YouKneeK’s 2021 SF&F Overdose Part 3

Den här diskussionen är en fortsättning på: YouKneeK’s 2021 SF&F Overdose Part 2

Den här diskussionen fortsatte här: YouKneeK’s 2021 SF&F Overdose Part 4

DiskuteraThe Green Dragon

Bara medlemmar i LibraryThing kan skriva.

YouKneeK’s 2021 SF&F Overdose Part 3

1YouKneeK
maj 1, 8:13pm

Welcome to part 3 of my 2021 thread! Here’s my usual introductory info:
  • I read mostly science fiction and fantasy, with a heavier emphasis on fantasy.
  • I tend to read slightly older books versus the newest releases.
  • I hate spoilers. Any spoilers in my reviews should be safely hidden behind spoiler tags.
  • I prefer to read a series after it’s complete, and I read all the books pretty close together.
  • I’m 45, female, and live in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA in the U.S where I work as a programmer.
  • My cat’s name is Ernest and he’s a freak.

This year I’ve been using some Milanote boards to present a few things that may be of occasional interest. Click here if you’re interested in any of the following things:
  • Tentative reading plans for the next several months. I’m checking books off here as I read them, and will update it as I make changes.
  • Audiobook plans. I’ve listed all the audiobooks currently on my list to try at some point and am checking off the ones I’ve listened to.
  • Reading stats. I update these at the end of each quarter.
  • Cross-stitch pictures. I’m posting updated pictures of my two current projects about once a week, usually on Sunday night. I also have a few pictures of some of my favorite previously-completed projects.

2YouKneeK
Redigerat: jul 15, 4:54pm

2021 Reading Index

Clicking on the Date Read will take you to the post containing the review.

   Date Read/
 # Review Link  Title                            Author(s)
1 2021-01-07   Kushiel's Mercy                  Jacqueline Carey
2 2021-01-10   The Best of All Possible Worlds  Karen Lord
3 2021-01-18   Naamah's Kiss                    Jacqueline Carey
4 2021-01-29   Naamah's Curse                   Jacqueline Carey
5 2021-02-03   Restoration                      Carol Berg
6 2021-02-06   Naamah's Blessing                Jacqueline Carey
7 2021-02-09   The Diary of a Young Girl        Anne Frank
8 2021-02-13   Rosewater                        Tade Thompson
9 2021-02-13   The Last Wish                    Andrzej Sapkowski
10 2021-02-20   The Sword-Edged Blonde           Alex Bledsoe
11 2021-02-21   The House of the Spirits         Isabel Allende
12 2021-02-27   Hounded                          Kevin Hearne
13 2021-03-01   Furies of Calderon               Jim Butcher
14 2021-03-05   We Are Legion (We are Bob)       Dennis E. Taylor
15 2021-03-12   Academ's Fury                    Jim Butcher
16 2021-03-20   Three Parts Dead                 Max Gladstone
17 2021-03-21   Cursor's Fury                    Jim Butcher
18 2021-04-01   Captain's Fury                   Jim Butcher
19 2021-04-03   Foreigner                        C. J. Cherryh
20 2021-04-08   Princeps' Fury                   Jim Butcher
21 2021-04-17   Midnight Riot                    Ben Aaronovitch
22 2021-04-25   First Lord's Fury                Jim Butcher
23 2021-05-01   The Calculating Stars            Mary Robinette Kowal
24 2021-05-02   To Kill a Mockingbird            Harper Lee
25 2021-05-06   The Merry Wives of Windsor       William Shakespeare
26 2021-05-18   Theft of Swords                  Michael J. Sullivan
27 2021-05-19   Worlds of Exile and Illusion     Ursula K. Le Guin
28 2021-05-21   Soulless                         Gail Carriger
29 2021-05-27   Six of Crows                     Leigh Bardugo
30 2021-05-27   The Left Hand of Darkness        Ursula K. Le Guin
31 2021-05-30   The Word for World is Forest     Ursula K. Le Guin
32 2021-05-31   A Darker Shade of Magic          V. E. Schwab
33 2021-06-05   More than Human                  Theodore Sturgeon
34 2021-06-09   The Warded Man                   Peter V. Brett
35 2021-06-16   The Eyre Affair                  Jasper Fforde
36 2021-06-18   The Dispossessed                 Ursula K. Le Guin
37 2021-06-22   The Black Company                Glen Cook
38 2021-06-26   The Ten Thousand Doors of        Alix E. Harrow
                January
39 2021-06-27   Planetfall                       Emma Newman
40 2021-07-03   The Prince of Thorns             Mark Lawrence
41 2021-07-04   Shards of Honor                  Lois McMaster Bujold
42 2021-07-15   The Warrior's Apprentice         Lois McMaster Bujold

3YouKneeK
maj 1, 8:16pm

Audiobook Review: The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The audiobook is narrated by the author of the book, Mary Robinette Kowal. Her narration wasn’t perfect, but it worked really well for me. I especially loved how she managed to convey the emotion of her story.

I was skeptical in the beginning. I didn’t care for how she sounded when voicing male characters, and her reading of the news announcements at the beginning of each chapter seemed a bit over the top. It initially reminded me too much of the narrator for Three Parts Dead which I didn’t care for at all. I got used to the male voices though, and she did a great job of narrating the main character and the other female characters. I got to the point where I actually enjoyed her voice for the main character’s husband, Nathaniel, I think just because I really liked that character and had come to associate him with the way she narrated him.

Story
The Calculating Stars is an alternate history set in the 1950’s. A meteorite hits the earth and destroys a large portion of the US, and sets off a series of environmental changes that may eventually make the planet uninhabitable. The main character, Elma, was a former WASP pilot and is a brilliant mathematician. Her husband is an engineer. They argue that humanity needs to accelerate its attempts to get into space, with the hope of being able to establish colonies off planet before the earth is uninhabitable.

I was really interested in the story at first, and then a little disappointed before getting interested again. I had initially thought the beginning was more of a prologue, and that we’d accelerate more directly toward where the story seemed to be headed. I expected the meat of the story to be about (putting it in spoilers so that I don’t spoil what doesn’t happen) establishing colonies in space and I was really interested in reading about that. Instead, it’s a much more political type of story, dealing with the disbelief and misplaced priorities of some of the world’s leaders, and with a large focus on the prejudice toward women and minorities. I thought those things were done well, and they were realistic and believable, and eventually I settled down to enjoy the story the author actually wanted to tell.

Elma, the main character, is maybe a bit too good at everything she does to be quite believable. She’s even great in front of the camera, or in front of crowds, despite being so terrified every time that she’s often throwing up before or after it happens. I still enjoyed cheering for her successes, though. I did like that she had some prejudices herself. So often a main character set in a culture where certain types of prejudice are the norm is somehow the one person who is fully enlightened, somehow escaping all of the commonly-held beliefs of everybody around them, and that rings a little false to me. Elma was open-minded and willing to have her beliefs challenged, but she had misconceptions and prejudices of her own.

I especially loved Elma's relationship with her husband, Nathaniel. I enjoyed reading a book where the only romance was that of an established relationship between a married couple. I liked that they communicated with each other (for the most part) and respected each other and supported each other. If an author absolutely must put romance in their stories, I wish more of them would do it this way instead of using the same tedious, predictable romance tropes that most authors use. I’m worried though that the author might kill Nathaniel off in a future book to provide drama and “character growth” for Elma. I would be annoyed. I’m thinking of another series I read that also featured a nicely-written marriage that suffered that fate. But the sex scenes were horrible! Well, they weren’t really sex scenes, more like foreplay scenes, and they weren’t that long, but they seemed frequent. The rocket jokes were cringe-worthy. Hearing them read out loud made it ever so much worse.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, even though this wasn’t quite the story I had originally been hoping to get. I’m guessing it will go closer toward that direction in the sequels. This will be a definite “yes” for me on whether I want to continue the series someday. I’m actually not sure if I want to do that in print or audio. This was a nice, uncomplicated story, well-suited for audio listening (aside from the sex scenes), and an unusual case where I wondered if I didn’t enjoy it more in audio than I would have in print.

Next Audiobook
Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan. It’s 22.5 hours long, so you can expect it to be a while before I finish it!

4quondame
maj 1, 11:59pm

>3 YouKneeK: I did read The Calculating Stars but found I had little interest in an alternate version of the times I lived through even if it was centered on a special group of capable women.

5Maddz
Redigerat: maj 2, 2:54am

>3 YouKneeK: I read it in 2019 for the Hugos and thought it was a well-deserved win. There's a short story as well as the two sequels (which I must read). I think the short is available on Tor.com - yup, https://www.tor.com/2018/07/02/read-mary-robinette-kowals-the-lady-astronaut-of-..., although it's by way of being an end to the series.

Actually, there's a second short story on Tor: https://www.tor.com/2019/02/06/articulated-restraint-mary-robinette-kowal/

Both shorts are available from Amazon.

6YouKneeK
maj 2, 8:43am

>4 quondame: Do you think that was because of the heavier focus on politics? Although I enjoyed it quite a lot, I do hope the next book (whenever I get around to reading/listening to it) has a stronger focus on the science fiction aspect of the story.

>5 Maddz: Thanks for the info about the short stories!

7Maddz
Redigerat: maj 2, 9:19am

Articulated Restraint is in the same timeline, but isn't part of the main storyline, but The Lady Astronaut of Mars needs to be read as part of the story.

I recommended The Calculating Stars to my then boss, and nearly got in trouble because she stayed up all night to finish it.

8YouKneeK
maj 2, 5:16pm

>7 Maddz: Haha, at least she liked it. I think it would be worse if she'd hated it and wondered what was wrong with you!

9quondame
maj 2, 5:25pm

>6 YouKneeK: For me it was the sexism. I don't like it now and I don't enjoy it as a central topic in fiction unless it is handled with exceptional imagination or dexterity. I found the sequel too tidy and not all that interesting. I generally find 20th century alt-history isn't my thing. 19th either.

10YouKneeK
maj 2, 5:56pm

>9 quondame: Ah, yeah, that makes sense. I’m sorry to read the sequel didn’t work for you either, though!

11Maddz
maj 3, 12:16am

>9 quondame: Yes, it was a bit of a central theme, wasn't it. It didn't really bother me, probably because I'm old enough to recall the 60s (and not old enough to not remember the 60s if you get my drift) and my mother was old for a first child, so to me it was all too familiar. What I picked up on was the racism and anti-semitism.

12quondame
Redigerat: maj 3, 1:39am

>11 Maddz: Well, I was 11 when the sixties hit, with two older siblings one of whom started college in 1960 the other in 62. The thing about sexism then was how bloody completely it was internalized as well as overt. The racism and antisemitism were handled in my milieu with a sort of if we don't do anything overt then we're the good guys. My sister and a number of her women contemporaries did complete graduate school on the tail end of the space race, and as a computer literate I was able to get, after a few filler jobs, into computers. Of course all my male computer & math classmates had a much shorter path to technical positions.

13-pilgrim-
maj 3, 2:35am

>11 Maddz: That is interesting. We date from the same era, but my reaction to such topics is nearer to quondame's; I remember that environment, I don't feel the need to relive it in a book.

14-pilgrim-
maj 3, 2:37am

>12 quondame: Do you have any feel for when things switched over? For the previous generation, programming was something for women to do, rather than men. (Something incomprehensible to do with keyboards, you see....)

15Maddz
maj 3, 4:11am

>13 -pilgrim-: I had a bit of an odd upbringing:

1. My Mum was 36 when she had me (an elderly prima gravida at that time). I was born in England (which was just as well when nationality laws were changed). We moved back to Cairo when I was 18 months old and I didn't return to England until I was nearly 4.
2. My father was Levantine Arab by descent but had Belgian nationality (long story) - my parents met when my mother worked for Royal Dutch Shell (as they were then) in Cairo. Effectively, I am mixed-race; although I am dark-haired and fair-skinned, I do tan reasonably easily so in summer months I looked Italian or Spanish.
3. Mum was an only child, and she and her 2 cousins were the only children of her generation (both were childless). Her father's family disapproved of his marriage, and Mum was raised outside the family. The family, by the time I was old enough to be aware of them, were on the elderly side.
4. I was raised Catholic. My primary schooling was at a local 'dame' school run by 3 elderly sisters, and I went to Mum's old school - the convent - for my secondary education.

So I had an old-fashioned upbringing by the standards of the time. The family must have been a good 20 years behind the times because I (and later my sister) were the youngest members by about 40 years or so, and as a teenager I didn't really fit in with the other local kids (different schools after primary school, different backgrounds).

I recall the implicit sexism of the times - one of my great-aunts didn't see the point of me going to university ('what's the point? she's going to get married and have children') and objected to me giving up a job to do so. Even then, it was expected that all females could touch-type (I refused to learn), and if you had a job, you were paid lower, passed over for promotion and expected to give it up on marriage.

I did get a bit of racism (growing up in a Conservative stronghold), and I recall having problems in the job market because my Arab surname meant I was taken as Pakistani (in those days, you included your full name and biographic details in job applications).

I certainly don't want to return to those days, but when I encounter it in a book set in those days, I shrug. I would be more bothered by a historical novel (or an alt-hist novel where the divergence is 20th C) that didn't include such details, especially if it's touting it's historical credentials.

16-pilgrim-
maj 3, 5:57am

>15 Maddz: We appear to have even more in common than I thought.

My father was not a young man when he married, and came from an extremely conservative culture, so my upbringing was a couple of decades adrift from that of my contemporaries. He married out, so I grew up between cultures, belonging to neither.

My career was affected by racism, but I got the pale-skinned genes, so my background is not readily identifiable.

And yes, I am equally familiar with the overt sexual discrimination in employment. Add disability (which makes me an inconvenient employee) and it was obvious that I had to be twice as good as every other applicant to stand a chance.

It is not a question of not feeling any nostalgia for those days. But I do remember them, so I do not feel the need to read about them in order to learn "what it was like".

I agree with you totally about the need for historical accuracy in a novel, in attitudes as well as in dress and other customs.

I read novels where prejudices are part of the plot. But >3 YouKneeK:, and >4 quondame:, suggest that they are the main theme of the plot. I do not feel any need to explore that theme further in fiction (particularly when the author has less relevant personal experience than her reader). I read fiction to explore environments that differ from my own experience (for better or worse).

Reading factual material on the subject is a completely different matter.

17hfglen
maj 3, 6:13am

>15 Maddz: >16 -pilgrim-: You are not alone! Many of the students in my group reading for (how old-fashioned can you get?) B.Sc. were intending to become schoolteachers. It was not only the women who felt that Education Department pay scales were not the only (or, in fact, the most iniquitous) discriminatory measures around. As clearly stated policy, women received only 2/3 the salary of their male colleagues for the same work. And if women kept on earning after marriage, their salary was added to the husband's for tax purposes, thus neatly moving the couple into a much higher tax bracket. It took years to convince our Calvinist lords and masters that their own tax laws were forcing the innocent into the "sin"(in their eyes) of either getting divorced or not marrying in the first place, in order to survive.

18-pilgrim-
Redigerat: maj 3, 6:35am

>17 hfglen:

The explanation that I was given for the 2/3 salary was "because the man has a family to support". Of course, it still applies where the man was single, and the woman was a widow with four children...

Did you also have the neat trick where, although teachers' salaries increment annually with experience, this only applies to full-time teachers? A part-time teacher, regardless of experience, performance etc. could only be paid at the lowest level, thus receiving (pro rata for hours worked) the same pay as a newly qualified student teacher.

Thus switching to part-time to raise children dumped you at the bottom of the career progression ladder.

It was thus quite common to see a young, relatively inexperienced male head teacher appointed over a staff room full of women with 20+ years more experience, because he was higher up the progression ladder.

19YouKneeK
maj 3, 5:44pm

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee



Believe it or not, this was my first time reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve never watched any adaptations of it, and I didn’t know the story.

The story is set in Alabama in the 1930’s, and it was published in 1960. We read from the perspective of Jean Louise (Scout) Finch, remembering her life as young girl. Her story starts when she’s almost 6 years old and I think she’s 9 or 10 by the end. The bulk of the story focuses on Scout’s experiences growing up and gives a strong feel for the setting and culture she lived in. It’s told with a lot of pointed humor as we see people’s behavior through the eyes of a child. Meanwhile, there are bigger issues going on that she isn’t directly involved in and doesn’t fully understand, but they have an impact on her as she tries in her own way to reason out what’s right and wrong and why people behave the way they do.

This was a great, readable story and I can understand why it’s such a beloved classic. As is common with classics, there’s maybe a little too much blatant foreshadowing for my tastes. It’s easy to guess what’s going to happen, but it was told well enough that I didn’t mind too much and I still didn’t know exactly how things would happen. There is a strong anti-racism message, as well as a more general message about treating everybody fairly and with dignity, and not assuming the worst about somebody just because they’re different from you. The most obvious and poignant message was about Tom Robinson of course, but there was a similar message in the form of Arthur (“Boo”) Radley. Two mockingbirds, one killed, one not, both suffering because of the ignorance and prejudice of people who knew nothing of substance about them yet thought they knew all they needed to know. I imagine things would have turned out differently if Tom’s and Arthur’s skin colors had been reversed, but then the Radley’s wouldn’t have lived so close to the Finch’s so the story wouldn’t have worked.

I really liked Atticus, the father. He was the model of what I imagine a great father would be like. I was less fond of Jem, Scout’s brother, mostly because his behavior seemed so erratic and hot-headed. I know he was a pre-teen boy struggling to understand and deal with all the issues surrounding him while also having to watch out for a little sister, and I’m sure he also had conflicting influences that we didn’t really see since we weren’t in his head. I just never developed much sympathy for him. I did of course like Scout a lot. We were in her head, so she was easy to understand and sympathize with, and her commentary on things made me laugh.

Next Book
The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare. This will finish up my second quarter classic selections.

20quondame
Redigerat: maj 4, 12:04am

>14 -pilgrim-: It had to do with Steve Jobs/Bill Gates glamor, gaming and the potential for wealth. The prejudice for giving boys or rather not giving girls, computers is cited, but if the boys hadn't rushed in there still would have been room for women.

I'm from a mixed background myself, though Jewish/WASP isn't that unusual. My dad was near 40 when I was born and in some ways still seemed to be living about 1900, but as a scientist was really quite up on technology, though Windows was a difficult jump for him later on and Mike would get several calls a year for support.
My daughter was born when I was 44, and I really don't get close to most of the apps she lives in.

21jjwilson61
maj 4, 11:59am

>20 quondame: The software industry was male dominated in the early 80s when I started my career well before Jobs and Gates. I believe that had been true since at least the 60s. I think the transition happened when the industry changed from academia to business around the end of WWII.

22quondame
maj 4, 6:09pm

>21 jjwilson61: Yes, of course it was. But into the 80s some companies were still running training for women and other disadvantaged people as programmers. I was 1 of 3 women in a 18 person dinky company in 1975, recommended a novice male acquaintance for a gofer position, and within 3 months he was promoted above me, and in 6 months he crashed and burned. pilgrim and I have been discussing when women were pressured away from computer science with the understanding that they were only allowed in because there was spare room due to the "best" boys being elsewhere for better pay (hardware engineering and business management).
While a number of computer software pioneers were women the majority have always been men.

23clamairy
maj 4, 8:58pm

>19 YouKneeK: Nice review. I wonder if you would have liked it even more if you had read it for the first time when you were younger. I've always had a thing for Gregory Peck because of his role as Atticus in the film version.

24YouKneeK
maj 5, 6:56am

>23 clamairy: Thanks, I think it’s definitely possible I would have liked it even more when I was younger. It shares a lot of characteristics with the books I enjoyed reading when I was very young. Plus, with less reading under my belt, the foreshadowing wouldn’t have been so obvious to me and I would have had less exposure to its themes.

