba -It's quite exciting for me to be welcomed into any book group at all -- years ago I was told "you can't be in our group, you read too much" by someone and that scared me off. Truthfully I probably would not have fit in, but OW! Scared me off for decades.

123RebaRelishesReading
Nov 27, 2023, 12:22 pm

>122 sibylline: What a pity and what a silly thing for someone to have said! I hadn't been in a book group before and was delighted to be invited into one when we moved here. It's a group of 7 most of whom read fewer books than I do but all interested in books and faithful about reading the monthly pick so the discussion flows well.

124alcottacre
Nov 27, 2023, 12:40 pm

Have a marvelous Monday, Lucy!

125sibylline
Nov 28, 2023, 8:48 am

>123 RebaRelishesReading: Well the way I see it now it was unkind -- but it also wasn't. I think she was trying to say we would make them feel self-conscious which, alas, was likely true. I think that group was mainly social and she knew I would not fit in. At a friend's suggestion some time later I tried out another group that turned out to be obsessed with reading books from some Harvard list of 'great books' that was about fifty years old. Two women in a list of 50, Pearl Buck and Virginia Woolf! When I asked them why and if they thought this sensible, as in why waste time on a lesser DH Lawrence when you could read Christina Stead or whoever, they were not at all pleased with me. I probably was obnoxious, actually! I think (hope) I've gotten smarter and more understanding -- to know where I fit or don't fit and just politely evaporate!

I love Library Thing, by the way and am so appreciative of everyone here!

126lauralkeet
Nov 29, 2023, 8:37 am

Hi Lucy! I'm delurking for the book group discussion. I had an experience similar to yours. A knitting friend in Philly invited me to her book group and while they read the sort of books I enjoy, when it came to choosing our next book I had often read all the books being suggested. The first time this happened someone made a comment that wasn't exactly rude but left me feeling awkward. Even though I wasn't getting any new literary experiences out of it, I stuck with it because of the friend who invited me. I never really clicked with the other members. Fortunately I had another group that was very interested in reading "challenging" books (they would have fit in very well on LT).

I second your appreciation for everyone here. We are all peas in a pod when it comes to books and reading!

127sibylline
Nov 29, 2023, 12:29 pm

>126 lauralkeet: So happy to hear from you. I do lurk about on 75 but rarely post. I've set severe limits on time I spend here so I don't subtract from writing time and practicing time, all too easy for me to do. I'm up to my neck in a project, approaching the home stretch, I hope.

I would expect many LTers have had experiences like ours, that help us appreciate one another even more!

P.S. your thread is one of the most 'dangerous' for me!

128SandyAMcPherson
Nov 30, 2023, 10:11 am

>125 sibylline:, >126 lauralkeet: Yes, We are all peas in a pod ! I feel more comfortable here than any IRL book club.
It's interesting that my experiences with book clubs somewhat parallels both yours.

I never attended any groups though I asked to join one ("No, we have enough members and we don't want the group to be any larger").
Then, in another group, a member thought I'd like their club but I saw the books they had read previously and some titles chosen going forward and no, just no. Not titles or genre I cared for, especially (with all due respect), Stephen King and Jim Butcher.

So y'all are stuck with me and my take on books which often doesn't jibe with the common opinion, but wonderfully, everyone goes with the flow and I love the YMMV attitude. Perfect!

129LizzieD
Nov 30, 2023, 10:35 am

Belated congratulations on passing 75, Lucy! I love the variety of your choices. Again, that's a big reason we all love LT so dearly.

As to book clubs, I stay in two (although I haven't attended either since March of 2020) mostly because I enjoy the people. The first, my mother's club, is easy. One book comes in every month with another donation or two, and members choose what they want to read. They generally don't discuss a book beyond, "I liked it."/"I didn't like it." I generally don't want to read anything, but several of my best local friends belong. The other is an old study club (111 years so far) that features programs on a general topic each year. I have the program in January on "Art in Our County." I intend to feature my artist cousin who was born here although his family moved when he was young. I need to figure out how I can present his work. At worst, I'll guide everybody on her phone through his facebook account. We'll see. Anyway, I like those women too, and study club is the only time I see them.
Sorry to take up space, Lucy. My experience just seems different from others'.

