What'cha Readin'?

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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4681  Postby cyberomega » Sep 08, 2020 11:45 pm

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Just finished the first book of the Murderbot Diaries. Shorter than I would have liked, yet enjoyable. Reading lots of recommended stuff whilst waiting for the publications of various series sequels. I was nefariously directed to these series while they remained unfinished. I had recently finished a series I thought was the entirety of the FIrst Law Trilogy(Joe Abercrombie)... only to find out there are many more. This happens often in my life and leaves me frustrated. I need a Tardis.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4682  Postby Macdoc » Sep 13, 2020 12:23 am

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Wow ...that was wonderful following a number of parallel stories of those that fled Shanghai and continuing to current time.
It's back to $24.99 US but was on for $3.99 - daily deals from Chirp

Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution Hardcover – Jan. 22 2019. The dramatic real life stories of four young people caught up in the mass exodus of Shanghai in the wake of China's 1949 Communist revolution—a heartrending precursor to the struggles faced by emigrants today.


quite a remarkable personal story from the author I'll leave as a lure. :D
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4683  Postby Macdoc » Sep 13, 2020 5:26 am

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Need a dose of 'Stralia.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4684  Postby Svartalf » Sep 13, 2020 9:35 am

Full into Lovecraft style stuff... I'm going through a couple collections of stories, one around Frank Belknap Long's Hounds of Tindalos and Chaugnar Faugn, the other around Ithaqua the Wind Walker, and the Wendigo.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4685  Postby crazyfitter » Sep 15, 2020 8:39 am

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I was intrigued by UncertainSloths comment about Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff and tried to buy a copy but Kindle only had the ‘from the tv series’ book so I decided to try this instead. Everything US said about Lovecraft Country goes for this book. Would someone please tell me what happened!

Ok let’s see. It’s set in an interview room in the Psychiatric wing of a prison and a woman is being interviewed about a murder she committed. The book is her story, and what a story. She claims to be a member of the Bad Monkeys, an organisation whose aim is to kill really evil people who have escaped justice. Her gun has different settings, heart attack, aneurysm, stroke. There’s even an organisation of really evil people who know about Bad Monkeys and hunt them down and kill them. They have spy’s in each other’s organisation. Errr. I think.

But is it all a tall story? And who exactly is the psychiatrist? And why have I propped the book against a bottle of over proof whiskey? So many questions.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4686  Postby UncertainSloth » Sep 18, 2020 7:12 pm

excellent! i just bought this on the strength of reading lovecraft country - he's very much my sort of writer
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4687  Postby Animavore » Sep 19, 2020 11:22 pm

I'm reading The Fifth Season, which might be the only book I've ever read from a second person perspective.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4688  Postby crazyfitter » Sep 20, 2020 5:24 pm

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This is an exceptional book and the one Burke says is his best. It’s the story of a few weeks in the life of Aaron Holland Broussard of Houston Texas in 1952. He’s only 17 and at high school, working the summer break in a filling station and from a working class family. What can possibly go wrong? Between rescuing a girl from an unsavoury situation and the antics of his friend Saber he does indeed find himself in deep doggy doo and the book is his story.

If I have a criticism it’s the adult way that Aaron talks. To his schoolteacher:
“You’re cruel because you wake up scared every day of your life, Mr. Krauser. I know this because I used to be like you. Now I’m not. So I owe you a debt. You’re the model for what non of us ever want to become.”
And thinks:
The people sitting by us were sun-browned and had the rough hands and narrow features of people for whom privation and hard physical work were as natural as the sunrise. Their clothes were wash-faded and starched and ironed, their eyes full of expectation and pleasure at attending a function that for them was a communal validation of their lives.

I know that when I was 17 I wasn’t in the same ball park as Aaron. We do have one thing in common though, we both get memory losses. When I went to buy this book I found I already owned it and it opened at the share you’ve finished page. I’ve read it anyway with absolutely no insight to a past read. I’ve just checked and found I’ve listed it here as a read in 2017. Damn.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4689  Postby crazyfitter » Oct 02, 2020 8:16 pm

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Another excellent book from Burke. It covers a longer time span than The Jealous Kind and concerns a different part of the Holland family. It starts with the dust bowl and a chance meeting with Bonnie and Clyde. Our hero Weldon Avery Holland goes on to be a Lieutenant and was at the battle of the bulge where he meets his future wife, a Jewish girl he rescued from a nazi death camp. His Sergeant recognised the welding on the Tiger tanks as something that would be beneficial to the oil pipelines being laid throughout Texas and when they got demobbed set up a company using that technology and made themselves very wealthy.

