What have you read recently?

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby satbunny » 7:16pm on 07 Jul 17

Yes M S Rohan. I read a chapter a night which is *very* slow for me.
I read the Lyonesse at a gallop.


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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:48pm on 23 Jul 17

Oddly, I've just picked up the Winter of the World RPG in the Drivethru sale...

Reading-wise, although I've been reading on the train, I've largely been reading anthologies as I can read one or 2 stories in the course of the 50-minute journey and still have time for other things on the iPhone or a crossword.

Equus, edited by Rhonda Parrish
This anthology could have been too cute for words - I was afraid it would turn out to be Josephine Pullein Thompson writes My Little Pony. Instead, the stories were gritty and well-written, and I was impressed by the generally high standard of the stories. There was only one story I thought fell a little short of the standard, but that may have been me - I dislike things that are cute and / or sentimental and that story ticked both boxes for me.

The anthology is about fantastic equines - horses, pegasi, unicorns, divine offspring (and we won't go into why that story wasn't in the mythology I remember reading in my childhood), and other fantastic horse-like beasts. Some of the stories I would have liked to go on longer, but that would have meant cutting other stories, so hopefully some of the authors will write more in the settings they used and I come across them in other anthologies. In general, it's the equines that carry the stories, with their human companions being more in the background. At the very least, the equines have equal billing. There was probably as much post-apocalyptic and urban fantasy as there was pure fantasy, so this anthology should have something for everyone.

Centaur of the Crime, by Michael Angel
Sadly, this book didn't work for me. I like fantasy and I like whodunnits, and I'm happy to read cross-genre fiction but this one didn't work - it reminded me of 1980s planar travel fantasies where the characters from this world (usually D&D players) find a portal or are summoned into a fantasy world. Mike Resnick did this far better in Stalking the Unicorn. At least it was well-written enough for me to finish it, but I won't bother with the others in the series.

The Emperor's Edge (Book 1 of The Emperor's Edge), by Lindsey Buroker
A 'police procedural' set in a fantasy steampunk world. Yes, I know, sounds odd. Well, the heroine (who appears to be a complete neat-freak and tidies things compulsively) starts as a cop, but ends up as an outlaw bringing down the corrupt Regent of the Empire who was drugging the Emperor and was planning to take over... I was in two minds about this one - the plot seemed to rely heavily on coincidence in places. Whether I continue reading the rest of the omnibus, I don't know (the omnibus collects the 1st 3 books); there's other stuff I want to read more.

Miss Landon and Aubranael (Book 1 of Tales of Aylfenhame), by Charlotte E English
Jane Austen writes Susanna Clarke by way of Georgette Heyer is probably the best way to describe this book. Light, but well-written, and enough to hold my attention while dipping in and out on my daily commute (I've been reading a lot of anthologies lately rather than full-length novels). I liked it enough to move the other 2 books in the series up my TBR pile and to pick up some more titles in the Smashwords sale.

Aylfenhame is reminiscent of Pat Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles but grittier; probably more like Faerie in Stardust or The Last Unicorn. I will admit to expecting the Lincolnshire characters to talk like characters from Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, but the story was engaging enough despite the slightly too modern language. At least the manners of the characters didn't jar like many modern historical romances (thank goodness).

Twelve Kings (Book 1 of Song of the Shattered Sands), by Bradley Beaulieu
A pseudo-Arabian Nights setting but a lot grittier than most. I finished the book, but I don't think I'll bother with the rest (we saw Book 2 in Forbidden Planet today). It was sort of a pre-Islamic Middle Eastern setting, but with enough Islamic elements to rather jar. Told partly in flash-back, the story is about a female gladiator in a (partly) self-imposed mission to assassinate the twelve kings of the title - who rule the fantasy desert city. By the end of the book, she's one down. I found the flash-backs disconcerting enough to drop me out of the story.