I’m not familiar with Gregory Peck beyond the name, but appearance-wise at least it looks like he made a great Atticus.

25fuzzi
Redigerat: maj 5, 8:55am

>24 YouKneeK: Gregory Peck, ooh! I loved him in TKaM and The Guns of Navarone, though there are many more movies in his portfolio. He was most active from the late 1940s though the 1970s.

ETA: a clip from the movie, where a "mad" dog shows up near their house, showing Peck in his role as Atticus:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2L0WQu2fEI

26YouKneeK
maj 5, 6:09pm

>25 fuzzi: Thanks for that link, it was fun to see a memorable scene without having to watch an entire movie! It looks like he did fit the role well.

27-pilgrim-
maj 6, 9:20pm

>21 jjwilson61:, >22 quondame:
I am starting to suspect that the patterns in the UK and the US were not the same.

When I was finishing grammar school in the early eighties, CS was a low-status subject, taught only to 'O'-level, with a distinct implication that it was there for girls who couldn't hack the hard sciences. (I don't know to what extent attending an all girls' school altered my experience.)

When I was applying for university, there were only 12 that had courses in Computer Science as a Single Honours subject, and they were places that had relatively weak overall reputations. I chose instead to study physics at a "good university" (i.e. top 5), that being the recognised route into computing careers at that point. CS was also available as a named subsidiary to a maths degree. (Note: you do not simply apply to an English university, you apply "to university X to read Y")

In my year intake a few people knew BASIC on arrival because they owned their own PCs (of whom about 50% were lads who had built their own). I was slightly odd, in that I had learnt FORTRAN my year out (but no BASIC).

Physicists' courses taught FORTRAN, mathematicians' COBOL (and later, optionally, Prolog). I believe there was a non - continuing "computer methods" course available (not combinable with maths) that taught BASIC. Everything else - we learnt on our own time.

I think 2 people in my year (1 male, 1 female) brought their own PCs to university (and used them for word processing and games). When we were expanding our knowledge and experimenting, we messed around on the mainframes.

There was certainly no sense that one went into computing as a route into entrepreneurship then - yet I think I am talking about a slightly later period than both of you are.

I have the impression that the industry itself was in a very different place in the UK from the US in the eighties.

28-pilgrim-
maj 6, 9:34pm

>25 fuzzi: Thanks for the memories. He was one of my favourite actors too.

29quondame
Redigerat: maj 6, 10:11pm

>27 -pilgrim-: Since I went to school at U.C. Berkeley, right across the bay from what was already becoming Silicon Valley, and then went to work in Los Angeles which had a lot of U.S. Government defense money being poured in, and there was no stigmata about making money through engineering like activities, well clearly the difference in our experiences comes from environment.
Even before I went to college in 1967 several of the men who had government research jobs where my father worked went to San Jose (Silicon Valley) for the money. And within 5 years of graduation I was working at a company that had housed one of the first large computers and had stories of people rollerskating along the catwalks within to replace burnt out test tubes.

30YouKneeK
maj 7, 7:27am

Review: The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare



I’ve been trying to fit in a couple Shakespeare plays per year, one comedy and one tragedy. This year’s comedy selection was The Merry Wives of Windsor. A not-very-noble knight tries to hit on two different married ladies at the same time by sending them identical love letters. The wives have a merry time teaching him a lesson. There are other aspects to the story, but that’s the one most relevant to the title.

Looking at it somewhat objectively, this may be one of the better Shakespeare comedies I’ve read. It made a reasonable amount of sense, as opposed to some of the others I’ve read where you have to completely abandon logic to follow the story. I liked that the wives were faithful, although it sounds like there wasn’t much about the knight that might have tempted them even if they were inclined to be unfaithful. I appreciated their annoyance at being thought to be fair game just because they liked to laugh and engage in friendly conversation.

While reading it though, I just didn’t enjoy it that much. Even though there is a lot of humor in the story, it just felt kind of tedious to me. This story was different from the others I've read, but it still felt like more of the same. The one time I did laugh was toward the end when the two suitors that Anne Page’s parents were trying to get her to marry found themselves about to marry a different boy in a dress the color they were told Anne would be wearing. That was one of the least believable bits of the story, but it did get me giggling when the suitors were telling what happened.

My rating is on the low side, but this is because I rate books based on my enjoyment level, not based on an objective analysis. This is more useful for me to look back on in the future; I want to keep track of my actual reactions to a book, not what I think I should have thought of it. In any case, I think I’ve become burnt out on the Shakespeare comedies. I’ll probably skip them for the next year or two. I haven’t read any of his histories yet, so I’ll try to fit one of those in next year.

Next Book
Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m gong to start on the Hainish Cycle now, reading in publication order.

31Busifer
maj 7, 12:46pm

Oh, I really liked the Hainish Cycle, but it has been ages since I returned to it!
I got a younger colleague to read The Left hand of Darkness a couple of years ago.
She felt that it was well written and all that but that the themes were, well, uncontroversial, and not adding to the discussion, kind of.
A very different reaction from when I lent it to a male colleague, almost 30 years ago. He gave it back, expressing polite disgust.

Sometimes time (and context) can make a lot of difference.

32quondame
maj 7, 2:47pm

>31 Busifer: >32 quondame: It's interesting that the handling of gender issues of The Left hand of Darkness haven't stood the wear of time as well as the political messages of The Dispossessed, for me at least.

33Busifer
maj 7, 3:47pm

>32 quondame: I would tend to agree, only I have to reread LHoD to be able to have an up to date opinion on it. I think my last reread was about two decades ago, and a lot has (thankfully) changed since.

34quondame
maj 7, 4:08pm

>33 Busifer: Mostly it's just that the native Gethens seem to exhibit mostly what we think of as male behaviors so than non-gendered seems, well, male and the whole doesn't work so well as an example of what non-gendered culture might be like. Her short stories set on Gethen worked better for me.

35Busifer
maj 7, 4:33pm

>34 quondame: I'm sure I'd agree with of I read it today: I definitely remember thinking the Gethens to be more male than non-gendered, as you say.
Maybe I should reread some UKL, soon.

36ScoLgo
maj 7, 5:20pm

>35 Busifer: I read all the Hainish books and short stories about 9-10 years ago. I went with publication order and that worked pretty well. I don't think there is any danger in reading in the internal chronology though as most every book and story is stand-alone, (the short stories that relate to each other tend to be found in the same collections so reading them in the correct order is no hardship). Internal chronology starts with The Dispossessed, while publication order begins with Rocannon's World, and that actually starts with the short story, Semley's Necklace. I hope YouKneek's copy of Worlds of Exile and Illusion includes that story.

Last year, I bought the Library of America Hainish collection. It's a really nice 2-volume box set in hardback. I plan to re-read in chronological order soon. My favorite novel on initial read was City of Illusions. We'll see if that holds true when I get around to the re-read.

37YouKneeK
maj 7, 5:28pm

>31 Busifer: Haha, I agree about the time period and context having a big impact on how one receives a book. I often feel like my appreciation for older books is less than it would be if I’d read it when its message and/or its plot tropes were less familiar to me. Which isn't to say that I'll necessarily dislike the book, just that it won't be as impactful as it might have been otherwise.

>36 ScoLgo: I haven’t had a chance to start it yet, but I just checked and the beginning of Rocannon’s World starts with “PROLOGUE: The Necklace”, so hopefully that’s the story in question.

I’ve been looking forward to trying the Hainish Cycle, if only to finally know what everybody is talking about when I see it mentioned so often. :) I enjoyed all the Earthsea books, but wasn’t as crazy for The Lathe of Heaven. I loved the ideas behind that story but didn’t care for the execution.

I have Worlds of Exile and Illusion, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Word for World is Forest, and The Dispossessed on my Kindle already, so I’ll likely read at least that far unless I really dislike them, then I’ll decide if I want to keep going to the end.

38quondame
maj 7, 5:39pm

>36 ScoLgo: >37 YouKneeK: My favorite of the Hainish Cyle is the novella/novellette Fisherman of the Inland Sea from the collection of the same name. That story just sticks with me.

39YouKneeK
maj 7, 5:48pm

>38 quondame: I have that collection tentatively on my list, but it isn’t available on Kindle in the US. My library system does have a couple copies of it at a non-local branch, so if it’s still available when I get closer to that point I may try to request it.

At least with your comment I’ll now have some motivation to make the attempt. It will also be you I blame if and when I'm hunched over a physical book with pages that refuse to light up so I can see properly, and words that don't do anything when I poke at them. ;)

40BookstoogeLT
maj 7, 6:51pm

>30 YouKneeK: I obviously enjoyed this more than you did :-)
Considering my lack of love for most of his "comedies" though, anything that got a laugh out of me was miles above the rest.

Now, the histories. Those are good!

41quondame
maj 7, 7:03pm

>39 YouKneeK: It's one of the paperbacks on my comfort shelf - a 6' double stacked Ikea job, which is mostly filled with re-re-rereads.

42ScoLgo
maj 7, 7:29pm

>37 YouKneeK: Yes, that's the one. That particular story has had the title changed at least three times. My LoA edition lists it as The Necklace while both The Wind's Twelve Quarters and Outer Space, Inner Lands have it as Semley's Necklace. The original title was The Dowry of Angyar. Either way, it's the same story and kicks off the entire Hain/Ekumen 'universe'.

>38 quondame: Yes, that's a good one. The others that have stuck with me are The Day Before the Revolution and Old Music and the Slave Women.

43quondame
maj 7, 8:17pm

>42 ScoLgo: The Day Before the Revolution, which I just re-read courtesy of The Anarchist's Library wasn't one the stuck, and I'm pretty sure it won't. It's more of a mood piece without the event and twist that catches my mechanisms of memory. I do remember Old Music and the Slave Women. Sometimes when I get a foot spasm I'm reminded of it.

44YouKneeK
maj 7, 8:17pm

>40 BookstoogeLT: I’m not even exactly sure why I didn’t find that one more funny than I did. Maybe if I’d read it on a different week, I would have been more entertained. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with this past week, but work is still busy and I’m feeling short of free time, so maybe I was too impatient for reading pure silliness. I had remembered seeing that you enjoyed the histories, so I’m curious to try them.

>41 quondame: Even though I rarely re-read and I mostly only read e-books, I still love the idea of your comfort shelf.

>42 ScoLgo: Great, I’m glad I won’t be missing out on a key piece of things from the beginning! Thanks for letting me know to watch for it.

45quondame
maj 7, 8:22pm

>44 YouKneeK: I go there when I need distracting perils which WILL BE SURMOUNTED.

46ScoLgo
maj 7, 10:42pm

>43 quondame: "Sometimes when I get a foot spasm I'm reminded of it."

LOL!! (Sorry, I meant... O_o)

47Busifer
maj 8, 5:51am

>36 ScoLgo: Oh, I've read them all, plus all the short stories, some of them several time. UKL was one of my first "read everything that she's written" authors, ever since I first encountered her works when I was about 12 yo.
That changed with the series Annals of the Western shore, though, starting with Gifts and ending with Powers. After that I entirely lost my will to reread anything by her, for a long time. Checking the records I see that I haven't read anything of hers since The other wind, when it was published, in 2008, even as I kept getting her books on publication. Lavinia has spent 11 years in my TBR pile...

48quondame
maj 8, 4:47pm

>47 Busifer: I know there are some of her more recent non-sf books I've missed and was surprised to run across Always Coming Home in the possessions of my deceased sister-in-law when we were staying at my younger brother's Silver Spring condo almost a decade ago. But in general, if I knew it existed I got it and read it. Some of her books I didn't take to at first and a few I haven't got any enthusiasm for, but she is still among my all time favorite writers.

49YouKneeK
maj 8, 5:15pm

As I sit here watching my cat knock off every new object I had just sat on top of my desk a couple minutes ago, I find myself wondering how the inhabitants of Discworld managed to avoid the inevitable issues involving a flat world that contained cats.


50Narilka
maj 8, 6:26pm

haha so true!

51Busifer
maj 9, 4:56am

>48 quondame: She's definitely one of my favourite authors, even as I've not read her for a decade.

>49 YouKneeK: Very true!

52reading_fox
maj 9, 6:09am

I've liked a lot of ULG but certainly not everything. Some of her more famous works are not good books, IMHO, even if the ideas contained were ground-breaking at the time, by today's standards they are pedestrian and some of the plots/characters are very focused on making the ooint, so the whole thing comes off as over-worked. I liked Worlds, but found both LHoD and Dispossessed as too slow.

53YouKneeK
maj 9, 2:24pm

I’m enjoying Worlds of Exile and Illusion quite a bit so far, although my progress is (as usual lately) slow. I’m approaching the end of the first of the three stories, Rocannon’s World.

I have put a decent amount of time into my cross-stitching this past week, so my progress on the Theft of Swords audiobook has been a little better. I’m enjoying this one too, although it took a while to grow on me and I have a few complaints. The characters are great fun, though. I’ll write more about it whenever I finish the whole audiobook and write up a review. I’ve listened to 10 out of 22.5 hours. I think I’m probably really close to the end of the first story.

Earlier today I finished the third square in the cross-stitch I’ve been working on. There are a total of six squares, so I’m halfway done. I’ve only posted pictures of the individual squares before, so below is a picture of them all together. My “crazy” project is still moving along also. It takes a long time for significant progress to show up due to its size, so I haven’t bothered to post any photos here. I’m still throwing an updated picture of both projects up onto my Milanote board by each Sunday night.

54MrsLee
maj 9, 5:01pm

>53 YouKneeK: Just lovely! Like a walk in the garden.

55quondame
maj 9, 5:54pm

>53 YouKneeK: Very pretty. I admit I'm more taken by the borders than the main squares, but I do love vine patterns.

56Narilka
maj 9, 6:27pm

>53 YouKneeK: So pretty! It's coming along nicely :)

57YouKneeK
maj 9, 7:38pm

>54 MrsLee:, >55 quondame:, >56 Narilka: Thank you!

>55 quondame: The designer (Teresa Wentzler) often includes interesting borders in her designs. This is probably one of the simpler ones, actually. I really like the look of the border, but by this point I’m getting tired of stitching it! It’s repetitive, which makes it a bit boring, yet at the same time it requires more concentration to get everything positioned correctly and so I have to pause (or rewind) my audiobook more often.

58MrsLee
maj 9, 10:29pm

I've just been reading about the "tapestry" (or embroidery if you are a purist) of Bayeux. It is something like 230 feet long, and 20" high. Telling a long tale of conquest. I can't even imagine a project that big. Even your six squares is daunting to me. I can see how audio books would help though.

59YouKneeK
maj 10, 6:53am

>58 MrsLee: Wow, I can't fathom working on something that large either. Do you know if it was a multi-generational project? I guess the person/people who worked on it may have had far fewer demands on their time than I do, but it's hard to imagine completing something that large in a single lifetime even if it was all I worked on!

60Maddz
maj 10, 2:22pm

Re the Bayeux tapestry, it's a type of crewel-work, mostly woolen yarn. From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayeux_Tapestry.

We did a short trip to Normandy before my mother's dementia kicked in (must have been in the early oughties). and visited the tapestry. From what I recall, it was likely stitched in England by professional embroideresses (Opus Anglicanum was famed across Europe). It was a group effort not a single person.

61YouKneeK
maj 10, 4:56pm

>60 Maddz: That would be really interesting to see in person. A group effort makes sense, thanks for that explanation.

62clamairy
maj 15, 8:20am

>53 YouKneeK: This is gorgeous. You must be very pleased with the results so far. And you should be! Are you still listening to audiobooks while stitching? I've been knitting just to give my hands something to do besides grab my phone or tablet while I'm watching TV.

63YouKneeK
maj 15, 10:12am

>62 clamairy: Thank you! Yes, I’m still listening to audiobooks while stitching.

I’m impressed that you can knit while watching TV! I’ve seen people talk about cross-stitching while watching TV also, but I don’t think I could do it. I think I’d end up with a mess in my cross-stitch while at the same time being frustrated by not seeing everything on the TV. I’m not the world’s greatest multi-tasker, though. I like to give a single thing my full concentration and tend to get annoyed by distractions or interruptions, so I’ve been surprised by how well the cross-stitching and audiobook combination is working out.

64YouKneeK
maj 18, 3:30pm

Audiobook Review: Theft of Swords by Michael Sullivan



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Tim Gerard Reynolds. I had some minor complaints, but he was a pretty good narrator. He didn’t seem to have quite as wide a range of voices as some narrators do, so some characters were difficult for me to distinguish, but the main ones were recognizable enough after I’d been listening a while.

I felt like his narration over-emphasized the traditional character archetypes that the book is populated with. I’m not sure how much of that impression came from the text and how much from the narration, but I think the two combined together to make it feel like a really old-school fantasy. This was especially noticeable with the antagonist characters, for whom you could practically hear all the moustaches twirling. As with other audiobooks, the effect faded after several hours of listening and I didn’t notice it as much, but there were quite a few eye rolls in the early hours.

Story
Theft of Swords is an omnibus of what was originally two separate but related books: The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha. The main characters are Royce, an exceptionally skilled thief, and Hadrian, an exceptionally skilled fighter. Together they take on difficult jobs for whoever will pay them. The jobs they take on in this omnibus, both of which involve two different swords, get them into an exceptional amount of trouble.

For me, the character banter was the best part. Royce and Hadrian are especially great fun and grew on me quite a lot throughout the audiobook. Some of the secondary characters were fun too, but more so in the first book than the second. The characters were pretty generic though, and the story didn’t feel very unique. The first book was originally published in 2008, but it felt more like something from the 80’s or 90’s by its tone and in the way it pulled together a lot of classic epic fantasy elements and archetypes.

Some aspects of the story and some of the character backgrounds were a bit difficult to believe, even within the context of a fantasy world. The main characters seemed remarkably ignorant about their world in order to allow other characters to explain things to them for the benefit of the reader. There were also some things that were over-telegraphed. I mean, obviously the author really, really, really wanted us to know that Royce has Elvish blood. I got the hint bright and early in the first book, so I didn’t need all 500+ subsequent hints. (500 may be an exaggeration. Then again, it may not be!) The Hadrian hints got a bit blatant in the second book too. When hints are more subtle, then either I can feel smart when the official revelation proves my suspicions correct, or I can enjoy being surprised. When the hints are too blatant, especially if they come up frequently, it just gets a little exasperating. The first book wraps up pretty nicely, but the second book left more plot threads dangling than I would have preferred.

So, will I come back to this series someday? Probably. The main characters’ dialogue made me smile a lot, and I would hope the author’s writing has improved with subsequent books. I suspect I would have enjoyed this more in print where I could have put my own spin on how I read it. If nothing else, I probably would have managed to read the villains’ parts with less of a moustache-twirling tone. I’m rating this at 3.5 stars. I had trouble deciding whether to round up or down, but I decided to round down. I did enjoy it quite a lot, but the writing also has a lot of room for improvement and I wasn’t as immersed in the story as I wanted to be because of some of the issues I described above.

Next Audiobook
Soulless by Gail Carriger. I don’t know much about this series, but I’ve never really had the impression that it would be up my alley. However, I’ve seen several favorable reviews of it lately and I have the audiobook, so I’ve decided now’s the time to give it a try.

65Narilka
maj 18, 8:59pm

>64 YouKneeK: I finished the Riyria series this weekend, though still need to write my final review. While I do think Sullivan grows as a writer as he goes, the rest of the books keeps the same consistency for the most part, especially the mustach twirling villains.

Good luck with Soulless. It's going to be an interesting experiment. It borders UF/PNR which I can't say I remember you reading/reviewing much.