However his Jewish wife becomes the target for sustained animosity in an attempt by competitors to break up the company. It doesn’t help that his wife was related to Rosa Luxembourg and her father was in the republican government of 1930’s Spain. And this is the Deep South. And the local police are err, shall we say, a lot less than helpful.

His attitude towards pipe laying is interesting:

I loved the work I did and took pride in it. I loved the smell of a swamp or a pine woods at sunrise. I tried not to think of myself as someone who was despoiling the environment. When we laid pipes through woods, we cleaned and reseeded the right of way and created a feeding area for wildlife and a firebreak and access roads for firefighting vehicles. The wetlands were another matter. Nonetheless we broke the plantation oligarchy’s hold on working people, often paid no more than $25 for a six day week.

He describes the damage done to the wetlands, the ingress of saltwater into the marshlands, the biodegrading of the environment and the pollution. While he has a sort of ‘oh dear’ attitude towards it he finds succour in biblical quotations to salve his conscious.

It prompted me to google pipe laying in the Deep South but it’s a subject that warrants study rather than 10 minutes scanning. I did find that reporting of spillages of more than 5gallons is done on an industry wide voluntary code of practice. Make what you will of that.

I was intrigued by the drinking habits of both the wealthy and their hoods:

His julep glass was wrapped with a cloth napkin, the shaved ice dark with bourbon, a sprig of mint stuck in it.

Swap the bourbon for rum though and I’m game.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4690  Postby Svartalf » Oct 11, 2020 1:07 am

I finished a collection of Clark Ashton Smith stories, and took up a collection of the fantastic stuff of Robert W Chambers (if I believe the introduction, his ordinary work was so keyed to the time it was written that it's no longer of any interest).

I've barely begun, maybe a half dozen pages or a bit more, and I'm thoroughly baffled. I'm perfectly conversant with modern English, I read older stuff (from XVIII and XIX c) without trouble, and yet, this late 1800s, turn of the century stuff has exposed me to several terms, or more precisely turns of phrase, that are beyond my ability to grasp. I don't know if New Yorker dialect is/was that strange, or if it's Charmbers himself who wrote in a bizarre style, or what, but this is troubling me even more than some of the badly edited and error ridden volumes I've been reading of late.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4691  Postby crazyfitter » Oct 19, 2020 3:57 pm

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This book became shortlisted but didn’t win the Booker Prize. It starts in 1935 with the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy and centres around a small family in a rural village and primarily Hirut the maid.

While Jan Hoy, Negus Nagast, Abbatatachin, Haile Selassie, Ras Teferi Mekonnen shelters in exile in Bath listening to Italian opera and taking his holidays in Brighton the people of Ethiopia start training, collecting antique rifles and bundles of spears and swords. Initial successful full scale battles lead to disastrous ones and then the onset of gorilla warfare of which our family take a leading part in their area. This is not a story of battles insomuch one of relationships and politics and everyday struggle.

Maaza writes in a distinctive manner with no quotation marks which surprisingly quickly becomes easy to read. Thus:
The cook leans out of the kitchen door, startled: She’s in our room. She points towards the servants’ quarters. What’s she doing in there? Hurry get up.

Maaza fast forwards us briefly to the ousting of the Italians in 1941/2 and then to 1975 and the student led revolution. It sees Herut sitting in a railway station looking out at young female student revolutionaries and thinking they look as if they didn’t know that women had taken up arms before them.

It’s one of those books I wish I’d bought in the paper form.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4692  Postby crazyfitter » Oct 30, 2020 3:49 pm

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I’m a big fan of Mick Heron and find his Slow Horses spy series to be sublime but this is his first book and it shows. It’s about an ex police woman who has set up as a private detective and gets a job looking for a runaway. One thing leads to another though and a group of bent coppers get their comeuppance. I did learn something about the amorous activities of female ostriches though.
There’s another couple of books in this series but I’ll give them a miss.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4693  Postby Adrien Zakarija » Nov 07, 2020 8:11 pm

Ben Elton's Time and Time again. Awesome book :) highly recommend to give it a read.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4694  Postby crazyfitter » Nov 08, 2020 5:56 pm

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It’s taken me a while to read this book because I found it so depressing and put it down for days on end. I’d intended to write extensively about it but have decided to do my usual brief summary. Peter Geoghegan is a journalist for Opendemocracy and was in Sunderland prior to the referendum when he picked up the regional Metro on the train. It featured a wraparound add for Brexit and was paid for by the DUP. It wasn’t until after the referendum that he was able to start investigating how a small NI party came to advertise in England and basically he still hasn’t got to the bottom of the story. There’s a ‘troubles’ based law that enables NI parties to hide the source of their income but nevertheless he discovered that the advert cost a lot more than their normal GE spend. His research led him to a small pop up Glasgow business owned by a failed Scottish Tory politician and somewhere in the mix is a Saudi prince whose father was the Ambassador to Britain at the time.

