What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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LadyGeek wrote:Please stay (0x03 && ON) topic.
Binary is on topic.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

spin_echo wrote:Recently discovered David Drake after reading all of the John Scalzi books (Old Man's War, etc)
Just finished Redliners
current reading The Tank Lords
The key with Drake is that he is revisiting Vietnam-- this is also Joe Haldeman's secret (The Forever War). Haldeman also wrote a real novel abou this time in the Army engineers in 'Nam (War Year).

In which my favourite is 'Rolling Hot' which is based upon the actions of real armoured cavalry units during the Tet Offensive in March 1968, that caught the US and South Vietnamese by surprise. It was an armoured cavalry unit which saved the main US airbase at Tan Son Nhut.

Unrelated, but with definitie similarities to Hammer's Slammers is 'The Forlorn Hope' about a mercenary unit caught when their employer starts to collapse in a brutal civil war (roughly based on the 1630s battles in what is now Czechoslovakia between Protestants and Catholics, that culminated in the battle of White Mountain, which decisively defeated the Protestant cause in central Europe).

The Forlorn Hope (in military parlance, the unit which leads the charge when the wall of the besieged city is first breached) is one of my favourite military SF novels.

Drake's 'With the Lightnings' series is set in a sort of Victorian space empire (he even manages to make his ships sail through hyperspace) based on the Napoleonic naval novels of O'Brian: Master and Commander (the movie with Russell Crowe) et al about Lucky Jack Aubrey and his ship's doctor Stephen Maturin (these novels are a tour de force if you ever come to them). The political structure though is out of Republican Rome (different aristocratic families competing, to the extent of civil war at times). They are much better, in my view, than David Weber's Honor Harrington.

They are also much darker. Drake read Classics at university, served in Vietnam, was a town lawyer for a while (his 'Lacey and Friends' is based on his experiences in local politics). He has a dark view of human nature although his heroes strive on to do the right thing in the midst of chaos. And many of his stories are based on classical analogies (Starliner on the Odyssey for example).

I am also very fond of 'Bird of Prey' and 'Killer' - about a roman centurion hunting an alien killer.

'Hammer's Slammers' is really a counterpoint to Jerry Pournelle (and later Steve Stirling) 'Falkenberg's Mercenary Legion': West of Honor/ The Mercenary collect the stories and then Steve Stirling took it onward. The first two are very much about Pournelle's experience as an artilleryman in the Korean War (as is the military stuff in 'Lucifer's Hammer' about a giant meteor hitting the earth-- the attack of the cannibal anti-nuclear green baddies is based on the Chinese offensives early in the war).

The other author who rewrites his Vietnam War experiences into excellent fantasy and Sci Fi is Glen Cook.

His 'The Black Company' (a trilogy which then became 9 novels) is just exceptional military fantasy, informed by both his wartime experiences and a deep reading of military history. In fact I'd say it is the best military fantasy around (Stephen Erikson might agree, he explicitly honors Cook for inspiration).

His 'Garrett PI' series is then a former soldier playing Raymond Chandler tough guy in a fantasy city (wizards are remote, powerful and best avoided by the normal inhabitants of Tun-Faire). These have a dry sense of humour that The Black Company lacks.

'The Dread Empire' series is again military history. It's a reimagining of what happened when Islam met Christianity, moves it several centuries later, so English longbowmen (Itsakia) and Rennaissance Italians (Hellin Damiel) meet 1st century crusading Islam. Ragni Bragnarsson (the main character) is doing a replay of Sir John Hawksworth, head of the famous 'The White Company' -- English mercenaries in 14th century Italy-- that's also the inspiration of 'The Black Company'. And the Dread Empire (aka Imperial China) sits on the edge, waiting for its moment.

Cook also wrote a number of military SF novels. 'A Matter of Time' is a truly creepy novel about what happened to the MIA soldiers. The Starfishers Trilogy is military SF.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/glen-cook/
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

nisiprius wrote:Just finished re-reading Wolfbane, by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth. A 1959 paperback with brown, brittle pages. I think it might be possible to get one more reading out of it, it has not reached the stage where each page detaches when you turn it, but close. (I'm relieved to see a Kindle edition IS available). This is not great literature, but it is good science-fiction and reminds me again of why I loved SF back then and why I don't like it so much any more. What wonderful narrative drive, what wonderful storytelling, and what good writing in the sense of what Jack London called "strength of utterance." Smart-alecky and funny... sort of like John D. MacDonald, it has a point of view but no great message. The story just sort of rambles--there's a coherent plot but not all that coherent. As I re-read it, I remember again that the ending is unsatisfying.

I also am aware of an luxuriant overabundance of concept--there's enough material for a dozen novels if they'd wanted to stretch it out.

The Snowflake is a set of eight humans floating a tank surrounded by artificial amniotic fluid with their minds connected, because--never mind. But I do wonder the authors of "The Matrix" might have read it.
The Snowflake decided: "I am unfulfilled. Sex does not matter, for immortality is possible to me. Love does not matter, for I have more than love. What matters is increasing my store of sense-data, and taking readings off scales.
Oh, the Good Guys win. And, typical of paperbacks of the era, the cover has no identifiable connection at all with the story
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Cyril M Kornbluth died too early- -he was only 35. He had strained his heart yanking a machine gun through the Ardennes Forest in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-45. Like most adults of the time, he smoked. Late for work, he shoveled his car out of the snow, drove to the station, got to his office in NYC, and died.

