Current Reads

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Re: Current Reads

Post  mokey75 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 11:08 am

I just finished The Goldfinch. It took me forever, because Donna Tartt loves words. I hope no one else ever wants to write a book, because there are no words left. She used them all. Some of the prose was really, really lovely, though, and I want back and re-read some of the paragraphs a second time. But good lord, lady. Your book did not need to be 775 pages long. Like, at all. By the end, I started skimming just to be done with it.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Algae on Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:05 pm

I finally read Gone Girl. It was fascinating and gripping and I hated every single character. I wanted to punch them all, but I needed to keep reading to find out what happened.

And while I know this is the ultimate in the "unreliable narrator" books, I hated Amy's parents. Oh, they annoyed me the whole time.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Tabby on Tue Feb 18, 2014 2:26 pm

It was fascinating and gripping and I hated every single character.
I had the same reaction. Everyone was just loathsome, but I had to keep reading.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Unlucky Bear on Wed Feb 19, 2014 12:59 am

I've just started reading Robert Crais's Suspect. Scott is an LAPD cop who was injured in an incident in which his partner, Stephanie, was murdered. Maggie is an ex-Marine with PTSD after an event in Afghanistan in which her partner, Pete, died. The two of them team up, although there are growing pains-- the first time Scott meets Maggie, she bites him.

Oh yes: Maggie is a German shepherd whose specialty is bomb detection.

I want to read this, and yet I don't. Please finish it and tell me if the dog lives. Animal Planet had a special on military working dogs in Afghanistan/Iraq about a year ago, and it WRECKED me.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Coneycat on Wed Feb 19, 2014 9:02 am

Unlucky Bear wrote:
I've just started reading Robert Crais's Suspect. Scott is an LAPD cop who was injured in an incident in which his partner, Stephanie, was murdered. Maggie is an ex-Marine with PTSD after an event in Afghanistan in which her partner, Pete, died. The two of them team up, although there are growing pains-- the first time Scott meets Maggie, she bites him.

Oh yes: Maggie is a German shepherd whose specialty is bomb detection.

I want to read this, and yet I don't. Please finish it and tell me if the dog lives. Animal Planet had a special on military working dogs in Afghanistan/Iraq about a year ago, and it WRECKED me.

I sat down last night and didn't move from the couch until I finished the book. I will have to read it through again to completely understand the mystery part, even though that wasn't especially complicated--I was utterly focused on the relationship between Maggie and Scott. Spoiler for Unlucky Bear (which I hope I have done right, since I can see my own text if I'm logged in and can't see the section at all if I'm not):
Spoiler:
Neither of them die in the end. The story ends with both of them returning to active police duty, as tight as a man and a dog can be.
I liked it very much.


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Re: Current Reads

Post  QueenSix on Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:20 am

Coneycat, that spoiler isn't in spoiler text because I can see it without highlighting it.

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Coneycat on Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:25 am

QueenSix wrote:Coneycat, that spoiler isn't in spoiler text because I can see it without highlighting it.

Sorry! I thought Hidden and Spoiler meant the same thing! Should be fixed now. (What IS "Hidden," anyway??)

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Instant Monkeys on Wed Feb 19, 2014 10:00 pm

Raksha wrote:Today I finished Hand of Isis by Jo Graham and I liked it a lot.  It's a historical novel following Cleopatra's life.  It's told from the point of view of one of her handmaidens, who is her half-sister whose mother was a palace slave.  They grew up together, along with another of their half-sisters who also became a handmaiden.  I like Graham's writing a lot and even though I already knew what Cleopatra's life was like and how it all ended, I still teared up when it came to that part.

Apparently Jo Graham also has a book about the founding of the city of Alexandria, set right after Alexander's death.  I'm going to have to track that one down.
Raksha, I went and downloaded the Kindle sample of this on your recommendation, but in reading about it I discovered that it's kinda-sorta a sequel to another one called Black Ships, which is about ancient Greece. So I also downloaded the sample of THAT one, started it (I like reading things in order), and got hooked and am now about halfway through. I somehow managed never to read the Aeneid so I didn't even realize at first that it's a version of that story. Aeneas has shown up and the narrator is Pythia who is the sybil that helps him I guess. I like her a lot as a narrator, and there's just enough meaty historical stuff sprinkled with just enough mystical business; it's a good mix for me. I have already spent a bunch of time on Wikipedia cramming on ancient Greek stuff and Aeneid stuff and looking at maps and everything. I'm enjoying it, and looking forward to the Cleopatra one afterwards.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Thu Feb 20, 2014 12:44 am

Oh yeah, I've read Black Ships too and enjoyed it a lot! It's really not necessary to have read it before the Cleopatra one, though. There's really nothing you'd miss out on.

