Robert's Reads 2018 (robertwmartin)

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Robert's Reads 2018 (robertwmartin)

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Jan. 11, 2018, 6:18pm

Hi everyone. After lurking on threads like this for a few years, I have decided to create one of my own. This should act as a motivator for me to increase my reading count from 2017 which was at 40. I want to get at least that many with a stretch goal of 50.

If you look at my profile, you will see a tag of "read2017" which is added to all of the books I read in 2017. The reading list last year includes a few graphic novels and about 20 YA books I read with my daughters. Of the 15 or so meatier, adult-level titles, there was one memoir, a couple of non-fiction research projects, two business books, two self-improvement books, and a half-dozen really great novels.

What does this year hold? There is room to up my game, so to speak, with a real need to chip away at the backlog of books that stare at me in my office every day, aka TBR, aka Pile Of Shame. Specifically this year I would like to read the books I have received as gifts in the last two years, including SantaThing books for 2017 and 2016. That means I will have read at least two memoirs (Fearless, So, Anyway), one non-fiction reference biography (Walter Isaacson), a re-read of a classic murder mystery (Murder on the Orient Express), and a re-read of one of the most important 20th century novels (1984). I would like to read The Three-Body Problem and The Name of The Rose especially since I own the Folio Society edition of the latter. I'll probably finish my third (fourth?) read-through of the Harry Potter series, this time with my youngest daughter, as well as two or three books in the Land of Stories series with her. On the business book shelf, I am about to dive into Predictably Irrational. With the books I have already in-progress (The Signal and The Noise, How Star Wars Conquered The Universe) , that is nearly 20 already. I will continue to tag my books so that I can easily reference a year's worth of reading, this time with the "read2018" tag.

Wish me luck! Carpe librum.

Jan. 11, 2018, 11:44pm

Book #1 for 2018 was One Week in the Library. At 96 pages, and as a graphic novel, it was a quick read but relatively enjoyable. As I said in the review I posted on LT: I thought this was an interesting idea for a graphic novel. The individual stories were interesting and for the most part were a fresh take on old tales. I was left wanting a bit more in the end though, but it was good enough that I will look for more from the author.

I would be interested to see if anyone else had the same feeling as me on this one or if anyone has read anything else by the author.

Jan. 12, 2018, 1:10pm

Welcome to the group, Robert. I think you will find this group to be very informal and friendly. You might want to go to the “Introduce yourself” thread.

Jan. 22, 2018, 9:27pm

Book #2 for 2018 was Predictably Irrational by Dan Arielly. It was a work that was suggested by the leader of our organization and I can see why she recommended it. As I said in the review I posted, it presented an interesting and important concept, but it was a bit of a slog to get through. This was mainly because there was significant overlap of the ideas presented in each discrete chapter.

In summary, it was worth reading but not worth re-reading. Using the rating scale I adopted from jjmcgaffey, I give this ***

Jan. 22, 2018, 9:28pm

Thanks for the suggestion. I wondered about that, and will do so.

Jan. 26, 2018, 10:55am

Hi, Robert. Welcome! I grew up in Edmonton -- it was a great place to be a kid. Anyway, I hope you feel at home here and I'm looking forward to your thoughts on The Name of the Rose, I book I loved, but read far too long ago.

Jan. 26, 2018, 1:45pm

Welcome to the group Robert. This is my first year posting on Club Read. I look forward to learning more about what you and your daughters read this year.

Jan. 26, 2018, 5:31pm

Welcome, Robert! Yay! - another SciFi reader!

Feb. 16, 2018, 6:51am

How is reading that backlog in your office going thus far?

Feb. 25, 2018, 12:37pm

Hi Robert! I'm new here, also and look forward to some possible BB's from your thread!

Feb. 25, 2018, 1:14pm

If you ever come back to Edmonton, let me know! The city is becoming a very vibrant place to live, and I would suggest that you wouldn't recognize it if you have been away for a long time.

I just took The Name of the Rose off my shelf! I wrapping up a few books right now but I should get to it in the next few weeks. Thanks for the motivation!

Feb. 25, 2018, 1:19pm

I don't know about you, but making the decision to post on Club Read was kind of daunting, but I'm glad I did it. The conversations and support are definitely worth the angst.

My oldest daughter will be 11 in May so the books we are reading together are getting much involved. The latest is The Black Reckoning which is quite serious and emotionally complex. That whole series is fantastic and I highly recommend it.

