ejj1955's attempt, once more, to reach 75

Discussão75 Books Challenge for 2020

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ejj1955's attempt, once more, to reach 75

1ejj1955
Jan 15, 2020, 10:11pm

I haven't done it in recent years, but you never know . . .

1. The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss. This was for my sci fi/fantasy book club. It was a fairly easy read, one in which my ability to suspend disbelief was challenged a few times (and didn't survive the experience). I know in fantasy reading I have to accept a lot, but there are ways and ways of presenting things . . . well, it's an interesting idea. Goss takes Mary, supposedly daughter of the scientist Dr. Jekyll, on a journey after the death of her mother. She finds a notebook detailing her mother's support of Hyde, whom Mary assumed was dead; on investigation, she finds Diana Hyde, the young daughter of Hyde and presumably her half-sister. She removes the girl from the charity home she's been in and takes her home, although she's not sure how she's going to support herself, never mind another person. Through notebooks and letters, Mary then meets Beatrice, whose breath is poison; Justine, built as an intended mate for Frankenstein's monster, and Catherine, a puma-woman created on the Isle of Doctor Moreau. Mary enlists the aid of Holmes and Watson in her quest to find out about a secret society the doctors and scientists belonged to, as she also builds a new "family" of the women who dub themselves monsters. Along the way, the group solves the mystery of who killed the women usually held to be Jack the Ripper's victims.

This is the first book in a series (now numbering three); I'm not on the hunt for the others at this time, though.

2drneutron
Jan 16, 2020, 8:21am

Welcome back!

3FAMeulstee
Jan 16, 2020, 5:45pm

Happy reading in 2020, Elizabeth!

4alcottacre
Jan 16, 2020, 10:59pm

I hope your reading year turns out to be a good one, Elizabeth, despite your disappointment in your first book of the year!

5ejj1955
Fev 1, 2020, 4:11am

Thank you, all.

2. The 11:11 Code by Charles J. Wolfe. Edited for work, the first nonfiction book I've done in quite a while.

6ejj1955
Fev 11, 2020, 4:29am

3. Sanditon by Jane Austen. Okay, it's a fragment, but I read it all because I was curious about the TV series. My goodness, the new author had quite an imagination--he wrote an interesting story, but it's not Jane Austen at all. The semi-incestuous brother-sister (but not related by blood, apparently) relationship is entirely his idea; Austen makes it clear that the brother is interested (for love or money or both) in the poor relation living with Lady Denham. Charlotte is a sensible heroine; she meets Sidney exactly once on the road in the fragment, and there's no hint of their future relationship other than that she notices he's very good-looking. The West Indian heiress comes to Sanditon but isn't met in person by Charlotte at all in the fragment. And so on . . .

I started but didn't finish Cousin Bette by Balzac; one of the issues I had with what I did read is that so few of the characters were likable or admirable at all. And I just ran out of time--have to read the next book by this coming Saturday and have barely opened it. A little Kafka, anyone?

7ejj1955
Fev 15, 2020, 1:47am

4. The Trial by Franz Kafka. This is this month's classics book club book, and I'm going to "take credit" for it despite not having finished it. It's relentlessly grim and I've read the synopsis, so I know it's not going to get any cheerier. A man is awoken on his thirtieth birthday and told he's being arrested, although he isn't taken into custody and he's never told for what he's been arrested. On the following Sunday, he goes to a sort of court. He has various encounters, sometimes with people supposedly able to help him (his uncle, a lawyer his uncle knows), and sometimes with various women he feels some attraction toward.

It's irritating to me that this is held to be great literature--it all just seems so pointless to me. Well, I'm old enough to know what I like to read, and I'm looking forward to the book for my science fiction/fantasy book club much, much more than this. Ugh. Done with it.