But I'm glad you're enjoying them!
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Instant Monkeys on Thu Feb 20, 2014 1:16 pm

Yeah, I didn't think so from the reviews, that it was really necessary? So I wasn't going to, but since the sample was of course free and it sounded interesting anyway I thought "I'll just take a look at it." And I got sucked in, and it was only $3, woo-hoo!
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Unlucky Bear on Fri Feb 21, 2014 12:47 am

Thanks, coneycat! Will definitely be checking this one out.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  inversed on Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:10 am

Finished Ketchup Clouds, which I enjoyed... could have used a more satisfying resolution but it was pretty honest in that regard, I suppose. Now I finally got hold of The Fault in Our Stars from the library. The way the kids talk is a liiiiiittle annoyingly pretentious but they are teenagers, after all. I think I'll get used to it.

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:19 am

Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self by Lori Gottlieb is a sort of memoir of anorexia. It's selections from the diary she kept at that age, when she developed an eating disorder. Unfortunately for her, she developed this eating disorder during the 70s when the medical understanding of and treatment for anorexia was even more dismal than it is now. I think she actually recovered in spite of her treatment, rather than because of it. Only one nurse, Elizabeth, who was genuinely kind and actually listened to what Lori had to say (unlike every single other person in her life), seems to have done any real good for her. One thing that struck me is how all the other women in Lori's life (including the nurses and nutritionist at the hospital) were just as fucked up about food and engaged in the same behaviors as she did. The only difference was that Lori was successful at it, and actually engaged in all of everyone's "dieting" advice at once.


Wool by Hugh Howey was pretty good. That first story completely fucked me up and will haunt me for quite a while. There is some excellent world building here and instantly vivid characters. Good stuff!
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Re: Current Reads

Post  whatthedeuce on Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:00 am

inversed wrote:Finished Ketchup Clouds, which I enjoyed... could have used a more satisfying resolution but it was pretty honest in that regard, I suppose. Now I finally got hold of The Fault in Our Stars from the library. The way the kids talk is a liiiiiittle annoyingly pretentious but they are teenagers, after all. I think I'll get used to it.
I'd never heard of Ketchup Clouds until tonight, but I read the synopsis just now and am excited to read it. Thanks for the mention, inversed!

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:49 pm

Today I read The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig, the third Miriam Black book. So good! Miriam is as prickly and foul-mouthed as ever. This book takes what was revealed about Miriam's abilities in the last book, and explores and expands them a little further. I like the balance between the adventure plot and Miriam's introspection. I also like the expansion of Miriam's world, her finding people who have similar abilities. I like the door the book left open for the next story and I can't wait to read it!
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Re: Current Reads

Post  ulkis on Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:23 am

So I just read "Shards of Honor" by Lois McMaster Bujold for the first time. Could someone tell me what the hell was going on in the epilogue? do they explain it in a later book? Thanks!

ETA: nevermind, now I know. It was the short story "aftermath", which was added to the end of the e-book as just simply "epilogue".

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:08 am

Today I read Stealing Fire by Jo Graham, the historical fiction/fantasy book about Ptolemy and his general Lydias in the aftermath of Alexander the Great's death. So good! I really love her stories.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Wed Mar 05, 2014 1:04 am

I've been reading a lot.

I re-read Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher because apparently I am a masochist who enjoys triggering myself.   If you don't have a history with eating problems, but want to understand some people who do, this is a good book to read.  It's very vivid and painfully honest.  It's entirely based on her own personal experiences, and she makes that clear that she's only speaking for herself, but she also expands on certain incidents in her life or certain concepts by explaining some of the research that has gone into EDs.  If you do have a history with eating problems, be very, very careful if you decide to read this.


The comic book version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz adapted by Eric Shanower with art by Skottie Young.  I loved this!  Very sweet.  It's an adaptation faithful to the original book and Skottie Young's art is absolutely perfect for it.  I was most familiar with his art from the "babies" variant covers of various Marvel comics, which I liked, but I wondered if it would be a bit juvenile.  I shouldn't have worried.  It was definitely stylized (Skottie doesn't draw like anyone else I can think of, which is definitely a compliment), but while it definitely had a sweetness that really complimented the story, it was also expressive and really beautiful.  Very fun.  I should track down the other adaptations of Oz books.


