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tannat

Tannat

Not so much a blog; just lots of books

Currently reading

Hôtel Olympia
Elisabeth Vonarburg
Progress: 15/591pages
The Fifth Knight
E.M. Powell
Progress: 65/680minutes
Moby-Dick: or, The Whale (Penguin Classics)
Herman Melville
Wine of Violence: A Medieval Mystery #1: An Historical Mystery (Medieval Mysteries)
Priscilla Royal
Manifold: Time
Stephen Baxter, Chris Schluep
Progress: 99/480pages
The Long War
Stephen Baxter, Terry Pratchett
Progress: 68/501pages
The Name of the Rose
Umberto Eco
Progress: 362/536pages

Reading progress update: I've read 15 out of 591 pages.

Hôtel Olympia - Elisabeth Vonarburg

« Toomi s'est laissé glisser dans le sofa, où les deux chatons se sont approprié ses cuisses pour s'endormir aussitôt, ventre offert et pattes en désordre. »

This image amuses me, with the two kittens sprawled on their backs with their legs every which way (kinda like my cat does).

 

"ventre offert et pattes en désordre" = "belly offered and legs in disorder", more or less.

Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie

Semper Fidelis - Ruth Downie

Series: Gaius Ruso #5

 

I'm not sure why, but I found this one more engaging than I remember the other books in the series being. Of course, it still seemed to go on a while and some of the events seemed a bit ridiculous, but it was still mostly fun.

 

Ruso and Tilla found themselves back in Britain and Ruso is back in the army. He finds himself investigating some funny goings-on with the native recruits and Tilla gets involved, naturally.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie

I wanted to read this because I went to see a play based on the book a while ago and I was curious about the book itself. So, of course, although I knew what happened in the play, I couldn’t know exactly how things would play out in the book. This is one of Christie’s standalone mystery novels.

 

The premise is that ten people are invited to Soldier Island, accused of being murderers, and then they start dropping like flies. Suspicions and accusations fly around and yet people keep dying. It was interesting and entertaining but I still found it a bit farfetched, especially that last murder.

 

It probably didn’t help that I was reading it with a residual headache.

Reading progress update: I've read 362 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

"This?" I asked, showing him a work whose pages were covered with abstruse letters. And William said, "No, that's Arabic, idiot! Bacon was right: the scholar's first duty is to learn languages!"

 

"But you don't know Arabic, either!" I replied, irked, to which William answered, "At least I understand when it is Arabic!" And I blushed, because I could hear Benno snickering behind my back.

Reading progress update: I've read 347 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

And now they're just name-calling:

"Is it my fault if Louis reads my writings? Surely he cannot read yours, you illiterate!"

"I? Illiterate? Was your Francis a literate, he who spoke with geese?"

"You blaspheme!"

"You're the blasphemer; you know the keg ritual!"

"I have never seen such a things, and you know it!"

"Yes, you did, you and your little friars, when you slipped into the bed of Clare of Montefalco!"

"May God strike you! I was inquisitor at that time, and Clare had already died in the odor of sanctity!"

And so on...

Reading progress update: I've read 345 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

"Alborea, his face purple, observed that this monk Jerome had been in Greece perhaps fifteen years, whereas he had been there since his boyhood. Jerome replied that the Dominican Alborea might perhaps have been in Greece, but living a sybaritic life in fine bishops' palaces, whereas he, a Franciscan, had been there not fifteen years, but twenty-two, and had preached before the Emperor in Constantinople. Then Alborea, running short on arguments, started to cross the space that separated him from the Minorites, indicating in a loud voice and with words I dare not repeat his firm intention to pull off the beard of the Bishop of Kaffa, whose masculinity he called into question, and whom he planned to punish, by the logic of an eye for an eye, shoving that beard in a certain place."

 

Such a ludicrous image. Learned men indeed!

 

And then there's a brawl.

Reading progress update: I've read 210 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

"William made an ejaculation in his own language that I didn't understand, nor did the abbot understand it, and perhaps it was best for us both, because the word William uttered had an obscene hissing sound."

You know, for the most part, this novel doesn't feel translated. 

Reading progress update: I've read 183 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

"A monk should surely love his books with humility, wishing their good and not the glory of his own curiosity; but what the temptation of adultery is for laymen and the yearning for riches is for secular ecclesiastics, the seduction of knowledge is for monks."

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World - Peter Wohlleben

This book is all about trees and the forests they create and live in. It can be quite interesting, but it’s also very much a popular-science work. Wohlleben is a forester and so he makes the topic accessible and engaging but some of his speculation and explanations were limited. For example, I can think of several reasons why a tree budding earlier rather than later might be advantageous after an especially cold, harsh winter, but he just dismisses it as counter-intuitive.

 

I’d say it’s a pretty good introduction to the topic and some of the current research being done in the field but if you find yourself really interested you’d have to seek out some more in-depth works.

 

I do feel like this is a book that science fiction writers should check out, if they're not already familiar with the topic, because there are some excellent ideas that could be incorporated into futuristic science fiction worlds just by adding some real-life science.

 

Oh, and some of his points about temperatures were lost on me because he relentlessly uses Fahrenheit for some reason. Or my edition of the book did anyway.

On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard

On a Red Station, Drifting - Aliette de Bodard

I didn’t know what to expect from this novella, and I picked it up more or less on a whim, so I was understandably impressed.