Feb. 25, 2018, 1:23pm

Yay to scifi! There seems to be a real resurgence in scifi interest lately, both in books, and in video (can you really call it "TV" anymore?!). I see that Amazon is going to produce a show based on Consider Phelbas so that should motivate me to read that before it is released. I'm curious to know if you or anyone else has read that.

Feb. 25, 2018, 1:24pm

Well ... I haven't added anything to the backlog in the last month, so it hasn't grown at least. ;-)

Feb. 25, 2018, 1:25pm

I'll do my best, and looking forward to seeing what you recommend as well!

Feb. 25, 2018, 9:16pm

Book #3 for 2018 was Out of Abaton by John Claude Bemis. A clichéd review for this book would be that it is a modern retelling of the classic tale of Pinocchio, but since I am only familiar with the Disney film, that would not be a fair statement coming from me.

So what it is then? I would say it is book about family, love, commitment, selflessness, and courage. It is a story about a boy and his adopted father fighting an evil ruler, while making deep friendships across a series of adventures. There are magical creatures (musical cricket, anyone?), but there are also themes of slavery and discrimination, class war, and blind hatred. It isn't a dense read, but it is more involved than what one might expect from YA fantasy fiction.

This is the first book in the series. I look forward to the next one.

My rating: ****

Feb. 25, 2018, 9:26pm

Book #4 for 2018 was Clean Disruption by Tony Seba. What can I say? It is a highly footnoted (543!!!) reference on solar power, autonomous vehicles, providing the author's thesis for the demise of conventional cars by 2030.

It wasn't a great read. Most of the mini-sections of the individual chapters were thought-provoking, rational, and compelling. There was a fair bit of repetition of material though, making this "book" read more like a collection of standalone ideas.

The concepts are interesting and it would not be an exaggeration to say that they are monumentally important, especially for someone living in an oil-based economy like myself. However, if you just want the information without the references, I would suggest you search for the author's 2017 talk at the Colorado Renewable Energy Society conference posted on YouTube instead of reading this book.

My rating: **.

Feb. 25, 2018, 9:27pm

Robert, just adding a hint for you. If you put > and the number of the post that you are responding to, it will identify the person to whom you are responding. So if I put > and the number 16, you would know that I was responding to the post above.
>16 robertwmartin: .

Feb. 25, 2018, 11:19pm

>18 NanaCC: Thanks for the pro tip!

Feb. 26, 2018, 8:36am

>13 robertwmartin: I've had Consider Phlebus on my radar for ages. I'm thinking I might wait and just watch the Amazon adaptation. I'll be interested to see what people who have read the book think.

Mrz. 8, 2018, 10:29am

Book #5 for 2018 was Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book was highly recommended to me several times in recent months, and since it is set to be released as a movie, I figured I should read it before I see the movie. The dystopian near-future setting, virtual reality gaming theme, and 1980s pop culture references made me think "Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!" But not so fast.

The book presented interesting thoughts on spending your entire life online versus the value of physical human interactions. Plus, the homage it paid to early video games was a fun trip. Beyond that though, it was not a really written novel. Very few scenes provided anything beyond basic descriptions. Imagine something like: "They were close behind me. They began to shoot. I escaped." It wasn't that bad, but it wasn't much better either. I finished it because I want to watch the movie, not because I was enthralled or emotionally invested.

This story will lend itself very well to a movie adaptation, assuming the director has the imagination to fill in the gaps created and unfortunately left by the author. If you are thinking about reading this book, you should probably read some other reviews first as this is not a typical rating for this novel.

My rating: **

Mrz. 8, 2018, 10:52am

>21 robertwmartin: I remember my grandson reading that one last summer, and he quite enjoyed it, I think. But he is 14. Maybe that is the audience the author was aiming for?

Mrz. 8, 2018, 12:56pm

>22 NanaCC: That could be, but I would think the target audience for Harry Potter or Hunger Games would be about the same age and in my opinion those were much more compelling reads. I do know people much older than 14 that enjoyed it, so perhaps I just missed the magic somehow. Regardless, I am looking forward to the movie!

Apr. 10, 2018, 2:27pm

>13 robertwmartin: Do you really feel there is a "resurgence" of SF; I don't think it ever fell out of favor, although fantasy or hybrid SF/fantasy seem to still reign in the bookstore. I am less interested these days in space stories than I am with dystopias. I think the hubby mentioned the Consider Phelbas, we have a DVD of his Crow Road from the days before streaming. I do have a mass market copy of Complicity hanging around to read, but otherwise I can let Banks pass, I read a few (Against a Dark Background; Player of Games) and feel satisfied with that.