Before he died he wrote a line on the carbon copies he used to keep of his books 'Ghosts in a Martian department store'. We'll never be able to read that story.

He was something of a genius, in particular for 'The Merchants of Space' a 'satire' about advertising agencies rule the world which is no longer so funny because it more or less came true. And 'Not this August' about a Soviet takeover of the United States (it's not just your usual 1950s paranoid stuff) which still chills-- especially the battle with a KGB division in the snowy forests of upstate New York.

New England Science Fiction Association (NEFSA) has a complete Cyril M Kornbluth short fiction btw.

Rather as Robert Heinlein 'The Puppet Masters' took the idea of an alien invasion in his own unique way, Kornbluth managed the same in NTA.

When he died, he was also at work on a historical novel about the Crater battle in 1865, when a black US division was slaughtered in an assault on a breach on the Confederate lines at St Petersburg, creating by Pennsylvania miners digging under their lines.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/k/c-m-kornbluth/

If you like 'quirky' science fiction, then read this collection of short stories by Theodore M Cogswell

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/c/the ... -world.htm

Stories like 'Wolfie' and 'Thmgs' and 'The Wall Around the World' and 'The Spectre General' are just classic.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by abuss368 »

Grinding It Out - The Making of McDonald's by Ray Kroc.

Fascinating.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by chaz »

"The Messenger" by Daniel Silva.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by bertilak »

Just finished The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steve Runciman.

560 year ago and the more things change the more they stay the same.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

bertilak wrote:Just finished The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steve Runciman.

560 year ago and the more things change the more they stay the same.
In particular the bit where a Christian, a Hungarian cannon maker named Urban, could not get the retainer he wanted from the Emperor of Constantinople (let alone the budget) so he sold his services to the Ottoman Sultan, who used Urban's bombard to bash down the walls. And the bulk of the western powers stayed studiously neutral, because these were *Orthodox* Christians, and the western powers were *Catholic* Christians-- better to let the seat of Orthodoxy fall to the heathen Sultan than to prop up an Orthodox Christian power (Byzantium having been fatally crippled when the Venetians persuaded the western catholic knights of the 4th Crusade in 1204 to sack Constantinople, and then to rule a half assed Crusader kingdom in Greece for 100 years). Thus allowing the Turks to begin a 4 century reign in Eastern Europe whose side effects persist to this day.

The Lion of Venice is still a piece of statuary pillaged from Constantinople by the 4th Crusade.

So the old message that we'd far rather sh*ft each other than stand together against darkness.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

I am about a fifth of the way through Charles Munch by D. Kern Holoman. Charles Munch was a leading French-born international conductor of the twentieth century. He succeeded Serge Koussevitzky as music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Because the writing is rather stilted, it reads like it was written by an academic, which it was. D. Kern Holoman is professor of music at U.C. Davis. Despite this, it's an interesting read if you enjoy classical music and are interested in learning more about a conductor who was influential in many respects. Oddly, and sadly, the book lacks a needed discography. It does have an extensive bibliography, though, and a fairly good index.

(Edited to add the second paragraph.)
Last edited by gkaplan on Wed Sep 18, 2013 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by bertilak »

Valuethinker wrote:
bertilak wrote:Just finished The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Steve Runciman.

560 year ago and the more things change the more they stay the same.
In particular the bit where a Christian, a Hungarian cannon maker named Urban, could not get the retainer he wanted from the Emperor of Constantinople (let alone the budget) so he sold his services to the Ottoman Sultan, who used Urban's bombard to bash down the walls. And the bulk of the western powers stayed studiously neutral, because these were *Orthodox* Christians, and the western powers were *Catholic* Christians-- better to let the seat of Orthodoxy fall to the heathen Sultan than to prop up an Orthodox Christian power (Byzantium having been fatally crippled when the Venetians persuaded the western catholic knights of the 4th Crusade in 1204 to sack Constantinople, and then to rule a half assed Crusader kingdom in Greece for 100 years). Thus allowing the Turks to begin a 4 century reign in Eastern Europe whose side effects persist to this day.

The Lion of Venice is still a piece of statuary pillaged from Constantinople by the 4th Crusade.

So the old message that we'd far rather sh*ft each other than stand together against darkness.
Something I just read: "It’s always Groundhog Day in the Middle East."
May neither drought nor rain nor blizzard disturb the joy juice in your gizzard. -- Squire Omar Barker (aka S.O.B.), the Cowboy Poet
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by randomwalk »

I recently finished Enemies by Tim Weiner.

Now reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by DeltaGolf »

I recently finished reading "Unregulated Capitalism" by George Gaasvig.
He has some interesting ideas on how to turn the economy around to provide a more equal opportunity for all.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1483980499
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by LadyGeek »

Welcome! Bear in mind that discussion of this book is off-topic for this forum. PM me if you have any questions.