Then there's The Fat Years by Chan Koonchung, translated by Michael S. Duke.  I really wanted to like this, but ultimately I just found it boring and frustrating.  It's set in China in the near future, after the financial decline of the West.  In the book, after the market crash a few years ago, there was a brief little period of recovery (where we are right now), followed by another decline.  China managed to survive this and, in fact, ushered in an era of political and social stability and unprecedented financial strength.  Everyone is walking around in a mild state of euphoria and convinced they live in the best time in the best country ever.  Everyone except for a few scattered people, who remember a whole month of wide spread unrest, violence, and government crackdowns between the second western financial crash and China's declaration of a new age of ascendency.  No one else remembers this month, or are even concerned about it when those who do bring the subject up.  A small group of those who do remember are determined to figure out what's going on.

This is an excellent premise.  Unfortunately, the book really doesn't deliver on this sort of mystery/investigative adventure promise.  Instead, two thirds of the book follow several disparate characters wandering around, explaining their extensive backstories, falling into each other's orbits, and then wandering off again.  There are, in fact, several long digressions following the backstories and future plans of minor characters who have no impact on the plot or the main characters, and are never seen again once their scene is over.  Really annoying.  During these first two thirds of the book, there is no real investigation of this big mystery of the missing month and the people's weird complacency.  No forward movement, no clues, nothing.  Then the entire last third of the book consists of a MASSIVE expositional infodump where one character sits in a chair and lectures the other characters about how China engineered their new golden age.  There is nearly 100 pages of one character sitting there laying out the academic theories behind China's new economic and political policies.  There is no dramatic tension whatsoever.  

Oh, and the euphoria and mild disinterest experienced by most people?  That's because:
Spoiler:
the government has started adding small quantities of "next generation" non-addictive MDMA to the water and bottled drinks.  People "forgot" the month of unrest, simply because they're so happy and complacent now, they didn't want to think about unpleasant things.  They're just lucky they didn't create Reavers, is all I have to say about that.

I think part of the problem is that the book I thought I was reading is apparently not the book that Koonchung wrote.  Given the blurb on the book itself and the io9 article where I first heard about this book a while back, I thought I was reading a mystery about a missing month and a weirdly complacent populace in a near-future fake utopia.  However, according to the translator's notes at the end of the novel, I was actually reading a scathing indictment of current Chinese culture, where the fake cheerfulness represents the current citizens' complacency and the sweeping changes instituted in the wake of the West's financial collapse mirror a lot of the political pushes China wants to put in place right now.  

Maybe it's because I don't know enough about current Chinese culture/politics to see it, or maybe it's because for a metaphor to work as a metaphor in narrative fiction it first has to work as, you know, a narrative and it just doesn't in this book.  I don't know.  But I just didn't care much for this book, in the end.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:25 am

And today I read about half of Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of short stories. I utterly loathed the first story. It was gross and predictable. The rest bored me, so I gave up reading about 8 stories in.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  mayram on Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:38 am

Has anybody here read Divergent? My company has adopted this book as some kind of credo and we're supposed to go see the movie as a group, but we were all given the book and told to read it first.

Just curious if anyone loved it because I have a bunch of books that I actually WANT to read in front of it and this movie date is looming within the next few weeks so I'm feeling in need of inspiration.

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Re: Current Reads

Post  mialoubug on Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:00 am

Raksha wrote:And today I read about half of Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts, a collection of short stories.  I utterly loathed the first story.  It was gross and predictable.  The rest bored me, so I gave up reading about 8 stories in.

The first story was possibly one of the most disgusting things I have ever read. It was predictable but just about as awful as they come. I was not impress with him at all.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  particle_person on Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:44 am

mialoubug wrote:The first story was possibly one of the most disgusting things I have ever read.  It was predictable but just about as awful as they come.  I was not impress with him at all.
Will one of you tell me (under spoiler tags) what was so darn gross? I don't want to read it now, but I must know!

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Re: Current Reads

Post  Raksha on Thu Mar 06, 2014 3:30 am

mayram wrote:Has anybody here read Divergent? My company has adopted this book as some kind of credo and we're supposed to go see the movie as a group, but we were all given the book and told to read it first.