Also big news that the BBC is doing an adaptation of China Mieville's excellent book, The City & the City.

Apr. 10, 2018, 7:22pm

>23 robertwmartin: :) I admit that I’m one of the people much older than 14 who have enjoyed the Harry Potter series. I’ve read them all more than once.

Mai 6, 2018, 9:50am

>24 avaland: I agree that SF never fell out of favor from the core SF fans, but I don't think it has grown in popularity like fantasy has in the past 15 years. Maybe resurgence isn't the correct word though.

Mai 6, 2018, 9:56am

(I have been somewhat busy reading lately, but I have certainly been negligent in posting my activities. I have a few posts this morning to make to catch up!)

Book #6 for 2018 was The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer. This is a book that I read to my youngest daughter, and is the first is a fairly expansive series. It was decent for what it was, but wasn't something that I recommend to most adult readers. It enthralled my daughter, and her older sister has devoured the first four in the series, so use those metrics in your assessment of whether you want to read it or recommend it to someone else.

My rating: **.

Mai 6, 2018, 10:03am

Book #7 for 2018 was How Star Wars conquered the universe : the past, present, and future of a multibillion dollar franchise by Chris Taylor. I recommend this book to any hard core Star Wars fan. If you are into Star Wars, but not obsessive, this will be a slog, and if you don't care about Star Wars, do yourself a favor and stay away.

There was a great level of detail provided into the mind and psyche of George Lucas, and how the movies came about. There were interesting anecdotes about the actors, producers, and fans. There were facts that most fans would never have read anywhere else. For these reasons, I recommend that you read this book, but again, only if you are a fan. Think of it as a reference more than an enjoyable read.

My rating: ***

Bearbeitet: Mai 6, 2018, 10:12am

Book #8 for 2018 was a gardening reference book called All New Square Foot Gardening II: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew. I was looking for a way to build some new planters for our front yard and this book will be a really good reference. It provides easy instructions on how to build the planter, and also contains good reference material on planting and maintaining the plants.

My rating: ***.

Mai 6, 2018, 10:21am

Book #9 for 2018 was Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. I was travelling a lot in April so I threw this in my carry-on and read it while flying across the continent.

I waffle on this one. There were elements I really liked, and I found myself caring for the main characters. But it was too long to really pull me in. There was an interesting side story that I really hoped would play a larger role in the story but it just sort of hung out there.

Back in >13 robertwmartin: and >24 avaland: above, it was mentioned that Amazon is coming out with a series based on this book. I'm not sure that this was a compelling enough story by itself to convince me to get an Amazon Prime subscription, but if I had one, I would probably give the series a try.

Maybe a more useful metric though is that I will likely read another couple Culture series novels from Banks based on this book.

My rating: ***.

Mai 6, 2018, 10:35am

Book #10 for 2018 was The Black Reckoning by John Stephens. At the risk of being overly melodramatic, I cannot recommend this book enough. It is the third book in the Books of Beginning trilogy, but both of those books were very enjoyable as well, so definitely check out the entire series.

As this is another book I read to my daughter, this one to my older daughter, you could easily lump it in with other books like The Wishing Spell noted above, but that would not be accurate or fair. This book dealt with life, death, love, loss, and family in ways that are just non-existent in books like The Wishing Spell. The adult characters were well-rounded and interesting, not just 2D props only there to prove to be obvious "good guys" or "bad guys" (I'm looking at you, Snape!).

At the end of this book, I was left conflicted - happy, yet sad - by the story, but I closed the book with a smile on my face. I'm glad my daughter and I spent the time to read this trilogy.

One last thing about the magic of books. The first book in this series was just a random book I pulled off the shelf at our local library. I did not have any other reason to try it. No recommendation from friends or the librarian. It just happened to catch my eye as I walked by. From that random glance, what a great journey we went on. Certainly that is not what happens every time I grab a book but it certainly is magical when it does happen.

My rating: ****.

Mai 7, 2018, 12:29pm

Book #11 for 2018 was Eastern Standard Tribe (EST for short) by Cory Doctorow. This was another book I read while stuck in various planes and airports throughout April.