Update: This comment refers to the prior post.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by chaz »

I'm 110 pages into "The Messenger" by Daniel Silva. It is excellent. Silva was recommended, and, thus, is being tried.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

chaz wrote:I'm 110 pages into "The Messenger" by Daniel Silva. It is excellent. Silva was recommended, and, thus, is being tried.
I've read all his books.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by protagonist »

LadyGeek wrote:Welcome! Bear in mind that discussion of this book is off-topic for this forum. PM me if you have any questions.
I haven't read Gaasvig, but I am curious why discussion of this book, but not others about economics, is off-topic. Is it about economic policy, and discussion of economic policy is off-topic? Does it have to do with some particular position the author is taking? I assume that just mentioning it and a vague reference to the topic, as the poster did, is permitted (since the post was not removed)...correct?

Thanks.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by ruralavalon »

Conquered Into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.

Warfare among the French, French Canadian, American colonies, United States, British, Iroquois Confederacy, Etc from early colonial times onward in the corridor between Albany, New York and Montreal, Quebec Ontario, in places like Saratoga, Ticonderoga , Lake George, Lake Champlain, and its influence today on how we view warfare, diplomacy, terrorism, regime change, infantry tactics.

EDIT: Oops, ignorant American put Montreal in the wrong province.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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protagonist wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:Welcome! Bear in mind that discussion of this book is off-topic for this forum. PM me if you have any questions.
I haven't read Gaasvig, but I am curious why discussion of this book, but not others about economics, is off-topic. Is it about economic policy, and discussion of economic policy is off-topic? Does it have to do with some particular position the author is taking? I assume that just mentioning it and a vague reference to the topic, as the poster did, is permitted (since the post was not removed)...correct?

Thanks.
I sent you a PM, which is the appropriate way to ask questions about moderator actions (or lack of action).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by placeholder »

LadyGeek wrote:I sent you a PM, which is the appropriate way to ask questions about moderator actions (or lack of action).
Since you posted the warning as a general note in open forum you should answer questions about it that way so not everybody has to pm. Or edit op to say why which you should have done first.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by DriftingDudeSC »

Robert B. Parker's Damned if You Do (Jesse Stone #12)
by Michael Brandman

An award-winning producer of more than thirty motion pictures, he collaborated with Robert B. Parker on more than a dozen of them. Together they wrote the screenplay for Tom Selleck's TNT movie Monte Walsh. Brandman produced and Parker wrote three Spenser films for A&E, and their collaboration continued with the Jesse Stone TV movies currently broadcast on CBS.

I liked it......
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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placeholder wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:I sent you a PM, which is the appropriate way to ask questions about moderator actions (or lack of action).
Since you posted the warning as a general note in open forum you should answer questions about it that way so not everybody has to pm. Or edit op to say why which you should have done first.
Again, the forum policy states that the only way you can comment or question a Moderator's action is via PM. Your post is a clear violation of that part of the forum policy.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

ruralavalon wrote:Conquered Into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.

Warfare among the French, French Canadian, American colonies, United States, British, Iroquois Confederacy, Etc from early colonial times onward in the corridor between Albany New York and Montreal Ontario, in places like Saratoga, Ticonderoga , Lake George, Lake Champlain, and its influence today on how we view warfare, diplomacy, terrorism, regime change, infantry tactics.
Thank you. That looks like another one I should read.

If you read John Keegan's 'Warpaths' about the military geography of North America, then he starts into this story (a bit).

The American colonials were ahead of the British in light infantry tactics. Learned the hard way from fighting the Quebecois (D'Iberville is something of a Canadian military legend). Something the British didn't really appreciate until the rebellious colonies demonstrated the learning on their former overlords ;-).

The role of the Indians in all this is I think sometimes neglected-- the very best of guerilla fighters.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

bertilak wrote: Something I just read: "It’s always Groundhog Day in the Middle East."
;-).

Very good line ;-).

The Romans would have shaken their heads in agreement.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by nisiprius »

Ponzi's Scheme, by Mitchell Zuckoff. Starts off great, at the peak, when there was almost a mob scene from people wishing to invest with him--and the interesting problem of a rival firm setting up shop in the same building with a competing scheme, and Ponzi trying to figure out how he can prevent the competitor from sullying Ponzi's good name. But then of course flashes back to his childhood... yawn. Have to figure out how far ahead to skip to get back into stuff that I'll find interesting.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

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DriftingDudeSC wrote:Robert B. Parker's Damned if You Do (Jesse Stone #12)
by Michael Brandman

An award-winning producer of more than thirty motion pictures, he collaborated with Robert B. Parker on more than a dozen of them. Together they wrote the screenplay for Tom Selleck's TNT movie Monte Walsh. Brandman produced and Parker wrote three Spenser films for A&E, and their collaboration continued with the Jesse Stone TV movies currently broadcast on CBS.

I liked it......
I kind of liked it.

I thought it was a large type book when I first opened it. Nope, normal with extra large type and 1-1/2 line spacing. Or, how to make your book have twice as many pages wasting lots of wood pulp. Not even as long as a 1950/60s novel.

It reads like a TV script and not one of the original books. The secondary characters are kind of card boardy. It needs a little more fleshing out another sub-thread that was more typical of a Robert B Parker book.

For what it was it was ok. Better than Ace Adkins doing the Spenser books.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by chaz »

"Play Dead" by Harlan Coben.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by MP173 »

Just finished "The Fifties" by David Halberstram....took me nearly a month to read about a decade. I enjoyed it.