Just curious if anyone loved it because I have a bunch of books that I actually WANT to read in front of it and this movie date is looming within the next few weeks so I'm feeling in need of inspiration.

I haven't read those books, but my mom adored them.  She plowed through all three of those books in, like, a little over a week.  And she has concentration problems, so that's saying something.  However, I'm a little hesitant to read them, given the spoilers for the last book I read a few pages back in this thread.

I have to say, though, from what I do know about the books, it kind of worries me that your company has adopted it as a credo.  I guess whether that's good or not depends on if they're identifying with the protagonist, or the society she's stuck in.  Given how many people love the Hunger Games Capitol fashion and cheered at various deaths in the arena, I'm not optimistic.


particle_person wrote:
mialoubug wrote:The first story was possibly one of the most disgusting things I have ever read.  It was predictable but just about as awful as they come.  I was not impress with him at all.
Will one of you tell me (under spoiler tags) what was so darn gross? I don't want to read it now, but I must know!

Summary of that story:
It's about the editor of a yearly anthology book of American horror short stories.  He gets a literary magazine in the mail from some professor, who includes a letter saying that as the editor he chose to publish this super disturbing story and got fired for his trouble, but really thinks it still deserves a wider audience.  The guy reads the story, which is about a girl who is kidnapped by a nasty deformed giant guy who's also kidnapped a boy and poked out his eyes and sewn buttons in their place.  She gets horribly mutilated and molested, but escapes.  The police never find the guy who took her, but they later found a body they believed to be the boy.  She tries to carry on, but her life is miserable because of what happened.  One day, she's out walking and sees her kidnapper in the back of a cop car and the cop tells her to get in the front seat and they'd all go to the police station.  She gets in the front seat and realizes the cop isn't a cop, but actually the boy she was kidnapped with all grown up and she can't get out of the car, and eventually realizes she's where she's supposed to be.

The editor loves the story and decides to publish it and tries to track down the author.  He goes through some hoops because the guy's kind of hard to find and eventually tracks him down to an isolated house where he lives with his brothers and their mother (who is, like, tied to a bed and left to rot while they collect her Social Security checks).  The description of the short story itself and the editor's worshipful love of it was gross enough, but what really disgusted me was the descriptions of the brothers.  They're, like, a walking stereotype of horror people/the people who are into violent gore horror.  Like, one of them is missing an arm and was, like, chopping things up.  One of them was grotesquely fat with a bunch of disgusting tattoos and bloody piercings and a swastika table.  The actual writer was a really disgusting misogynist.  And, like, they all watched video footage of the Jonestown Massacre and stuff.

The ending was the stupidest part.  So, the writer is in the house with these disgusting people and basically realizes he's in a horror story himself, so he tries to escape, but left his keys in the house, so he runs off into the woods.  The last line is, like, well if anyone can find his way out of the woods, it would be him, after all!

No.  This whole thing is gross and dumb.  Fuck off. (The story, not you. You know what I mean.)


Last edited by Raksha on Thu Mar 06, 2014 8:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Current Reads

Post  Poubelle on Thu Mar 06, 2014 4:03 am

I read about a third of Divergent before I gave up. Even Twilight is better. Bella Swan is a more interesting, better-developed character than Tris and Stephanie Meyer was a stronger prose stylist.

Also, the world building is beyond stupid, especially when you realize the author actually lives in Chicago.

If you have other books to read, they are probably better uses of your time. There are plenty of plot summaries/spoilers online if you need to talk about it at work.

The underlying concept is interesting enough, but the execution is terrible.
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Re: Current Reads

Post  VodouDoll on Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:16 am

I thought the Divergent summary from the Read it and Weep podcast was pretty great:

If you liked Hunger Games but thought it needed more rules, you're going to love Divergent!

The debut novel from Veronica Roth, Divergent imagines a future after a great war. The only way to restore peace is to divide humanity up into 5 Death Frats named after SAT words. People join them by having only one personality trait: brave people join Dauntless where they jump off trains and punch each other. Smart people join Erudite where they wear glasses. Amish people join Abnegation where they don't eat hamburgers. And the other two are basically Hufflepuff.

Disclaimer: I haven't actually read Divergent, and after listening to the podcast I don't think I'd want to. They do give a pretty good rundown on the plot, so if you want to skip the book but fake like you've read it you might give it a listen. And "You're/They're/It's/I'm basically Hufflepuff," struck my husband and me as hilarious and now we say it all the time.

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