I've read a bunch of Doctorow's non-fiction writings over the years but only two novels, this one and Down and Out In the Magic Kingdom. Both of those stories were written years ago and suffer somewhat from the predictive nature of his storytelling. In EST, Doctorow took the concept of ubiquitous connectivity which was just becoming a reality in 2004, and extrapolated it to what we today call "always-on" with everyone having a "comm" (i.e. a smartphone). On one hand, this was a brilliant bit of foresight, but on the other, it seems stale in 2018 since he describes people strapping portable keyboards to their legs so they can work wherever they are. Such are the dangers of writing about the near-future.

Much in the vein of Neal Stephenson's early works, Doctorow also expands on social issues, looking for niche slices of the Internet community and extrapolating that to a much broader future state. In the case of EST, he looks at how people use online communities to bond with likeminded individuals wherever they are physically located. Doctorow takes that to having people bond over time zones, hence the book title. This seemed to me at first to be odd, but it made more sense as he described the differences between east coast America and west coast America, for example.

So with that as background, I would say this was an enjoyable read and I am glad I spent the time on it. It isn't something I would read again, but I have no reservations recommending this book to others.

My rating: ***

Mai 19, 2018, 10:30am

Book #12 for 2018 was Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This was certainly the quickest read so far in 2018, coming in at about 96 hours from picking it up at the library to putting it down when finished.

The story is decent, the writing is good, and the premise is believable, and while I think it is worth reading for those reasons, those aren't the reasons I picked up this novel. I picked it up because of how the book was presented and structured. In other words, the concept of "the how" of this book was more important than the delivery of "the what" of this book.

There is a "Staff Picks" section at our library and Illuminae was on display. I picked it up and skimmed through it. It is immediately obvious that the authors were trying to present the story in a different way. Without giving away the story, the novels presents a reconstruction of a series of events through deleted files, computer system logs, chat sessions between two people, private emails where you only see the "send" and not the "reply", a personal diary, and even transcriptions of video surveillance. This allows the authors to present different character perspectives in a way that is immediately obvious to the reader that the perspective has changed.

I have to say that my favourite character was the analyst who transcribed the action in the video surveillance. I won't say more, but if you have read this book, I am curious to know if you agree.

The book is 599 pages long but due to the presentation format and liberal use of white space for visual effect, it is really not more than a couple hundred equivalent pages in my estimation. I'm glad I read this. I doubt this is re-read material but I'll probably pick up the sequel if I see it at the library.

My rating: ***

Mai 19, 2018, 10:42am

Book #13 for 2018 was Green by Laura Peyton Roberts was the first re-read for the year. I have two daughters who are three years (and 11 days, to be precise) apart in age. In 2015, I read Green to my older daughter, so it was time to read this to my younger daughter.

Green is the story of a girl named Lily who turns 13 and is magically whisked away to a land of leprechauns. Lily is self-conscious, lacks confidence, is bullied, and doesn't have many friends. On the surface, the story is about what Lily has to do to for the leprechauns to return home, but it really is about what Lily has to do for herself to gain confidence and self-esteem.

This book holds a special place for me in that it was the first real story I read to my girls. Everything before this was early reader chapter novels at best. Picking up a random book at the library and then discovering a wonderful story was fantastic (as it has been for me for four decades), but to see that wonderful story light up the eyes of a seven year old was truly amazing. My older daughter was enthralled and we still talk about scenes from the book three years later. It is my younger daughter though that was really special to watch. I had to explain to her that it is the sign of a really good book that you go through emotional highs and lows, that you really care for the character, that you want to keep reading all night even though you are falling asleep.

I have read this twice now, once with both daughters. I imagine I will read it again in a few years, once the joy of reading books to my daughters is just a fond memory.

My rating: ****.

Sept. 30, 2018, 1:05pm

To anyone who happens to read this thread, hello again. I have definitely continued to read since my last update four and a half months ago, but I certainly haven't been keeping up with the documentation. I'll try and get through all of the updates today but since there are a dozen or more to do, I might not get through them all in one sitting. Okay, on to the updates …

Sept. 30, 2018, 1:12pm

Book #14 for 2018 was Paddington by Michael Bond. Paddington has become one of those fictional characters that is pervasive and beloved, but my first-hand knowledge was limited at best. I am happy to say that I finally read the first book in the Paddington series, and found it to be enjoyable and humorous. The story was timeless even if there were a few points of the backdrop of London that dated it in a world that seems so far removed from today. That is a small thing though that certainly didn't take away from the story.

My rating: ***.