He looks at the world of Think Tanks in great detail and and we see the likes of Aaron Banks, the Kosh bros. and many others setting up something like 450 think tanks worldwide. It’s an odd thing that populist nationalist movements are being fuelled by men who are essentially internationalists.

In Britain the two think tanks most widely known are probably The Taxpayers Alliance (American Funded) and the European Research Group (ERG). The ERG were mostly known for their monthly breakfast in the HoC with a guest speaker but Brexit propelled them to the heart of government. They even have their own whip. Membership costs an MP £2000pa but is refundable as an expense because, like most think tanks it’s an unincorporated charity. In other words, we pay. They have other income as well, source unknown.

The charitable status of think tanks is granted because they are supposed to be research organisations but precious little research is done. They are basically lobbying companies and seem to have an endless supply of money. Cambridge Analytica is put under the spotlight as well as many others involved in the stealing of data. In America one man inadvertently revealed that at a political rally everyone’s phones would be electronically tracked so they knew where everyone lived and they would receive appropriate msgs/advertising through Facebook or whatever.

One of the striking things about the Brexit win was that government and MP’s didn’t know what to do next and think tanks were unindated with requests for soundbites relating to journalist requests. I’ve long known about the revolving door that exists between journalists, the big accounting firms and government but think tanks are also part of that equation.

Also revealed, to me anyway, is the fact that the Tory party has lost its traditional financial base in the manufacturing industry and now relies on the financial institutions which are as liable to short the pound as anything else.

Anyway now for some good news. The book is available for 99p on kindle.
And the DUP got thrown under the bus and lost 2 MP’s.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4695  Postby Varangian » Nov 21, 2020 1:44 am

"The Stars My Destination" (a.k.a. "Tiger! Tiger!") by Alfred Bester. Doesn't feel too aged for a 1956 science fiction story, and introduces concepts other writers have used since then.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4696  Postby crazyfitter » Nov 23, 2020 10:43 am

I remember reading this book, probably in the 70’s, and being completely enthralled. A reread about 10 years ago left me feeling less than enthused but maybe I was having a bad day. I’ll see if I can find it and have another read.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4697  Postby crazyfitter » Nov 24, 2020 1:51 pm

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Prompted by dgms I decided to read this book and what a good book it is. I was one of those who thought that language was fixed by dictionaries. I remember an English teacher at school telling us that the printing press had ‘fixed’ language so it was no longer in a state of flux and it was only natural to think that a dictionary was a gold standard which our language rests upon.

Not so, words are constantly being redefined as their use changes in the population. Snowflake for example, and I won’t even go into the problems created by same sex marriage and gender identification. It seems there are people out there bringing the lexicographers to task and some getting very excitable about it. I like this from Kory.

‘In the process of learning how to write a dictionary lexicographers must face the Escher-sequel logic of English and it’s speakers. What appears to be a straight forward word ends up being a linguistic fun house of doors that open into air and staircases that lead to nowhere. Peoples deeply held convictions about language catch at your ankles; your own prejudices are the millstone around your neck. You toil onwards with steady plodding, losing yourself to everything but the goal of capturing and documenting this language. Up is down, bad is good and the smallest words will be your downfall. You’d rather do nothing else.’

Kory works for Merriam-Webster which is located in Springfield Massachusetts (jokes about the Simpson’s) a two story brick building from who’s car park drug deals are allegedly done and who’s rear safety glass is pockmarked with bullet holes. Whether from drug dealers or from irate citizens upset by the definition of ‘marriage’ she doesn’t make clear.

The book prompted me to dig out the household dictionary and I’ve failed to find it so, irregardless, I went to dictionary.com instead and looked up a word which gives so much pain ‘as’, and had a browse through other definitions as well. There’s even little video clips of definitions and usage. I have a whole new respect for the people who write these books, forever up against deadlines and having to reply in a proper manner to the enquiries and submissions of the public.

One thing for certain, there’ll never be an entry in our reading lists - dictionary.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4698  Postby don't get me started » Nov 25, 2020 10:55 pm

Glad you enjoyed the book crazyfitter. She's a pretty good writer isn't she?
I too was impressed by the descriptions of the day-to-day work that these lexicographers do.