8ejj1955
Abr 18, 2020, 4:02am

5. Arabella by Georgette Heyer. I've missed a few books here; I'll have to catch up, but in recent weeks, I've had trouble reading--can't concentrate on anything. This Heyer book was just what I needed--complete escape for the hours it took me to read it. Otherwise, I kind of obsessively keep up with coronavirus news, but I may have reached my limit, just about.

I'm staying home, only going out to pick up prescriptions and groceries. I'm lucky I'm self-employed, and as of tomorrow, my book club will do a virtual discussion (of Othello, which I have not really reread). I just want to see the people and talk to them again.

Hope all are well and hanging in there.

9ejj1955
Abr 21, 2020, 11:00pm

6. Wake of the Sadico by Jo Sparkes, edited for work.

7. The Butler Defective by D. R. Lowrey, edited for work.

8. The Immutable Will, book 2 of the Bruadar, by C. A. Klippert, edited for work.

9. Tuf Voyaging by George R. R. Martin, read for my online science fiction/fantasy book club. I simply loved this book--entertaining, unexpected, funny. Haviland Tuf is a merchant on a battered ship who falls in with a gang of adventurers trying to take an abandoned space vessel, the Ark, a bioengineering ship abandoned for millennia. The ship works and Tuf ends up with it, wandering around the galaxy a bit and selling his services as a self-taught bio-engineer. Large, mild, disliking human touch but very fond of cats, Tuf is underestimated by nearly everyone he meets. Great fun to read.

10ejj1955
Abr 26, 2020, 6:36pm

10. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. Well, I love Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter . . . this mystery features a desperate young couple; she's an heiress who has been promised in marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather, while her young swain is socially acceptable but much less wealthy than she is. He becomes the prime suspect when the fiance is murdered; he escapes confinement and hides with the lepers nearby. Cadfael solves the mystery, encountering along the way a kept woman who has decided to become a nun, among other interesting characters . . . including a leper with a surprising connection to the other characters.

I am so glad I managed to break though my reading slump. Now I have to do some work and stop reading for pleasure all the time!

11ejj1955
Abr 28, 2020, 11:24pm

11. The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie. Finding books online I can read has been wonderful . . . I think I read this before, but of course I didn't remember it at all, and certainly had no idea who the writer of poison pen letters was . . . or the killer (as it turns out, the same person). The story is told by Jerry Burton, a pilot recovering from a serious injury, who moves with his sister Joanna to the little village of Lymstock. They soon become familiar with the people of the town and learn of the poison pen letters firsthand when Joanna receives one. It's more than two-thirds of the way through the book when a resident of the town invites her friend Miss Marple to come visit; Miss Marple figures out the mystery and gives Jerry a lot of credit for the things he's noticed and puzzled about, although he doesn't know why he's noticed various things. There's also romance on hand for both Jerry and Joanna, who end the book planning marriages and having settled in Lymstock. Altogether, it's a very satisfactory conclusion and one of Christie's best (okay, it was apparently a favorite of hers--who's going to argue with that?!).

I really need to get some work done here . . . must not find a new book to read for pleasure until I have done that.

12ejj1955
Editado: Jun 4, 2020, 10:35pm

12. Wedding at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild. Read for work.

13ejj1955
Jun 4, 2020, 10:59pm

13. A New Gold Dream by Eric Gibson. Read for work--I edited a book for this author about a decade ago and was delighted to hear from him with this new work, which is the promising beginning of a series.