Bearbeitet: Sept. 30, 2018, 1:28pm

Book #15 for 2018 was Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. This book seemed to explode onto shelves a year or so ago, and I was able to pick up a copy in a used book store at a big discount. It seems that this book experienced a miniature version of the phenomenon that Twilight encountered, in that "everyone" seemed to buy it and then immediately sell or donate it.

I am not sure exactly why this book became so popular so quickly. Maybe it was because it was a novel translated from Chinese to English, and that added a certainly novelty. Or maybe it was because it was a hard science fiction novel, and those seem somewhat scarce these days. Regardless of the reason, I picked up this book due to the perceived buzz without knowing anything about it. That was probably not a good idea.

Hard science fiction is not my favourite genre. I have enjoyed very few novels that rely on equations or diagrams to explain key plot elements, and in fact Cryptonomicon might be the only one that falls into that category. Most of the main characters in the novel were gross exaggerations of single personality characteristics - icy cold, slovenly and crude, detached and dispassionate. I did enjoy the backstory quite a bit, and wished the whole novel would have followed that model. I would have enjoyed that much more.

It's hard to say too much without giving away the plot, so I'll leave it at this. If you are a fan of hard science fiction, please don't get discouraged by my comments as I imagine your experience will be more enjoyable than mine.

My rating: **.

Sept. 30, 2018, 1:33pm

Book #16 for 2018 was The Unwanteds. This was a book that I read to my older daughter, and it was recommended to her by a classmate. The back cover described it as a cross between The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and that pretty much sums it up. If you are 10 to 13 years old, haven't come across the major elements of either of those two series, or if you are completely enthralled with both series and want more of the same, this book is for you. If not, take a pass. To be fair, my daughter has read the next two books in the series, so there is enough of a draw for her to continue with the series.

I hate to be so harsh, but there are a number of young adult books that are worth reading at any age. I just don't feel that this was one of those.

My rating: *.

Bearbeitet: Sept. 30, 2018, 2:03pm

Book #17 for 2018 was Annihilation. This is not something that is in my typical wheelhouse, which is one of the reasons I wanted to read it. I am quite glad that I did. The world created in the story is familiar yet fantastic, and the characters and backdrop are familiar but exotic. I wouldn't call this a horror novel, but then again, I'm not really into horror or any "dark" genre so I don't really have a good model to classify it. It was definitely intriguing, and the plight of the characters was compelling enough to keep me reading late into the night.

This is the first book of the Southern Reach trilogy, and I am looking forward to reading the other two books.

My rating: ***.

Sept. 30, 2018, 1:47pm

Book #18 for 2018 was Leviathan Wakes. I started watching the first season of the Expanse tv show and was definitely intrigued. My wife was less so, and so I stopped watching and picked up the novel instead. I only watched the first four episodes and was happy to see that the show and the book were quite similar but the deviations were growing. Not that this makes any difference to the book mind you, but I felt the need to share that nonetheless.

The story alternates between two main characters and how their lives ultimately come together. There is a fair bit of science in this science fiction story, but I would not call it hard science fiction, but I would also not consider it purely a space opera either. Maybe the best way to describe it is my kind of science fiction - big sweeping story, interesting characters, enough science to make you contemplate the different environment the characters have to navigate while still letting the story be about the people and not the science.

The rating scheme I borrowed from jjmcgaffey and have on my LT profile page says that a 3.5 means I would likely re-read the story. I doubt I would re-read this, but I would definitely keep reading books in this series.

My rating: ***.

Sept. 30, 2018, 1:55pm

Book #19 for 2018 was Seven Dead Pirates. This is one that I read to my younger daughter, and I am very glad I did. The story revolves around a young, insular boy who has a severe lack of self-confidence. Meeting the new kid in town and befriending a couple of ghosts allows him to slowly but surely gain confidence and self-esteem. He goes from just another kid who gets bullied into a bit of a school hero, not by dashing heroics or latent supernatural abilities, but by being a good person and a good friend. This is done is a subtle and gradual way, quite brilliantly actually, leaving the poor kid we meet at the start of the story to be completely unrecognizable from the one at the end.

I know I have a lot of YA books on my reading list, and I know those aren't for everyone. I do hope that people realize that I am not going to review all YA books positively (see my review of The Unwanteds above as evidence of that), and that when I do say that a particular book is worth reading I do mean it. The positive message in this book is worth the few hours it will take to read.