130sibylline
Editado: Nov 30, 2023, 11:44 am

>128 SandyAMcPherson: I'm glad you found LT! I read my first Jim Butcher just recently and found it lots of fun, but I know that's not your taste. I also was very appreciative of King's book about writing. I would have loved to have been a student in a creative writing class of his.

>129 LizzieD: Yes I do think the most important thing or should I say just as important is to be comfortable with the people in the group and even excited every month by knowing you'll see them. About half of us in my local group eat dinner together afterwards, sorta fancy pizza and cocktail or whatever, and we have the best time then! My on-line group is too new to say, but I think it is going to be wonderful. Next week we will discuss Sigrid Nunez The Vulnerables (that would be all of us over 60 during covid and then, really, just living a life in general, lots of ways to be vulnerable, as in, duh, we all are!). This second group is all about how a book is put together, what makes it work, craft, different focus and I love it. The Nunez is amazing, appears to float somewhat randomly about, but nunh-unh. She wrote The Friend which was big around here a few years ago. A big dog featured in that one. A parrot (African Grey) features in this one.

131alcottacre
Nov 30, 2023, 11:47 am

I cannot say enough about how much I appreciate the people in this group! I have been a member since its inception and I have never regretted joining. I am so happy to have people to talk about books with it is not even funny :)

132sibylline
Editado: Fev 8, 10:57 am

79. history british 19th ****1/2
Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters Mark Urban

To write an engaging book about wars fought two hundred years ago is no easy task, but Mark Urban is up to the challenge. Using primary sources, he brings, along with the information, the personalities of the officers and men of the 95th, their virtues and vices, quirks and kindnesses into focus, and even sometimes, into one's heart. Urban brings the time and the place and even this 'new' method of fighting (learned, ahem, from fighting in North America) to life also. It helps that I had first read the less well organized book on the history of the founding of the 95th which begins in Pennsylvania with George Washington and his youthful battles, fighting alongside the British during the French and Indian Wars. He and many other Americans tried to convince the British officers to fight differently but they wouldn't. . . . and were, of course, slaughtered. Decades later new ideas have filtered in and become a reality. The military is allowing an experimental unit to prove itself. In this new regiment the men are treated with a little more respect, taught to aim (long story, wasn't worth it with muskets) and given freedom when in battle to make their own decisions about what to do. The 95th even encouraged the common soldiers to learn to read. This was revolutionary! Anyway, the focus here is on the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo and the role the 95th played in both. If you read Georgette Heyer you may know that Napoleon extended himself in many directions including trying to conquer all of the Iberian peninsula, which likely he would have done if he hadn't ALSO tried to conquer Russia. (So so crazy). Many of her male characters have been in the army and therefore were either on the Peninsula and/or at Waterloo. The project I am now focussed on made me want to actually know more so there is a foundation even to a few casual or maybe not so casual references I might make. I have some further reading to do -- some primary sources, memoirs by soldiers who survived (and about whom I already know quite a lot from this book) and I am looking forward to reading them. I felt surges of emotion here and there as I read about these men and their doings. As always mystified and unsettled by this aspect of human beings, but also in awe of acts of courage and determination. This period, one to which we are still closely connected, was one of immense changes, new ideas, new inventions and the military, while often very resistant (disastrously so, once again, in 1914) to change, did change as this regiment proved their value. ****1/2

133SandyAMcPherson
Nov 30, 2023, 2:29 pm

>130 sibylline: Adding something to the comment I made re Stephen King, I own On Writing and it is stellar! This book wasn't what I was thinking of when I said about not wanting to read certain genre. I was thinking generally of the horror, or extreme chilling thrillers.