14. The Type Changer by Cydanni Steele. Read for work. Near-future science fiction set mostly in East St. Louis.

15. The Faded Sun: Kesrith; 16. The Faded Sun: Shon'jir; and 17. The Faded Sun: Kutath, a trilogy by C.J. Cherryh. So, she's my favorite living author, and while this isn't my favorite set of works by her, I'm glad I reread it after quite a few years. The series mostly deals with three species, humans; the slow-moving, methodical regul who remember everything and live for centuries (if they make it past youth, which few do, as the elders kill any that displease them); and the mri, a group known initially as fierce warriors employed by the regul against humans. When the war is over, regul agree to hand the planet Kesrith over to the humans, but in the process, they destroy the small mri settlement there, leaving only two survivors, Melein, the holy woman leader, and her biological brother, the warrior Niun. Niun encounters the human Sten Duncan on the inhospitable world of Kesrith and guides him safely to the mri home before its destruction. After that, Duncan gains a starship and travels with the two remaining mir to their original homeworld, Kutath. During the journey, he agrees to "become" mri, learning the language and philosophy of the mri, and even enduring jump without the drugs humans usually take to survive it. But the three are pursued by human and regul ships to Kutath, where they find mri survivors on another harsh, apparently dying world. Will the fragile human-regul alliance endure? Will the mri be completely eradicated? Why is now the time Melein has brought them home? Are the mri the only species on the planet?

14ejj1955
Jun 11, 2020, 4:14am

SPOILERS!!

18. Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton. For my online sci fi/fantasy book club. A series of interconnected stories consider the possibilities of genetic manipulation and modification of humans. First, a set of nearly identical twins, Evan and Julia, find that neither of them is strong enough to survive separately, but when Julia slips into a coma, parts of her are harvested to strengthen Evan. Even after her death, he finds comfort in his imagined conversations with her. In the next tale, a high-school girl named Ludamilla has a date and has sex with her crush, Gabriel. He discovers how much she was repaired/remade after a horrific car accident, and he tells everyone at school. Her reaction is a bit drastic . . . but he comes to see her point of view. Next is the Reverend Tad Tadd and his daughter, Elsie; the Reverend pivots from being against genetic modifications to enthusiastically supporting them. Next is Alexious, whose parents are disappointed to find that his genius IQ does not come with empathy for others; he's modified so much that he lives mostly underwater, communicating with manatees and dolphins, unwilling to explain exactly how to his handlers. Next, Jake, an American, and Kostya, a Russian, are extensively modified so they can work as platinum miners on an asteroid. They attempt to escape and land in Russia, which has rejected the modifications embraced by Americans. Finally, Luck and Starlock are teenagers on a reservation for Protos, which turn out to be non-modified humans. The outside world (Denver, Colorado) is full of altered humans, but what happens when the modifications begin to fail and people are dying in the thousands or more?

I've put so much detail in here so that I can refer to it before the next book club meeting--so I can remember what to discuss! Because I have so much more reading to do . . .

What I particularly liked about the book was that there's a very strong central idea to be discussed. What are the implications of the changes we can make, and should we make them simply because we can?

15ejj1955
Jun 19, 2020, 2:33am

19. Love and Friendship and Other Early Works by Jane Austen. This was for the Jane Austen Society online book discussion; it was entertaining, but a long way from Austen's adult work. There are signs, of course, of the brilliance to come, but much broader strokes while the characters are not particularly well developed. Still, considering that she wrote these pieces when quite young and to entertain her family, it's definitely mind-boggling to imagine what she would have thought to find them read and discussed by adults some 200-plus years later!

16ejj1955
Jun 28, 2020, 6:03pm

SPOILERS!

20. The Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope. This was for my classics book group, theoretically chosen as somewhat lighter than the previous selection (A Journal of the Plague Year by Defoe, which I didn't finish). Okay . . . "somewhat lighter" is one way to describe it. The story was published in 1881-82 but set in the 1980s in a fictional country called Brittanula, a small island that is remarkable for its peace and prosperity. However, the government has passed a law about the Fixed Period, which is meant to profit society by removing old people, who will presumably no longer be working and therefore will cost society rather than benefiting it. At the age of 67, people will be installed at the College; they will live their last year of live in these pleasant surroundings, and then be killed and cremated.

The story is told by John Neverbend, the president, who is faced with the very first instance of needing to put a citizen into the college--coincidentally, his prosperous old friend Gabriel Crassweller, who originally supported the Fixed Period but who now seems reluctant to follow the law. Neverbend, who sees it as an honor, is mystified, and at every instance when confronted by those who dispute this law, endeavors to explain how beautiful and sensible it is.