 

We have Linh, a former magistrate from a provincial planet in this future Dai Viet empire, arriving on Prosper Station as a refugee to take advantage of family ties she has with the station’s administrative family. She’s also running from potential charges against the empire though, so things have the potential to get interesting.

 

There’s some low-key but intense family drama alongside a faltering AI that runs the station and Linh gets mixed up in all of it. It was raw but it also felt real. I was very satisfied with the ending, so I’m thinking I’ll go with a verdict of “very cool.”

Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman

Brother's Ruin - Emma Newman

Series: Industrial Magic #1

 

Brother’s Ruin is Emma Newman’s brand new fantasy novella set in a Victorian world where mages form a kind of guild, the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts. They owe service to the Crown and can’t have a life outside of the Society. Charlotte (or Charlie) is a young woman with magical and artistic talents who chafes at the confines of her life but is desperate to remain free of the Royal Society. Unfortunately, plot happens and Royal Society mages get invited into her home by her father.

 

It’s an interesting world, and I liked Charlotte (her brother Ben is harder to like), but I think this is Emma Newman’s weakest work that I’ve read so far. The suspense gets lost in a lot of convenient happenings where too many things just seem to work. I also felt that a lot of the happenings were a little too well telegraphed. That said, I still enjoyed the book, and I’d definitely pick up a sequel to see more of this world and Charlie. I can see the sequels getting much better as the world gets better established and the plot thickens. Although the immediate story is resolved, this really is just a lead into a larger story.

 

Here’s hoping for more!

Reading progress update: I've read 48%.

Brother's Ruin - Emma Newman

I'm not sure I understand the logic behind not being able to pay the debt.

 

Charlie's father was relying on a commission to pay back the debt, which he lost to Charlie, who used it to pay for her brother's schooling, so we were still keeping the funds within the family and her brother would have needed more money anyway, so I don't see how things were supposed to come out ok. I know there was another commission or two in there, but still.

(show spoiler)

Reading progress update: I've read 104 out of 536 pages.

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

I should just learn to skip the outer framing story. The book is very good once you get into the story proper. It forces you to read at its pace rather than your own, but I've always found it interesting when books manage to do that.

 

Any idea what the point is with the outer framing story? (i.e. losing the manuscript etc)

Reading progress update: I've read 56 out of 250 pages.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries From a Secret World - Peter Wohlleben

So... I keep getting distracted by imagining alien trees. Or the use of trees in science fiction novels. And how there should be more tree aliens...

 

I may not be the target audience.

 

All in all, it seems interesting although the definition of a fungus was a bit weird. No, no one learns to divide everything into just plants and animals anymore. It's called high school science (or maybe earlier, I don't really remember).

 

The chapters are so short I just seem to keep reading...

Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Gateway  - Frederik Pohl

Series: Heechee Saga #1

 

I think this may have been my first book by Pohl, and I’m not sure whether there’s any point in my trying to continue the series.

 

The concept behind the book was interesting. Humans discovered an alien space station (rock) with a lot of ships with pre-programmed courses and they blindly set out on missions in these ships to try to discover Heechee alien artifacts. Sounds cool, right? But then the book seems to just go on and on and on, and nothing seems to be happening because the main character, Bob Broadhead, is too scared to actually go on any of the missions. He does eventually go but by that point I was already tired of him and his whining. Meanwhile we keep bouncing between the past at Gateway and the present in Bob’s computer-psychiatrist’s office who apparently puts great stock in dreams. Yawn. Did I mention that he blames his girlfriend for triggering her beating by hitting him? [Aside: I’m not defending her hitting him but he beat her very badly and justifies it to himself that way.] And I was already tired of him before this point.

 

Classic science fiction and I are not a very good match, apparently, and this book was only published in 1977.

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley

I needed this book. It is pure escapist fun. Brutal, but fun.

 

Hurley throws you right in the deep end with Zan, a warrior who has lost her memory. She explains the minimum amount required for the narrative to make sense, so you’re basically forced to just to accept things until they get explained in bits and pieces, generally much later on. I’m ok with that, and I find it to be a much better world-building experience than info-dump after info-dump. Also, everything that I thought needed an explanation got explained. I’ll admit that some of the background information is only implied and I had to fill it in myself, and I think that’s what drove some people crazy who didn’t like the book. Because the whole idea that the worldships have been orbiting in Legion for so many generations that they are just literally starting to fall apart was pretty clear, I thought, although I suppose it’s never actually spelled out.

 

You should just ignore the summary because it’s hard to summarize this book without giving away spoilers, and the summary won’t prepare you for the book. We have massive organic worldships run by various clans at war with each other. The Katazyrna, the Bhavaja, and the Mokshi are the big players in the novel. They’re at war for resources, basically, and Zan and Jayd (mentioned in the summary) are trying to break away from the past destructive cycles. Of course, this naturally entails a lot of death and destruction.

 

All the characters are female, but this makes sense in the context of this universe. If this is too unbelievable for you, this probably isn’t the book for you.

There is literally no biological function for men to perform in this world, Legion, so just consider them all post-humans rather than your traditional humans. It would have made no sense to shoe-horn males into this world, so get over it if that’s your beef. Actually, it’s never confirmed that they are our descendants, so they could all be aliens instead. It doesn’t matter to the story. They’re trying to escape Legion and its decay but they’ve lost too much knowledge to do it easily.

(show spoiler)

 

I’d call this space opera, but you can tack on the fantasy label if the advanced technology seems too much like magic. Be forewarned that there’s a lot of violence and moral grey zones, but I thought it was great.