66quondame
maj 18, 10:27pm

>65 Narilka: Borders, or is right in the center of? Also steampunk.

67YouKneeK
maj 19, 6:11am

>65 Narilka: Haha, that’s helpful to know, thanks. I guess whenever I decide to come back to the Sullivan books in print, I’ll need to make sure to save them for the right mood.

I’m definitely getting the PNR vibes on Soulless. I like the audiobook narrator so far though, and the story is pretty funny, so it may work out as a good audio choice if the romance aspect doesn’t become too tiresome. I listened to about 2 hours of it yesterday, thanks to being on vacation.

>66 quondame: I did see (or hear) the steampunk elements also. In general, I do ok with steampunk. Cyberpunk is the ‘punk’ I have more trouble with.

68Narilka
maj 19, 10:29am

>66 quondame: For Soulless, I'd say its in the center. The romance picks up through the series for sure.

69BookstoogeLT
maj 20, 4:26am

>64 YouKneeK: Seconding what narilka said, the tone stays the same for the whole series. So if it was an issue for this volume, keep that in mind for the other 2.

I do wonder how things work with these omnibus vs the individual books. Next time I read this series I'm going to read the 2 in 1 volumes and see if makes a difference.

70YouKneeK
maj 20, 7:00am

>69 BookstoogeLT: Thanks for that confirmation. I think I’ll enjoy reading the rest of the series someday, but it will help to be prepared. I definitely won't pick them back up during a time when I'm craving depth and nuance!

I’m not 100% sure, but my impression is that each of the two books were just combined into one without any additional editing. If there were any author's notes explaining it though, they weren't read in the audiobook.

Do you have reviews up for them? I checked under the first two individual books but didn’t see you there.

71YouKneeK
maj 20, 8:06am

Review: Worlds of Exile and Illusion by Ursula K. Le Guin



Worlds of Exile and Illusion is an omnibus of three different stories set in the Hainish Cycle: Rocannon’s World, Planet of Exile, and City of Illusions. I decided to work through the series in more-or-less publication order, which is my usual preference, and these three were published first. The stories each stand alone, but each has some connection with the story that came before it.

All three stories focus on a different person or group of people stuck on a planet that is not their home, facing some sort of adversity. I enjoyed them pretty well. It’s been several years since I’ve read any Le Guin, but she had a great ability to create interesting settings and stories. Her characters are often interesting to read about too, although some work for me better than others.

Of the three stories, I think I liked City of Illusions the best. The story starts with a man stumbling out of the forest, incapable of speech, knowing and remembering nothing. I enjoyed the mystery of speculating where he came from and what happened to him, and seeing where his adventures took him. I did enjoy Rocannon’s World quite a lot, and that actually may be the one that held my attention the most consistently while I was reading it, but there was a bit too much bittersweet for me between favorite characters dying and characters managing to accomplish an objective only to realize that their whole purpose for that objective had been lost. The middle story, Planet of Exile, didn’t do much for me and it took me quite a while to get through that one.

My interest fluctuated while I read though the omnibus, and I often found it easy to put down, although at other times it held my attention fully. Part of it was probably just lack of reading time and/or the distraction of other activities I needed or wanted to spend some time on. I don’t have anything tangible to complain about, except that the endings were a bit too open-ended for my tastes. Each one left me unsatisfied as I wondered, “but what happens next?” The 2nd and 3rd stories do give some hints to that for the previous stories, but nothing very substantial.

I’m going to rate this at 3.5 stars, but I’m rounding down to 3 on Goodreads.

Next Book
The Left Hand of Darkness, the next book published in the above series.

72ScoLgo
maj 20, 10:03am

>71 YouKneeK: Out of all the Hainish novels, City of Illusions was my favorite. In addition to the initial mystery surrounding Falk, what really worked for me was the reason for his condition, (I don't mean what caused it, but rather why Le Guin created his character in the first place). That reason being to explore the concept of, 'what is truth, and how does one recognize it amongst all the lies'? Today, being bombarded with misinformation, that is an issue that currently faces us all - which makes that particular novel, (published in 1967), all the more prescient. Another thing I enjoyed about the book was figuring out which planet Falk was traveling across.

73YouKneeK
maj 20, 4:58pm

>72 ScoLgo: The constant doubt about who he could trust and what to believe was a big part of what kept the story interesting for me. I also really liked that Falk stubbornly chose to stick with honesty himself while being bombarded with lies. I don’t really consider exploration of the impact of propaganda and misinformation on society to be very prescient on the part of an author writing in the 1960's, though.

74quondame
maj 20, 5:30pm

>73 YouKneeK: Le Guin was very conscious of propaganda and other quirks of the years she grew up, like blacklisting. During the late 40s and 50s there was a strong if not predominate strain the ills of conformity and materialism as well, with not as much boy-do-we-have-it-good as good old days nostalgia would have it.

75clamairy
Redigerat: maj 20, 7:42pm

>63 YouKneeK: I can only knit if it's something that doesn't require my full attention or eyeballs. If I'm really engrossed the knitting goes away. I can't knit a stitch during Mare of Easttown, but I can knit during the new series they made out of Shadow & Bone, unless something really monumental is happening.

I hope you enjoy The Left Hand of Darkness. It's been over a decade for me. I just remember thinking the book must have been considered ground breaking at the time she wrote it.

76BookstoogeLT
maj 20, 8:32pm

>70 YouKneeK: I read and reviewed them in '10-12. I went and looked and they are in my calibre library (which I created by exporting my LT data back whenever) and on my blog. But you are correct, they are not here any more. I looked at my numbers in Calibre and there is about a 350 book discrepancy. So somehow or other (I know about 50-60 of them are because I got tired one year of crossposting) 350 books/reviews of mine are missing from LT.

https://bookstooge.com/2010/06/01/the-crown-conspiracy-riyria-revelations-1/
https://bookstooge.com/2010/07/24/avempartha-riyria-revelations-2/

Pretty sparse, even for me :-)

77YouKneeK
maj 20, 9:55pm

>74 quondame: Yeah, she would have had plenty of examples from current and past world events at the time she wrote it without having to peer into the future. It’s great (or maybe not, depending on how you look at it) that so many classic science fiction works still feel relevant to us in our current time, though.

>75 clamairy: That makes sense about the TV attention requirement level. Regarding The Left Hand of Darkness, I’ve barely made a dent in it today, just 20 pages or so, but I can see already how it would have been considered groundbreaking at the time. It seems interesting so far, but it’s too soon to tell. I hope to fit more in before I go to sleep tonight.

>76 BookstoogeLT: Thanks for the links! That’s odd about the disappearing act your books are playing. I double checked my counts and they’re fine, exactly what I would expect them to be.

78YouKneeK
maj 21, 1:21pm

Audiobook Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. What I didn’t know at the time I started was that it’s a paranormal romance. Oops, well, it’s good to expand one’s horizons, I guess!

Audio Narration
The narrator is Emily Gray and I really liked her. Her British accent was perfect for a story set in Victorian-era London, and her manner of reading it added more humor to the story than I think I would have gotten out of it in print. There was an American character whom she voiced as if he were a robot but, other than that, I had no complaints. I think this was a rare case (for me) where the audiobook format enhanced the reading experience rather than detracting from it.

Story
As I mentioned above, the story is set in Victorian-era London. The supernatural are real, and are an integrated part of society. This includes vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, all of whom manage to become supernatural upon their death due to having a large amount of soul. On the other hand, there are rare preternatural people like our main character, Alexia, who are born without any soul at all. These people can neutralize supernatural powers.

Did I mention this was a paranormal romance? Here is a precise and carefully-measured break-down of the contents of this story:
* 60% romance, if you include the extensive amount of time in the early chapters where the characters pretend they dislike each other.
* 25% musings on fashion, manners, and meals.
* 15% plot.

This book is full of clichés. The enemies-to-lovers cliché. The only-female-in-all-of-Victorian-era-London-who-has-a-brain-and-a-spunky-attitude cliché. The highly-eligible-bachelor-who-is-(almost)-the-only-guy-in-the-vicinity-who-happens-to-like-spunky-girls-who-can-think cliché. The extended-erotic-scene-in-the-middle-of-imminent-danger cliché. And other things that I suspect were paranormal romance clichés, but I don’t have enough experience to say for sure.

But it was fun. Really, I enjoyed this quite a bit more than I would have expected if I’d known what I was getting into, and I suspect a lot of the credit goes to the audiobook narrator. The main character, Alexia, may by the stereotypical spunky-and-intelligent heroine, but she was fun. The other main characters were interesting and lively too. The story, what little there was of it, was interesting, and I enjoyed the setting. I haven’t read many urban fantasies where the general public are actually aware of the supernatural, so that was a nice change of pace versus all the time spent trying to cover things up or explain the "real" nature of the world to confused characters. I mainly got annoyed with the more extensive romantic scenes that seemed to go on forever, bringing the story to a screeching halt, and often in less-than-believable circumstances.

Nevertheless, even though I enjoyed it more than I would have expected, I probably won’t continue the series. If I ever do, it would likely only be in the audio format. I think most of my enjoyment came from this being an unexpected change of pace with a lot of humor, and I suspect I would soon get tired of it with much more exposure. (“Exposure” being a word you could interpret in multiple ways in this instance.) As seems to be my pattern lately, I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding down to 3 on Goodreads.

Next Book
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I understand there’s an earlier trilogy that I should probably read first, but this is the book on the list I’m working through and it’s also the one I already have in audio. If I do enjoy it enough that I want to read it in print, then I’ll start with the first series at that time. That would probably be in the distant future, by which time I’ll likely have forgotten most of this story anyway.

79Karlstar
maj 21, 4:46pm

>76 BookstoogeLT: What, missing books from LT? I've stumbled across a couple of those myself recently. I've given up trying to explain how or why, I just add them in again.

80clamairy
maj 21, 5:16pm

>78 YouKneeK: I read the Six of Crows duology before the Shadow and Bone series. You'll be fine. I'm fact S&B is more YA than the other books. Hope you enjoy it.

81YouKneeK
maj 21, 5:37pm

>80 clamairy: Great to know, thanks! I enjoyed my first 90 minutes or so of listening. This one has 7 different narrators. I think there are things I both like and dislike about that approach, but I don’t have any complaints about any of the narrators I’ve heard so far.

82BookstoogeLT
Redigerat: maj 21, 7:11pm

>79 Karlstar: Ha, I thought of you when I found the discrepancy. At over 300, I simply don't care any more. Now that my calibre library is up to date and backed up, I don't really care about online backups like LT any more...

83-pilgrim-
maj 22, 10:15am

>79 Karlstar:, >82 BookstoogeLT: You two are worrying me. LT is the only record I have of my holdings, which are in multiple physical locations, several of which I cannot currently access.

84clamairy
maj 22, 11:35am

>83 -pilgrim-: For a while, once every six months or so, I would export the data for my library and save it as both a spreadsheet file and a text file. Then I skipped a few years, but have started doing it again. I imagine if I lose stuff I can go back and examine the old data and see if it was ever in there to begin with. I haven't tried it yet. I'm 99.9% I've lost a few books over the years, but never a giant chunk of them.

85Narilka
maj 22, 3:11pm

>78 YouKneeK: Great review. I enjoyed Carriger's sly wit for Alexia. The romance is definitely a major part of the rest of the series if that helps you at all.

>80 clamairy: What she said. I read the duology first too and it was just fine. It doesn't spoil Shadow and Bone at all either if you were ever interested in trying it.

86Karlstar
maj 22, 4:32pm

>84 clamairy: I've never noticed large chunks of missing books, just annoying instances of single missing books. A couple of weeks ago it was a missing Iain Banks, this week it was a missing Doc Smith. Back in February it was a G. G. Kay. Eventually I notice and add them back in.

87YouKneeK
maj 22, 8:14pm

>85 Narilka: Thanks! That feedback helps a lot for both series. I’ve listened to about a third of Six of Crows now. At this point I’m pretty sure this will go on my “yes” list for following up on in print in the future.

>86 Karlstar: I would think LT staff ought to be able to troubleshoot something like that if it’s reported soon enough after it happens, with specific details about the record lost and the time frame during which it happened. Unless you've already searched the Bug Reports group and people have already reported the issue with the necessary troubleshooting details and no action has been taken?

If it were happening to me, I’d make an occasional library export for later comparisons, then do a daily validation of my current “All Collections” count which would only take a second. The day I noticed it was off, I’d run another LT export and run a vlookup between the two to see which record(s) were lost. Then I'd report the relevant details about the record and the time period within which it vanished.

88reading_fox
Redigerat: maj 23, 6:21am

Please raise a bug-collectors issue for anything you think has dropped/not saved etc. ofttimes TIM can go back through logs and find out what's happened reinstate etc. Especially if you have precise dates. He takes data curation very seriously! I don't think he can do anything about human error, not actually pressing 'save' etc which I'm certainly occasionally guilty of.

I think I enjoyed Six of Crows more than either the earlier books or the later ones in the series.

89Karlstar
maj 23, 10:36am

>87 YouKneeK: What was missing there was the export, so my reports had only my recollection for evidence. I'll do an export and be more diligent. I've seen the problem reported before.

90YouKneeK
maj 23, 3:38pm

Here’s a 31-second video of my cat Ernest encountering a toy that was a bit too exciting for him.

91Maddz
Redigerat: maj 23, 4:22pm

Eek! It flapped at me! Mommy!

Reminds me of the USB tentacle I have...

92YouKneeK
Redigerat: maj 23, 6:20pm

>91 Maddz: LOL, he’s definitely not used to toys that flap! It occurred to me the other day that I hadn’t introduced any new toys lately, and I was feeling tired of the same old types of cat toys myself, so I decided to try a couple new things on him. For my own entertainment, if not his. ;) The other toy was a better hit, so I might share a video of that later. The video I took of the other one is long with periods of inactivity, so I need to edit it down to just the entertaining parts or get a shorter one.

Is the USB tentacle intended to startle creatures of the two-legged variety? Come to think of it, the fish might be entertaining to put on a co-worker's desk. It's hard not to set it off when you pick it up, so the unsuspecting human would likely pick it up and be startled when it started flapping.

93clamairy
maj 23, 7:39pm

>90 YouKneeK: That's just adorable. I am looking into a remote controlled mouse for my Belle. Can you recommend one? I'm getting tired of wielding the fishing poles and the long sticks with feathers on the end. I did get a laser pointer but I use it sparingly so she doesn't get too frustrated.

94Narilka
maj 23, 8:40pm

>90 YouKneeK: The look on Ernest's face at the end is priceless LOL

95YouKneeK
maj 23, 9:18pm

>93 clamairy: We have a crazy amount of fishing-pole style toys here. He enjoys them, but they get boring for the human after the newness wears off. Then he goes into strategic mode with them and it takes a ton of swishing and twitching and hiding of the toy before the running and leaping happens. I haven’t tried a remote-controlled mouse, but that sounds like a fun idea! I’d love to hear how it works out if you try one.

The other toy I bought him may meet a similar need, it’s sort of like a tiny fishing pole on robotic big wheels? If left to its own schedule, it operates for 10 minutes then shuts off automatically and starts back up automatically after another 90 minutes, unless you manually turn it on/off. He likes this one much better and follows it around for most of the 10 minutes, staring at it intently and/or playing with it more actively. I just finished editing down the video of his first experience with it. I still need to put it on YouTube, but I’ll do that shortly and then come back and post a link.

>94 Narilka: LOL, it’s amazing how expressive cats can be with the looks they give us!

96YouKneeK
maj 23, 9:34pm

Ok, here’s the video of the other toy. This one is longer at 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Once it starts feeling repetitive, you can safely stop watching it early without missing anything earth shattering.

Here’s the US Amazon link to the product I bought in case anybody is interested in trying it on their cat. I can share the fish link too, but I figure nobody wants to subject their poor furry friends to that travesty. ;) This one does tend to get itself up against the wall or furniture and smack it over and over. It doesn’t seem to be doing any damage here, but maybe something to keep in mind.

97tardis
maj 23, 10:24pm

That fish video is hilarious. I wonder how long the novelty would last with Newt? I got him a ball that randomly rolls around and has flashing lights, and we do use it sparingly. He watches it carefully but doesn't actually play with it.

98NorthernStar
maj 24, 1:04am

Both of those are great, but I love Ernest's expression after the fish encounter!

99Maddz
Redigerat: maj 24, 1:16am

>92 YouKneeK: Well, I was banned from taking it into work... Mind you, I was also banned from taking my plush tentacle into work as well (apart from the day it spent in a carrier bag because I was attending a convention across the road that evening and I was cycling to work at that point).

It's this - https://www.amazon.com/usb-squirming-tentacle/dp/B00B3YKWQO/

100Busifer
maj 24, 3:46am

>99 Maddz: For what it's worth I think the squirming tentacle is cute :)
I'd consider getting one, if it was still available, just for the fun of it!

101YouKneeK
maj 24, 6:37am

>97 tardis:, >98 NorthernStar: Ernest is happy he’s had another chance to share his antics with the world at large. ;)

>97 tardis: The flashing ball sounds like it could be fun! I guess as long as a toy holds their interest, it still has some entertainment value for them even when they don’t actively play with it. In the end I think Ernest gets more enjoyment out of the simple fuzzy mice and foam balls we have everywhere, but he only plays with them sporadically now.

>99 Maddz: Haha, I can see where that could cause some entertainment in the office!

102Maddz
maj 24, 8:34am

>100 Busifer: Mine wasn't one of the very active ones - it gave the odd twitch every so often rather than squirming all the the time. It may have been an underpowered USB port; if I dig it out I can try it on a high-powered port.

>101 YouKneeK: I was considering keeping it in the office to make sure I didn't have the hassle of evicting people from 'my' workstation. I had several bits of specialist software installed which weren't available on the generic machines. However, after the first few times I had to do that, IT allowed us to mark the specialist machines and people were told not to use them at all unless we were on leave.

Re the fish toy, if Ernest looses interest, you could try dabbing a bit of nam pla on it...

103YouKneeK
maj 24, 5:42pm

>102 Maddz: LOL, I’d actually never heard of nam pla, but Google informs me it’s some sort of Thai fish sauce, so that seems appropriate!

I’ve likely had it at restaurants and just didn’t know what it was. I don’t go out to eat often, but Thai and Indian are the most popular restaurant choices among my colleagues, so those are the restaurants I end up at the most often. I enjoy both types of food, I’m just more in favor of quick meals eaten at the computer on my own time versus lengthy meals that have to be coordinated with other people.

104Maddz
maj 24, 11:36pm

>103 YouKneeK: I generally have a bottle in the house to add umami flavour to cooking or as a sort of substitute for garum or liquamen if I'm recreating a dish from Apicius. It's not really a condiment as such.

105Busifer
maj 25, 3:25am

>104 Maddz: Yes, I've never used it as a condiment but often enough when cooking especially Thai but also Vietnamese.
Pretty sure any cat would say "eww" to it, though, even if it's made from fermented fish ;-)
(I've had colleagues who are vegan go crazy at even the slightest suggestion of south-east Asian food for lunch, so have been made very aware of what it's made from, lol...)

106fuzzi
maj 25, 7:07pm

>90 YouKneeK: bwahaha! Laugh-out-loud funny!

107YouKneeK
maj 25, 7:47pm

>106 fuzzi: Haha, I'm happy to have had the chance to share his antics.

I've watched the video a few more times, and Ernest is usually nearby and hears the sound of that stupid fish in the video and I swear he glares at me.