SK was so candid about his early life. I think his writing "advice"/philosophy is insightful. I especially remember "Kill your darlings" and I've come to really appreciate that aspect. Some good reading is spoiled by authors not following that advice.

134RebaRelishesReading
Nov 30, 2023, 6:06 pm

>125 sibylline: LT is indeed a happy home isn't it? I'm glad you're part of it.

135sibylline
Editado: Dez 3, 2023, 11:55 am

80. contemp fic *****
The Vulnerables Sigrid Nunez

Here's how it felt to me to be reading The Vulnerables. A little bit creepy sometimes (I am a 'vulnerable' being over 60), a little bit as if the narrator and I are kind of the same person (if we were being compared in a venn diagram only a little bit of the outer edges would show), a little bit smug (probably shouldn't be, but I have managed to sustain a long relationship, to bring up a child, ditto many pets and so maybe less self-absorbed?) and very very very much grateful that I live in the country. The pandemic was a completely different experience (even in Vermont where it is always winter) because we hosted and attended any number of outdoor events thus kept a social life happening, could be outside as much as we liked and even shop without too much fear by observing the early hours for, yeah, vulnerables. But the book is so much more -- for Nunez the pandemic opened up the hidden side of being vulnerable, the one that goes far beyond age or locale, one that is infinitely expanding as well, from the African Grey that the narrator agrees to care for, to the owner of the apartment on a trip to parents 7 months pregnant ending up stuck on the other side of the country, (although I could not, for the life of me, understand why they didn't buy or rent a car and drive back, obviously very well-to-do as they were), to the young man with whom she ends up having to share the huge apartment with (residence of aforementioned parrot), to choosing to be a writer and therefore definitely not considered essential (no matter how mistaken). The novel appears to wander somewhat aimlessly starting with a meditation on how to begin a novel and why she is a writer, to meditation on how love, while essential, also makes us vulnerable. For the first third of the book, in fact, one begins to think that perhaps this is the story of a group of women, all with flower names, and their different relationships with men, children until it becomes obvious that no, this is a made up part, fiction, but a meditation all the same on how vulnerable love makes one. How humans struggle to connect with each other and the world, how difficult it is. That the essential job of a writer is to "imagine the lives of others and what they are going through". I cannot recommend this novel more highly.
*****

136BLBera
Dez 1, 2023, 12:16 pm

>135 sibylline: I am waiting for this one. From your rating, it looks like the wait will be worthwhile!

>125 sibylline:, >126 lauralkeet: Book clubs can be tricky. I am lucky enough to belong to one that has been going for 20 years now although the membership has changed over time. The members are open to challenges, and when we choose books, they are willing to make provisions so that I haven't already read most of the books we choose. And I also love LT.

137sibylline
Dez 2, 2023, 12:03 pm

>135 sibylline: It will be! I'm still collecting my thoughts as this is the selection for my 'writer's' book group. The book appears to wander from this topic to that, but it is very carefully put together. I haven't read much 'pandemic' lit, but this one works -- although it is urban in essence. The rural experience was (and I suppose still is) different. (Such things as being free to wander outside as much as you please, much more socializing out of doors).

138sibylline
Dez 2, 2023, 12:11 pm

81. fantasy ****
Warriorborn Jim Butcher

A novella, action-packed, Benedict is sent out by the spirearch on a mission to a 'colony' spire that has stopped communicating -- he is to pick up a parcel and find out what is going on. He is given three warriorborns, all criminals who will be pardoned if they make it back having completed their task (to keep Benedict alive). There are some surprises along the way, of course, and I think just a little nudge in the larger plot made. I have the next book but it must wait in the xmas 'for everybody' pile (we all love fantasy). ****

139sibylline
Dez 3, 2023, 11:57 am

>136 BLBera: Finally wrote something about the Nunez -- as I knew I would I more or less ended up reading the whole thing all over again, and bumping it up to 5 stars. See >80 sibylline:

140sibylline
Editado: Dez 8, 2023, 10:00 pm

82. sf
Agency William Gibson

In this universe somehow or other one timeline seems to dominate and people can create 'stubs' -- but the stubs are REAL -- and when things go wrong, the planet and every living thing on it will suffer, so there are those who try to 'manage' the stubs. To combat all this one of these 'agents' has loosed an AI who can think and act for herself in order to see if that might make a positive difference. The tension, I think, is embedded and implicit -- the amorality of 'gaming' versus the, uh, realness of reality -- people have lost their grip on the difference. We can't manage ourselves, basicalyl, we're wayyy too irrational. It's not stated explicitly, but that's the message. The second half gets more exciting qua story. Gibson as always is thinking hard about many things. For me it was not so much a fun read as thought provoking. ****

141sibylline
Editado: Dez 8, 2023, 10:01 pm

83. fantasy DNF
Hummingbird Helen Harper

I rarely begin comments this way but both the first and second books of Harper's (presumably) trilogy have the most beautiful covers. I've put them both up even though I will not be reading the second one.
As is my custom with most books, especially if I am hoping they have potential, I read 100 pages and them skimmed the rest.

Generally, I do not do well with first person narratives although there are exceptions (a recent one being Demon Copperhead I haven't deeply examined my antipathy but I find myself growing impatient and irritated -- especially in fantasy, for some reason, by the jaunty plucky heroine thing. Also TMI is a frequent problem. I have a feeling that had Harper rewritten the whole with a few less f-bombs and in the 3rd person I'd have been fine. The story itself while intense and perhaps extreme, is pretty good. Some characters are flat and others have real potential (Saorch, the Gork among them). There are a couple of turnabouts that made no sense to me, Maire's former foster parents, for example becoming allies. All in all a bit maddening as I felt Harper was on the edge of writing a fine story and I know how hard writing a good solid story is. DNF reads get no rating.

142BLBera
Dez 8, 2023, 12:44 pm

>135 sibylline: Great comments. I skimmed because I plan to read it soonish.

>140 sibylline: I really liked the one Gibson novel I've read, but he requires a lot of concentration, at least for me. This does sound good.

143sibylline
Editado: Dez 11, 2023, 1:22 pm

84. contemp fic ****
Shyness and Dignity Dag Solstad

Solstad offers us the portrait of the moment of a man having a very very bad no good day. Elias is a 'good', conscientious, thoughtful person but he crosses a boundary he can't step back from given his personality, a relatively passive one, shy, self-conscious, overly thoughtful about his own actions and the thoughts others might have about him (to the point of being self-absorbed.) A man who values his dignity as a good schoolteacher, a reliable caring husband, stepfather and citizen.

After finishing a lecture on The Wild Duck for bored uninterested senior high school students, he steps over that behavioral line, very publicly shaming himself in front of students and teachers. Solstad alternates giving us his past history along with the present and as I learned his story and character I was simultaneously sympathetic and also thinking, 'Jeez, dude, get over yourself and live.' Solstad is giving us a person crushed by character, circumstance, choices, unable to overcome and move on. Nothing feel good. I think it is a genuine attempt to explain why some people break, seemingly over nothing much.

I was least drawn in by the portrait of Eva, the abandoned wife of his former best friend who becomes Elias' wife. She is (over and over again) described as an indescribable beauty which just made me want to vomit. Also kick both of them hard. To him, (as she was to husband #1) she is not a person but an object to admire although now and then Elias makes a half-hearted attempt to view her a real person, he can't. In part because of her covetousness for nice things.
Which brings us to the underlying critique of capitalist society and blablabla - but I don't buy that Eva is shallow and Elias is doomed because of it. He is who he is. She is a person who can't be judged as she gave up having a rich internal life for two men and her child when she was too young to know any better, although she has, in her forties begun to assert herself (which proves my point).

