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Books We Are Reading 2019 [merged]

Capellan

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Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1) by Hilary Mantel
A well-written and interesting fictionalisation of the rise of Thomas Cromwell, with two further volumes that presumably chart the epoch of his power and his eventual fall. I liked this a lot, despite the occasionally odd switches between first, second and third person. It also I suspect rather whitewashes old Tommy, who was a thoroughly ruthless sort of fellow by all accounts. Still, I will definitely be checking out book 2.

Emergency Engagement (Love Emergency #1) by Samanthe Beck
Cishet romance definitely has an issue with letting its male leads act like jerks and get away with it, and Emergency Engagement definitely suffers the issue a bit. That made me like it a little less than it's generally light and breezy style would otherwise have merited. Still, Beau's sins aren't as severe as the worst offenders on my list of "supposedly romantic leads who deserve to die alone, and as soon as possible", so overall I didn't have too bad a time.
 

Terhali

30-50 feral hogs
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Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done, by communications professor and feminist author Susan J. Douglas. A polemical book that will never convince anyone who isn't already convinced, it may nonetheless be reassuring to some readers frustrated with what seems like increasing sexual objectification of women in mass media since the early 1990s, in an "I'm not crazy this really is bad" sense. IMO, needs to be cut down by about a third. I'm almost done, and looking forward to getting back to Book of the Long Sun.
 

Ficino

Rascally Rabbit
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I'm reminded of the Turtledove novella "Down in the Bottomlands", which had the Mediterranean not re-flooding after the last time it emptied. It naturally had that approach, with no recognizable societies or geopolitics, but that took the story to an almost second-world technothriller place... And alternate history really leans heavily as a genre into historical references, no matter how unrealistic they are. North America can be split between the Aztecs and Romans, but Richard Nixon and Elvis always seem to show up in the latter twentieth century.
I wonder if that tendency has increased over time? My vague memory of L. Sprague De Camp's "The Wheels of If" (1940) is that its main alt-timeline doesn't have much of those sort of similarities to the real timeline, despite having divergence points a lot more recent than Baxter's (c. 600s-700s), and H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen is also without much in the way of shared people or events with real history, though of course it broke off much earlier.
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1) by Hilary Mantel
A well-written and interesting fictionalisation of the rise of Thomas Cromwell, with two further volumes that presumably chart the epoch of his power and his eventual fall. I liked this a lot, despite the occasionally odd switches between first, second and third person. It also I suspect rather whitewashes old Tommy, who was a thoroughly ruthless sort of fellow by all accounts. Still, I will definitely be checking out book 2.
It won the Booker Prize in Britain, and a National Book Award in the U.S., IIRC. The third volume, in which Cromwell will presumably die, is finally due out in 2020. I've wondered if it took so long to write because Mantel couldn't bear to kill Cromwell off. The TV adaptation of the first two books, with Mark Rylance as Cromwell, is also very good. I share your suspicion about Mantel's obvious fondness for Cromwell; there's a new biography of him out by Diarmaid MacCulloch I want to read when I can find the time. MacCulloch is a fine writer and even-handed, something that still remains in shorter supply than you might think in Reformation historiography.
 

redwulf25_ci

Clown Pope of Wushu
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Prisoner by LC Mawson: The penultimate book in her Royal Cleaners series is something I'm finding difficult to discuss without dropping major spoilers so I apologize for any vagueness. After the events of the previous book Mia and Caroline struggle to locate and rescue their girlfriend Persephone from her brother Uther, the long standing antagonist of most of the Snowverse books. The novel is a roller coaster of hope and excitement plunging into dread as Uther's pet Oracle stays one step ahead of rescue plans rising again as new plans take the place of old ones. I nearly swore out loud as I realised just who the Oracle pitted against our heroes had to be and again at the arrival of a less than trustworthy ally claiming to be on the heroes side. This one was hard to put down. The only complaint I have is that the tight plotting around the rescue attempts cut out much of the extended cast, hopefully we'll see more of them in the final book.

I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for reviewing it. This review will be posted at Goodreads.com as soon as the author has the book up for pre-order.
 