108Karlstar
maj 25, 10:45pm

>107 YouKneeK: What are you going to do with the fish now? I was considering trying that fishing pole on wheels toy for our older cat, she got bored with the fishing pole toys and most other toys, too. Our younger cat enjoys one of those toys that a feathered thing pops out of a random hole, she can stare at that for minutes at a time.

109YouKneeK
maj 26, 6:52am

>108 Karlstar: For now it’s still laying in the middle of the floor in case he gets curious and decides to start playing with it. It happens sometimes, but I’m pretty sure it won’t this time. He just ignores it. In a couple weeks or so, it will end up in the donation pile. Although I’m not sure if it’s a very nice thing to do, inflicting that on some other cat. ;D

I’d love to hear how your cats react to the fishing pole on wheels if you try it. Yesterday I turned it on after I woke up and left it alone until I finished working, so that it kept activating automatically every 90 minutes throughout the day. I put it in another room so it wouldn't disturb me while I was working or having conference calls, so I didn't usually see what was going on, but I occasionally went in to peek. Ernest was usually in the office with me when it started running again, and he always trotted off when we heard it. I never saw him actively playing with it, but whenever I went to see what was going on he was watching it intently. After I turned it off and put it up, he seemed to be looking for it.

110Maddz
maj 26, 7:39am

>109 YouKneeK: I wonder how he would get on with a clockwork toy my sister and I had. It was called a 'Spinning Devil' and was basically a flattened ovoid body with 2 long legs set about 2/3rd of the way along the body. You wound it up, holding the legs and body, put it on the floor and let go...

My mother hated it - we used to let it go on the landing, and she would see the black thing zooming along and think it was a mouse.

111YouKneeK
maj 26, 5:05pm

>110 Maddz: Haha, that sounds like it would provide at least some entertainment for both the human and the cat in this particular household.

112YouKneeK
maj 27, 9:02pm

Audiobook Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. Since starting this process this year, this is the first audiobook where it’s a little painful to cut myself off after the first book in the series. This is a most definite “YES” as far as whether I’ll follow up on it in print someday.

Audio Narration
This audiobook has seven narrators, one for each POV character. Two of them only narrated the beginning and the end, while the other 5 narrated the chapters written from the POV of one of the 5 recurring characters. I have no idea which narrator went with which character, but each of them did a pretty good job. Some distinguished character voices a little better than others. I was partial to the narrators whose characters I enjoyed the most -- Kaz and Inej.

At first I thought it would be kind of nice to have different narrators, but I didn’t really care for the approach after all. Each of the 5 main POV characters were often together in the same scenes, hanging out with the same group of characters. This meant there were 5 different narrators voicing all the same characters in different ways. It was a little jarring, and I might have been more annoyed by it if I hadn’t enjoyed the story so much.

Story
The story focuses on teenagers in a gang in the streets of a city in a fictional world. They agree to a very dangerous heist-type job and the largest portion of the story revolves around preparing for and undertaking that mission with some backstory for the characters interspersed throughout. The end has a pretty big cliff hanger, although the main part of the story that drove the action in this book is more-or-less wrapped up.

I really enjoyed this. It isn’t perfect, but it held my attention completely while I was listening and it had me thinking about it in-between listening sessions. Although the characters are all teenagers, I didn’t really get a young adult vibe while listening to it. Maybe that was partly influenced by the narrators not sounding at all like teenagers to me. It’s a bit full of tropes when I think about it, but I guess it had all the ones that work for me and I thought it was written well.

For example, the main characters are all damaged people with traumatic histories, and although most of them have done terrible things, they all have their own code of honor and sense of right and wrong. It should have been a bit much, maybe felt too melodramatic, but I was pretty attached to the characters. There’s also a lot of pairing off, more than I would normally enjoy in a book. One of the pairings (Nina and Matthias) did make me roll my eyes, but I was surprisingly invested in one of the others (Kaz and Inej). The third kinda/sorta romance (Jesper and Wylan) had very little page time so, even though it had a hint of instalove and a definite lack of development, it didn’t come up often enough to bug me. I didn’t feel like the romances dominated the story, but they do come up quite a bit, especially the first pairing which got on my nerves sometimes.

The world-building felt solid, the magic was interesting, the characters were likeable, and the story held my interest and occasionally dragged me to the edge of my seat. It gets a little dark, especially with the back stories, but I didn’t think it was brutally dark and there are bits of humor in the dialogue that help lighten things up. If I’d read this in print, I likely would have rated it at least 4.5 stars. As an audiobook, it was a solid 4 stars and I’ll very much look forward to revisiting it in print someday. There’s another trilogy written and set prior to this series, so I’ll likely start (or restart) with that since I normally prefer to go in publication order. I never felt like I was missing out on anything by starting with this one, though.

Next Audiobook
A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab.

I’m also really close to finishing my print book, The Left Hand of Darkness. I have a good chance of finishing it tonight before bed, but I doubt I’ll get the review up until tomorrow.

113Narilka
maj 27, 10:01pm

>112 YouKneeK: I read that one the normal way. All those narrators make audio sound fun. I liked the second book more than the first :) Hope you continue that one soon.

114YouKneeK
maj 28, 6:14am

>113 Narilka: I initially liked the idea of multiple narrators, but hearing the same characters voiced different ways bugged me. I’ve decided I prefer the more standard, single-narrator style.

Great to know you liked the second book even better! It will probably be quite a while until I get to it, as much as I’d like to read it now. I’ve read that the author plans to add a 3rd book to this subseries eventually.

115YouKneeK
Redigerat: maj 28, 3:43pm

Book Review: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin



The Left Hand of Darkness is the first full-length novel published in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. The majority of the book is told from the perspective of Genly Ai, an ambassador by himself on an alien planet called Winter, trying to make contact and forge a connection with its people so that he can bring them into an alliance with the larger, multi-planet organization he’s a part of.

The world-building was interesting. This is a pretty short book, but it felt like a fully-realized world with its own culture and politics. This is conveyed to the reader without much in the way of infodumps. The people on the planet are similar enough to humans that Genly finds himself making bad assumptions and misreading intentions. There’s a lot here about gender assumptions in particular. The people on Winter are neither male nor female. Once a month they go into “kemmer” where the sexual organs on their bodies change more toward those of either a male or a female. The same person may not always change to the same gender when this happens, it depends partly on the influence of others who are close to them who may also be going through kemmer at the same time. If they become female during their cycle, then they might get pregnant and stay in that state until the child is born and weaned.

I imagine this book might have raised some eyebrows when it was first published in the 60’s. In addition to the more obvious theme of gender stereotypes, there are other deeper themes here as well. It’s a short book with a lot of meat to it. For me, however, I found the first half a little slow. Interesting, but slow. It picked up toward the second half when Estraven started to play a larger role in the story. He was the only character from Winter that we really get to know in any depth, so I think that’s why he interested me more. I really liked him. I liked Genly pretty well too, but his naïveté and his prejudices got on my nerves at times, and I often felt like he needed to go back to ambassador school...

I was sad and mildly annoyed when Estraven was killed off. I did expect it though. As soon as the journal entries from Estraven were inserted into the story, I thought, “Oh no, I bet she killed this character off.” It wasn’t the journal entries by themselves, but that combined with his character type and some light foreshadowing made it seem pretty clear we were headed toward tragic sacrifice territory.

I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding down to 3 on Goodreads. I liked it, and it’s an impressive work, but it just didn’t hold my attention that strongly and my ratings are based more on subjective enjoyment than on objective merit.

Next Book
The Word for World is Forest, the next book published in this series.

116Karlstar
maj 28, 2:49pm

>115 YouKneeK: I think that sums up my thoughts on Left Hand of Darkness. It was ground breaking and exciting when it was written, but not all that exciting these days. Still good, just not fantastic.

117YouKneeK
maj 28, 3:44pm

>116 Karlstar: Le Guin really does have a talent for coming up with creative and interesting worlds, though. I also liked that she didn’t beat the reader over the head with her messages but rather set up the situation and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

I just noticed I forgot to update the pages and publication date in the little graphic for my review in >115 YouKneeK:, so if anybody was really confused by it, sorry. :) It’s fixed now.

118YouKneeK
Redigerat: maj 29, 11:12am

The cat seems to be warming up to the fish. He’s set it off probably 5 or 6 times in the last couple of days. He doesn’t actively play with it, just sets it off and then sits and stares at it.

The human is adjusting to having the fish suddenly start making hideous noises at unexpected times.

Edit: I should add that the fish pole on wheels is surprisingly difficult to plug in for charging. The charging port is recessed enough that I don't think Ernest has damaged it, but it doesn't seem to fit quite right. I suspect this one won't last long.

119clamairy
Redigerat: maj 31, 10:31am

>112 YouKneeK: Glad you liked it, and I think that narration switch-off would drive me nuts. I didn't think this one read like YA despite the ages of the characters. I started watching the TV series which is a combination of all five Grisha-verse books, and the actors all seem to be in their 20s as far as I can tell. The series is not as good as the books so far, but it is very pretty.

120YouKneeK
maj 29, 9:22pm

>119 clamairy: Maybe the years are longer on whatever fantasy world the story is set on, so being 17ish years there is equivalent to being 20ish here on Earth. ;) I can't remember if we were given a name for the world in Six of Crows; I often miss those sorts of details in audiobooks.

I don’t know if you’ve heard this already, but apparently the author plans to come back and write a third book in this Six of Crows subseries. People have said the most recent book she published in the world (Rule of Wolves, from the 3rd subseries) had some setup for it.

121YouKneeK
Redigerat: maj 31, 8:26am

Review: The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin



The Word for World is Forest is another book in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle. This one I believe is set before the stories previously published, because it starts before the invention of the ansible (for instantaneous communication over large interstellar distances) and there’s clearly a much different and less benevolent philosophy toward alien planets and lifeforms. People from Earth have come to a planet that is full of trees, a resource that is no longer available on Earth. They start tearing trees down with a vengeance to send much-needed lumber back home. Meanwhile, they exploit the members of the indigenous people as badly as they exploit the planet.

The POV character in the first chapter, Davidson, is the most horrible, scummy, nasty head you could possibly want to be in. When I first started reading, I couldn’t imagine his POV could sustain an entire novel, even one that’s as short as this one, so I didn't expect his POV to last for the entire book, but I was still relieved when the second chapter started with a different POV character. Davidson is so proud of himself and his own beliefs and "the way he's made" that he’s convinced anybody who disagrees with him is either evil or brainwashed. Yet there is a great deal of underlying fear in his personality. He’s afraid to examine or consider contrary ideas, maybe afraid they would change who he is and he’s so very proud of who he is. His behavior is over the top, especially as the story progresses. He should have felt more like a caricature to me, yet I found him to be a believable villain who seems himself as a hero.

The story held my interest well. As usual, Ursula K. Le Guin has created an interesting world and an interesting alien culture, with some likeable characters that you come to care about. The themes will be extremely familiar for science fiction readers of today, and they’re not even a little bit subtle. I wasn’t that happy with how the story ended. There’s really nothing good or hopeful about the ending. The Athsheans have learned how to murder, and the implication is strong that this new “skill” will infect their own relations with each other even after the humans are gone. The humans who were on the planet don’t seem to have learned much of substance from the experience either. Either they already cared about the indigenous people or they didn’t, and each of them seemed to end up pretty much the same way they started. And once again the author kills off one of the few really likeable characters, Lyubov. :p

I’m rating this at 3.5 stars, rounding down to 3 on Goodreads.

Next Book
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon. I think this will be my first book by Sturgeon. This is the June science fiction selection in the group I’m in on Goodreads and I’ve decided to join in.

122clamairy
maj 31, 10:39am

>120 YouKneeK: Oh, that's good news. Although I wish she'd spend more time on her Alex Stern series. Yeah, the Grishaverse is the fan name for her world, which is pretty much Europe, but with weird borders and spaces that have been damaged by magic. In some countries the Grisha are revered and trained, in others (the equivalent of Russia) they are hunted and executed.

>121 YouKneeK: I think I'll be skipping that one.

123YouKneeK
maj 31, 12:46pm

>122 clamairy: Ah, I got some of the European hints, but thought it was just inspiration and didn’t realize it was supposed to be a sort of alternate Earth. I probably can’t use the alternate year length theory, then!

I was kind of hoping the author would finish up this last Six of Crows book, then move on to unrelated works so I could devour all the Grishaverse books meanwhile. So I think our wishes are fairly compatible and she will surely have no choice but to bow to the power of our combined wishes! :)

124YouKneeK
maj 31, 2:31pm

Audiobook Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Steven Crossley. His regular prose reading was fine, but I didn’t like the voices he used for most of the characters. Kell is 20 or 21 based on the text, but he makes him sound much older. Lila, a girl close to Kell’s age, is voiced like a petulant child. Prince Rhy is almost 20 at the start of the book, and he’s also voiced like a petulant child. This made his scenes with Kell seem really weird since the two characters were about a year apart and Rhy sounded infantile while Kell sounded like his father or something, even though the words themselves portrayed them as close friends. Sometimes Rhy gave Kell advice in that petulant whiny voice, and it just… didn’t work. My brain was constantly fighting against my ears to not be influenced by the narrator’s portrayal of the characters and to just focus on what the words themselves said about the characters.

Story
This is a fantasy story set in Londons. No, that plural was not a typo. There are four different known worlds, all of which happen to have a similar-but-different London. Our main character, Kell, is one of only two known people who can travel between the different worlds. The other main POV character, Lila, is a thief in Gray London, the world where most people don’t know magic exists. The main plot is to take the dangerous ring to Mordor, and to try not to use it too much meanwhile because it’s bad magic. Ok, no, they’re not really taking a ring to Mordor, but it’s dang close.

The setting was unique enough for me to not really be bothered by the derivative plot. This isn’t even a typical alternate reality story, because each world is populated with completely different people and the worlds don’t have much of substance in common. I liked the characters pretty well (when I could ignore the tone the narrator gave them), although they did annoy me at times, and the story held my interest well. I did think there were some contradictory bits in the story, and I’m not sure everything made logical sense. That’s one of the downsides of audiobooks; it’s not as easy to search back to an earlier section and double check things, nor could I highlight something that bugged me so I could take another look at it and reconsider it after finishing the book when I had more context.

I also wished Kell were more competent, but I think part of my problem was that I kept forgetting how young he was. The narrator made him sound older and more experienced than he was. He did still make some annoyingly dumb decisions and he missed planning ahead for some obvious issues, so I think I still would have been at least a little annoyed even in print. If given a choice, I prefer over-competent to under-competent. (In real life, too!) There were also too many saved-in-the-nick-of-time events, and the end… definitely some eye rolls there.

A few other thoughts that will have to go in spoiler tags:
I was really exasperated when the solution was to dispel the magic in the stone. Duh! That seemed so obvious and simple that it made the whole story seem pointless. I mean, if it’s possible to dispel magic, then that surely would not be an obscure spell. You’d think it would have been one of the first things they tried. If I remember correctly, there had also been mention of other relics from Black London being destroyed in the past. Did nobody remember how that was done if it was a simple as dispelling them?

I was expecting more explicit confirmation that Lila is an Antari, but I guess that will come later in the series. I am curious about Kell’s forgotten memories from before he was 5, and it seems Lila has some forgotten memories from early childhood has well, so I wonder if we’ll find out they had a shared childhood. No doubt there is some sort of connection between their pasts, even if they didn’t know each other as children.

I was glad the building romance between them was kept to a minimum, because I really didn’t buy into it at all. Heck, I saw more “romantic tension” between Kell and Rhy than Kell and Lila, although I guess that wasn’t the author’s intent. I expect the Kell/Lila romance might be a bigger problem for me in the sequels because I expect it to become a larger focus and I’ll likely find it annoying when I can’t see any believable foundation for it.


I’m rating this at 3.5 stars but rounding up to 4 on Goodreads. That was my original intent, although writing my review nearly talked me into rounding it down instead, because it does have several flaws. But the story must have been pretty good to hold my interest as well as it did through a frustrating audio narration. I do plan to follow up on it in print someday, so I’ll be interested to find out what my future self thinks when she re-reads this in print. Will she like it more or less? Meanwhile, this book tells a complete story on its own with only a few dangling threads, so it’s not too painful to read just this one and then stop here for now.

Next Audiobook
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett.

125YouKneeK
jun 5, 6:27pm

Review: More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon



It’s difficult to provide a teaser for this story without spoiling anything. I went into it blind and was pretty confused about what I was reading at the beginning, but it soon starts to make sense, and seeing the bigger picture form was part of the fun. I’ll just talk about the very beginning. In the beginning, we’re introduced to an “idiot”. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t seem to have any intelligent thoughts, he doesn’t have a family or a home. He wanders around, with no reliable source of food or shelter. Sometimes people mistreat him, sometimes people help him. Sometimes, if he gets really desperate, people do exactly what he needs them to do, even if they didn’t want to.

This book was published in 1953. For the most part, it aged well and it’s very readable. It appears to be set around the time when it was published, and there aren't many references to technology anyway, so there aren’t as many jarring moments compared to books from the same time period that focus more heavily on technology. I didn't notice much sexism. There were a couple of racist characters, but they weren't intended to be likeable and we didn’t spend much time with them. The main thing that startled me and frequently reminded me I was reading an older book was the use of the term mongoloid.

Most of the fun for me was in learning what exactly the point of this weird story was, as well as guessing and learning about what happened in the parts of the story that weren’t told in a linear manner. I thought the journey was better than the destination, though -- the ending fell flat for me. I have more comments on that behind the spoiler tags below. I’m rating this 3.5 stars, because I enjoyed it while I read it, but rounding down to 3 on Goodreads because I wasn’t very satisfied with it by the end.

In the last few pages, Gerry gets a mental lecture on ethics from Hip and then suddenly Gerry grasps this concept (a concept that he’s been exposed to before), he feels ashamed of himself, the gestalt adds Hip to their group to be the “prissy” part, and now the gestalt has suddenly become an ethical creature that will do great things for the world and is promptly inducted into the great secret society of gestalts. It was too pat.

I also had some issues with the other gestalts immediately welcoming the new one into the fold. How often do we see people in real life say they’ve come to some great understanding or decision, something that will improve their attitudes or their behavior? How often do we then see their good intentions go by the wayside as soon as they meet a significant challenged? Maybe they keep trying and do better after the second or third or fourth challenge, maybe they don’t. Maybe they get even worse than before. This new gestalt hasn’t done anything to prove itself yet. If they weren’t ready 5 or 10 minutes ago, how are they suddenly ready now just because one of their parts has accepted a new idea but not yet put it into practice?


Next Book
Back to the Hainish Cycle with The Dispossessed by Ursula K. L Guin.

126BookstoogeLT
jun 5, 7:06pm

>125 YouKneeK: I wonder if this was a short story/novella, first, because I've read this and I do not have this book in my records. It seems like it was part of a collection.

dig dig dig dig dig

After digging through my calibre library, I am RIGHT! It was a novella entitled "Baby is Three" and was part of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame series. I remember it being just plain WEIRD....

127YouKneeK
jun 5, 8:15pm

>126 BookstoogeLT: Haha, “Baby is Three” is the middle section out of three sections in this book. I guess he wrote the first and third parts later. It was pretty weird even with the beginning and ending, so I can only imagine how weird it would have seemed with only the middle part!

128fuzzi
jun 5, 9:10pm

>127 YouKneeK: weird is right. I have a collection of stories called E Pluribus Unicorn, some of which were interesting and others which were just really strange.

129YouKneeK
jun 5, 9:24pm

>128 fuzzi: I get a little frustrated with short story collections where the author takes the "strange" approach on most of them. Strange is great fun in small doses, but by the end of a collection full of strange stories, I'm just craving a logical story with a satisfying ending.

