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Forum nameReading Challenges, 2010
Topic subjectdabrown's reading
Topic URLhttp://www.fmwriters.com/community/dc/dcboard.php?az=show_topic&forum=505&topic_id=279
279, dabrown's reading
Posted by dabrownofmn, Thu Feb-04-10 08:39 PM
I'm setting my goal at 25.

Books read so far:

1. Sweet Everlasting by Patricia Gaffney
2. Carnival by Elizabeth Bear
3. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
5. Dust by Elizabeth Bear
6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
7. Fiddler Fair by Mercedes Lackey
8. The Vikings by Howard La Fay
9. New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear
10. In Cod We Trust by Eric Dregni
11. The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
12. Seven for a Secret by Elizabeth Bear
13. Wrapt in Crystal by Sharon Shinn
14. All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
15. The Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars by Arthur C. Clarke
16. Bone Shop by T. A. Pratt
17. The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
18. Hallowed Circle by Linda Robertson
19. Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
20. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey
21. By the Mountain Bound by Elizabeth Bear
22. Storm Front by Jim Butcher
23. Ghost of a Chance by Simon R. Green
280, Sweet Everlasting
Posted by dabrownofmn, Thu Feb-04-10 08:54 PM
Genre: Romance

I started reading this in December, just recently finished it. I was disappointed in most of the romance novels I had been reading, this one was a pleasant surprise. The story is set in the early 1900's in a small Pennsylvania town where Dr. Tyler Wilkes recently set up a medical practice. He meets Carrie Wiggins, a young lady who does not talk. Carrie's reason for not talking is not terribly surprising, but Gaffney manages to turn what could have been a flat cliched character into a mulit-dimensional personality. Tyler is equally complex and interesting, and his relationships with other characters are just as nuanced as his relationship with Carrie.

I generally don't care for omniscient narrators and head hopping, but Gaffney is very skilled with both. Most of the head hopping happens during sex scenes, which might irritate some people. I didn't mind this so much, because Gaffney is talented at getting underneath the characters' skins and showing emotions. Overall, this was a satisfying read, and I plan to read more of Gaffney's work in the near future.
281, Carnival
Posted by dabrownofmn, Thu Feb-04-10 09:07 PM
Genre: Science Fiction

I hadn't read any science fiction since high school, and this is the first book I've read by Bear. The story takes place in the future, on a world called New Amazonia, which is ruled by women. Earth suffered a horrible genocide at the hands of the Governors, super intelligent computers that were created by fanatical environmentalist to counter-balance the ecological problems humans created on Earth. Vincent Katherinessen and Michaelangelo Kusanagi-Jones are sent to New Amazonia under the guise of returning stolen art, but are really there to steal the planet's energy source. Both men are former lovers, and plan to double cross one another.

This is a complicated plot, with many different factions all working against each other. I think the book was meant to read all at once, but I read it over the course of two weeks with a few days of break in between. I had a hard time following everyone's motivations and alignments. I feel like I missed something important at the end, and there were some events that I felt could have been given more attention. The book is rich with world building, and the characters are well developed. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I plan to read more of Bear's novels. I may even reread this one, for reasons stated above.
453, Interview with the Vampire
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Mar-07-10 04:27 PM
Genre: Fiction

I'm notorious for reading series out of order, and this is the first time I've read Interview. Louis recounts to a boy about how he became a vampire. The story introduces the vampires Lestat and Armand. At first Louis is a very passive character, and just lets things happen. After he dispatches Lestat, he takes more and more control. He travels to Europe in search of other vampires, and eventually finds Armand in Paris.

Rice is talented at moving stories and characters forward, this book is no exception. Honestly, I enjoy Lestat's voice the most in the Vampire Chronicles, but this book offers a different view of Lestat. Wonderful book, highly recommend it to anyone who has never read it before.
538, Bird by Bird
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Mar-28-10 08:06 PM
Genre: Non-fiction

This is an advice book on writing, and one I highly recommend. Lamott is a very wise and humorous writer. The book is subtitled Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and indeed the advice she gives is as pertinent to the writer as it is to everyone.