The ending seems open-ended, but to me it is implicit that Elias will act, definitively.

Karl Ove Knausgaard admires Solstad and he is one of the few contemporary Norwegian novelists in translation. And I haven't even mentioned the exegesis of The Wild Duck, the play Elias is teaching that fatal day! Might the best thing in what really is a superb but somehow very maddening novel. ****

144sibylline
Editado: Dez 11, 2023, 2:38 pm

85. sf post-epidemic apoc ****
Severance Ling Ma

Not so different a premise to be found here from that of Station Eleven. Albeit grittier than Mandel's offering, not too gritty and very readable. A portrait of a young Asian-American woman living in NYC when an illness caused by a fungus, not a virus, (but still from China) pretty much decimates the world population. Probably this nightmarish theme is deeply embedded in our psyches, since epidemics have occurred at regular intervals. No pretty ending here, but open-ended. I'm not sure that was the best idea, actually, it feels like a writer taking the 'tough' stance because this was as far as they wanted to go. ***1/2

145sibylline
Editado: Dez 23, 2023, 10:48 am

86. sf ***3/4
The Doors of Eden Adrian Tchaikovsky

Lots to like here -- very imaginative and the concept is well thought out and presented, though not unlike the concept of William Gibson's *Agency* (handled differently!) Almost a 4 star book but the characters are uneven, some who should be at least a little bit rounded aren't and etc. As the climactic events approached (so yeah total end of earth) the book slowed -- it's hard to be critical because Tchaikovsky was demonstrating the premise that is critical to the solution . . . but it dragged somehow. I have mixed feelings complaining about that, because it is clever and appropriate to the story. A good enough read! ***3/4

146PlatinumWarlock
Dez 22, 2023, 4:12 pm

Hello, Lucy! Sending you warm wishes for the holiday season - I hope the coming year is filled with joy and light for your and yours. :)

147sibylline
Editado: Dez 26, 2023, 2:42 pm

87. contemp fic ****1/2
Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead Olga Tokarczuk

Kind of a mystery, only not really. In a way this comment sums it up. One could draw a parallel from this novel to The Vulnerables and other novels that feature an older woman, set aside, so to speak by a combination of age and infirmity and our culture. Janina (who hates her name) is semi-retired, has a chronic and painful auto-immune illness, lives alone in a remote place in Poland but right beside the Czech border. It is winter, no summer people, just the three who stay all year round and one is found dead: a hunter, a loner, cruel and disagreeable. Janina hates the hunters. After his death she decides to take a stand about hunting on this high plateau--where the hunters cheat by using 'pulpits' and scattering tempting food close by etc. (Here we also have the equivalent, ladders attached cleverly to trees, a platform at the top, oh yes, and naturally a camera somewhere nearby so that one can, from home, study who comes by and when -- I don't know why anyone would call that hunting either.) So there is a line between 'hunting' and just plain old 'murder' and Janina is investigating where to draw that line. Tokarczuk treads a line between tragedy and very very dark humor (so dark that only after I put the book down I could see it). Really a deep dive into ethics disguised as a mystery. Very fine! ****1/2

148sibylline
Dez 23, 2023, 12:13 pm

Stopping in to say that I set my wrist aflame- (not carpal tunnel but severe synovitis) by too much playing music and too much knitting and too much writing. I've received a prednisone injection which has dulled the pain which was staggering-nerves involved? whatever! The pain is receding but I'll have to limit things for awhile. Writing, of course, comes first and is the least demanding, thank goodness! The family is being very noble and filling the void as I lounge about!

149RebaRelishesReading
Dez 23, 2023, 12:18 pm

>148 sibylline: So sorry to hear that, Lucy!! Hope your wrist recovers quickly.

I'm intrigued by the title and cover of Drive Your PloughOver the Bones of the Dead and look forward to hearing more about it.

Happy, restful holidays to you and yours!