I have a lot of sympathy for her in her task of trying to capture the meanings of a word. I have to do this in my job, with the added problem that I am trying to define a word or explain a grammar point to someone whose English language abilities are not fully in place. It is the case in the language classroom that you have to work jointly with the student and provide a definition or an explanation that is sufficient for the purpose at hand, rather than giving a full and comprehensive definition.

This is pretty much how we use language in daily life...mutual, tacit agreement with our interlocutors that near enough is good enough and then move on. This is also why language use where precision is required and ambiguity minimized, such as academic papers, medical and legal texts, are pretty hard to read.

Paradoxically, it is the 'hard' words that are usually easiest to define in the classroom. Words like 'dermatologist' don't present much of a problem. Where you really get into difficulties is trying to account for 'small',high-frequency words like 'well','like' 'just',and so on, or trying to tease apart the differences between clusters of related words like 'say', 'speak', 'talk' and 'tell' or 'see', 'look' and 'watch'. The prepositions are a real headache, as you note with the word 'as'.

I used to read the dictionary between lessons...just open it at a random page and spend five or ten minutes actually reading the dictionary (It was the Oxford concise, iirc). Strange man!

Anyways, thanks for the write up and the reminder that language is a living thing and not easily tamed within the covers of a book.

P.S. Bonus points for your use of irregardless! :thumbup:

P.P.S Yes, ther seemed to be a server problem the other day. Glad it got resolved.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4699  Postby crazyfitter » Dec 12, 2020 2:14 pm

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A lightweight space opera without the depth or vast cast of characters we see in Hamilton’s or Bank’s novels. Does make it easier to read though.
The spaceships are an interesting concept. Not exactly AI but have a brain composed of a couple of kilos of organic matter grown from human and alsatian stem cells. Well, dogs do tend to be loyal. There’s a small crew with a captain who can hand control over to the ship in an emergency. The maintenance is done by a Druff, a race who seem dedicated to the mechanical and electrical maintenance of anyone’s spaceship. It has multiple hands and faces and has this to say:

Humans and Druff both paradoxical, but opposite. Humans social but selfish; Druff solitary but happy to share. Druff prefer to be lonely, but feel unthreatened by presence of other Druff. Humans prefer to be part of a group, but hoard and exclude. Want to be with others, but don’t want to share resources. Don’t want to share world.

Amen to that.
Most of the action takes place in an unpopulated solar system where the rocky orbiting planets have been carved into sculptures by people or races unknown. It almost sound like a comedy. Given a few years I might read it again.

Since finishing this book I’ve started and abandoned three others, just couldn’t get my mojo working. I’d expected to reach 60 books this year but it’s not going to happen. I have found something though.
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Re: What'cha Readin'?

#4700  Postby crazyfitter » Dec 29, 2020 3:40 pm

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I didn’t realise that it was a trilogy until The Three Body Problem came to an abrupt end and what a great trilogy it is. I don’t want it to end. I’m about half way through Deaths End at the moment and expect to finish by Thursday. In Wiki the three body problem is described thus:


Approximate trajectories of three identical bodies located at the vertices of a scalene triangle and having zero initial velocities. It is seen that the center of mass, in accordance with the law of conservation of momentum, remains in place.
In physics and classical mechanics, the three-body problem is the problem of taking the initial positions and velocities (or momenta) of three point masses and solving for their subsequent motion according to Newton's laws of motion and Newton's law of universal gravitation.[1] The three-body problem is a special case of the n-body problem. Unlike two-body problems, no general closed-form solution exists,[1] as the resulting dynamical system is chaotic for most initial conditions, and numerical methods are generally required.

The story starts with Proxima Centauri being a three star system and the inhabited planet suffering chaotically from short or long periods of either freezing conditions or extreme heat. The inhabitants have evolved a unique way of surviving and during the infrequent ideal conditions have developed advanced science and technology. When radio waves from Earth arrive there can only be one plan. Invade, kill and claim as their own.

They unwrap protons out of their many dimensions and spread them across the sky and use spaceships to etch circuits on them and create AI. Wrap them up again and fire at Earth where they ‘lock’ Earths science at current level by sabotaging particle accelerators. They’re not bothered about anything else. The protons communicate back home instantaneously by means of quantum entanglement. And wait the four and a half centuries for the fleet to arrive.

It’s a terrific well told story with many character’s, a lot of good science and sub plots. I’m halfway through the final book and still can’t see how it’s going to end.

Cixin Liu is China’s top Sci-Fi writer with many awards, I’ll be looking at some of his other works soon. Most of the people in the story are Chinese and it came as a surprise when a pronoun was used and the person was revealed to be a woman. I suppose that until shown otherwise all characters are of ones own sex.
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