My rating: ****

Sept. 30, 2018, 2:10pm

Book #20 for 2018 was Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War. This is very much related to my day job, and in fact, I have met a couple of the people mentioned in this book. It is non-fiction, and is more of a reference than a journalistic expose. I found most of it to be fascinating and professionally relevant, I cannot imagine most readers really diving in any substantial way.

I'm glad I read it, and it was well done. I just can't imagine reading it again or recommending it to anyone who isn't in the same line of work as me.

My rating: ***

Sept. 30, 2018, 2:16pm

Book #21 for 2018 was Bera The One-Headed Troll. I picked this up to read to my younger daughter as it looked at first to be a quick read in between more serious stories. However, what I discovered is a wonderful story about friendship and finding courage in yourself. I might not have counted it towards one of my books that I read this year, however, it seems to me that I have found a personally previously unexplored genre in the folk story. Maybe this isn't exactly that, but it made me think of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest as I read it.

Anyway, I delightful story that I recommend reading.

My rating: ****

Sept. 30, 2018, 2:23pm

Book #22 for 2018 was The Goblet of Fire. We listened to this as an audiobook on summer holidays. I'm sure you have all read this and the rest of the Harry Potter series, so I won't go into details. What I will say is that this particular entry into the series has both the absolute nadir of the arc (the holiday ball - OMG too much teenage angst!) and what one must think is going to be the saddest point in the series (hahaha, just you wait!).

Harry Potter has become a rite of passage in our era. I'm glad to have read them individually, and am now glad to be able to share them with my daughters. I imagine I will re-read them again at some point in the future, but maybe not until grandchildren.

My rating: ****

Bearbeitet: Sept. 30, 2018, 2:31pm

Book #23 for 2018 was The Magicians of Caprona. I had high hopes for this one given the massive contribution the author has made in literature, and also in film which is how I knew of her. This one missed the mark however. I liked the story, and the plot was original and interesting, and some of the younger characters were quite interesting. The ending though came together too neatly and too quickly, and disappointed me as I was waiting for the spectacular climax and grand reveal. The character of Chrestomanci was interesting though, enough for me to contemplate others in the series.

My rating: **.

Sept. 30, 2018, 2:34pm

Book #24 for 2018 was The Order of Time. I said previously that I don't like novels that need equations, but I think it is acceptable to have equations in books trying to explain science and concepts like how we perceive the passage of time. This book did a great job of explaining some very esoteric concepts, and I appreciate how Rovelli is able to convey such complex points. I read this about six weeks ago, and I still think about what he was trying to explain. I don't think I can give any higher praise than that.

My rating: ****

Sept. 30, 2018, 4:32pm

Book #25 for 2018 was Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse a surprising and confusing YA novel about a young girl, her father who can't bear to be with her due to her resemblance of her deceased mother, a few clearly odd servants, and a mouse. But really the mouse doesn't play much of a role. Or does he? The story is full of metaphors including a character with "Metaphorical" as his first name, and plenty of allusions to famous literature - Frankenstein, Moby Dick to name two - and I'm afraid that I probably did not catch them all. I would love to know if anybody else read this book and has any insights into the connections to famous literature. The simple fact that this story sparked me to look into the classics is enough to post it here on the chance it does the same for someone else.

My rating: ***

Bearbeitet: Sept. 30, 2018, 5:02pm

Book #26 was Charlotte's Web. This is a story that would have been so much better to read if I had not already come to know the plot and ending over the years. But even so, it was a very special book. I'm not sure there is much else to say. Many people will have already read this book, so I will just leave it at that.

My rating: ****

Sept. 30, 2018, 5:00pm

Book #27 was Cloud Atlas which has firmly established itself as my favorite novel of all time.

As with so many books, this has been made into a movie, and I saw the movie well before I knew it was based on a book. Most people I have talked to were indifferent at best to the movie, which is a shame in my opinion. It was not something that one could just dive into. There is an investment required to really appreciate the movie, and I think that explains the lackluster reviews.