130Karlstar
Redigerat: jun 9, 10:15pm

>129 YouKneeK: I feel much the same way, so many modern short story collections just don't do it for me. After a few neat ideas that just didn't progress too far, I've had enough.

ed. I hate it when I reference the post I haven't submitted yet!

131YouKneeK
jun 9, 9:04pm

Audiobook Review: The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. I’ve had a good run on audiobooks lately – this is my third definite “yes” in a row.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Pete Bradbury. He isn’t too dramatic and his character voices are distinct but not over-done. Female characters are often a problem for male narrators, but Pete Bradbury simply voiced them with a slightly softer voice that I easily interpreted as belonging to a female character without thinking about it or being irritated by it. He’s one of the few narrators who have let me nearly forget I was listening to him while I just focused on the words of the story. This is exactly what I want out of an audiobook narrator.

Story
The story is set on a fantasy world where its people are plagued by demons when the sun goes down. Weapons aren’t very effective against them, and the only real defense people have is to draw wards on their buildings and other man-made structures. If drawn properly, this creates an invisible magical barrier that the demons can't get through. If they’re drawn incorrectly, or if they get marred in some manner, the magic doesn’t work and the demons can get through. Nearly everybody is terrified of the demons and hides from them at night.

The story has three main POVs, two boys and a girl, who we meet at fairly young ages and follow into early adulthood. Although the characters are young, I didn’t get a YA vibe from the book. It just felt like a typical epic fantasy beginning where characters are often introduced as children and the reader follows them into and through adulthood. There’s minimal romance, which I appreciated. There is some, but it didn’t dominate the story. The instalove with Arlen and Leesha toward the end was a little annoying, though. I liked all of the characters quite a bit. Arlen was my favorite, but some of his decisions bugged me, especially in the second half of the story. Leesha was a bit wimpy in the beginning, but she grew on me more and more.

If you get tired of the epic fantasy coming-of-age tales, you might get very bored with this story because there are three of them and they take up a large chunk of the book. I, however, seem to have infinite capacity for new coming-of-age tales, so I enjoyed all three of them. The plot is straight-forward, but it didn’t feel derivative and I enjoyed the world-building. I did think the title made everything that happens in the second half a bit too obvious. I predicted the general thing it represents from the beginning of the book, but maybe it was supposed to be obvious. I was a little bothered that we bypassed much of Arlen’s transformation. It made his shift in personality and motivations more jarring. I thought it needed at least one more short chapter with him that takes place between the point where we left him as Arlen and the point where we met him again as the Warded Man. I’m guessing the author did that intentionally to let the reader also experience him as a mysterious entity along with the other characters, but it made me lose some of my emotional investment in him.

There were some moments that stretched my belief, particularly toward the second half, and I drifted off a bit during some of the more drawn-out action sequences. Mostly, though, I was fully interested in the story and I looked forward to listening to more of it each day. The ending wraps up nicely, while leaving some interesting dangling threads to indicate the path the next book is likely to take. I look forward to following up on this series in print someday and finding out what happens next.

Next Audiobook
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

132clamairy
jun 9, 9:20pm

>131 YouKneeK: I am very curious to hear what you think about the Fforde. I think you'll enjoy it.

133Karlstar
jun 9, 10:16pm

>131 YouKneeK: Remember, that series goes downhill after book 2!

134clamairy
Redigerat: jun 9, 10:22pm

>133 Karlstar: Is that why I stopped reading after the 3rd?

(The last three have good ratings here on LT.)

135Sakerfalcon
jun 10, 5:40am

>133 Karlstar: I didn't even manage to finish book 2!

136YouKneeK
jun 10, 6:47am

>132 clamairy: I was really surprised when I peeked at the work page for The Eyre Affair to see how many people on my Interesting Libraries list had read it. There were many more people than I usually see, and I can’t even remember seeing anybody talk about it. Maybe I just didn't pay attention, or maybe the conversations/reviews happened before my time.

>133 Karlstar:, >134 clamairy:, >135 Sakerfalcon: Just double checking that we’re all talking about the Demon Cycle series in these messages, not Thursday Next? I mentioned once that I should separate my reviews and my next book announcements into separate post #’s so that replies are less confusing, but I never did it. For some weird reason I feel the need to conserve post #’s, so I’m always combining things. :) I’ll try to remember to start breaking them out next time!

Regarding The Demon Cycle, now that Karlstar reminds me, I do remember discussions a while back (in his thread?) about that series going downhill. I appreciate the reminder, because after listening to the audio I had high hopes for it!

137clamairy
jun 10, 8:32am

>136 YouKneeK: I was talking about the Fforde series in both of my posts. Now that I'm rereading I have no real clue what anyone else was taking about. Haha...

138reading_fox
jun 10, 9:03am

>134 clamairy: - most series do because people only continue reading them if they've enjoyed them. Ownership numbers are sometimes more revealing if there's a sharp drop off it implies people chose not to continue the series.

>131 YouKneeK: - I remember enjoying it particularly but my review seems more positive. Maybe time for a re-read. I havent' read any of the others.

FForde is great fun - I've read all his books I think. I agree that the best are the early TN ones as there's only so much inventiveness you can apply to a universe. He's also written some standalones, but we're mostly waiting for him to write more shades of grey that we've been promised for several years. Do visit the website especially the early TN have book updates, and explanations of all the in-jokes and easter eggs. You'll have caught some, but I'm sure surprises await.

139Sakerfalcon
jun 10, 11:03am

>136 YouKneeK: I was talking about the Demon Cycle! I love Jasper Fforde's books, although I haven't read the last Thursday Next book yet. Of the first four, I thought each one was better than the one before.

140jjwilson61
Redigerat: jun 10, 12:43pm

>131 YouKneeK: Was the short time between Leesha being brutally raped and her desiring Arlen one of those moments that stretched your belief?

141clamairy
jun 10, 12:16pm

142YouKneeK
jun 10, 5:46pm

>137 clamairy:, >139 Sakerfalcon: Haha, thanks, I think I’m all straightened out now on who was talking about what! Karlstar hasn’t chimed in yet, but I’m pretty sure he was talking about The Demon Cycle.

>138 reading_fox: Thanks for the info about the website! I’ll make a note to check after I finish the first audiobook. I haven’t started it yet, but plan to start it up this evening.

>140 jjwilson61: I had mixed feelings about that, actually. I think it would be more typical for a woman to want nothing to do with men for a longer period of time. On the other hand, not everybody reacts to the same things in the same way. She’d made such a big deal about her virginity, only to have it violently stolen from her. I didn’t find it unthinkable that she might have felt like she needed to make up for lost time, or that she thought she could make the bad memories fade by replacing them with something more pleasant, or that she was just pissed off at the unfairness of it all and that was her way of reacting.

On the other hand, I did think it was utterly bizarre and irresponsible and rude that they initiated things just outside their cave (if I remember correctly), while demons were still a threat, and surely within earshot of Rojer. And also weird that Rojer apparently slept through it all, even Leesha’s screaming when the demon attacked.

I also couldn’t buy into the coincidence of the Warded Man running across Leesha and Rojer right in the nick of time to save their lives. In all the wide world they just happened to end up at the same place just at the right time, more or less in the middle of nowhere? Books are full of those sorts of coincidences, but they usually bug me. I also thought it was unrealistic that the town managed to make all of those preparations for the final battle, plan out what groups of people would do what and how they would react to various signals, dig ditches, set up wards, drug the poor doomed cows, teach people how to use fire-making things, make weapons, get people relocated, etc. All within less than a day.

143BookstoogeLT
jun 10, 6:11pm

>142 YouKneeK: Yes, Karlstar WAS talking about the demoncycle.
I myself quit part way through the series and will never read another book by the author again.

144YouKneeK
jun 10, 9:16pm

>143 BookstoogeLT: That bad, huh? That actually makes me even more curious to keep going with it and see what I think and why others didn’t like the later books. It will probably be a long time before I actually do, though.

145Karlstar
jun 10, 11:35pm

>136 YouKneeK: Yes, yes I was talking about The Demon Cycle, several of you get a prize for remembering that!

>134 clamairy: >135 Sakerfalcon: Good for you for quitting when you did.

Sorry for the delay, work is chewing me up this week.

146BookstoogeLT
jun 11, 5:12am

>144 YouKneeK: I enjoyed the first 2 but by the time I was through book 3 I was done like toast.

147YouKneeK
jun 11, 5:55am

>145 Karlstar: No worries, I hope work gets calmer soon.

>146 BookstoogeLT: This sounds like a case of too many flame demons!

148Karlstar
jun 11, 7:33am

>147 YouKneeK: Flame demons, or are they fire demons, or maybe charcoal demons or heat demons or light demons. He changes his mind a few too many times by the end.

149-pilgrim-
Redigerat: jun 11, 9:38am

>5 Maddz: Thanks for this link. I read Articulated Restraint today. I don't think it worked very wells as a standalone, but it did impress me with the level of the author's technical interest. I am now more likely to read this author than before.

150YouKneeK
jun 11, 4:48pm

>148 Karlstar: Ah, does he? That would/will definitely get on my nerves.

151Karlstar
jun 11, 10:30pm

>150 YouKneeK: I may have made up some of that list, but it is almost that bad.

152Narilka
jun 12, 9:18am

>144 YouKneeK: I finished the Demon Cycle. Don't recommend pushing through. It goes downhill sharply after book one which was a shame.

153YouKneeK
jun 12, 11:26am

>152 Narilka: That is disappointing since the first book showed so much promise! But I really appreciate the warnings. I’ll probably still try it in print someday, but with lowered expectations, and it won’t be a high priority. I’ll plan to ditch the series if I have the same reaction, rather than trying the next book in hopes it will improve.

154YouKneeK
Redigerat: jun 16, 9:41pm

Audiobook Review: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Susan Duerden. She was ok, but not a favorite. My biggest issues were with her voicing of some of the male characters. There were some who registered in my ears more like “little old lady” than anything else. Then there were one or two who didn’t sound at all male to me (not even “female pretending to be male”), yet sometimes she would follow up their dialogue with a more male sounding “he said” (or similar) than what she had used in the actual dialogue.

I think it wasn’t as bad as I’m making it sound, I followed it easily enough, but there were several jarring moments. I may have had a lot more trouble with it earlier in the year when I had even less audio listening experience.

Story
When the book first started, I thought it was going to be a time travel story. There is some time travel, I expect it will play a larger role later in the series, but it doesn’t take up too much of this book’s plot. It does show up long enough to create a few of your typical time travel paradoxes, but I’ve learned to brace myself for that as soon as I get the first whiff of time travel.

The setting is odd, but interesting. It’s sort of set in Great Britain in the 1980’s, but it’s a steampunky alternate history where literature seems to be of great interest to most of the public and it seems like nearly everybody is prepared to debate the classics at the drop of a hat. History is completely messed up, no doubt due to that pesky time travel, although this story doesn’t delve into that much.

A good chunk of the plot, and the part I enjoyed the most, involves the classic book Jane Eyre, as you might have guessed from the title. It takes a while for that plot to come to the forefront, so it’s difficult to hint at the plot without spoilers. Although I think one could follow things easily enough without being familiar with Jane Eyre, I’m not sure the story would be as entertaining. Also, this book completely spoils the story of Jane Eyre, all the way through to the ending, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to somebody who has plans to read that book and doesn’t want to know the story in advance. There are many other classics mentioned also, and a lot of discussion about William Shakespeare, but Jane Eyre has the biggest impact on the plot. Or it might be more accurate to say, the plot has the biggest impact on Jane Eyre.

I wasn’t sure about this book at first. The first half was slow for me, and I got restless listening to it, especially after the previous two audiobooks that I’d enjoyed so much. It grew on me though, and I really enjoyed the Jane Eyre parts. I especially loved the moment when I finally understood how the events in this book and the real ending of Jane Eyre were going to tie together, and I had fun seeing all of that play out as expected. The part in my spoiler tags earned this book an extra half star.

There were other fun parts to the story, including the literary references when I understood them. I’m glad I didn’t read this a few years ago when I had fewer classics under my belt. The characters were ok. I liked the main character, but wasn't attached. The bad guys were the over-the-top, moustache-twirling sorts. There is an obnoxiously angsty romance that did nothing for me except annoy me, and I didn’t think it did anything for the story. It didn’t take up too much page time, though. The main story is wrapped up well enough without any cliff hangers or major open questions, but there are a couple of big dangling threads.

I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding down to 3 on Goodreads. I’m marking it as a “maybe” for following up in print. It’s an interesting setting and the writing shows promise, but I have a lower tolerance for time travel illogic which I expect to play a larger role in future books, and I’m not sure the setting itself wouldn’t get tiresome before long.

155YouKneeK
jun 16, 9:41pm

I almost forgot to put this in a separate post, but remembered in time to edit and fix. :)

Next Audiobook
The Black Company by Glen Cook. I tried to listen to this so many times while I was listening to The Warded Man that I might as well listen to it for real. Both audiobook images look similar to me and they were next to each other in my Audible library due to the way I have it sorted. There were several times I accidentally clicked on The Black Company when I meant to click on The Warded Man. Even when they were just words on my spreadsheet, before I ever paid any attention to the cover images, I kept getting the titles and authors mixed up. I have no idea why.


If anybody’s wondering, I am getting pretty close to finishing my print read, The Dispossessed. It’s been a very put-down-able book, at least in parts, so my progress has been slower than it should have been. I used up prime reading time to write this review, but maybe in another day or two or three.

156BookstoogeLT
jun 17, 6:06am

>155 YouKneeK: Good luck with the Black Company. I enjoyed my time with that series, except for the final book, which Cook released many years later, and shouldn't have.

I wish I had read it before I'd read the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Erikson, as it's influence on Malazan is foundational.

157Sakerfalcon
jun 17, 6:08am

>154 YouKneeK: I found the sequels to The Eyre affair to be better paced and quicker to get into the plot. The romance annoyed me too, but I found it didn't dominate the books too much.

158YouKneeK
jun 17, 7:34am

>156 BookstoogeLT: Thanks! Note to self: beware the final book. :) If I make it that far. That's interesting about its influence on Malazan. I have that one on my list too, I've been really curious about it, but I don't expect to get to it soon. I have it as a possibility on my audio list, but my understanding is that the audio is nearly impossible to follow even for more experienced audio listeners. I haven't decided if I'll attempt the audio or just wait until I'm ready to try it in print for the first time, probably many years from now. Do you think familiarity with Black Company makes the first Malazan book any more accessible, or not really relevant?

>157 Sakerfalcon: Good to know, thanks! It sounds like I ought to at least try reading through the second book then, and see how that goes.

159Maddz
jun 17, 7:46am

>158 YouKneeK: Don't know. Now I've finally finished the LTER offering I've been stalling over from last year, maybe I'll finally get going on Malazan (Paul says start with Gardens of the Moon but Deadhouse Gates is where it starts to get good).

Hmm. You may find Dread Empire a bit more accessible than Black Company.

160YouKneeK
jun 17, 5:23pm

>159 Maddz: Dread Empire looks like it might be interesting, I’ll consider trying that one someday if I bounce off Black Company.

I’d be interested in what you think if you do try Gardens of the Moon. I haven’t seen too many enthusiastic comments about the first book, so I’ve been preparing myself (for years now!) to slog through it and then at least try the second.

One of my friends on GR posted a quote from the book when she was reading it a couple years ago:
"Elder magic brews anew, after so long. It is Tellann--of the Imass--but what it touches is Omtose Phellack--Jaghut Elder magic."

I think I did a pretty good job of explaining it for her:
”Clearly, elder magic is like coffee and needs to be brewed. There are a few brands, made by different companies. There’s the Tellann Elder Magic, made by people in Massachusetts who call themselves the Imass. There’s also Omtose Phellack elder magic, made by people in caves (jaguar huts) who call themselves the Jaghut Elder.”

The people from Massachusetts went on a spelunking vacation to another country and ran into the Jaghut Elders in a jaguar cave. Naturally, they decided a friendly conversation would be best over a cup of elder magic. Each wanted to try out the others’ flavors of elder magic, so they brewed both at the same time. One of the brewers sneezed, and a little bit of the Jaghut Elders’ brew ended up in the Imass’ by mistake, creating a new taste sensation that took the world by storm.

161quondame
jun 17, 10:02pm

>160 YouKneeK: That Massachusetts bit sounds oddly specific - is this series mapped onto earth-of-another-age?

162Karlstar
jun 17, 11:34pm

>160 YouKneeK: Awesome explanation! Sentences like that without enough foundation behind it made it difficult for me to get into the Malazan series. I think he explained more later, but I don't care for it when I have to guess what the author is getting at. Your explanation probably makes more sense.

>155 YouKneeK: I hope you enjoy The Black Company. I too liked the earlier books, but not the most recent. It is kind of down in the dirt military though!

163YouKneeK
jun 18, 6:44am

>161 quondame: I’ve never (yet) read it, that was just complete nonsense on my part. :)

>162 Karlstar: I’m hoping such silliness might sustain me through my first read of Gardens of the Moon someday, but I think I’ll have similar troubles as you. I like books with made-up words and a clear geography and culture, but there has to be some foundation to them like you said. A bunch of random proper nouns isn’t world-building if there’s no meaning behind them.

I’ve enjoyed some military fiction, although it isn’t my usual fare. I listened to The Black Company audiobook for a little bit yesterday evening and was completely lost, but I think that was two things: 1) I was exhausted, and listening to audiobooks takes more energy and attention than print for me and 2) the narrator isn’t great. I had actually bought it on Kindle on sale several years back, so I pulled up the e-book last night and tried to read the first few pages to figure out if it made sense or not. Suddenly everything made perfect sense and was much more interesting. I didn’t read much though because I wanted to get back to my normal print book. I’ll read a little more in print today, then try the audio again. I’m hopeful I’ll do better with the audio once I have a feel for the story and the characters from reading the first few pages in print. I got some extra sleep last night, too. If the audio is still as meaningless to me as it was last night, I’ll just give it up and wait to do it in print.

164Maddz
jun 18, 7:39am

>163 YouKneeK: The thing to remember about Black Company is that it's the PBI in a fantasy setting. So think of any book with a military setting and military protagonists.

165BookstoogeLT
jun 18, 5:49pm

>164 Maddz: Product Backlog Item? That's what I get when I googled PBI...

166YouKneeK
jun 18, 6:02pm

>164 Maddz: Yeah, I get that. It’s definitely not my first time encountering military themes in my books, and I don’t have any issues with them as long as the writing is good. My issues have nothing to do with the content and everything to do with the narrator. In print, it’s as readable as any other book, even last night when I was so tired. Hopefully now that I have the basic starting context down from reading a few pages in print, and now that I'm less tired, I'll do better with the audio when I try again today.

>165 BookstoogeLT: I googled PBI along with military and got the following.
Poor Bloody Infantry
Post Blast Investigation
Partial Background Investigation
Planning, Budgeting and In-year Management
Police Bureau of Investigation
Practice-Based Implementation
Product Baseline Identification
Program Bank Index
Property Book Import

When I added “UK” to my search terms, it looks like Poor Bloody Infantry is the winner. :)

167YouKneeK
jun 18, 8:13pm

>166 YouKneeK: This evening’s listening session went much better. It’s too soon to say whether I’ll enjoy the story yet, but I’m interested so far and didn't have any trouble making sense of the audio this time.

After trying to listen to it again, I’m not sure I can really blame the narrator. He’s not the best, but I’ve listened to worse. It’s probably a lesson for me to not start a new audiobook while tired! I’ve listened while tired before, but I think I was always far enough into my current audiobook to be familiar with the setting and the narrator’s style.