Crasweller has a beautiful daughter, Eva, with whom Neverbend's son Jack falls in love. Various other citizens, seeing as they grow older the fate in store for them, begin devising ways to avoid it, and even Crasweller lies about his age, although his friend Neverbend is well aware of his real age.

A group of British men visit for an epic cricket match, at which Jack excels. Jack also makes friends with his opponents and one of them returns to Britain and urges his powerful father to do something about the situation in Brittanula. On the very day that Neverbend tries to escort Craweller to the College, despite crowds in the street who block his carriage, a warship steams into the harbor, and the British take over the island. With a great deal of civility, they relieve Neverbend of his position and take him back to England. Even on the ship, he endeavors to convince an officer friend of the value of the Fixed Period, and writes the book telling his tale. Only a day or two from England, he realizes that he's seen as a monster by many of the sailors and that reputation will be common in England as well. What future awaits him?

Although the story is comedic in ways, one of the people in my discussion group put forth the opinion that Trollope was serious about the proposal. He was writing the book when he was about the age of Crasweller, in ill health, and he died in 1882, right after the novel was published. This is his only dystopian work, and I'm curious about his other works--none of which I've read.

17ejj1955
Jul 1, 2020, 4:07am

21. World Without End by Ken Follett. This is the second in a series of four very long historical novels (though the fourth is a prequel). Set in the fictional city of Kingsbridge in England, the story centers around Merthin and his brother Ralph; Caris, whom Merthin loves; Gwenda, the poor daughter of a thief; and the priors Godwyn and Philemon, less than perfect religious men. Ralph is the younger brother but the stronger of the two, so he's sent to train as a knight and Merthin is apprenticed to a builder. It's fortuitous, as Merthin is a gifted builder who outstrips his master while still an apprentice. He loves Caris, who loves him, too, but she is wary of becoming a wife and mother and pursues her interest in medicine. When she is accused of witchcraft, she takes what seems the only escape and enters the convent. Merthin, heartbroken, goes to Italy.

I could go on and on about the events that follow this beginning, as the story includes war (the battle of Crecy in France), the plague, secrets and lies and blackmail, children whose father is not who everyone thinks it is, and so on. Follett knows how to keep the pages turning, which is good, as there are a lot of them--1189 pages in this volume. It's a testament to his storytelling that the first thing I did when I finished this book was go online to buy the next one in the series. This is just my kind of book--bloody violence notwithstanding. The next in the series takes place hundreds of years later--the city is the same, as are some of the family names, but we leap from the fourteenth century to the seventeenth.

18ejj1955
Jul 6, 2020, 5:53am

SPOILERS!

22. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett. Back in Kingsbridge, but several centuries later than the previous book, this one takes on the later years of Mary Tudor's reign, Elizabeth's ascension to the throne, and her entire reign, including the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the attack of the Spanish armada. It ends after James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England--and after the gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes has been discovered. The story is told mostly through the life of Ned Willard, whose prosperous merchant family suffers first from the formerly British city of Calais being retaken by the French, and then by a loan that is not repaid--the family is ruled against in court when they challenge a predominately Catholic family. Ned, with no future in the family business open to him, goes to Sir William Cecil and begins working for him, investigating threats against Elizabeth.

Ned's first love, Margery, is forced to marry the brutish Bart, son of Earl Swithin. Her brother, Rollo, leaves England to become a Catholic priest and, under the name Jean Langlais, smuggles priests into England (with Margery's help) and plans ways to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots, and end Elizabeth's reign. Ned spends time in Paris and meets the secret Protestant bookseller, Sylvie, who saw her father executed after being betrayed by Pierre Aumande, a bastard of the de Guise family who ruthlessly plots to improve his humble beginnings. Ned and Sylvie fall in love and marry after witnessing the murder of Hugenots in Paris.