150SandDune
Dez 24, 2023, 6:51 am

Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda i ti!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!


151ronincats
Dez 24, 2023, 1:19 pm

152quondame
Dez 25, 2023, 3:21 am



Merry Christmas, Lucy!

153FAMeulstee
Dez 25, 2023, 7:20 am

>147 sibylline: Glad to see you liked Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, Lucy. It was my first Tokarczuk, and I have read some more of her since.

>148 sibylline: Sorry to read about your wrist troubles. I hope it gets back in shape soon.

154PaulCranswick
Dez 25, 2023, 7:32 am



Thinking about you during the festive season, Lucy

155RebaRelishesReading
Dez 25, 2023, 1:02 pm

Merry Christmas, Lucy!!

156sibylline
Editado: Dez 27, 2023, 2:40 pm

88. fantasy
The Return of Fitzroy Angursell Victoria Goddard

A reminder that any book that compels me to be totally antisocial, to sit up late reading, etc. gets 5 stars regardless. For me, that is what the fifth star means to me. 4 or 4 1/2 stars mean the book is excellent but didn't utterly compel!

Goddard writes well, creates marvelous characters, has stories to tell and depths to plumb --socially, ethically, politically, in a positive but never sentimental way. Can't say anything about the story itself without giving away spoilers from earlier books in the series. *****

157sibylline
Dez 26, 2023, 3:02 pm

>150 SandDune:, >151 ronincats:, >152 quondame:, >153 FAMeulstee:, >154 PaulCranswick:, >155 RebaRelishesReading:

Thank you all so much for visiting and offering holiday wishes!

Merry Christmas (a bit late) and a Happy New Year!

Nollaig shona dhuit agus athbhliain faoi mhaise dhuit!

158sibylline
Dez 29, 2023, 5:10 pm

89. fantasy *****
The Redoubtable Pali Avramapul Victoria Goddard

I love the world and the characters and enjoyed watching Pali come to terms with herself. Can't say more! *****

159quondame
Dez 29, 2023, 9:02 pm

>158 sibylline: Pali really is a example of the self-possessed woman adventurer (and scholar!) that we don't encounter nearly as often as I'd like, and so brazenly quirky!

160SandyAMcPherson
Dez 30, 2023, 4:39 pm

Hi Lucy, I *really* must get to reading some Victoria Goddard!

~ here's my greetings for a satisfying new year,
... and hoping all goes well in your end of the world.
I'll be slow getting a 2024 thread started. Busy times and the start up is always so hectic isn't it?

161sibylline
Editado: Jan 1, 1:40 pm

90. history british 19th waterloo
Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles Bernard Cornwell

If you're a fan of the regency historical period then you might, like me, find yourself needing to know a lot more about just what happened in the Peninsular Wars and at Waterloo, not to mention about Napoleon and how these things fit together. I listened to Cornwell's book and he read the prologue and afterward and another reader the rest and they were both excellent. I've read enough at this point that I knew the basics already which helped the interest factor and visualizing the events. I can also recommend the 1970 movie *Waterloo*. And there are some good 'action' maps on Youtube showing how the battle progressed over the three days (counting the first action on the 16th as the first day.) ****1/2

162sibylline
Editado: Jan 1, 1:45 pm

91. fantasy ***
The Harp of the Grey Rose Charles de Lint

The main interest here is that it is one of de Lint's very first published novels -- high fantasy and almost preposterously derivative of LOTR in the basic movement of the story however also well-written and with some of its own twists and indicative of potential. I've had this on my tbr shelf forever and, as I have played harp for yonks, am surprised that I hadn't read it. Only for fans, I'd say. Read quickly. ***

163sibylline
Dez 31, 2023, 6:05 pm

This is the final entry for 2023 -- tomorrow I will begin 2024!

91 is not bad -- and is also deceptive. I listened to a great many regency romances on audio that are not listed here.

Happy 2024 to all.