One of the things I’d been confused about were the forvalaka. As soon as I saw it in print I was like, “Oooooh!” I’d thought the narrator was talking about the “four valaka” and some of the sentences didn’t make sense with what I thought were an odd mix of plural and singular terms. Seeing the section breaks also helped me understand why the story seemed so choppy. The narrator doesn’t pause much for section breaks and since the next sections were with the same set of characters and more or less following up on the same story thread, I didn’t recognize them as section breaks in the audio. The narrator doesn't distinguish voices very well, including between narration and dialogue, but I can deal with that now that I understand the setting.

168quondame
jun 18, 8:27pm

>164 Maddz: >165 BookstoogeLT: >166 YouKneeK: I'm not the only one off to Google land.

169Maddz
jun 18, 11:59pm

>166 YouKneeK: The first one is the correct one! I don't think I've ever heard of the other acronyms.

170YouKneeK
jun 19, 7:06am

Finally....

Review: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin



The Dispossessed is the fourth book published in the Hainish Cycle, although chronologically it takes place before the other three.

This book is kind of a thought experiment in government (or self-government) styles. The story is set on two neighboring planets. The main character, Shevek, is from a world called Anarres with a more socialist approach in terms of distribution of resources and opportunities. There is no government though, nobody is in charge, and the only real “rules” are enforced by societal expectations. The people on this planet are descendants of anarchists who left their home planet, Urras. Urras is more of a capitalist society. At the beginning of the story, Shevek is boarding a space shuttle. He’ll be the first person from Anarres to go to Urras since the original colony left, and relations between the planets aren’t good. As Shevek is trying to leave, people on Anarres form a violent mob trying to stop him and calling him a traitor, but he makes it onto the shuttle and the story begins.

The story flips between two timelines – the present timeline in which Shevek goes to Urras, and a past timeline that starts from his childhood and goes up to the point where he makes the decision to go to Urras. Le Guin portrays both strengths and weaknesses for both societies, but there’s a clear preference for Anarres, at least in the main character’s eyes. Anarres’ weaknesses are portrayed as problems with human nature, rather than problems with its foundational concepts. It isn’t so much that their society doesn’t work as it is that the people have gone astray from its original intent and lost their way.

The setting is interesting, I liked the main character quite a bit, and there were times I was very interested in the story. However, this book was easy for me to put down. I got tired of the endless debates and discussions and theorizing regarding the different governing philosophies. It got repetitive. Additionally, it might have been groundbreaking at the time it was published, but I didn’t find its thoughts to be particularly new or revelatory for me today. When an author wants to explore two different philosophies, I like it better if they limit the on-page debates and let the reader use their own mind. Portray the societies as intended, tell the story set in them, maybe start the reader off with a couple obvious hints, then let the reader have their own internal debates about the aspects that interest them, if any. For me, this felt too much like spoon feeding, even forced spoon feeding at times.

I think I was most interested during the beginning and ending, and scattered moments throughout the middle. The ending seemed as if it were launching an entirely new and interesting related story that I really wanted to read, and then it just ended without any closure. However, I’ve not been much satisfied with any of the endings in this series, so I wasn’t surprised. I really wanted to see how the Hainish representative fared on Anarres. I wanted to see what happened to Shevek when he returned. I wanted to see how Anarres had changed while he was gone, and how or if they would continue to change. I wanted to see how events impacted the relationship between Anarres and Urras. I wanted to see Shevek’s reunion with his family and find out how they had fared while he was gone. I do get the “bookend” aspect in which we have Shevek leaving at the beginning of the story and arriving at the end, but I prefer endings with more closure.

I did enjoy seeing the beginnings of the ansible which is referenced in the previous books. I predicted this would happen from early on when I understood what kind of science Shevek was interested in, and when it became clear from the discussions of Hainish technology that we were pre-ansible. It was fun to see that confirmed, and to learn the story behind how it was developed.

So, this is a 3-star rating for me. There are a lot of things to like, but there were things I disliked too and my interest level was all over the place. I’m going to move on from the Hainish series. The stories are interesting, and I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but I’ve had my fill for now. Since each book stands alone very well, I’ll consider coming back to read an individual book here and there in the future.

171YouKneeK
jun 19, 7:07am

Next Book
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. Although I’ve managed to avoid remembering anything I might have read about the story, I’m pretty sure I remember seeing a lot of positive comments on it, so I’ve been looking forward to it.

172reading_fox
jun 22, 9:36am

Note if you've not already owned it TOR are giving away Gardens of the Moon as an ebook. Look on their website, limited time only. I don't remember enjoying it particularly although the review indicates the end was good, but at 700 pgs there was a lot of deadwood to get there.

FForde is just silly. But rather than farcical he takes it just far enough to be great fun. The whole time travel plot works out quite soon, and isn't major in the rest of the series which is predominantly about the BookWorld. Ditto the romance.

Black Company like Dispossessed I found to be one of those 'classics' than influenced a lot of writers of their genre, but only because they were first rather than the best. PBI is a good way of describing it, but it's not really my cup of tea. It makes more sense Dickens style chapter book, but I prefer novels planned and plotted over their full length.

173YouKneeK
jun 22, 5:10pm

>172 reading_fox: Thanks, I saw it in the Tor e-mail, but I do have Gardens of the Moon on Kindle already. I think I bought it a few years back on a sale at a time when I thought it was just a single, finished 10-book series and didn’t realize there were several spin-off series. When I realized that, it got bumped to a lower priority.

Good to know on the Fforde series! I probably will go back to that one in print someday.

I only have about an hour left on the Black Company audiobook, so I hope to finish it tonight. I’ll probably have a review up for it either tonight or tomorrow, so I’ll save my thoughts for that. I have read other (more recently published) military fantasy I like better though, like The Thousand Names and its sequels.

174YouKneeK
jun 22, 9:10pm

Audiobook Review: The Black Company by Glen Cook



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Marc Vietor. He didn’t work for me but, unlike most of the previous narrators I’ve had trouble with, I can’t pinpoint very specific things I didn’t like. As a military fantasy story, it has a lot of different male characters, and I had trouble distinguishing their voices. I’m not even sure if it’s fair to blame the narrator for that, as it would be difficult to come up with and consistently use that many different male voices. This was a case though where I think I would have heard some of the characters differently in my head if I’d read the book in print.

Other than that, the narration was just kind of… drab. I always say I prefer the narrators who aren’t melodramatic, but I think Vietor is the first who went too far in the opposite direction for me. It had a kind of bored tone to it. Maybe it was intended to convey the tone of macho mercenaries who’ve seen it all before, but it didn’t really come across that way. Besides, these “macho” mercenaries were constantly pale and shaking and squeaking and scared according to the text.

Still, I don’t feel like any of those complaints are tangible, but rather just the case of a narration voice that didn’t click with me. The one tangible complaint I have is in reference to the aforementioned squeaking. When the text said a character was talking in a squeaky or high voice because he was scared, the narrator would alter that character’s voice to sound female and nothing like how he’d been voicing the character the rest of the time.

Story
The story focuses on a group of mercenaries called The Black Company. At the beginning of the book, the Company is in charge of protecting a local leader, but as the situation deteriorates, the Company jumps ship (or gets on a ship, I guess) to work for somebody whose prospects seem healthier. But they really don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into, and ignore the hints that they may not have chosen the nicest of employers. The story is told from the first person POV of Croaker, an annalist as well as a medic for the Company. He’s often in the middle of the action because he wants to be able to write accurately about what happened.

I felt like I should have liked this more than I did. Much like with the narration, I’m having trouble pinpointing what I didn’t like. I was frequently frustrated by the characters from the Company, so I think that was a large part of it. Croaker tells us over and over about how honorable and noble they are, but they do some pretty rotten things to save their own skin at the beginning of the story, and they never did anything that really redeemed that in my eyes. Then they stolidly stuck by the people who were clearly evil. I did like the way the characters looked out for each other, but their choices annoyed me constantly.

I can usually enjoy books where there’s questionable morality, so I don’t think that was my problem, but when I like those types of stories it’s usually because I enjoy the moral ambiguity that keeps me guessing. Which side, if any, is really the good side? What are the real motivations of the various characters? What will the results be if they achieve their goals? In the case of this book, I never really asked myself those questions. I didn’t know all the answers, but I was never that curious about the ones I didn’t know. I got tired of the Company making bad decisions combined with turning a blind eye to anything that might force them to make hard decisions.

There’s not as much fighting as one might expect in a military fantasy. More toward the end, but otherwise it’s mostly smaller-scale stuff. There is quite a lot of action, though. I found myself spacing out a lot during the action, but I’m finding that I have more trouble with that in audiobooks than print books, so I might have enjoyed those parts more in print. However, I think for me to really enjoy action scenes, I need more investment in the characters than what I had.

Still, despite all that, I stayed pretty interested in the story. There were a couple more enigmatic characters that I enjoyed slowly learning more about, mainly Raven and Catcher. I also enjoyed the camaraderie of the characters in the Company. It was kind of interesting to be reading from the perspective of mercenaries who are fighting for the bad guys. How often do we read fantasy books from the perspective of the good guys who are fighting against an enemy that’s hired mercenaries? Well, this time we get things from the opposite perspective.

I’m going to mark this as a “probably” for revisiting in print, despite my complaints and lukewarm reaction. I’m confident I would have liked this at least a little better in print, I’m just not sure how much better. Some of the characters had grown on me more by the end, so I’d like to try reading at least through the second book and then decide from there.

175YouKneeK
jun 22, 9:15pm

Next Audiobook
Planetfall by Emma Newman. The latest Operation Mallard updates reminded me that I really want to try one of her books. :) And this one is currently free on Audible Plus, so I figured I’d better do it now.

Does anybody have any opinions about the pitfalls of listening to The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold without having read or listened to Shards of Honor which was published first? From the very brief glance I took at the synopsis (reading the first sentence or two while peering through my fingers), it looks like they feature different characters. Apprentice is on the list of books I’m working through whereas Shards is not, so right now I'm more interested in crossing Apprentice off my list. The list usually only has first books or standalone books on it, but this seems to be a weird exception. I could of course listen to both in audio, especially since Shards is a free Audible Plus entry, but at 20 hours for both vs 11 hours for the one, I’m leaning toward just listening to Apprentice. If I like it, someday I’d plan to come back to the series in print and read in proper publication order, starting with Shards.

176Karlstar
jun 22, 11:19pm

>174 YouKneeK: Wait, what? Croaker actually said the Black Company was honorable and noble? I know that's the very first book in the series, but I don't remember them ever considering themselves that, except maybe in the sense of them sticking to a deal once it is made.

By Raven and Catcher, are you referring to two of The Taken? Those psycho sorcerors always made those books interesting for me, but I may be remembering Limper and The Howler and Soulcatcher.

177quondame
jun 22, 11:28pm

>172 reading_fox: I just checked to see if one of my libraries has Gardens of the Moon, one does, and The Garden Behind the Moon popped up - I think Howard Pyle was my first favorite author/artist.

178quondame
jun 22, 11:33pm

>175 YouKneeK: It's pretty much fine to read The Warrior’s Apprentice before Shards of Honor given you probably already know the one plot point of SoH given away by TWA simply by knowing the relationship of the two books.

179ScoLgo
jun 22, 11:52pm

>173 YouKneeK: Interesting that TOR is giving away Gardens of the Moon again. Their free offer of a few years ago was how I picked it up, (still haven't read it though).

I have no real input on the Bujold question. I did read Shards of Honor and Barrayar a few years ago but they have not really stuck with me. Worlds Without End lists Shards as book #1 in one series and The Warrior's Apprentice as book #1 in a separate series, which leads me to believe they can be read in any order - but I have not read TWA so other readers will likely give you more accurate advice. I hope you enjoy whichever book you choose.

>175 YouKneeK: I'm interested to read your take on Planetfall. I really enjoyed that series - enough to buy them all in print after e-borrowing from Overdrive. I liked the first book quite a bit but it was not the strongest for me. Books 2 and 3 were an improvement, but it's not a good idea to read out of publication order; while there is only slight character overlap between volumes, events within the overall story arc will be spoiled if read out of order. I sure hope Newman finds a way to publish another Planetfall novel as things were left unresolved at the and of Atlas Alone.

180YouKneeK
jun 23, 7:30am

>176 Karlstar: Yeah, the honor stuff was probably mostly in the context of meeting their commitments, but they didn’t do that. Maybe they honored all their commitments for decades prior to the start of the book, but my first strong impression of them was formed when they chose to do the exact opposite near the beginning of the book, so that’s the impression that stuck with me.

Raven was the man who was voted in to join the company early in the book. The one who spends a lot of time with Croaker on various missions and leaves the company with Darling (aka the White Rose) at the end. Catcher was one of the taken, that’s what they called Soulcatcher for short. The one who initially hired the company.

>178 quondame: Thanks! I actually don’t know the relationship between the two books, other than that they have the same author, but I assume that isn’t a plot point. :) I only looked at the blurbs long enough to gather that they each featured a different character and then averted my eyes. So I guess I might have a plot point spoiled for me, but I think I’m ok with that. Considering how quickly I forget plot points in books I’ve read a year or two ago, I’ll likely have forgotten by the time I go back to it in print anyway.

>179 ScoLgo: Actually, now that you mention it, I think that must be where I got my copy of Garden of the Moon too. I had forgotten, but I just double checked and Amazon doesn’t show I’ve purchased it. I see now that it’s a Doc on Amazon Cloud, not a Book, which implies I got it from somewhere else and sent it to the cloud. This also explains why it wasn’t offered to me for a lower Whispersync price on Audible. (It’s on sale for $9 on Audible until Friday, though. I’m still debating. I’m not sure I’d get enough out of it in audio to justify the 26 hours. I'd be more likely to pull the trigger if it showed up on one of their $5 sales.)

Thanks, that makes sense if Shards and Apprentice are separate subseries. That would make it a little less of a shocking departure from my usual in-order reading habits.

It’s also good (or maybe not good, but helpful) to know that things are unresolved at the end of Atlas Alone. I knew she had hoped to publish more, but I didn’t know I needed to be prepared for unresolved issues if she didn’t. I’ve added that to my notes as a warning to myself.

181Maddz
Redigerat: jun 23, 8:02am

>180 YouKneeK: Re Shards and Apprentice, it's probably best to think of Shards of Honor and Barryar as a prequel duology to the Miles books which start with Warrior's Apprentice. They are effectively Cordelia's story, and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen serves as the ending to her story.

You don't have to read them first, but I feel you may get more out of the Miles books if you do as they serve as the introduction to the Vorkosigan family dynamics and also explain some of Miles' sensitivities.

There's another prequel set in the same universe, Falling Free, which it helps to read before reading Diplomatic Immunity.

182fuzzi
jun 23, 8:08am

>181 Maddz: I read Falling Free before The Warrior's Apprentice, then read Shards and Barrayar.

I would recommend reading Shards of Honor and Barrayar BEFORE Apprentice as I got confused going back to pre-Miles.

183Karlstar
jun 23, 12:21pm

>180 YouKneeK: Thanks, that all makes sense. I guess knowing when you are supporting the 'wrong' side is somewhat honorable.

184ScoLgo
jun 23, 12:56pm

>180 YouKneeK: Regarding the Planetfall series... it's not that each book doesn't resolve. They absolutely do. They really are stand-alone microcosms within the larger structure. It's that larger structure that lacks a final resolution. But there is no harm in reading the books that have been published as they don't leave any immediate threads hanging. Newman just hasn't pulled all those threads together yet, and that is what I am hoping she will do if another book or two manages to get published. Based on where things left off, it might only take one more book...?

185YouKneeK
jun 23, 5:37pm

>181 Maddz:, >182 fuzzi: If/when I read the series in print, I would go in publication order which would make Barrayar the 7th or 8th book for me. I usually read in publication order so that I can experience a world in the order the author created it, even if the chronological order is completely different. I usually find it easy enough to keep track of a non-chronological story, whereas non-chronological inventions from the author drive me nuts. "Wait, why didn't character A use the XYZ from the last book to solve that problem? And why didn't they get help from character B? Oh, right, the author hadn't invented XYZ for another 5 years and character B wasn't invented for another 7 years."

I really appreciate both of your input, though. I’m still not sure which way I’ll go on the first two books in audio, but I guess I'll decide when I get there. If I listen to both books now and enjoy them, then I’ll end up having to re-read both of them someday instead of the first book being new and only the second book being a re-read. On the other hand, if I don’t like them very well, then I’ll have extended my listening time of a thing I didn’t care for by 9 hours. It’s a bit of a time waste no matter which way I look at it, and there’s NEVER enough time.

>184 ScoLgo: Ah, ok, I understand now.

186-pilgrim-
Redigerat: jun 24, 11:01am

>175 YouKneeK: I am following the reading order recommended by the author, which is Shards of Honor, Barrayar, then The Warrior's Apprentice.

Shards of Honor does a good job of setting up the two cultures, whilst The Warrior's Apprentice takes that as pretty much given. It depends how much you feel the need to understand the cultural imperatives affecting the characters.

Although The Warrior's Apprentice is the first book to feature Miles (the protagonist) as an active character - he plays a pretty important rôle in Barrayar as a foetus! - his parents and two of his grandparents appear both in that book and the previous ones, and Sergeant Bothari has a major rôle in all three, so I don't feel they are really independent.

I could understand going straight from Shards of Honor to The Warrior's Apprentice, as they were written that way, but I think, personally, if I had started at The Warrior's Apprentice a lot of motivation would have been opaque.

187YouKneeK
jun 24, 3:33pm

>186 -pilgrim-: Thanks, I had noticed you reviewing books from this series recently, so hoped you might have time to chime in.

It sounds like the majority opinion is that I need to read the first book to judge the second book properly. As I’ve said the goal of this exercise is only to decide if I want to read the whole series properly, in order, in print someday, while also crossing off the specific book on the list I'm working through which is unfortunately the 2nd book. I was therefore hoping it was just a case of the first book giving a greater appreciation for the second, but that the second book could be enjoyed on its own merits. I blame the crazy people who back in 2013 voted the second book onto the group bookshelf instead of the first. Fortunately that's a rare exception and not the way things are normally done, or I wouldn't have been using that shelf as a source of reading selections at all.

I’ll probably slot both books in as my next audio listens then, to make sure I can listen to the first book before it gets removed from Audible Plus.

188quondame
jun 24, 7:50pm

>186 -pilgrim-: I'm pretty sure I read WA first and then maybe Brothers In Arms before Shards, and all the rest of Bujold published to date before Barrayar came out, after which I know read them as published to the present, well maybe not Winterfair Gifts, but I got to that within a couple of years of it coming out. I do prefer published order for the world building consistency.

189MrsLee
Redigerat: jun 25, 9:11am

>187 YouKneeK: The fact is, you WILL read that whole series, because it is wonderful. Before I knew that, I started with one or two of the books in the middle of the series, I quickly realized I had to have them all, but my enjoyment wasn't marred by the out of order reading. I liked going back to the beginning to find out how it all started.

190YouKneeK
jun 25, 6:19am

>189 MrsLee: Haha, thank you, that’s encouraging! Although I’ve avoided learning anything of significance about the series, for some reason I’ve never been enthusiastic about it. Maybe my opinion has been unconsciously influenced by irrelevant things, like the length of the series and my annoyance about the “wrong” book being on the list.

191MrsLee
jun 25, 9:12am

>190 YouKneeK: Well, I suppose it is possible you might not like it. There have been one or two people who disagreed with me on my favorite reading material over the years. ;)

192YouKneeK
jun 25, 5:06pm

>192 YouKneeK: What? Surely not! If I don't like it, I'm sure it's just because I'm being contrary. ;)

193YouKneeK
jun 26, 4:10pm

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow



This is a standalone portal fantasy story set primarily on our own world around the early 20th century. There are Doors to other worlds scattered around, although most people don’t know about them. The main part of the story is told from the first person perspective of a teenage girl named January, who discovered her first Door when she was 7. There’s also a book inside the book which tells us the story of another girl and gives us more insight into the Doors. That doesn’t really explain the plot, but the plot is revealed slowly and out of order. Trying to briefly explain it in a way that makes sense would risk spoiling it.