Ned's brother, Barney, is a sailor and ship's captain, so he's involved in the effort to repel the Spanish armada. He has a love affair with a woman in the West Indies and returns almost a decade later to find that she's near death but that he has a son by her, whom he takes home to England. Eventually, he marries a German woman.

As usual in Follett's books, there are a number of children not sired by the man married to their mother: for example, Margery is first raped by her father-in-law, Earl Swithin, and has a son by him, and then has an affair with Ned, and has a son by him. The villain Pierre Aumande is forced to marry a servant who has been impregnated by a young Guise nobleman, and has a stepson from this wife he loathes (and whom he kills). Unbeknownst to him, his stepson becomes a spy for Ned Willard, and eventually joins Aumande's mistress in killing him.

This has been a fun saga to read, but I'm ready for something quite different . . . and have both work and book club reading to do. So, onward.

19ejj1955
Ago 1, 2020, 6:24am

23. Blood Brothers by Marcus Abston. Read for work. US "historical."

24. The Singer and Her Song by N. L. Holmes. Read for work (to review). Very well done.

25. Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny. Read for one of my book clubs. I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The main character, Fred Cassidy, is a perpetual college student--continually changing his major to avoid graduation, as his uncle (frozen at--or just before--death) left him a monthly income good only during his college education. The book begins with his meeting with a new advisor who is determined to make him graduate. Fred is appalled but presents a schedule for the semester that will not lead to his graduation.

Shortly thereafter, he encounters various unsavory characters trying to find a star-stone, a gift from an alien species in an exchange program (the aliens have, on loan, the Mona Lisa and the British crown jewels). One of Fred's friends was hired to make copies of the star-stone for security purposes, and somehow, after a night of drinking and revelry, Fred's roommate took the stone from their friend. He then, or so he claims, left the stone behind when he moved out--so the various people (and aliens in various disguises, including as a donkey) looking for the stone think Fred must know where it is. And he claims he does not know.

Fred bounces between friends and foes, trying to figure out where the star-stone is, and I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say that he does find out where it has gone! Though the answer to that is surprising . . .

This is an older story, but the lack of much in the way of female characters wasn't as obvious and annoying as it is in many older works. There's simply too much interesting stuff going on.

20ejj1955
Ago 15, 2020, 12:51am

26. Containments by Jon Michael Riley. Read for work. Much of it set in NC (during a hurricane), where I now live.

21ejj1955
Ago 20, 2020, 6:47pm

SPOILERS!

27. Relic by Alan Dean Foster Read for my science fiction/fantasy book club. Very much enjoyed this imaginative tale. Humans had spread across the universe, inhabiting many planets, when a species-specific virus killed everyone . . . except Ruslan. Immune to the disease, he's rescued from his home planet by the Myssari, a three-legged, three-armed alien race. The Myssari are both kind and polite, and Ruslan is very well cared for, although he is also treated as something of a research subject and a curiosity, stared at by the Myssari wherever he goes.

Ruslan expresses interest in finding the fabled homeworld, Earth, of his species, and Myssari scientists are intrigued by this idea. While searching for clues to its whereabouts, they visit several other planets, including the muddy, cloudy planet of Daribb. There, another surviving human is found, the adolescent female Cherpa. Despite the fact that Ruslan thinks she may be emotionally unbalanced, he resolves to care for her and ensure her safety. She (and her doll) join him with the Myssari. When the time comes to leave the planet, she mentions that they should take the other surviving human, a teenaged male named Pahksen. He's mistrustful and antagonistic, and Cherpa admits she doesn't like him.

Five years pass, and Cherpa matures into a beautiful, fearless young woman. The Myssari want her to mate with Pahksen and begin rebuilding the human race, but she shows no interest in this plan. The three humans are relocated to Ruslan's original home planet, a pleasant and beautiful place, and they are settled into three separate houses near the shore. One day, Pahksen visits Ruslan and explains that he's interested in Cherpa but she keeps putting him off, and he's figured it's because she's waiting for Ruslan to be her lover. Ruslan is appalled, as he's significantly older than Cherpa and feels more like a father or uncle to her. But Pahksen says that he'll solve the problem by killing Ruslan--and as Ruslan mentally accepts the idea of death, Pahksen is struck from behind by Cherpa wielding a rock.