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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Bungo »

A few books finished recently:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks. I would rate it 5/10. The idea was intriguing: a Studs Terkel-style "documentary" consisting of interviews with a wide variety of participants in a hypothetical war against a world-wide outbreak of zombie-ism. The execution had some high points and some interesting ideas, notably the infestation of the oceans by zombies, which apparently don't need to breathe. But the "oral history" aspect was unconvincing: most of the narratives sounded like they came from the pen of the same author. There were also quite a few bits that were more boring than they should have been.

The Wild Shore, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Another 5/10. Another dystopic novel, this one set what was then 60ish years into the future (2047) in the aftermath of the nuclear annihilation of the U.S. Most of the action is centered around a coastal canyon in Orange County, California where a small community of survivors and their offspring have managed to form a village of farmers and fishermen. The narrative is deliberately myopic and insular, penned by a semi-literate teenager with very limited knowledge of the past or the world outside his village, and with conveniently mediocre writing skills. Unfortunately, this allows the author considerable opportunity for laziness. The reader learns very little of the catastrophe and the world outside the minor adventures of a few teenagers. Sadly, the author is no Mark Twain, and the result is not especially compelling.

A House for Mr. Biswas, by V.S. Naipaul. I give it 8/10. This is the life story of an insignificant man living in postcolonial Trinidad, and his lifelong halfhearted struggle to free himself from dependence on his wife's family and to obtain a house of his own. The writing is lovely, and walks a nice line between tragedy and comedy. Naipaul does an exceptionally convincing job of immersing the reader in a very specific place, time, and culture, with a sharp eye for detail that never seems forced. Ultimately the story, like most people's lives, doesn't really amount to much, and the book could have been a bit shorter, but it's still a fine read.

Currently reading A Walk Along Land's End, by John McKinney. The author walked the entire coast of California in the 1990s, and this is the resulting travelogue. So far so good.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by ruralavalon »

Valuethinker wrote:
ruralavalon wrote:Conquered Into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.

Warfare among the French, French Canadian, American colonies, United States, British, Iroquois Confederacy, Etc from early colonial times onward in the corridor between Albany New York and Montreal Ontario, in places like Saratoga, Ticonderoga , Lake George, Lake Champlain, and its influence today on how we view warfare, diplomacy, terrorism, regime change, infantry tactics.
Thank you. That looks like another one I should read.

If you read John Keegan's 'Warpaths' about the military geography of North America, then he starts into this story (a bit).

The American colonials were ahead of the British in light infantry tactics. Learned the hard way from fighting the Quebecois (D'Iberville is something of a Canadian military legend). Something the British didn't really appreciate until the rebellious colonies demonstrated the learning on their former overlords ;-).

The role of the Indians in all this is I think sometimes neglected-- the very best of guerilla fighters.
Actually the author asserts that the British more readily adopted (even in regular Army units) woodland based light infantry tactics than is ordinarily supposed. The author also seems (I'm only 1/4 of the way thru the book) to say that the British adopted them almost as rapidly as American colonial units, and that the early adopters (colonial Ranger formations) were not as effective as their legend and not as effective as the French Canadians. Its clear that he does admire and give credit to colonial Ranger units, but thinks everyone was learning from the French Canadians and the Iroquois.

The author has a little different view of 1757 and the massacre dealt with in The Last of the Mohicans. I'm only about 1/4 of the way thru the book, but its interesting so far.

Valuethinker wrote:If you read John Keegan's 'Warpaths' about the military geography of North America, then he starts into this story (a bit).
I can't find a book by him by that title on Amazon, is there another title or a different title also used for the book? Like "Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America"?


Here is a good book on some different border warfare in North America, on the southern plaines in Texas and Oklahoma. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe, by S. C. Gwynne. Also includes by far the most interesting "abducted by the indians" type history I've ever heard of or read.
Last edited by ruralavalon on Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:50 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

Bungo wrote:A few books finished recently:


The Wild Shore, by Kim Stanley Robinson. Another 5/10. Another dystopic novel, this one set what was then 60ish years into the future (2047) in the aftermath of the nuclear annihilation of the U.S. Most of the action is centered around a coastal canyon in Orange County, California where a small community of survivors and their offspring have managed to form a village of farmers and fishermen. The narrative is deliberately myopic and insular, penned by a semi-literate teenager with very limited knowledge of the past or the world outside his village, and with conveniently mediocre writing skills. Unfortunately, this allows the author considerable opportunity for laziness. The reader learns very little of the catastrophe and the world outside the minor adventures of a few teenagers. Sadly, the author is no Mark Twain, and the result is not especially compelling.
You might like 'The Book of Dave' by Will Self. Written in a sort of mutilated cockney, the descendants of a London cabbie eek out their existence on the island of Hampstead, in what was London and is now a low lying sea. Dave was a cabbie, and his diaries have become their holy book, with all the misinterpretations that would entail-- anyone who has ever sat in a London black cab being told what's what by the cabbie will find this instantly strikes a chord (to be clear, I generally like London cabbies and their stories). The book is both funny and horrifying in equal measure. Self is a mainstream writer who has won awards for his writing, and not a science fiction writer. As I said the language takes a while to get into.