I had read bits and pieces of this book when I was in college, most memorably the chapter on first drafts. It had been on my "to read" list for long enough that I finally got out and bought my own copy. I'm truly glad I did, as I will be re-reading this one.
595, RE: Bird by Bird
Posted by bonnieann, Tue Apr-06-10 09:16 PM
I remember loving this years ago. I may have to re-read it too.
555, Dust
Posted by dabrownofmn, Thu Apr-01-10 02:31 PM
Genre: Science Fiction

This is a strange book-- a mixture of SF and Fantasy. There are knights, angels, peasants, and kingdoms. But the story takes place entirely on a generational starship that is "shipwreaked" near a dying pair of stars. The characters are engaging if not occasionaly emotionally unattached to each other. Perceval and Rien are half sisters. At the beginnning of the book, Rien is taking care of Perceval, who has been captured and is awaiting execution. Rien saves her, they escape and the two go on a quest to save the world. On the way they fall in love with each other.

The world-building is wickedly cool, which is what kept me engaged. Sometimes the plot hangs in mid-air and some of the revelations/epiphanies seem random. The lesbian relationship between Perceval and Rien falls flat, so if you're looking for a good lesbian SF try something else (good luck with that, and let me know if there are any good ones out there).

If you like SF/F or just plain awesome world-building, this book is worth reading.
621, A Game of Thrones
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Apr-11-10 10:10 PM
Genre: Fantasy

Martin's books have been on my "to read" list for awhile. "A Game of Thrones" is the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire. There are several thread, plots, and counter plots in this book. Most of the action focuses on the Stark family. Lord Eddard Stark is chosen by the king to a high office. When he arrives at the king's court, Stark discovers a number of secrets that eventually lead to war. It is hard to summarize this book without spoiling the plot. If you like complex political intrique, this book is for you. The setting is heavily medieval, magic hardly plays any role in the story until near the end.

This is a very brutal, gory, and tragic story. One of the main characters is wrongfully beheaded. A lot of characters, both major and minor, die. Many of the deaths are outright sadistic or at least gruesome.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and all of its characters, all of whom were surprising in some way or another. People I thought were purely villians turned out to be more than what they seemed. Overall, this was a satisfying read.

EDIT: As an aside, this book contains one of the best battle scenes I have ever read. Catelyn Stark is with the northern army when they attack an opposing force. From on top a hill, Catelyn sees the villian knight's armor gleam through the trees, then she closes her eyes and the entire battle is witnessed with her ears. A marvelous scene, and the most memorable of the whole book for me.
827, RE: A Game of Thrones
Posted by cachance, Tue Jun-22-10 01:12 PM
I just finished re-reading this book (see my booklist for my comments). Unfortunately, I did not enjoy the book because of the brutality and the general unlikeableness (if that's even a word) of the characters. I do agree, though, that some of the villains do have some positive qualities and that that battle scene was well-done.
699, Fiddler Fair
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri May-07-10 05:10 PM
Genre: Short Stories

This is a collection of short stories written from the late eighties to the mid nineties. In the introduction, Lackey notes that some of these stories are rough around the edges, but she included them anyway as a sort of lesson in writing. "Fiddler Fair" itself has an interesting character in an good story, but the pace stumbles after the conflict is resolved and the denouement drags on for too long. It's easy to like Martis and Lyran in the stories "Balance" and "Dragon's Teeth", but Lackey seemed to have over-used her thesaurus and the POV of both stories could have been tightened. The stories that worked for me were "Dance Track", "Dumb Feast", and "Small Print". These stories best represent Lackey's talent to create strong characters and memorable conflicts. "Last Rights" is a fun parable on animal rights.
700, The Vikings
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri May-07-10 05:16 PM
Genre: Non-fiction

I read this book as research for one of my novels. This was published by the National Geographic Society in 1972, so much of the information may now be disputed, or in the case of references to the Soviet Union outdated. That didn't particularly matter to me, since I was looking more for ideas than historical information. And true to Nat Geo standards, the photography and illustrations are amazing.