The Myssari are horrified by the act of violence, but still determined to reproduce new humans, so eventually Ruslan agrees to make a sperm donation and sixteen of Cherpa's eggs are used for a new generation of humans. When the children are three, Ruslan is told that the Myssari have at last found Earth, and the two humans accompany them to explore it.

Earth is beautiful but empty, except for a series of settlements by a competing group of aliens, the Vrizan. Bipeds like the humans, they had previously offered Ruslan a home with them, but he'd declined, preferring to stay with the Myssari. One day, the Myssari tell Ruslan they've identified an electronic signal from a far north location, and the team heads there to investigate. They find a door built into a mountainside; the door resists all attempts to open it until Cherpa passes her hand over it. When they gain admittance, Cherpa and Ruslan find human bodies in stasis. When Vrizans arrive, Cherpa closes the door with herself and Ruslan inside. Together, they say "yes" to the AI computer's request "Install pattern number one?" This turns out to be the mind/memories of the human in stasis, who wakes up and introduces himself as a scientist. While the Vrizans are trying (without success) to open the door, thousands more are awakened. The door opens and the aliens find humans crowding their way out. The scientist explains that they were placed in stasis when the plague began . . . and when Ruslan asks an attractive older woman how many thousands will be awakened from the facilities around the Earth, she responds that there are three billion of them. Humanity is back!

Part of the reason I've detailed the whole story is that we're putting off the book discussion for a month and I'm going to return the library book, so I need a reference for next month's discussion!

22ejj1955
Ago 21, 2020, 4:38pm

28. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. My difficulty in finishing this book had everything to do with the state of the world (coronavirus) and nothing to do with the book, which was weird and fun. I read the first third of it over several months' time, and the last two-thirds of it last night and today. The story centers on a dystopian world (our future, presumably) in which people are categorized and ranked according to which color they can see and how well they can see it. Our hero, Edward Russett, doesn't take his test until the end of the book, but he's well aware that he's going to test very high for the red he's able to see.

Life is bounded, in theory, by all kinds of rules governing what is worn and what activities are allowed and which "colors" can intermarry, a subject of some interest to Eddie, who has fallen for a most inappropriate Grey girl, Jane. He and his father begin the novel by journeying to an outlying town, where Edward is supposed to acquire some credits and make up for his demerits by counting the chairs.

If this doesn't seem to make a lot of sense, the overriding feeling when reading the book is to just go with it and accept this weird world. What does it all mean, anyway, and what secrets does Jane know that she may or may not share with Eddie?

It's a lot of fun, as I'm probably about the millionth reader to discover.

23ejj1955
Ago 28, 2020, 8:40pm

29. The Zygan Emprise by Y. S. Pascal, a three-books-in-one volume of science fiction-fantasy I read for work.

30. The Weaver's Legacy by Olive Collins, a historical novel set in two time periods--1937 and then flashing back to the mid-1800s in the American West. Read for work.

24ejj1955
Set 12, 2020, 11:37pm

31. A Light in the Darkness by Rian McMurtry, a novel about teen magicians I read for work (review).

25ejj1955
Set 18, 2020, 6:45am

32. Miss Austen by Gill Hornby. I read this for the Jane Austen Society meeting (by Zoom), and I'm looking forward to the discussion, mainly because I simply don't know enough about Jane's life to know if this is an accurate portrait of her personality and character. I hope not, actually: the Jane of this book is moody and mercurial and very dependent of her more sensible sister, Cassandra. The book is told in back-and-forth time periods, beginning in 1840 when Cassandra goes to a relative's home after the death of the woman's (Isabella's) father. Isabella has two sisters, one obnoxious and the other eccentric, and does not seem to know where she should go and live as she begins to pack up the parsonage before turning it over to the new vicar. Cassandra is there to search for Jane's letters, with the intention of destroying any she feels will tarnish her late sister's memory. As she finds and reads the letters, we are taken back to the turn of the century and see, through that prism, Cassandra's engagement to Tom Fowle, who dies before their marriage can take place.