Tremontaine Season 1, Tremontaine Season 2 and the 3 Riverside novels Swordspoint, The Privilege of the Sword and The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and others including Delia Sherman
The 2 Tremontaine series are serial novels released by Serial Box and are prequels to the Riverside series set 5 years earlier. Each chapter is written by a different house author and focuses on different viewpoint characters. Enjoyable, and left me wanting more (but not at the somewhat eye-watering prices Serial Box are charging - I'll wait for the collections and the price drop). The Riverside novels are a re-read; I have the original paperbacks (and yes, my copy of Swordspoint is signed). I did notice a few discrepancies between the prequels and the original novels. Very much historical fantasies set in a pseudo-Elizabethan society with some elements of Dumas. (Dave Duncan's King's Blades series has a similar feel.)

Venetia, by Georgette Heyer
I've long owned a paperback version; I'm slowly picking up ebook versions with a view to disposing of the paperbacks. A classic Regency romance set shortly after the Battle of Waterloo. One of my favourite Heyers.

Hotel Transylvania, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
One of the earliest published Saint-Germain books, along with The Palace (although not the first chronologically). Set in Ancien Regime France, Saint Germain is involved with a coven of Satanists and rescues an aristocratic young lady who later becomes a vampire. (She features in later works in her own right.) I enjoyed the earlier works in the series more than the later - they've become rather formulaic over the years. Each book is a stand-alone set in a different historical period. Saint Germain is based on the historical Comte de Saint Germain, and this book is set about 20 years after Saint Germain's first appearance on the European scene.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 7:44am on 24 Jul 17

Continued.

For Want of a Horse
Another horse-related anthology. I don't think there's much new in this one; it's more of a collation of out-of-copyright stories and folklore. Enjoyable, and enough new to me to be worth the read.

Silver Linings (Ministry of Peculiar Occurences), by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
A steampunk short story set in the Ministry series. This looked interesting from the Amazon blurb, being set in turn-of-the century Egypt, but it was dire and completely painful to read. Badly plotted and edited, and totally incoherent. The only good thing it was free at the time but now you are expected to pay for this dreck. If it was meant to be a taster for the series, it fails miserably. Do not touch with a bargepole.

Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality, by Theodore Dalrymple
Some non-fiction that has pertinent things to say about modern knee-jerk reactions to bad news. Thought-provoking, especially if you had a 'traditional' upbringing.

The Best of Penny Dread Tales
A steampunk anthology. Not bad, but the usual mix.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby Dom » 11:21pm on 31 Jul 17

# Books in July 2017
July also included a considerable amount of time reading roleplaying games as part of preparation for the convention season as it creeps up on us.

## *The Complete Ballard of Halo Jones* (Alan Moore and Ian Gibson)
A collection of the stories about Halo Jones that graced the pages of 2000AD alongside Judge Dredd and others. I enjoyed this, especially once I got my eye back into the 2000AD style. Halo Jones is growing up in a floating city off the coast of Manhattan, a place where the unemployed are deported to so that they can live on benefits outside normal society. Her story takes her off-world and eventually into the armed forces in a war between Earth and former colonies. Halo is a normal person, and her life can be pretty mundane; it’s only coincidence that puts her in significant places and in contact with significant people. The only thing that disappointed was that it felt a little rushed at the end. I realise it was a play for one of those great open endings with hooks for the future, but it was over all to quickly.

## *The Midnight Palace* (Carlos Ruiz Zafón)
The second of the Neibla (shadow) sequence, this book is set in India in the heart of the Calcutta of the 1930s. A group of orphans come of age and are threatened with the darkness from the past of one of them. Part set in a burnt out railway station, part set in the streets of the city, the orphans must find out what happened and a way to escape. Again, this was well written and I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to *Marina*, the next of the author’s books that I haven’t read.

## *The Pale House* (Luke McCain)
Excellent second story about a German Military Police officer breaking corruption cases against the backdrop of a withdrawal from the Balkans. Set in 1945, the story has a streak of desperation, contrasted with acts of evil and bravery. Looking forward to the next book.

## *Valerian: The Complete Collection, Volume 1.* (Christin, Mézières)
This is a collection of the first few Valerian and Laureline stories, including the introductory story that has never been in a collection before. I read this partly because of the forthcoming Luc Breton film, and partly because of the recommendations of my friend John who has sworn by it for years. Valerian is a time agent, sent to deal with temporal anomalies, and along the way he picks up Laureline - from medieval France - who becomes his assistant and eventually the brains of the outfit. The stories are fun and although the style is of its time, it looks great too. The eldest lad (10) enjoyed this too. We have another two volumes to read this week to be read for the film’s release!