Reading a novel after seeing the movie is often (always?) a let-down, which might also explain the movie reviews. Having now read the book, it is easy to see how the movie would disappoint. But approaching it movie-then-book, I admit that I had to slog through the first two stories because it was so intimately familiar. I persisted, mainly because of the quote on the back of the book that called David Mitchell a "genius". As I progressed through the stories and it diverged (expanded?) from the movie, the intricacies and connections started to be revealed. About two-thirds of the way through, I admit to emitting audible gasps as things clicked in place. As the novel wound down to the last two stories and we ultimately find ourselves back in the distant past which was also our starting point on this journey, the themes are revealed and the message is clear. Mitchell reveals to the reader a view of humanity that is grim and depressing but also hopeful and wonderful. And in understanding that view, I admit to having to stop and reflect on humanity, and to wonder in amazement at how the story was … I'm at a loss for descriptors that are not cliched … woven and crafted and planned and ultimately delivered.

If you are reading this thread, you will see that I love books with good messages delivered to the reader as a journey without pandering or lazily relying on tropes. Mitchell delivered on this so eloquently and so profoundly that I expect I will be continuing to reflect for months to come. I know this is something that I will read many times before I die, and I cannot wait to do so. I am also now excited to add an author to my reading list who clearly lives up to the label of genius.

My rating: *****

Sept. 30, 2018, 5:23pm

Book #28 was Murder on the Orient Express, which nicely fit the bill of being a digestible read after the thought-provoking Cloud Atlas. To whit, I read this in less than 24 hours of elapsed time.

Of my personal goals set at the start of this thread, this is the first one I have completed, and should make a point of support for the SantaThing program that LT puts together for us since this copy came from SantaThing 2017.

There really are two points I want to make about this book. First, this is a re-read with about 35 years elapsed between readings. Every mystery or detective novel author from Ian Rankin to Michael Connelly and all the others I have read owe a debt to Agatha Christie and this story. That time in our community library circa 1983 when I first picked up this novel as my first grown-up mystery started a love for the genre. It might seem a bit quaint today, but its impact on me was huge. Second, the book references many locations that I would have had no context for as a 13 year-old. Aleppo, Kabul, Mosul. Certainly places we hear about now, with unfortunate reasons. Reading a story that is now 84 years old is an opportunity to see the world in a different light, and is something I think I need to do more often.

I'm sure I'll read this at least once more in life, probably on the 100 year anniversary in 2034.

My rating: ***.

Okt. 1, 2018, 5:46pm

Yes Cloud Atlas definitely worth a re-read, enjoying your reviews.

Okt. 2, 2018, 6:36am

>39 robertwmartin: I loved Annihilation and the other two books of the trilogy. But then, I have been a VanderMeer fan since his Veniss Underground in 2003.

>49 robertwmartin: Have always meant to read Cloud Atlas; perhaps when I am no longer associated with the bookstore being tempted by new & shiny books.

And re our much earlier comments re SF, agree that it hadn't kept up with Fantasy and has made progress. I read the Publishers Weekly reviews each week and, if they are anything to go by, there still is a lot more fantasy being published; however, there is far more novels that are a blend of SF&F than there used to be.

Jan. 28, 2019, 11:52pm

>51 baswood: thanks for the kind words.

>52 avaland: I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from VanderMeer. I'll have to search for Veniss Underground as well.

Given that this is a chronicle of reading in 2018 and that it is nearly 1/12th of the way through 2019, I will not be surprised if no one reads the rest of this thread. However, I have six books to catalog, so I better get cataloging.

Jan. 28, 2019, 11:58pm

Book #29 was Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. I quite like his novels and was lucky enough to meet him at a singing once many years ago and he is a very engaging person. Why is that relevant to a book review? Well, merely because it always amazes me how that engaging and charming individual can produce stories with such dark premises. I have trouble reading too much of any one author in a short period of time, but that is even more pertinent with Ian Rankin's works. Reading two of his novels in succession would be too much to take.

Dead Souls is the tenth Inspector Rebus novel, and as enjoyable as it was, I probably won't read the eleventh until around summer 2019.

My rating: ***.

Jan. 29, 2019, 12:07am

Book #30 was The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett. It was enjoyable, funny, well written, and a perfect antidote after reading a novel about a suspected pedophile (see above). Luggage might be my favorite bit character in a novel in the last few years, which is quite the accomplishment when you consider the amount of speaking lines Luggage is given (0 at last count). Two books in, this is a series to keep reading, especially as a counter to some of the other books in my Pile Of Shame.

For what it is worth, I was fortunate enough to hear Neil Gaiman speak this fall and he had a wonderful anecdote about how he and Terry would call each other daily as they collaborated on Good Omens. Not really relevant to this review, but its pretty cool so I thought I would add it in.