One could also recommend almost any of the John Wyndham novels on a similar theme (The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes, The Day of the Triffid etc.)-- very much 1950s British science fiction, but very good (if Penguin reissues something as a 'modern classic' I usually reckon it's worth a read-- particularly in genre fiction, it is by that route that I came to Raymond Chandler, also that's how I read Philip K Dick 'The Man in the High Castle'). Also John Christopher 'The Condition of Grass' about a global blight that wipes out all wheat crops. Christopher is more justly famous for his 'Tripods' trilogy (which was 'young adult') which still resonates-- about a world taken over by aliens who 'cap' humans to control their minds, and 3 youths who rebel and escape to 'the White Mountains' (ie Switzerland) on the day of their capping.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Bungo »

Valuethinker - thanks for the recommendations. I find science fiction frustrating because I like the ideas but too often it's not very well written, even when the reviews (such as the ones of The Wild Shore) seem to indicate otherwise.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

I am about seventy pages into Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George. The book is just over 600 pages. No crime novel should be that long. Ngaio Marsh's novels average about 250.

I have read all the Inspector Lynley novels of Elizabeth George, about fifteen of them. They have become increasingly long, increasingly tedious, and increasingly ponderous. Inspector Lynley and his friends are totally self-absorbed. I thought things would improve when Ms. George killed off Helen, Inspector Lynley's wife and long-term girl friend. If anything, though, things have become worse. In addition, I don't care about Sergeant Haver's neighbors. They're boring. Apparently, Ms. George has different ideas than I of what she wants to say in her novels, though.

Lynley and Havers, themselves, are interesting characters, I like the way they interact. They have so totally different personalities and come from so totally different backgrounds that there is no chance of any romance developing between the two that would detract from the story, itself.

Believing the Lie so far has not been burdened to a great extent by the self-absorbed ruminations of Lynley or his friends, although the novel thus far has not introduced any of his friends, but the book's liner notes indicate that his friends will make an appearance. Sergeant Havers' neighbors have made an appearance, and they continue to be boring. I've decided if the book develops as her other books have developed I will weed all fifteen or so of them from my personal library. That should free up space for about thirty new books.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by bertilak »

gkaplan wrote:I have read all the Inspector Lynley novels of Elizabeth George, about fifteen of them. They have become increasingly long, increasingly tedious, and increasingly ponderous. Inspector Lynley and his friends are totally self-absorbed.
I never read the books, but did go through the DVDs for the BBC series. Apparently the series followed the spirit of the books exactly because I got the same impressions you outline in your post!

In the TV shows there are never-ending references to "Detective Inspector Lynley." It got to be, as you say, tedious. We started referring to him as Defective Inspector Lynley. We were sure he could have more success if he would just do his frikkin' job and quit whining.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by nisiprius »

gkaplan wrote:I am about seventy pages into Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George. The book is just over 600 pages. No crime novel should be that long. Ngaio Marsh's novels average about 250.
A Traitor to Memory is 719 pages. Just sayin'. Elizabeth George is probably sitting somewhere saying "You just can't please some people, they say they want shorter novels so I'm writing shorter novels, 17% shorter, but are they satisfied? Nooooooo...."

Crime and Punishment (which I've never read) seems to run to 600 pages more or less, depending on edition.

Quite irrelevant, but the thickest-looking single volume of fiction on my shelves appears to be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at 759 pages. If kiddie-lit can run 759 pages, why not a whodunnit?

Wow, Stephen King's The Stand was 823 pages when first published, but the new edition runs 1,348 pages.

Some of it is because they seem to be printing books in bigger type with more space between the lines these days.

Maybe she should be publishing each novel in three volumes, the way writers like Ouida used to do...
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Bungo »

I've only read one Elizabeth George novel, Playing for the Ashes. If memory serves, I read it shortly after Dickens' David Copperfield, so it didn't feel especially long even though it was 600-ish pages. The main thing that irritated me was that George's writing seemed like that of an American trying too hard to sound English, which of course is exactly what she is. The story wasn't bad, though, and it was better written than many mystery/detective books I've read, so I figure I'll give her another try one of these days. Are the earliest novels the best ones?
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by chaz »

Elizabeth George is my favorite author. Her novels and Masterpiece Mystery are awesome.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

gkaplan wrote:I am about seventy pages into Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George. The book is just over 600 pages. No crime novel should be that long. Ngaio Marsh's novels average about 250.

I have read all the Inspector Lynley novels of Elizabeth George, about fifteen of them. They have become increasingly long, increasingly tedious, and increasingly ponderous. Inspector Lynley and his friends are totally self-absorbed. I thought things would improve when Ms. George killed off Helen, Inspector Lynley's wife and long-term girl friend. If anything, though, things have become worse. In addition, I don't care about Sergeant Haver's neighbors. They're boring. Apparently, Ms. George has different ideas than I of what she wants to say in her novels, though.

Lynley and Havers, themselves, are interesting characters, I like the way they interact. They have so totally different personalities and come from so totally different backgrounds that there is no chance of any romance developing between the two that would detract from the story, itself.