## *The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from my Life* (John le Carré)
This is an interesting collection of vignettes from the author’s life which may or may not be the whole truth. I enjoyed it for the insight it gives into one of the authors who I have enjoyed since I was a teenager when I discovered ‘A Small Town in Germany’ in the school library and ‘A Perfect Spy’ on the BBC.

## *Dare I Weep? Dare I Mourn?* (John le Carré)
A very short story (15 pages or so) that I picked up because Amazon showed it to me as I marked *The Pigeon Tunnel* as finished on my Kindle’s Goodreads interface. I rated it as three stars, but it’s a great short story. A German Grocer in a small town in West Germany is notified that his father has died, and he has to go and collect the body to fulfil his last wish of being buried in Lübeck with his son’s family. It’s cleverly done, and I may well revise the rating upwards after some reflection.

## *Strange Dogs* (James SA Corey)
A new Expanse novella (about three times the length of le Carré’s) which tells the tale of an alien encounter from the perspective of a young girl who has only really known the world through one of the gates that her parents have become reluctant colonists on after their research station has been coopted by the military after trouble back in the solar system. I’m curious if this is foreshadowing where the next Expanse novel will take us. Worth a read, and will stand up even if you haven’t read any of the other books.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 4:57pm on 03 Aug 17

More reading:

The Palace, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
The second published Count San Germain title, but not the earliest in the chronology. From the court of Louis XV, we jump back in time to Renaissance Florence and the court of Laurenzo de Medici and the subsequent puritanical regime of Savonarola. This is probably the first of the formulaic works in the series: we have San Germain, a 'good' heroine, an unstable anti-heroine, the historical villain, the historical hero, various minor characters good and bad. All this is set in a well-researched historical background. When this was originally published, they were a fresh take on the vampire trope; Saint Germain being a civilised vampire not a crazed monster (although he admits to being that in the past). I will say that now he is comes across as a bit of a late 20th C man, rather than a historical man, but given his murky origins, we can't say whether female equality featured in his early life.

The Gates of Tagmeth, PC Hodgell
The latest instalment in the Jamethiel series. Jamethiel has been recalled from her randon training to take charge of a group of cadets and reclaim an abandoned fortress in the Riverlands. This is as a test of her leadership abilities - which the randon college think she hasn't displayed adequately. Instead of reclaiming the fortress near her brother's keep, she heads for one in her house enemy's territory - almost as far north as you can go. The usual mayhem happens - Jame is settling into her aspect of destruction; and her cousin is settling into his aspect of healing. By the end of the book, her brother becomes aware of his aspect of creation - and incidentally ridding himself of various personal demons. We find out more about Merikit life, some older characters die off, and some mysteries of Rathillien are explained.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 11:22pm on 12 Aug 17

Katherine Kerr, Polar City Blues
Reread this for the first time in many years (as I'd recently acquired the second in the series). I'd forgotten how much I'd enjoyed reading the book; I remember liking it enough to not dispose of my copy. An enjoyable murder mystery set in a human colony on a desert planet sometime in the far future, it feature aliens, psionics, politics and baseball in a first contact police investigation plot. Back when this was first published, cross-genre works were uncommon and this was a welcome addition.

The aliens are believable and on a par with CJ Cherryh's aliens, the world seems to hang together with the plot, and thought has been given to how psionics fit into society.

Recommended.

Katherine Kerr & Kate Daniel, Polar City Nightmare
I enjoyed this very much, despite baseball being central to the plot. (Quite why a children's game is considered to be a suitable sport for adults is beyond me.) Apart from that, another enjoyable science-fictional murder mystery set on the desert planet, Hagar. We meet again with many characters from Polar City Blues, and again the Republic is saved from a hostile take-over from it's neighbours.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 10:19pm on 17 Aug 17

Joanne M Harris, The Gospel of Loki
Picked this up in a sale earlier this year and have now got around to reading it. Basically, it's the Norse myths from Loki's perspective. Rather fun, Loki comes across as this amoral sarcastic character who's too clever for his own good and ends up being gunned for by absolutely everyone. Apparently, it's the prequel to Runemarks and Runelight (which look like YA books from the blurbs).