What surprised me the most was the wide spread influence of the Vikings-- from England, Europe, North Africa, the Byzantium Empire, and the New World. I really had no idea how far they had travelled and how much influence they had on societies around the world.
744, New Amsterdam
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sat May-29-10 10:16 PM
Genre: Fantasy

This is a collection of six short stories and novellas centered around the characters Sebastien de Ulloa and Abigail Irene Garrett. The two are detectives in the city of New Amsterdam at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story takes place in an alternative historical Victorian period where the American Revolution failed and England still controls the colonies in North America. Overall, a very good book with entertaining characters and plots. The stories could have been expanded to help bring out the nuances of the world's unique history and magic.
762, In Cod We Trust
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sat Jun-05-10 11:21 PM
Genre: Memoir

This book details Dregni's experience while doing a fellowship in Norway. It is a delightful and humorous book about a society that is often very different from the Norwegian-American culture Dregni was used to growing up in Minnesota.
819, The Book of Jhereg
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Jun-20-10 03:38 PM
Genre: Fantasy

This is an anthology of the first three Vlad Taltos novels. This is the first time I've read from this series, and I am a fan now. Loved the characters, especially Loiosh. All three novels are mystery-style plots, with political intrigue and lots of back stabbing. Well developed stories, awesome characters,very fun read.
820, Seven for a Secret
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Jun-20-10 03:44 PM
Genre: Fantasy

This is a short novella that is a sequel to New Amsterdam. Set in the 1930's, England has been conquered by the Germans. The story picks up on the werewolf theme that New Amsterdam ended on. This was a good story, and a quick read. The book ended on a cliffhanger, so I hope the next book in the series picks up the story thread where it left off. (The New Amsterdam novellas were only interconnected by the characters, not by plot.)
839, Wrapt in Crystal
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sun Jun-27-10 10:46 AM
Genre: SF

I skipped large portions of this book. The story was interesting. Six priestesses are murdered with very few clues left behind, and the solution to the whole thing was intriguing, though the villain appeared out of nowhere. The hero of the story was emotionally detached until near the end. By that point I had long given up on the characters. The tension was never tightened. The denouement was way too long. The narrative at best read like a second draft.
864, All the Windwracked Stars
Posted by dabrownofmn, Wed Jul-07-10 12:04 PM
Genre: Science Fiction (Nordic steampunk?)

This is an end of the world storyline about the last immortals to survive Ragnorak. Overall I liked this one, and I'd go so far as to say it is the best written book I've read from Bear. The story moves at a slow pace with lots of character development. The main character, Muire, is a coward, and prone to emotionally debasing herself-- and then she gets up and does heroic deeds. There are few if any loose threads (something that annoys me with Bear's other books). The other books in the series are By the Mountain Bound and The Sea Thy Mistress (unpublished). I look forward to reading those as well, mostly because I want to know more about Muire, but also because the world building is so cool (the reason I keep reading Bear's stories).

ETA: Be forewarned that the story relies heavily on Scandinavian mythology and culture. I think it possible to enjoy the book without knowledge of Scandinavia, but I have studied this topic heavily so I can't say for sure. Bear does take creative liberties on mythologies, by the way.
872, The Snows of Olympus: A Garden on Mars
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Jul-09-10 07:59 PM
Genre: Non-fiction

I read this book for research on a SF story I want to write. I had hoped Clarke would discuss terraforming in more detail. A large section of the book is Clarke showing off the images of the Martian surface he created using a computer program, which was interesting if not entirely informative. The book was dated to the early 1990's, so a lot of references to the Soviet Union and the possibility of sending men to Mars by the end of the century seem quaint and out of date. Good summary of the history of our knowledge of Mars. Overall, a good introductory book to Mars.
925, Bone Shop
Posted by dabrownofmn, Tue Aug-03-10 06:44 PM
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Pratt published this as an online serial. It is the prequel to his Marla Mason series. The characters were enjoyable. The narrative felt unpolished.
937, The Queen of the Damned
Posted by dabrownofmn, Tue Aug-10-10 10:11 PM
Genre: Fiction