Believing the Lie so far has not been burdened to a great extent by the self-absorbed ruminations of Lynley or his friends, although the novel thus far has not introduced any of his friends, but the book's liner notes indicate that his friends will make an appearance. Sergeant Havers' neighbors have made an appearance, and they continue to be boring. I've decided if the book develops as her other books have developed I will weed all fifteen or so of them from my personal library. That should free up space for about thirty new books.
I now am almost forty percent through Believing the Lie, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised. This is Ms. George's best book in years. Part of the reason is that the peripheral characters are interesting. Another reason is that the book moves along quite nicely and does not dwell on the aspects that I was critical of in my original post. Of course, the book still has almost three hundred pages to go, and my outlook could change. As of now, however, Ms. George's leash just got a little longer.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

Bungo wrote:Valuethinker - thanks for the recommendations. I find science fiction frustrating because I like the ideas but too often it's not very well written, even when the reviews (such as the ones of The Wild Shore) seem to indicate otherwise.
Well JG Ballard writes well. And I really like William Gibson especially Neuromancer- Count Zero- Mona Lisa Overdrive, his first trilogy.

China Mieville is a good stylist 'The City and the City' and 'Perdido Street Station'.

Michael Moorcock's style has never been his strength. However I loved 'Elric' and 'The Runestaff' when he was writing fantasy. His output was prodigious and he in some ways anticipated Douglas Adams with his p-take of SF tropes in his Jerry Cornelius series (and anticipated steampunk with his 'Warlord of the Air' series). Since then he has written contemporary fiction.

You never really know what they sounded like in their own language, but Stanislas Lem ('Solaris') and Boris and Arkady Strugatsky come to mind. In the eastern bloc, one of the ways around censorship was to write 'science fiction' which therefore was less subject to scrutiny because it was popular not literary.

I don't think Philip K Dick is a particularly good stylist, but his novels, all about identity, are just haunting. Perhaps that is why so many have been made into movies 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep' aka 'Blade Runner' as a case in point.

I agree SF writers often write badly. As do most thriller writers, but then you get Raymond Chandler where the language is the whole treat of the book (the characters are variable and often flat, the plots hopelessly convoluted, but the language, and the character of Philip Marlowe in masterpieces like 'The Lady in the Lake' and 'The Big Sleep' never leave you).

When the critics (as they did with the late musician/ SF writer Mick Farren, and with JG Ballard himself) stop calling them 'Science Fiction writers' and start calling them 'writers of speculative fiction' then you know they have crossed into 'literature' ;-). Indeed I was collecting Farren and Ballard obituaries that actually went to pains not to mention that they wrote what was once called 'science fiction' ;-).
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

bertilak wrote:
gkaplan wrote:I have read all the Inspector Lynley novels of Elizabeth George, about fifteen of them. They have become increasingly long, increasingly tedious, and increasingly ponderous. Inspector Lynley and his friends are totally self-absorbed.
I never read the books, but did go through the DVDs for the BBC series. Apparently the series followed the spirit of the books exactly because I got the same impressions you outline in your post!

In the TV shows there are never-ending references to "Detective Inspector Lynley." It got to be, as you say, tedious. We started referring to him as Defective Inspector Lynley. We were sure he could have more success if he would just do his frikkin' job and quit whining.
And I think a cop would refer to him as 'DI Lynley'. 'Detective Inspector' is just not used in day to day language, I don't think.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by Valuethinker »

ruralavalon wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:
ruralavalon wrote:Conquered Into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.

Warfare among the French, French Canadian, American colonies, United States, British, Iroquois Confederacy, Etc from early colonial times onward in the corridor between Albany New York and Montreal Ontario, in places like Saratoga, Ticonderoga , Lake George, Lake Champlain, and its influence today on how we view warfare, diplomacy, terrorism, regime change, infantry tactics.
Thank you. That looks like another one I should read.

If you read John Keegan's 'Warpaths' about the military geography of North America, then he starts into this story (a bit).

The American colonials were ahead of the British in light infantry tactics. Learned the hard way from fighting the Quebecois (D'Iberville is something of a Canadian military legend). Something the British didn't really appreciate until the rebellious colonies demonstrated the learning on their former overlords ;-).

The role of the Indians in all this is I think sometimes neglected-- the very best of guerilla fighters.
Actually the author asserts that the British more readily adopted (even in regular Army units) woodland based light infantry tactics than is ordinarily supposed. The author also seems (I'm only 1/4 of the way thru the book) to say that the British adopted them almost as rapidly as American colonial units, and that the early adopters (colonial Ranger formations) were not as effective as their legend and not as effective as the French Canadians. Its clear that he does admire and give credit to colonial Ranger units, but thinks everyone was learning from the French Canadians and the Iroquois.

The author has a little different view of 1757 and the massacre dealt with in The Last of the Mohicans. I'm only about 1/4 of the way thru the book, but its interesting so far.
Thank you. It sounds very interesting and contrary to my (cursory, stereotyped?) view of colonial warfare.
Valuethinker wrote:If you read John Keegan's 'Warpaths' about the military geography of North America, then he starts into this story (a bit).
I can't find a book by him by that title on Amazon, is there another title or a different title also used for the book? Like "Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America"?
Yes, they must have retitled it. It's partly a reflection on his own life and time in America. I thought he was perceptive on the distinctions between USA and Canada. Each chapter is about another phase of American warfare (colonial, Civil War, Indian War, WW2) as reflected in a different part of North American geography-- the forts of French Canada, the Richmond barriers that stopped MacClelland (sp?), the forts of the West, the Flying Fortresses of WW2. Maybe I liked it as much for the personal touch as anything. I really enjoyed his one volume The American Civil War for its discussion of how geography shaped that conflict-- you don't usually get that kind of analytical insight in the more narrative histories (Macpherson, Shelby Foote).