I really enjoyed this book, but it was uneven. The main outer story held my attention the best. The inner story was interesting but often slow. I did like its connection to the outer book, and I enjoyed guessing the connections well ahead of its reveal and then being proven right a couple chapters later. I also enjoyed some of the smaller connections I didn’t catch on my own until the author pointed them out to me, like the explanation for January’s last name (which I hadn’t paid much attention to) of Scaller/Scholar. The story takes a while to really get going because we spend a lot of time learning about January’s childhood first, but I actually enjoyed those parts a lot too.

There’s not as much travel to mysterious new worlds as I expected given the title and premise of the book, or at least not much that we see in detail. We do get some, but I would have enjoyed a little more. Still, the story was interesting, and I liked January a lot. It is a bit light and YA-ish. There’s romance, one which I liked ok and one which made me roll my eyes, but it wasn’t too intrusive. The ending didn’t wrap everything up in a nice, neat bow, but it was clear enough what the likely outcome would be, and I was satisfied with it. Well, except that I hope somebody went back to visit poor Aunt Lizzie!

194YouKneeK
jun 26, 4:14pm

Next Book
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence.

195BookstoogeLT
jun 26, 4:29pm

>194 YouKneeK: Well, all I can say is that I hope you like PoT better than I did...

196YouKneeK
jun 26, 4:39pm

>195 BookstoogeLT: Haha, thanks. I've had high hopes for this one, so hopefully I won't be too disappointed, but if I am, that's another 6 books I can cross off the list!

197Narilka
jun 26, 5:09pm

>194 YouKneeK: That is in my TBR though has been pushed very far down because of it's grimdark leanings.

198YouKneeK
jun 26, 7:16pm

>197 Narilka: Even though it's probably an e-book, I’m now picturing a malevolent-looking book at the bottom of a physical stack of books, casting darkness (and grimness) on all the books around it. ;)

199Narilka
jun 26, 8:05pm

>198 YouKneeK: That's one of my physical books so your imagination isn't too far off ;)

200Karlstar
jun 26, 11:01pm

>194 YouKneeK: I'll be interested to see what you say about that one!

201YouKneeK
jun 28, 7:13am

Audiobook Review: Planetfall by Emma Newman



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday.

Audio Narration
The author of the book, Emma Newman, is also the narrator. I enjoyed her narration, although for the first few minutes I kept expecting her to start talking about baby ducks in buckets. I had watched her Operation Mallard videos, so that’s what I associated her voice with.

There was nothing about her narration that bugged me, and I liked knowing that her reading of the characters represented what the author intended, since she is the author. Her voicing of different characters was easy enough to distinguish, helped by the simple nature of the story that doesn’t have a lot of different characters in one scene at a time. Some narrators don’t have the knack for voicing characters of the opposite sex and their attempts just sound silly and distracting, so I liked that Emma Newman didn’t really even try. She deepened her voice just a tiny bit for male characters, but didn’t go over the top with it.

Story
The general setting is a colony on an alien planet. Their colony is near a structure they refer to as “God’s City”. At the very beginning, a stranger is approaching their colony, and we soon learn there were other colonists whose pods failed to arrive with the main group. They were believed to be dead, and there’s some big secret surrounding what happened to them, but our main character Ren and the “ringleader” Mack were somehow at least partly responsible for it. The story is told in first person present tense from the perspective of Ren, an engineer. We experience the story with her as it happens, so the story is intentionally a little disjointed. She’s not planning out her story to try and tell it from beginning to end, she’s just living her life and we pick up the relevant bits of backstory when various events conveniently (for the reader) trigger her memories of them. Necessary background information is revealed slowly and out of order. I tend to enjoy non-sequential narrative structures, and this was no exception.

The story wasn’t what I expected, though. The science fiction aspect seemed really interesting, but a lot more time is spent on human psychology. Ren suffers from anxiety, as the reader will likely gather from the author’s dedication at the beginning. The way it manifests is different from anything I’ve read about before, and it takes a while before it’s fully revealed. There are a lot of hints and I did finally start to figure it out a little bit before it was revealed, but it took me a while to get it, maybe because it’s so contrary to my own personality. Just a one-word explanation for people who want to know more: hoarding. Aside from that, there are other psychological-type things that play a lesser role. These things are related to: what led the people to the planet, how the big secret affects both the perpetrators and the people being lied to, family relationships, friendships (some of which aren’t very healthy), and romance. There isn’t too much romance in the story though, fortunately. It’s more of an influencing factor than an active storyline, and really more about past romances than current ones.

The characters, especially Ren, felt very real. These aren’t cookie-cutter archetypes, or at least I haven’t read enough books with characters like this to feel that they were. And, like with many real life people, I didn’t understand them much. :) Ren frustrated me and at times angered me. Still, I couldn’t help sympathizing with her and wanting things to work out for her. I’ll talk more about the characters in spoiler tags so I can just type freely without trying to avoid spoilers. This is a hard book not to spoil I think, because of how things are revealed.

I wish there had been more meat to the science fiction aspect of the story, because I thought the premise was really interesting. Additionally, the ending was unsatisfying to me. Still, despite many complaints and doubts, the story held my interest well enough that I’m going to rate it a full 4 stars even though 3.5 would probably be more appropriate based on my complaints. I liked it more than I would have expected to if I’d known what I was getting into, and it worked really well for me as an audio listen. It’s a simple story, easy to follow, with limited and easily distinguishable characters. I’ll mark this series as a “probably” for continuation in print. If I run out of series to sample on audio, I might even consider doing the whole series in audio since this was such an easy listen.

Here are my many more spoiler-ish thoughts. Warning, this is very long!
Ren drove me a bit bonkers. She seemed at times like a non-stop string of excuses, complaints, self-justification, and self-recrimination. Although I could understand the source of her anxiety, I didn’t understand her method of (not) handling it. I felt like she made things worse by just letting things happen to her and never taking any initiative. I was more frustrated by her earlier in the book when I didn’t understand the extent of her mental illness, but the thing I had the biggest problem with throughout the book was her selfish dishonesty.

I did sympathize with her at times, and I couldn’t help liking her even while objecting to just about everything she did. I especially felt bad for her toward the end when people from the colony invaded her home full of judgment and anger. I couldn’t understand why, as members of a small colony that depended on each other’s skills for the well-being of the colony, they didn’t defer to the expert who told them that their way of handling things would only make things worse. People can be assholes, so maybe their behavior was realistic, but I had hoped for better. I’m probably the last person in all the universe that anybody would want to have around if they’re having a mental health crisis, because I just don’t have the real-life experience or understanding for it, and I’m definitely not the world’s most patient or nurturing person, but even I would know better than to “handle” the situation so aggressively and I would turn to people with more experience and follow their lead. And Carmen maybe needed to be put in the Masher herself. Ok, maybe not, but can we at least give her a really good slap?

Another book I read earlier this year, The Calculating Stars, also features a character who suffers from a type of anxiety, although it’s quite a bit different from this story. By comparison, I found that book’s main character to be much more relatable and more appealing. She’s more self-aware and takes more initiative. She tries to do the ethical and necessary things even when it’s very difficult for her. Ren on the other hand just lets things happen to her and engages in behavior that endangers others.

I didn’t understand how Mack thought his lie was a good idea. It doesn’t require too many brain cells to understand the secret was bound to get out eventually. And obviously the longer the secret is kept, the worse it will be when it does finally get out. It’s better to deal with a difficult thing before it becomes an even more difficult thing, and certainly better to be honest than to compound an issue with lies and attempted murder. I also didn’t understand why Ren didn’t try to take some action since she disagreed with his choices. I can understand her not wanting to take Mack on directly in a big way after he’d been willing to kill people to keep the secret, but she could have quietly spoken to people she trusted one-on-one to get advice and gather additional support. She also had the video she showed everybody at the end of the book as proof.

I also found it difficult to believe that, in all that time, everybody just went along with everything they were told and didn’t question it, even after years of essentially getting the same generic message from whoever ate the seed. I guess they were all a bit gullible/fanatical to begin with if they joined the expedition in the first place, but most of them were also scientists, so I would expect at least some people to have a more questioning and curious nature and to want more tangible proof.

I really wanted to learn more about God’s City and the culture that created it. I also wondered what would happen if more than one person discovered that final room at the same time. The setup seemed to be that a single individual would discover it, lay on the slab, and be transformed, but what if the entire colony had gone in unprotected and had made it that far together? Would the city always have ensured only one person was sprayed so only one person could enter? Or would they all have been allowed in one at a time, with the bodies disintegrating quickly enough for the next person to go through the same process? On the other hand, I have trouble imagining an entire colony of people would be willing to try it, for fear it might just be a permanent death and/or not a transformation to something better. After all, despite the depictions of what would happen, who knows if the one(s) who built it were deluded. Maybe it was built by some alien mad scientist, not necessarily a wiser and more advanced alien. I could understand Ren’s decision to go through with it though since she was desperate and at the end of her rope.

I possibly should have tried listening to this book while I was cleaning instead of cross-stitching, because it kind of made me want to scrub things. This might be a great book to read at a time when you need motivation for cleaning and/or decluttering activities!

202YouKneeK
jun 28, 7:15am

Next Audiobook
Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold.

203BookstoogeLT
jun 28, 2:29pm

>201 YouKneeK: That's a long review!

204YouKneeK
jun 28, 4:52pm

>203 BookstoogeLT: Haha, yes. It's been a while since a book motivated me to type THAT much.

205quondame
jun 28, 5:58pm

>201 YouKneeK: I put Planetfall on the hold list. I'm pretty OD'd on books that I have to struggle through.

206YouKneeK
jun 28, 7:44pm

>205 quondame: Just double checking that you know you've apparently read it already? :) If my assumption is correct that the hold list means to borrow from the library.
https://www.librarything.com/review/168651721

207quondame
jun 28, 8:26pm

>206 YouKneeK: And seem to have forgotten it in it's entirety! Thanks for the memory jog and off the list it goes!

208YouKneeK
jun 28, 10:15pm

>207 quondame: Haha, if it wasn’t that memorable the first time, I guess it’s good that you didn’t try to read it again or it might have ended up being another struggle! I hope you’re able to find something good and struggle-free, though.

209quondame
jun 28, 10:26pm

>208 YouKneeK: I'm reading Mirror's Edge which pretty much fits the bill, but has just gotten a bit limp where I am just now.

210YouKneeK
jun 29, 6:30am

>209 quondame: Although I haven’t read that series, I did enjoy the same author’s Leviathan series quite a lot.

211quondame
jun 29, 5:59pm

>210 YouKneeK: I liked the Leviathan series as well. Steampunk girl on airship!

212YouKneeK
jul 3, 2:40pm

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence



I’m not confident in my ability to correctly identify grimdark books, especially if the lines are a little blurry, but this one is an easily identifiable specimen. The main character, Jorg, does horrible things. Those things are at “best” motivated by revenge, and at worst done just because he felt like it, or to maintain his image. Jorg is only 13 years old for most of the story, but if the author hadn’t continuously reminded me how young he was, I probably would have had trouble remembering it. He read like an older character.

Despite all his evil, Jorg was kind of interesting. With most characters, you can easily guess the decisions they’ll make. I was often less sure with Jorg. There are a few chapters spread out through the book in which we get his back story, and he’s a little easier to sympathize with there, although his back story does not in any way redeem him. I had trouble with how coincidentally things seemed to work out for him. His successes were less due to careful planning than to quick thinking and luck. Some of that was explained once we learned Corion was influencing his actions and affecting his abilities in some cases. On the other hand, Corion hardly killed himself by helping Jorg get kicked in the back by a horse in order to propel Jorg and his knife into Corion. That took coincidental to rather ridiculous levels.

I think I’d be perfectly justified in disliking this. I don’t mind dark books, but I would prefer it to be more integral to the story than I felt this was. I like a bigger streak of nobility in my characters (or at least some streak!) and I prefer clever planning to coincidences. Some parts of the story were just kind of ridiculous. In addition to what I mentioned in the above spoiler tag, in one section we have our characters enduring a long climb, then a major fight, then a running climb, then more hours climbing… all while wearing armor. And then Jorg has a Kirk-like discussion with an ancient computer in which he (sort of) helps it decide that it wants to die . That made me laugh a bit.

I can’t explain why I actually did enjoy it pretty well. I was invested in Jorg’s story, despite not liking him. I was curious about what he would do and what would happen. I was thrilled at how little romance there was, although there are hints the level of that might increase later. I also enjoyed the semi-camaraderie between the “brothers”, although most of them aren’t particularly loyal to each other.

I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding up to 4 on Goodreads. If not for the unbelievable/coincidental plot bits, I probably would have given it a full 4 stars because I did enjoy reading it. I plan to read the next book. I’m curious to see where things go next. Or at least, how they get there. This is another one of those series where the book titles obviously spoil the high-level progression of things.

213YouKneeK
jul 3, 2:40pm

Next Book
King of Thorns, the second book in the above series.

214Karlstar
jul 3, 7:16pm

>212 YouKneeK: You were much more generous to that book than I was, I just thought it was too over the top in every way.

215YouKneeK
jul 4, 6:57am

>214 Karlstar: Yeah, this was one I found nearly impossible to explain why I liked it in spite of all its flaws. But I did like it, for the most part.

216Karlstar
jul 4, 1:03pm

>215 YouKneeK: I looked at my rating, I gave it 3 stars also! Maybe I was in a 'don't be mean' mood, or maybe I liked it better than I thought, but since my description didn't match the star rating, I knocked it down to 2.

217BookstoogeLT
jul 4, 1:39pm

>212 YouKneeK: Not sure how to reply here :-)
I don't want to insult you but at the same time this has gotta be one of my most hatest books ever. Yeah, yeah, bad grammar ;-)

I guess we can still be friends though, hahahahaa....

218YouKneeK
jul 4, 1:40pm

Audiobook Review: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold



This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. In this case, I’m sampling the first two books in the series, going in publication order. The second book is the one that I actually wanted to get to, because it’s on the SF&F Goodreads group shelf I take most of my reading selections from. (What were they thinking by voting in the second book?! Heathens!) Some people suggested that I really needed to read this book to properly understand the second book. Since this one was free on Audible Plus and not too long, I decided to follow that advice in hopes of not judging the second one unfairly.

Audio Narration
The narrator is Grover Gardner. I had my doubts about him, but I really didn’t have any complaints in the end. When I first started listening, my initial reaction was that it sounded like I was listening to a character on a TV show from the 60’s. It hit me every single time I started the audiobook up for a new listening session, but faded quickly as I focused on the story.

I’m not sure a male narrator with an older sounding voice (to my ears, anyway) was necessarily the best choice for this book. The story is told from the POV of a female in her 30’s. I guess he narrates all the Vorkosigan books, regardless of who the POV character is, so maybe he fits the other books better and maybe they thought a consistent narrator throughout the series would be more important than a gender-appropriate one. If I listened to the entire series in audio I might very well agree, I don’t know. He read Cordelia in a normal voice, not trying to imitate a female voice at all, which I think was for the best since he would have had to carry it on for pretty much the entire book and I suspect his voice couldn’t have done it convincingly.

But despite my doubts, I really didn’t have any issues listening to his narration. I didn’t have trouble telling who the characters were, helped by the simplicity of the story and the text making it clear who was talking. He also didn’t get melodramatic or have any other odd quirks that distracted me.

Story
The story focuses on Cordelia Naismith, captain of a survey crew exploring a new planet. They’re attacked by another human faction and Cordelia is stranded on the planet along with an injured crew member. Then Aral Vorkosigan, the commander of the attacking ship, shows up. It turns out that there was a mutiny among at least part of his crew and he too was left stranded. This doesn't stop him from taking Cordelia prisoner, though. He leads Cordelia and her injured crew member on a long, multi-day trek toward a supply cache, during which their nutritional needs are sustained by the delicious combination of oatmeal and blue cheese. Yum! There's more to the story, it isn't just one long trek on an alien planet, but that's how things start.

This is a romance disguised as a space opera. There are other elements to the story, but they felt more like a vehicle for the romance rather than the romance simply being used to supplement the real story. It’s also very much the instalove sort of romance. Cordelia, trying to care for an injured crew member and survive on an alien planet with hostile life forms, all while worrying about her future fate as a prisoner of a war-like people, captured by a person she knows nothing about, still can’t keep her mind or her eyes off him. Joy.

Some more spoilery thoughts on the romance and other things: I didn’t think Vorkosigan’s very fast marriage proposal was overly sudden in the context of the character’s culture and background, and I was glad Cordelia didn’t jump into anything. However, by the time she did marry him, they still hadn’t really had any chance to get to know each other in a more normal context. She was always his prisoner, or a prisoner of the Barrayan people, however loosely held. Their romance was written pretty convincingly despite my complaints, but it’s disturbing if you stop to think about it too deeply. It only works because we’re in Cordelia’s head and we accept her intuitive leaps about Vorkosigan’s personality based on their conversations and what little she sees of his actions. I was also disturbed by Vorkosigan’s and then Cordelia’s continued support of Bothari, to the point of allowing him (apparently) to raise his own child, despite that Bothari raped the child’s mother not only when he was “forced” to, but also in a calmer environment where he was completely free to make his own choices without any outside pressures. Yes, he was mentally unstable when he made those choices, but there was nothing to indicate to me that this mental state had been cured while in Vorkosigan’s employ, or that Bothari even recognized it as wrong.

The last chapter, while certainly meaningful and a little thought provoking, seemed to come out of nowhere and left me wondering if I had missed something, or if the narrator was reading some random preview for another book. It seemed clearly related to the story, but it jumps to different characters and doesn’t continue the plot in any significant way, nor does it set up (as far as I could tell) a plot for subsequent books. I kept expecting them to discover something shocking or dangerous on one of the dead bodies, but it mostly just seemed to be ruminations on death. It felt kind of like something the author wanted to get off her chest and just tacked at the end. I would have appreciated it more if she’d saved the idea for another book and fit it into a different story in a more seamless manner.

Despite my complaints, I did enjoy listening to the story. There is a lot of humor, and I chuckled several times while listening. The oatmeal and blue cheese particularly tickled my funny bone for some reason, and I giggled madly every time that came up, although there’s certainly subtler and more clever humor than that in the story. It’s also a very simple story which made it an easy audio listen, but there are some deeper thoughts in there as well. Nothing earth shattering, but engaging. I did like that Cordelia was a relatively competent and intelligent woman. The romance didn’t usually bug me too much while I was listening to it, it just doesn’t hold up well if you give it much thought. The political backdrop was interesting, and it felt like there was a lot more depth to the setting than the reader is shown. I think I’d have enjoyed a more political story following Vorkosigan and the political machinations he was involved in. He seemed to have a far more interesting story than Cordelia did, and Cordelia’s story revolved around Vorkosigan anyway.

I’m rating this at 3.5 stars and rounding down to 3 on Goodreads. I’ll continue with my plans to listen to the audio for the second book, but I’m hoping it will have more science fiction and less romance.

219YouKneeK
jul 4, 1:41pm

Next Audiobook
The Warrior’s Apprentice, the next book in the above series.