Jane is mostly not interested in the men they meet, and her brief and immediately broken engagement is presented as a failed attempt to convince Cassie to marry another man met some years after Tom's death. But Cassie had promised Tom (before an altar, as it happens) that she would marry no one but him, so as attracted as she is to the new man in her life, she refuses his proposal.

With their father's retirement and then his death, the two unmarried sisters and their widowed mother live somewhat precariously, seeking inexpensive lodgings and moving often, which is presented as something that distresses and depresses Jane. Cassandra decides to make herself ever useful, so frequently goes to care for her brother's expanding brood of children, but she sees Jane as her primary responsibility, the person she loves best in the world.

I think the basic facts here are all well-researched, that the relationships and family connections are accurate, but I'm still left wondering if this is an accurate portrayal of Jane Austen's character? Instinctively, I reject it--the author of those six amazing novels must have been made of much sterner stuff. We'll see what the book discussion reveals on the subject!

26ejj1955
Out 15, 2020, 4:08pm

33. A Wizard's Sacrifice by A. M. Justice. Sci-fi fantasy read for review.

27ejj1955
Out 25, 2020, 3:41am

34. The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. Read for my science fiction/fantasy book club. Oh, my! I'm already kind of in love with Miles Vorkosigan, and there are many more books in the series. This is, I was told, the third or forth in the series, but the first to feature Miles as the main character. He begins with a physical test to join the Barrayaran Imperial Military Service, but in climbing a wall and jumping down from it, he breaks both of his legs. With his military hopes dashed, he goes off-planet to visit his grandmother, accompanied by his bodyguard, Bothari, and Bothari's daughter, Elena. Somehow, Miles ends up buying an old ship and gaining several followers as he plans to smuggle arms to one side of a nearby conflict. And he's off, gaining ever more followers with every step along the way, inventing a mercenary company for them to join.

This is just so much fun, and Miles has the reader's sympathy and allegiance just as fast. Eventually, I'll be reading more of this series.

28ejj1955
Editado: Nov 15, 2020, 2:11am

35. Obsidianus by Luke Deal. Proofread. Interesting.

(SPOILERS!!)

36. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles. This seems like it took forever for me to read, but I did read every word to the end. I remember distinctly that the first time I read it, about forty years ago, I was disappointed that the main male character didn't end up joined with the titular female. I think I am having quite a different reaction this time! Older and wiser, no doubt. But she's too good for him, really. She ends up living with the Bloomsbury Group circle (Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Virginia Woolf, E.M. Forster, John Maynard Keynes, etc.), which one person in the book club objected to--because they were famous? I didn't quite get that objection, to be honest. It sounds like an ideal enclave for the passionate, intelligent woman who was repressed, insulted, avoided, and impoverished during most of the book. When we meet her, she is employed by a fairly horrible woman, gossiped about for her supposed affair with a (married) Frenchman, and solitary most of the time, walking in a forbidden part of the woods. The well-off dilettante, Charles, meets her when he is pursuing his hobby of searching for fossils. He offers to help her, pretending to himself it's altruism, but quickly becomes entranced by her beautiful eyes and reddish hair. He's engaged to an innocent and spoiled heiress (but her father's wealth comes from trade!), and Charles himself is heir to his uncle's estate, fortune, and title--until his uncle surprisingly tells Charles he's intending to wed (and does eventually have an heir born to his younger wife). Charles breaks his engagement, only to find that Sarah didn't receive his message and has disappeared. It takes him years to find her again.