In a short period we lost Richard Holmes to cancer, and John Keegan to the infirmities of old age-- great losses to popular military history.
Here is a good book on some different border warfare in North America, on the southern plaines in Texas and Oklahoma. Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe, by S. C. Gwynne. Also includes by far the most interesting "abducted by the indians" type history I've ever heard of or read.
[/quote]

Great, more for the reading list ;-).

SC Gwynne wrote a book in the late 1970s 'Selling Money' about the banking bust of the 70s, when people like Chase Manhattan nearly went bust over bad loans to Third World governments. It is particularly interesting to read it in light of the 2008 banking crash.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by randomwalk »

I recently finished Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown.

Now reading A Terrible Glory by James Donovan.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by nisiprius »

Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Michael Zuckoff is turning out to be much more interesting than I expected, and a really good read. Ponzi was much more of a public figure than I had realized. The book doesn't quite dwell on the use of the word "scheme," but at the time it seems to have been used in the straightforward, legitimate sense: strategy, system, plan or program of action. Ponzi does NOT come off as a sociopath, but rather as your typical entrepreneur, a spinner of tales; like Harold Hill in "The Music Man," "Kid, I always believe there's a band" and hopes that confidence and optimism will carry him through.

Ponzi thought he was genuinely on to something with his... scheme... of arbitraging international postal reply coupons. He wasn't quite sure how to accomplish the key step of exchanging the coupons for money, but was confident there had to be a way (he never did find one), and he decided to set up the business first and work out the pesky details as things went along. "Robbing Peter to pay Paul" was just a temporary expedient to get things started. As it snowballed, and he became flush with cash to the tune of millions and millions of dollars, and was buying controlling interest in a bank etc. he seems to have hoped that he could turn legitimate--stop accepting new deposits and make enough money from real enterprises to pay off his investors.

The Ponzi notes allowed a choice of letting them mature and collecting 50%! interest in 45! days, or redeeming them early for their face amount, and among other things he was trying to encourage people to do the latter so as to reduce his obligations.

It is astonishing to me the degree of support he got from all sorts of prominent and respectable figures, based apparently on his apparent honesty and willingness to keep paying off his investors promptly. How many financial writers were willing to say the scheme was sound and workable. And how few were saying in effect "come on, it is not possible to make that much that quickly." (Ponzi, of course, implied that bankers and investors did know how to make that much, but did not share their huge benefits with their investors, and that the difference was that he was).

Some terrific quotations. Someone calls out to Ponzi "You're the greatest Italian in history?" Ponzi replies "No, I am the third greatest. Christopher Columbus discovered America, and Marconi discovered wireless." The fan cried you "You discovered the money!"
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by chaz »

"The Hit" by David Baldacci.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

gkaplan wrote:
gkaplan wrote:I am about seventy pages into Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George. The book is just over 600 pages. No crime novel should be that long. Ngaio Marsh's novels average about 250.

I have read all the Inspector Lynley novels of Elizabeth George, about fifteen of them. They have become increasingly long, increasingly tedious, and increasingly ponderous. Inspector Lynley and his friends are totally self-absorbed. I thought things would improve when Ms. George killed off Helen, Inspector Lynley's wife and long-term girl friend. If anything, though, things have become worse. In addition, I don't care about Sergeant Haver's neighbors. They're boring. Apparently, Ms. George has different ideas than I of what she wants to say in her novels, though.

Lynley and Havers, themselves, are interesting characters, I like the way they interact. They have so totally different personalities and come from so totally different backgrounds that there is no chance of any romance developing between the two that would detract from the story, itself.

Believing the Lie so far has not been burdened to a great extent by the self-absorbed ruminations of Lynley or his friends, although the novel thus far has not introduced any of his friends, but the book's liner notes indicate that his friends will make an appearance. Sergeant Havers' neighbors have made an appearance, and they continue to be boring. I've decided if the book develops as her other books have developed I will weed all fifteen or so of them from my personal library. That should free up space for about thirty new books.
I now am almost forty percent through Believing the Lie, and I must say I am pleasantly surprised. This is Ms. George's best book in years. Part of the reason is that the peripheral characters are interesting. Another reason is that the book moves along quite nicely and does not dwell on the aspects that I was critical of in my original post. Of course, the book still has almost three hundred pages to go, and my outlook could change. As of now, however, Ms. George's leash just got a little longer.
I finally finished this book on my ride home from work Monday evening. As I said this book is Ms. George's best book in years. Unfortunately, I think this is so because she has set such a low bar in her recent books. Consequently, I stand by my original assessment. This book is just too long! She easily could have wrapped this up in five hundred pages or less.

I think Ms. George's problem, at least in this book, is that she introduces too many unnecessary characters and too many subplots. In fact, she has so many subplots in this book that I couldn't recognize, or at least remember, what was the main plot of the book, if indeed she had one. Add to this too many false endings and you have a too long, too tedious, too ponderous book.

On the other hand, I am neither a writer nor a professional critic, so Elizabeth George may be the best crime novelist out there.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

Now for a good review.