I always like Rice's use of multiple narrators. I think in this one there were seven narrators, but I may be miscounting-- most of which were third person limited, plus Lestat's usual ego-centric first-person, and Maharet's first-person account as seen through one of the third-person narrator's eyes. The story bounces around among various seemingly disconnected events. The antaganist's plot to take over the world seemed idiotic at first blush, but I think it was meant to be that way (I can't explain it without spoiling the book). This was not Rice's best written book, but it's a beautiful and good story nonetheless.
961, Hallowed Circle
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Aug-27-10 04:48 PM
Genre: Urban Fantasy

This is the second book in the Persephone Alcmedi series (the first is Viscious Circle). This one is not as tightly paced as the first book. The main conflict is resolved about two-thirds of the way in, and the rest of the story slows down until the very end. I still love the characters in this series. Overall, a good read.
1025, Succubus Blues
Posted by dabrownofmn, Mon Oct-04-10 06:27 PM
Genre: Urban Fantasy

Georgina Kincaid is a big-hearted succubus who doesn't quite fulfill her professional obligations to corrupt men's souls. Two new lovers turn up in her life, and then several immortals are found dead. I bought this book partly on a whim, partly because I have a succubus character of my own in development. Overall, this was a page turner. Fresh perspective on angels and demons theme. Lots of adult and sexual content.
1036, The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Oct-22-10 01:24 PM
Genre: Fantasy

This is an installment (the fourth I think) in Lackey's Five-Hundred Kingdoms series. Aleksia is the Fairy Godmother of the northern kingdoms. An impersonator causes her trouble, and Aleksia must set things right while ensuring magic remains in balance. There were a few minor continuity errors (one character's hair color changed color without explanation). The men more or less take a backseat while the women fix the conflicts. Along with that, some of the secondary characters could have been given more stage time, especially Aleksia's designated love interest. Overall, light hearted and enjoyable. This is a great series with a unique twist on magic.
1064, By the Mountain Bound
Posted by dabrownofmn, Wed Nov-17-10 10:39 AM
Genre: Fantasy

This the prequel to All the Windwracked Stars. It's hard to review this book without spoiling AtWS (and vice versa). This is a challenging book to read. There are three POVs: Mingan's first person present tense, Muire's first person past tense, and Strifbjorn's third person past tense. Bear takes only minor liberties with Scandinavian themes and mythology-- as opposed to a lot of authors who insert Scandinavian themes into more familiar tropes. The series as a whole (so far) is very rewarding to read. The characters threw me for a few loops, even though I thought I knew them well.
1092, Storm Front
Posted by dabrownofmn, Sat Dec-04-10 08:54 PM
Genre: Urban Fantasy

I haven't read the Dresden Files yet. I enjoyed this book. Not very strongly written (word repititions, weak dialogue tags). Overall, a well constructed plot with an entertaining character. I will be reading more in this series.
1123, Ghost of a Chance
Posted by dabrownofmn, Mon Dec-27-10 10:55 PM
Genre: Urban Fantasy

This is a first in a series. I chose to read this because I love Green's Nightside series. I couldn't finish this one. Many of the characters were two dimensional, though two of the minor characters had immense potential if only they had more stage time. The omniscient narrator was poorly written, with a lot of head hopping. I stopped reading when the "love subplot" turned melodramatic.
1124, RE: Ghost of a Chance
Posted by KatsInCommand, Tue Dec-28-10 07:30 AM
So the title lived up to its name, eh? ;)
1127, RE: Ghost of a Chance
Posted by dabrownofmn, Fri Dec-31-10 11:33 AM
You have no idea ;) This book was such a letdown for me. Like I mentioned, I loved the Nightside, and that series influenced me in so many ways. "Ghost" was like the fanfiction version of Nightside, it was so bad. Goes to show that even the best writers produce bad books.