(Still trying to read The Goblin Trilogy by Jaq D Hawkins. It's sort of interesting in that it's set in the far future where humanity has split into 2 races - the more-or-less human surface dwellers, and the various goblin races - we meet the underworld goblins and the water goblins in the first book. I'm riffing on The Time Machine and The Napoleon of Notting Hill - yes, it's set in what used to be London. However, it's not really holding my attention very well - I keep going to other books. However, I'll try and finish it when I'm on holiday next month.)
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 11:22pm on 27 Aug 17

All The Birds In The Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders

A very strange book. It started out reading like a YA novel with the protagonists supporting each other through school, and then segued into a somewhat surreal ecological apocalypse. (Rather apposite with the news stories from Houston.

The protaginists are Laurence (an uber-geek) and Patricia (a witch), and the story is about science vs nature. I'm not sure if I liked or not; bits of the story had me rolling my eyes and going Really!, but other bits seemed to hold together.

Worth reading, but probably not more than once.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 1:52pm on 28 Aug 17

Burn for Me, by Ilona Andrews (bk 1 in The Hidden Legacy series)

A paranormal romance for gun bunnies is the best way to describe this book. I liked the world building - about 100 years ago a serum was developed that either unlocked magic powers or warped people (sort of like a Victorian Wild Cards), and the world is now controlled by magic dynasties existing uneasily with various governments - magicpunk not cyberpunk. Light, but none the less well-written, and, more importantly, not smutty like so many PNRs are (I suspect this is because the author is a husband-and-wife team who probably don't want speculation on their sex life). I got it as an Amazon deal having read The Edge series and The Innkeeper series, and enjoyed it enough that if later books come up as deals I'll probably get them. Heck, I may even get the next 2 full price if I get an Amazon voucher for my birthday.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 6:50pm on 01 Sep 17

That's weird, I could have sworn I'd posted this earlier:

Blood Games, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

The 3rd published in the Saint Germain series, and the prequel to the 3 Olivia books.

From Ancien regime France and Renaissance Florence, we go even further back to Imperial Rome (this is one of the earliest settings Yarbro has used). Covering a span from the suicide of Petronius to the early years of Vespasian's reign, Saint Germain is living in Rome and navigating the shifting sands of Imperial favour and Roman politics. The book starts with Saint Germain's first servants - who die in the arena - and are replaced by Rogerian (who is Saint Germain's servant in all the books written so far). We also meet Olivia Atta Clemens who Saint Germain brings to the vampire life and is referenced in all the other books.

This one is probably less formulaic than others in the series - the true villain of the piece is Olivia's husband (a deeply perverted senator), but there are less of the other tropes found in the rest of the Saint Germain series. (From memory, this is true of the other Olivia books as well.) Well-written and well-researched, this is an enjoyable historical fantasy which I enjoyed reading when I first purchased it in the early 80s, and enjoyed as much re-reading the Kindle edition. It certainly kept my attention over the several days it took to re-read on the commute.
Last edited by maddz on 9:33pm on 08 Sep 17, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 9:20pm on 06 Sep 17

The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher (Book 1 of The Cinderspires).

A new series from the author of The Dresden Files. I thought it was going to be a steampunk story, but in fact it turned out to be a steampunk science fiction story, although this was never made explicit. It's possible it will turn out to be fantasy, but to my mind it was more reminiscent of Dying Earth or The Dragon Masters. I also detected elements of Honor Harrington, but that may have been a side-effect of the steampunk tropes.

Well-written with a plot that seemed to hang together, it's obviously the start of a series (although I hope it doesn't end up as prolific as Honor Harrington). I enjoyed it and will be looking out for sequels.

The story is set on and around Spire Albion, one of a number of spires on an otherwise mist-shrouded world where the surface is jungle. Trade between the spires is carried out by airship which are propelled by etheric webs (think the airship in Stardust). The steampunk comes in with the pseudo-Victorian setting (although corsets weren't in evidence - that is one steampunk trope that's been done to death).