The author offers plenty of quotations from Matthew Arnold, Thomas Hardy, and Tennyson to reinforce the Victorian sensibility and the implied rebellions against it. Of the two main characters, Charles is the one who seems far more conventional, no matter what he thinks of himself, while Sarah blossoms while working for Rossetti--her refusal of Charles's proposal at the end seems logical and justified, not the mystery to me it was when I was twenty.

I'd like to get to at least fifty books this year, although it is not looking likely at the moment. I feel as though I've been reading much more recently--but there's also the reading drought at the beginning of the pandemic to consider, so I suppose that's an excuse of sorts. There are strong indications that a vaccine is imminent--but I'm still guessing it will be spring before it really is available (to me). Would very much rather have health-care workers and essential workers (in grocery stores, for example) get it first. But then older people with risk factors--hello!--should be in line.

29PaulCranswick
Nov 15, 2020, 2:17am

>28 ejj1955: Nice review, Elizabeth. I read that one aeons ago and probably need to revisit some time.

Will keep my fingers crossed that you do make it to 50.

30ejj1955
Nov 17, 2020, 12:42am

Thank you, PaulCranswick!

37. A Slow Parade in Penderyn by David Hopkins. Read for review.

31richardderus
Nov 25, 2020, 2:26pm

Happy birthday, Elizabeth! Many happy returns.

32ejj1955
Nov 29, 2020, 8:24pm

Thank you, Richard!

38. and 39. Scout and the AstraWurmz and Scout and the GlugSlug by Haddix. Read for work--short works, fun.

40. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Read on the advice of a friend from a reading group--what a delight! A young woman named Rosemary Harper (well, that's the name she's using, anyway) joins a ship called the Wayfarer as a clerk for the owner, Ashby. The ship is a tunnel ship, which creates wormhole-like tunnels from one part of space to another to facilitate interstellar travel. The crew also features Corbin, a not terribly friendly man in charge of the algae that powers the ship; Jenks and Kizzy, the engineers; Sissix, the pilot, of a lizard-like feathered race; Dr. Chef, who serves both roles and is the large, six-limbed member of nearly extinct species, the Grum; Ohan, the navigator, from a species that melds with a parasite and then is referred to as "they"; and Lovelace, known as Lovey, the ship's AI.

During the ship's travels, we meet Pepper, who runs a tech supply store on one planet; Pei, Ashby's secret lover, who runs a supply ship for the military and who is a member of the Aeluons, a beautiful species that communicates through a talkbox imbedded in their throats--among their own kind, the colors of their faces/cheeks convey meaning; Kizzy's friend Bear, who supplies parts for the ship; Sissix's extended family; and others.

Ashby accepts a government contract to put a new tunnel from the space of a new member of the Galactic Commons, the Toremi, to the GC sector. The ship has to travel the "long way" there, flying for a long period before tunneling back, but the instance they are about to tunnel, their ship is fired on by one faction of the Toremi.

How the ship and crew survive--mostly, along with the story behind Rosemary's new identity, are all part of the tapestry of this book . . . and the ultimate realization is that this is, despite their many differences, a crew that is more like a family than anything else is heartwarming.

There are two more loosely related books already published and a forth in the series due out shortly; I've already requested the second book from the library.

Yep: loved it, if I haven't made that clear by now!

33PaulCranswick
Nov 30, 2020, 6:17am

Slightly belated birthday greetings, Elizabeth.

34ejj1955
Dez 8, 2020, 4:17pm

>PaulCranswick, thank you!

41. Start a Knife-Sharpening Service by Kyle Kaplan. Nonfiction book I edited.

42. Shades of Black: In Darkness Cast by Jonathan Shuerger. Read to review.

35richardderus
Dez 21, 2020, 5:31pm

Tachyon Publications, an SFF house, posted this on Twitter. Says it all, no?

36ejj1955
Fev 3, 10:08am

Yes, couldn't agree more!!