My rating: ***

Jan. 29, 2019, 12:25am

Book #31 was The Portal and The Veil by Ted Sanders. I have commented on a number of the YA books I have read to my daughters and this series is definitely one of my favorites. The fourth and final book in the series is out now, and it will certainly be devoured with my oldest daughter in the next month or two.

The Portal and The Veil is the slowest paced book of the series so far, and I suspect that is deliberate to let the readers really absorb the consequences of the protagonist's actions. As this is a YA book, the protagonists are teenagers for the most part, but don't let that put you off. These are not sullen, wooden, cookie cutter kids with parent issues. Well, one of the kids has parent issues, but she's totally justified in that. The adults are interesting, varied, flawed, and quite frankly human which sets them apart from adults in some more mainstream YA novels. The villains are creepy and threatening, and also flawed, but not human. So not human. All of the choices, actions, and consequences in the first three novels comes together in a climax at the end of The Portal and The Veil that promises the action in the fourth book will rocket off the first pages.

I don't want to say much other than to encourage you to read this series starting with Box and Dragonfly. And once you do, let me know what you think as I would love to discuss the series with someone.

My rating: ****.

Jan. 29, 2019, 12:31am

Book #32 was Caliban's War, the second Expanse series book I read in 2018. These books are proving to be interesting and enjoyable, and are quite easy to read. Digestible might be an apt description. The characters are fairly stereotypical (jock stud with a soft side, big tough guy who is super loyal, etc.) but I found myself caring about them. Bad things happen to one character and I actually audibly commented. (I won't say what came out since this is a family-friendly site.)

Much like the Terry Pratchett series, this is a good series that I expect I will plow through. It is another series that fills the gap of enjoyable reading without a lot of hard work required. I probably won't re-read any of these books, this one included, but I can certainly see myself reading them all one.

My rating: ***

Jan. 29, 2019, 12:53am

Book #33 was The Hobbit, which was another re-read for 2018. I am starting to get into roleplaying games, and Dungeons and Dragons specifically. I have always wanted to play an RPG as an adult, with the maturity and seriousness that adulthood could and should bring to an RPG. This focus has had me rethink what I thought I knew about fantasy, and I have found some great references to Tolkien's works that allowed me to re-read The Hobbit with a different lens. I read it this time not as a necessary speed bump on the road to reading The Lord of the Rings but as an interesting novel itself. In addition, my focus on RPGs has given me some background on the goblins, and why Tolkien didn't just call them orcs. In an RPG played poorly, goblins are nothing more than cannon fodder, a mere annoyance for any character worthy of the title of hero. However, in The Hobbit, they are a formidable foe, and that has made me want to treat goblins with more respect in my D&D campaigns.

Specifically regarding The Hobbit, this is an enjoyable story but one that is harder to read than I would like. I have an engineering degree and am therefore hobbled in my grasp of literary concepts and terms due to the lack of liberal arts electives available to engineering students, so I unfortunately do not know what to call examples such as this (to my mind) overly complicated writing style, taken purely at random from one of my copies of the book: "What was his surprise one day to overhear some of the guards talking …" or "This was the outburst of his wrath when he could find nobody and see nothing, even where he guessed the outlet must actually be." I am certainly not questioning Tolkien's ability or value as an author; I just find this style hard to read.

Regardless, this is certainly a book to read a few times in one's life, and I look forward to reading it again at a later stage of my life.

My rating: ****

Jan. 29, 2019, 12:57am

Book #34 was Ikigai, a book that I had high hopes for. The first chapter provided enticing anecdotes of long-lived Japanese and I was hopeful to learn some valuable life lessons. The lessons were there, but needed a few pages and a few footnotes to be delivered and not a full book. This was an interesting article, something to read over morning tea. As a book, it was too long, too dry, and too lacking of interest to me.

My rating: *.

Jan. 29, 2019, 1:03am

Okay, that's it for 2018. I did not read as many books as I wanted to, but I was successful in pushing myself to read some genres that I would not have otherwise read, and I was able to re-read a few books with a different perspective. My Pile of Shame continued to grow this year, but the quality of books added was greater than the quantity. Or at least that is what it looks like glancing over from my desk to my shelves.

I have a number of books that I started in 2018 that I will finish in 2019, so my reading stats for January will probably look pretty good. I plan on reading with more focus in 2019. Probably not more discipline in starting and finishing, but I have specific things I want to accomplish with my reading, in particular … well, you'll have to read my "Robert's Reads 2019" thread to find out!

Thanks for reading this thread.