I am about sixty percent through Return to Oak Pine by Ron Carlson, a novel dealing with male friendship and homecomings.

The book takes place in a small, remote town in Wyoming (Oak Pine) in 1999. (If you have looked at a map of Wyoming, to describe a town in Wyoming as small and remote seems somewhat redundant.) The book centers around four men who were close friends growing up and formed a band during their senior year in high school thirty years previously. One went to college, then law school, and became a lawyer in Denver but has returned to Oak Pine seeking something, although what he is not sure. Another stayed in Oak Pine, except for a tour in Vietnam and four years in Florida, married his high school sweetheart, and runs the local hardware store he inherited from his father but has become bored with the day-to-day drudgery of running a hardware store and answering the same questions year after year. A third stayed in Oak Pine and owns a bar but seems to regret the road not taken. The fourth left for New York and has become an admired novelist but has returned to Oak Pine to die (from AIDS). It is his return that sparks the surfacing of the dreams and expectations, filled and unfulfilled. Midlife crises, if you will.

Ron Carlson writes in a sparse manner – almost Hemmingway-esque, I want to say, but that would be putting too much burden on Carlson, probably. He is the director of the writing program at UC Irvine and has written a book of poetry, a novel for young readers, several short story collections, and four other novels, two of which my library system has. His novels seem to have similar themes as Return to Oak Pine, judging by my library system's subject descriptions, but I think I'll look into them.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by LadyGeek »

protagonist wrote:...If you like sci-fi (especially cyberpunk), LG, read "The Long Run" by Daniel Keys Moran. It's one of the best sci-fi books ever. Really. Published in the late 80s, it has been in and out of print, very hard to find, and used copies have sold for over $200. But now you can get the e-book version for $5.99, and Amazon has some used copies of print versions at reasonable prices.

If you don't trust my opinion, read the outstanding reviews on Amazon- many have called it the best sci-fi they have ever read. It's definitely in league with Snow Crash (there are similarities...one cannot help but think that Neal Stephenson got some of his ideas from DKM), and easily as good or better than anything by William Gibson or Octavia Butler with a whole lot more humor.

If you buy the e-book version, buy it directly from the author instead of via Amazon....same price and he gets a bigger chunk of the pie. http://fsand.com/Store/tabid/198/ProdID ... g_Run.aspx

Here are the reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Long-Daniel-K ... 0553281445

I like everything I have read by DKM, some more than others....but The Long Run is his best, and is a sci-fi masterpiece..
I started first book of the series, Emerald Eyes, and am hooked. His writing style is intriguing - he doesn't talk down to you and makes you think.

I did look at purchasing the book from the author's site, but couldn't justify it. He's showing $5.99 (Emerald Eyes), while Barnes & Noble has it for $2.99 Emerald Eyes [NOOK Book]. It's now on my Nook.
Valuethinker wrote:... And I really like William Gibson especially Neuromancer- Count Zero- Mona Lisa Overdrive, his first trilogy.
Valuethinker - give this series by Daniel Keys Moran a try.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by nisiprius »

Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero, by Larry Tye. It is both a) very good, and b) better than I expected.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by bertilak »

I have two going right now:
  1. A Nero Wolfe book, but I often have one of those going along in the background. I still have a dozen or so out of 73 to go. (Just checked my list; fourteen to go plus the one I am in right now. I'll hate to see the end. Perhaps I'll start over. Not unheard of for me. I have been through the Richard Stark Parker novels three times over the years/decades. That will be enough of those for a while!)
  2. Boswell's London Journal. I'm about one third into it. James Boswell was an interesting (if self-centered, idle rich) guy. It is a day-by-day diary in which he is amazingly blunt about himself. It is interesting to get a real feel for what it was like to live in London in the mid 1700's. It is also interesting to get inside of Boswell's head.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by ruralavalon »

1492, The Year the Four Corners of the Earth Collided, by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. In addition to Columbus in the Carribbean, discusses what was happening in the rest of the world in 1492, in China, Japan, Russia, Northern Europe, Africa. Gives the best explanation I've ever read why the Chinese, who were well organized, developed, and had the maritime technology didn't go discovering the globe, while the less developed Portuguese and Spanish did. The author asserts that the Mandarin scholars who dominated the Chinese government disliked/hated other religions and ethnic groups, and looked down on merchants and commerce, and so decided that China had everything it needed and would not benefit by contact with the rest of the world.

The Unredeemed Captive, A Family Story From Early America, by John Demos. Narrative about a 4 year-old girl, one of about 120 captives, abducted by Canadian Mohawks during the 1703 raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts. Tells of her life, and her family's attempts to retrieve her from Canada.

A Carribbean Mystery, by Agatha Christie. Just for fun, no description necessary.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by gkaplan »

I am currently reading Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz. This is the fifth in the "crime novel" series featuring the dysfunctional Spellman family, as narrated by elder daughter Isabel.
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Re: What Book Are You Currently Reading? Part V

Post by PacNorWest »

Just finished "Flatland" by Edwin Abbott Abbott (1884)
Considered a social satire it involves fictional characters that exist in two dimensions. The principal character is visited by a character from the third dimension.
Flatland is moderately interesting.
My take away is that the story is a blueprint for "thinking outside the box".
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