Boris

I am invincible?
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Finished Tiamat's Wrath. I can't believe we only get one more Expanse book. It was great stuff.
 

Eric the .5b

It's all so esoteric
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I wonder if that tendency has increased over time? My vague memory of L. Sprague De Camp's "The Wheels of If" (1940) is that its main alt-timeline doesn't have much of those sort of similarities to the real timeline, despite having divergence points a lot more recent than Baxter's (c. 600s-700s), and H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen is also without much in the way of shared people or events with real history, though of course it broke off much earlier.
Maybe? Michael Moorcock downright wallowed in familiar names in Nomad of the Time Streams, which started in 1965, even to the point of having Hiroshima get nuked by anarchists rebelling against the colonial powers in 1973. On the other hand, I first encountered the genre in the mid/late 1980s. At the time, some stories completely avoided that, while stories like Coming of the Quantum Cats by Pohl focused tightly on people inexplicably having counterparts in worlds with divergence points decades or centuries before their birth.

Despite "Down in the Bottomlands", I want to blame Harry Turtledove for the recent trend. With The Two Georges and his other 1990s-00s AU novels, it became kind of a Easter egg thing for him.
 
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Andy-C

Setec Astronomer
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I read through the first half of Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi while waiting for some car repairs this morning. So far, an enjoyable adventure story.
 

Ficino

Rascally Rabbit
Validated User
Maybe? Michael Moorcock downright wallowed in familiar names in Nomad of the Time Streams, which started in 1965, even to the point of having Hiroshima get nuked by anarchists rebelling against the colonial powers in 1973. On the other hand, I first encountered the genre in the mid/late 1980s. At the time, some stories completely avoided that, while stories like Coming of the Quantum Cats by Pohl focused tightly on people inexplicably having counterparts in worlds with divergence points decades or centuries before their birth.

Despite "Down in the Bottomlands", I want to blame Harry Turtledove for the recent trend. With The Two Georges and his other 1990s-00s AU novels, it became kind of a Easter egg thing for him.
I hadn't thought about the Moorcock examples. Like some of the Turtledove stuff at least, I suppose it would have the excuse that the divergence point isn't that far back from when the story takes place, so it doesn't strain credulity too much that some of the same people are involved (like Teddy Roosevelt in How Few Remain).

Kingsley Amis' The Alteration (1976) is another early-ish example of the tendency. Its divergence point goes back to the early 1500s (Henry VIII's older brother Arthur survives and there is no Protestant Reformation, precisely) but Benedict Arnold is still a major figure in American history, as is Edgar Allan Poe (though he's a general); Mozart, Beethoven, Blake, and Shelley were all important artists; Jean-Paul Sartre is a Jesuit and A.J. Ayer a theology professor, while Himmler and Beria are high officers of the Holy Office, etc.
 

rolanddarktower08

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Larry Niven and Jerrry Pournelle - Lucifer's Hammer - big, sprawling pre and post apocalyptic novel about the few weeks leading up to a massive comet strike on the earth and the several weeks and months following. Big cast of characters as well, some of whom are well fleshed out and others not so much. The research that went into detailing the effects of the comet strike is impressive, although I have no idea how the late 70's science holds up against current understanding. Some really memorable set pieces (one involving a surfer is really fun to read although you can guess how it ends.) The climax, a battle between a group rebuilding and a anti-technology army, cannibalistic army under the spell of an insane but charismatic preacher, doesn't really deliver the bang the build-up promises, but that's my only real quibble.

Stephen King - The Outsider (audio) - Another one of King's mystery/horror novels that seem to be the majority of his recent works. A pillar of the community is accused and arrested for a terrible crime. Initially law enforcement seems to have an air-tight case, but it is not long before the accused demonstrates a credible and witnessed alibi. Another tragedy strikes and the investigation takes a wider turn, forcing the lead detective to consider things beyond his understanding of what is real. I liked it well enough; there just didn't seem to be much new here in the way of ideas. But what the hell, SK still tells a good story, and the reader was solid, so what I am complaining about? Entertaining listen all around.
 
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