The story centres on Lady Gwendolyn Lancaster, only child of the wealthy House Lancaster of Spire Albion as she starts her training with the Spirearch's Guard, Lady Bridget Tagwynn, only child of the impoverished House Tagwynn, also starting her guards training, and her cat Rowl (cats are intelligent and can communicate with humans), Sir Benedict Sorellin, Lady Gwendolyn's warrior-born cousin (the warrior-born are mutants of some kind), Mr Ferus, an etherealist and his apprentice, Miss Folly, and Captain Grimm and the crew of the privateer, Predator. The story opens shortly before Spire Aurora declares war on Spire Albion and deals with Aurora's surprise attack on Albion.

Although it read like a YA novel, there was enough complexity to hold my attention.

Recommended.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby Neil Gow » 8:41pm on 08 Sep 17

Uber by Kieron Gillen

Image

Well, this was a speculative buy that really hits the spot when it comes to the old graphic novel-to-RPG conversion stakes. The premise of the book is that the Nazis develop super soldiers at the end of WW2 and don't lose the Battle of Berlin. Go from there. It is brutal - properly nasty stuff in places - but it is absolutely Godlike: The Comic.

Gillen's other major work (The Wicked and the Divine) is another comic that should be a RPG. It is brilliant.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby maddz » 9:33pm on 08 Sep 17

Four Horses for Tishtry, by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

A short novel telling how the charioteer Tishtry became the slave of the vampire Saint Germain. Set some years prior to the events of Blood Games, in the early years of Nero's reign, a young Armenian slave girl develops her stunt riding skills as an arena performer while being passed between owners. Her desire is to buy the freedom of her family - which she eventually does. If you have read Blood Games, then the ending of this book is bitter-sweet, if not then it comes across as an up-beat ending.

Light, but as with all Yarbro's books, well-researched and well-written. Probably one for completists; although set in the Saint Germain series, it's not part of the main sequence.
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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby Kaiserjez » 7:09pm on 09 Sep 17

Neil Gow wrote:Uber by Kieron Gillen

Image

Well, this was a speculative buy that really hits the spot when it comes to the old graphic novel-to-RPG conversion stakes. The premise of the book is that the Nazis develop super soldiers at the end of WW2 and don't lose the Battle of Berlin. Go from there. It is brutal - properly nasty stuff in places - but it is absolutely Godlike: The Comic.

Gillen's other major work (The Wicked and the Divine) is another comic that should be a RPG. It is brilliant.
I'd never heard of this but I ordered the first volume today. Because of the wonders of Amazon Prime I'll be able to have a read tomorrow! Cheers for the recommend!

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Re: What have you read recently?

Postby Dom » 9:36am on 10 Sep 17

# Books in August 2017

Spent a good part of this month reading RPGs (Coriolis and both Mongoose Editions of Traveller to name but three).

## *Marina* (Carlos Ruiz Záfon)
A bittersweet story of death, romance and hope set against a backdrop of lost parts of Barcelona and the darkness of the human spirit. Oscar Drain, the protagonist, leaves childhood behind as he falls in love with Marina. CRZ says that this - the last of his young adult novels - was a big influence on his Barcelona quartet and it shows. Sadly, that's the last of his back catalogue that is available and I've read the rest. I just need to wait patiently for the fourth book in the quartet to be translated into English.

## *The Book Thief* (Marcus Zusak)
I found myself very conflicted about this book by the time I completed it. It tells the tale of a young German girl fostered just before the Second World War and her developing relationship with books, all through the eyes of the narrator, Death. At times ham-fisted in its approach and style, and with a protagonist who feels like a cypher, there was part of me which didn't like the book at all. At the same time, there was something about the story that drew me on, that made me want to know what happened next, and showed beautiful little vignettes of humanity. On reflection, I don't think that I'll be looking for more from this author.

## *The Delerium Brief* (Charles Stross)
Now this was like a breathe of fresh air having read *The Book Thief*. The plot grabs you, sits you in the car seat and then puts the pedal to the floor. Of course, it is the 8th book in an ongoing series so it does help that I've read its predecessors and know the characters and set up. I really enjoyed the twists and turns with this and I'm glad that the next part has been brought forward to next year.




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Last edited by Dom on 7:54am on 23 Sep 17, edited 1 time in total.
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