220-pilgrim-
Redigerat: jul 4, 2:30pm

>218 YouKneeK: Regarding the points made in your spoiler session: The issue of whether it was safe to leave a child in Bothari's care troubled me too. However there are ameliorating points to consider:
  • He was VERY insane by the point at which he was raping Elena of his own volition. He was delusional; he believed that he was married to her (and it is perfectly plausible that a woman who had been abused as badly as she had by they point, would do nothing to attempt to inform him that she was not actually his wife, or indeed willing. From her point of view, apart from "don't upset the big crazy guy", there is always the risk that he might give her back to the sadist. Gentle unwanted sex is an improvement on deliberate torture.) Bothari is seriously deranged by this point; he remembers this period as "taking care of the wife that he loves, who was injured".
  • You are wrong in stating that Bothari's insanity had not been treated before he returned to Vorkosigan employment. The medical treatment for Bothari removed his memories of that entire period. (This was possibly also done for political reasons, so that he cannot remember killing his C.O., or the Prince's crimes.)
    Whether this is a good, or ethical, solution, is another question, which is addressed later. But the Sergeant Bothari who volunteers to raise his daughter genuinely believes that she is the result of a wartime romance with an enemy soldier. (How it comes about that the mother is not with him, or raising the daughter, he is not too clear on. But he gets artificially induced headaches when he tries to think about that.)
    There is no point at which Bothari is a willing rapist. Either it was under orders, the horror of which drove him insane, or when deluded that he had consent. He has done really awful acts, but he has never knowingly chosen to rape. (In a later book, he finds out what he has done. He is very far from OK with it.)

  • This is a minor spoiler for Barrayar - but it is the point that made me feel that Aral and Cordelia are not being totally irresponsible: "taking his fatherly responsibility" turns out not to mean "take home and raise the child".
    First he hires a nurse, who raises the child, whilst he visits once a month. He is taking financial responsibility to provide for his daughter, and it is clear that he loves her deeply. But he is still on active service, now as an Armsman of Piotr Vorkosigan, so it is a case of him visiting occasionally when on leave, not having to face the stresses of active parenting (which I have my doubts about his ability to handle).
    By the time of The Warrior's Apprentice, Bothari's daughter is a teenager, and living with him - as part of the Vorkosigan household, just as he is. (And he is well into "protective father" mode!)
    In practice, this is very supervised parenting.

    There seems to be a serious intent here to discuss schizophrenia, and what can be done to ameliorate its symptoms and enable a sufferer to live a relatively normal, if supervised, life.


    One thing I like about this series (so far), is that although bad things happen, they are taken seriously. They always have long-term consequences.

    I took the Epilogue to be a function of when the book was written. Just a decade after the Vietnam War, I suspect that, having written what was essentially military fiction, Bujold felt she needed to make her position, regarding war in general, clear.
  • 221YouKneeK
    jul 4, 4:31pm

    >220 -pilgrim-: It sounds like the author did some retconning in the later books. Some of the things you said are not at all consistent with the text of this book and my review is of course only based on the book I’ve actually read. I would prefer to more organically experience the additional layers (or retconning) added to the story once I get to those books, although it's good to have the general knowledge that this aspect of the story might be presented in a more palatable manner later.

    I think the biggest disconnect between what you’ve said and what I’ve read is the question of how much Bothari remembers about what happened. You said the treatment "removed his memories of that entire period". This book tells us he beat the memory drugs and kept at least some of his memories. He worked very hard to do so. I downloaded the e-book from my library so I could look up the section I specifically remembered as it relates to this and provide specific quotes:
    • In chapter 14, Cordelia asks Bothari what he’s going to tell the baby about her mother. Bothari said, “Going to tell her she’s dead. Tell her we were married. It’s not a good thing to be a bastard here. So she won’t be. No one must call her that.” That doesn’t sound to me like a man who genuinely believes they were married, nor even necessarily that her mother is dead. It sounds like a man who’s fabricating the story he thinks will best protect his daughter.

    • Then Bothari notes that he’s naming the child Elena because that was her mother’s name, at which point Cordelia expresses surprise because she thought he lost his memories of that time, and yet he remembers the woman’s name. Then Bothari explains, “You can beat the memory drugs, some, if you know how.”

    • I don’t think we were ever explicitly told if he remembers the rapes, but nor are we told he does not. The implication to me was that he likely remembered many of the events from that time as a result of trying to beat the memory drugs and remember Elena. I could buy into the author expanding things in a later book to tell the reader that he does not in fact remember the rapes, but I see no clear reason to believe that based on the text in this book which tells us he has memories from that time.


    You said that I stated Bothari’s insanity had not been treated. I did not say that. I said, specifically, “there was nothing to indicate to me that this mental state had been cured”. Being treated is not the same thing as being cured, and removing memories is surely not a cure! It doesn’t change his underlying personality. It doesn’t help him understand what happened, nor how to handle what happened, nor how to handle bad things if they happen in the future. It definitely doesn’t give any guarantees about what he might do if he finds himself provoked again in some manner. Bothari wasn’t mentally stable at any point in this book. I remember Vorkosigan being concerned early on, after they’d been rescued from the planet at the beginning, when he learned Bothari had been put in solitary confinement. He kept stressing over it when he was half delirious from his own injury, saying Bothari would have hallucinations. Vorkosigan also says near the end of the book that Bothari will never be normal.

    Going back to your first point, I don’t remember any indication that Bothari was more “gentle” (if that term can even apply!) with his rape when they were in private. Nor do I remember any indication that he was intentionally brutal when doing it on command. The implication was that he was a “large” man and didn’t have any sexual experience outside his function as an on-demand rapist. I will grant that rape without other torture might be better than the rape with additional torture, and by that point she was probably too damaged and resigned to put up any kind of a fight. In any case, if Bothari genuinely didn't understand that he was raping this woman, I don’t think that in anyway ameliorates Bothari’s apparent unfitness as a father. Young children, especially before they have learned to talk, cannot always express their needs clearly and unambiguously. A parent needs to be attuned to what their child really needs, not what they do or don't say they need.

    I also disagree with your statement that he “never knowingly chose to rape”. I think he knew what he was doing at the time, whether he remembered it later or not. You said "the horror of which drove him insane", which I'm skeptical about, but those two statements seem like a contradiction to me. If it horrified him enough to drive him insane, then he had to have understood what he was being ordered to do at the beginning. He knowingly chose to follow those orders, to rape. He’s presented as a man who needs orders and follows those orders rigidly. He did show himself capable of refusing those orders when he chose not to rape Cordelia, but he apparently did so only because she was “Vorkosigan’s prisoner” so it seems he was just giving prior orders precedence to his current orders. (One might also speculate it’s out of loyalty to Vorkosigan, but we’re told he hates Vorkosigan early in the book. It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t have some loyalty for Vorkosigan after all he’s done for him, but I don’t get the impression he’s motivated by loyalty anyway.) Bothari appears in this book to be a man who cannot make moral judgments on his own, or at least he can’t put his moral judgements above his orders, which hardly speaks well of his suitability for fatherhood.


    The last section I was referring to wasn't presented as an epilogue in the audiobook (or in the library book I downloaded later), so I'm not sure if we are thinking of the same thing. I thought her position on war was pretty clear throughout the book, anyway. I took that last part as more of a commentary on death, and how to think of people who have died, and how to handle dead bodies, with the contrast between the pilot who was grossed out by the whole thing and the technician who respected them and tried to give them dignity after death, and enjoyed speculating about what kind of lives they had led. But in reading reviews from friends on GR, I've learned that this was actually a short story not originally published as part of this book. If I understand correctly, it was actually published first in an anthology, before Shards of Honor was published. That makes more sense to me, if it wasn't originally intended as a direct part of this book. It was maybe added to this book because that's where it fits, but I think it wasn't written as a true part of this story.

    222quondame
    Redigerat: jul 4, 6:20pm

    >218 YouKneeK: >220 -pilgrim-: I tried to go back to early copies of my Bujold books to see if the coda was always part of Shards of Honor but I don't still have anything earlier than paperbacks from after Cetaganda was published. Somehow I remembered it as an add on, possibly later, but I don't think I elevated Bujold to favorite author status until after The Vor Game, so when the first books came out I bought them for the LASFS library not for myself. Somehow the Vorkosigan books must have almost instantly become permanent features of my inner SF landscape, because every time I actually look the publication dates seem 5-8 years later than my emotions have them.

    >220 -pilgrim-: Ah, yes, I'm glad my memory of it as an add on isn't an artifact of aging.

    223YouKneeK
    jul 4, 8:21pm

    >222 quondame: It would have helped a lot, at least for me, if there had been a short note explaining its inclusion rather than just tacking it on as if it were another chapter.

    224YouKneeK
    jul 4, 8:26pm

    I barely even noticed the end of the second quarter came and went. I’ve just belatedly updated the statistical graphs on my Milanote page if anybody is interested. The numbers are as of today, not June 30.

    There’s nothing very exciting there, pretty much the usual. My median year read so far this year is still 2007. My average rating for the year has dropped from 3.9 to 3.7 since the end of March. The gender of my unique authors read this year have become oddly and unintentionally equal. My average “pages” per day is at pretty normal levels although, as I mentioned last quarter, I’m counting audiobooks in that count by using the page counts from the corresponding Kindle editions. My print reading has definitely dropped off a lot this year as I spend some of my leisure time on other activities, but audiobooks are giving me the chance to close the gap while also listening to books that I likely wouldn’t have read for years otherwise. I also feel like the exercise of trying to absorb audiobooks, something I consider far more difficult than absorbing print books, has surely improved my listening and attention skills at least a little bit.

    Work will get very busy for me starting the middle of this month, and especially in August. I expect to be working long hours and most weekends and not have much personal time, so my numbers can be expected to drop by the end of this quarter. Additionally, upper management has started firming up the return to office plans for those of us who have been fortunate enough to work from home over the past 16 months. We’re expected to be back in the office 3 days a week on a mandatory basis starting in September, with the plan to be fully back in the office by the beginning of 2022. My department tends to be more flexible when it comes to working hours and locations in general, but I’m not sure yet what our own expectations will be. I expect my days of 100% working from home are limited, though!

    I’ll miss it. I thought I’d hate working from home when it first started, but it didn’t take me long to become attached to it. I’m certainly more productive because it's quieter and less distracting here, and I enjoy the time saved by not having to commute. Plus it’s just nice not to have to deal with all that traffic, and I don't have that unexpected loss of time when an accident slows traffic down even worse and triples my commute time. Some of that commute time just goes into more work, but some of it goes toward my personal time too, depending on how busy things are. On calm days I may even take a 30 minute “lunch” break to goof off or take care of stuff around the house, whereas I rarely took lunch breaks when working in the office. (Lunch itself always gets eaten while working at my computer.) Although it will nice to see people again, I would be perfectly content to walk into the office one morning, wave at everybody and say “Hi, it's good to see you again!”, then immediately walk back out and resume working from home. ;)

    225quondame
    jul 4, 9:10pm

    >224 YouKneeK: Until employers understand that working from home cuts their expenses and increases productivity, the desire for the illusion of control will outweigh any desire to make life easier for their employees.

    226Karlstar
    jul 4, 10:13pm

    >225 quondame: Employers that have embraced agile practices have taken as fact that working together, co-located, increases productivity. Do we know that for sure? I don't think we do, but I don't think the agile gurus will admit it might not be, either. I haven't really seen any sign that they've learned from the last 15 months.

    Not to mention the whole 'everyone at one big table is better' theory, which is just ridiculous.

    227YouKneeK
    jul 4, 10:58pm

    >225 quondame: I think a large part of the concern, at least at my company, is with collaboration like >226 Karlstar: mentions. I do believe sometimes it’s easier to do that face to face, where people who are critical to the discussion can’t accidentally mute themselves, or get distracted by their barking dog, or lose their internet connection, or whatever. On the other hand, I also think my rather boisterous and easily distracted team seems to stay more focused and get to the point faster on a Teams call than they do in person. So I have mixed feelings. I could see the advantage of coming into the office as needed for major team meetings and kicking off collaborative projects, but our team doesn’t collaborate with each other constantly. Usually there are meetings to discuss plans for a new project, then assignments get parceled out, and work is mostly done independently with occasional smaller-scale discussions to hash things out as they come up.

    Aside from collaboration, I think the other big problem is that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to work ethic. Some people just flat out can’t be relied on to get their work done when they’re doing it from home. Or they’ll just do their assigned work and then goof off the rest of the time until somebody assigns them more work, even though there are plenty of other things that need done. Others can be trusted to work independently, get our assigned work done in a timely manner, and jump in to handle other things without being asked.

    I think some people who are have small children at home (or pesky spouses) can have more trouble focusing on their work too, depending on the situation. I have a lot of colleagues with young children, and I’ve attended team meetings with a backdrop of screaming children whenever a colleague has forgotten to mute themself. Maybe you get used to it if you’re a parent, but I sure couldn’t work like that. I have a hard enough time focusing when I hear it over a call. I also have a colleague I work more closely with who has been making constant mistakes since we started working from home. She was admittedly never the most competent or conscientious worker, so I don’t know if the issue is working from home or something else, but it has become significantly worse over the past 16 months.

    So it’s a dilemma, I guess. For my own situation, I’m just going to wait and see how things play out. I’ll adapt whichever way things go, though maybe not without some grumbling. My manager does know I prefer the WFH situation, and he’s pretty flexible and respects my work ethic, but I think we’ll also be constrained by the expectations of the teams we work with. The larger IT department tends to be fairly flexible and there are some teams who were primarily working from home long before the pandemic, but the team I’m on traditionally worked most days in the office, except maybe for Fridays. I imagine once things settle down, my new schedule will probably be some sort of hybrid, with some days in the office and some days at home.

    228Maddz
    jul 5, 2:23am

    >227 YouKneeK: Nothing has been said yet (officially), but my council sent a survey round end of May to see how people felt about returning to the office in the autumn. Our team has been 100% WFH with no issues over productivity (if anything it's increased), so it looks like we are unlikely to return any time soon. It's been suggested we'll be primarily WFH and most of us will only be in the office 1 or 2 days a week for major meetings.

    That pleases me; I'm fortunate I have a separate room to work from and my only housemate is also WFH. I was also lucky I pretty well had a home office set up because I was already WFH 2 days a week.

    We have had small children and pets disruptions in meetings but that has tapered off as both get used to the new normal. There are others who are longing to get back to the office because their homes are too small and they can't focus.

    I'm not looking forward to going back because of the commute: 20 minute drive to station, 55 minutes on train to London, change to different line, spend 10 minutes with nose in somebody's armpit, then 5 minutes walk to office. Going back I usually have to stand for 20 minutes to the first stop after changing lines, but the short ride is usually quiet. My boss is suggesting I shift my hours to travel when it's quieter, but the off-peak timings mean I either only come in for half a day (catch the 15:24) or get home 2 hours later (catch the 19:24)...

    229quondame
    jul 5, 2:24am

    >226 Karlstar: >227 YouKneeK: A great deal depends on the job to be done and the situation at home, though flexibility may have a bit better chance where work at home has gone well for organizations. I couldn't have done a lot of my work without a fair amount of expensive equipment, some of it very proprietary, so mostly working at home wouldn't cut it, but I saw many ingenuous schemes for seeming to be working or even at work to know that required attendance doesn't correlate with known output. And that doesn't count a number of guys who ran side business using company resources. I could admire their industry, but couldn't depend on them for support in a project.

    230YouKneeK
    jul 5, 7:51am

    >228 Maddz: I hope the final decision at your office results in a mostly WFH situation. It’s very difficult to give up that commute time once you’ve gotten used to being able to use it for more important and/or more pleasant things. For me, another difficulty with working in the office is that occasionally I get trapped there for hours in the evening if there's a major crisis near the end of the day, because I can't afford to be away from the computer long enough to commute home, especially during rush hour.

    >229 quondame: Wow, the guys running the side business got fired when they were discovered I would imagine?

    231-pilgrim-
    jul 5, 7:58am

    >221 YouKneeK: Continuing the spoiler-tagged discussion:
  • I phrased the discussion of Bothari's treatment the way I did, because my own opinion of the ethics and effectiveness of what was done to Bothari and the opinions that the Vorkosigans have are separate issues.

    I believe that the treatment is unethical and likely to harm Bothari.

    But Cordelia was raised in a culture in which this is the routine treatment of criminals. They don't have prisons, they use psychiatric techniques instead. So it is understandable that SHE is going to believe that it will be effective. And Aral has no medical background, so why shouldn't he trust the medical consensus of his own doctors? They have good reasons to consider him "cured".

    I don't think the way the story plays out implies that the author agrees with the Vorkosigans. Just that this is a plausible and not uncaring response. As readers, we can disagree with them.


  • I have also been thinking more about the speed of the relationship. We agree that it is not implausible for Aral to make a quick decision, coming from a culture of arranged marriage. But I don't think we have been looking carefully enough at Cordelia's situation.
    Cordelia's intention was to go home, readjust, and let a relationship develop under more normal circumstances. But she was denied that option. It is made very clear to her that her impression of Aral Vorkosigan as a decent man and an honourable soldier is unacceptable to her government, and that unless she recants, and "admits" that he has raped, tortured and brainwashed her, she will be detained, and worked over by psychiatrists using aggressive, invasive techniques - including mind-altering drugs - until her "memories" conform with their expectations and her statements fit their political agenda. (It is this portrayal of psychiatric "debriefing" that makes me believe that the author never tends to imply that the medical treatment of Bothari was actually correct.)
    At this point, Cordelia has only two choices: she can submit. This involves a) defaming
    a man whom she knows did not act in that way, and b); submitting to the destruction of her personality and the implantation of fake memories.

    Or she can run. But by running, she is making plausible the other theory: that she is actually a willing traitor and a Barrayan agent. So she becomes a wanted criminal; any world friendly to her home country will arrest and return her. And to any country friendly to Barrayar she is the enemy soldier instrumental in Barrayar's defeat. She has either got to spend the rest of her life in hiding, trying to evade the attentions of two hostile nations, or run to Barrayar, and trust that Aral is influential enough to be able to protect her.

    She IS taking a big chance, and assuming that a relationship founded in abnormal circumstances will survive. But the only alternative that she has is to tell lies, defame a good man, and destroy herself in the process. This is less naïvity than it is desperation.

    One thing that did bother me about The Warrior's Apprentice is how her "wanted" status on Beta Earth is glossed over, such that Miles can easily visit. I know that 18 years is long enough for diplomatic relations to improve, and Aral's behaviour as Regent come to outweigh his reputation as "the Butcher of Komarr", but the references to Miles' childhood visits seem to imply that Cordelia was accepted back relatively rapidly.

  • I thought I made it clear that I shared your concerns about Bothari's suitability as a parent.

    But what is actually implemented fits pretty closely to how a schizophrenic parent is treated in my country nowadays. There are not assumed automatically to be incapable - children are no longer removed at birth. But neither is it assumed that all will be well, and that they can cope with the pressures of parenthood. They will be supported and closely monitored - which is the rôle that Cordelia in fact plays. Bothari's fixation on her shows that he both accepts and recognises the need for such supervision.

    However, I am not sure that you are correct in seeing the description of the elaboration of what Bothari's fatherhood actually involves as retconning. The author was born in 1949. Many of her slightly older contempories will not have seen soldier fathers for several years, and then been introduced to a man they barely knew. My parents married, and a few months later my father was sent overseas on a posting due to last several years. Nowadays, better communications mean that military personnel spend "tours of duty" in war zones and then go home to their families. But during my childhood, and the author's, coming from a service family often meant having an absentee father (and, in those days, it would only be the father). He provides for his family, and visits occasionally, but is not part of daily life.
    The distances involved in space travel mean that returning to this model of military service is probable.

    It is just that the mindset may have needed spelling out to younger readers by the nineties, when Barrayar was written.


  • I think we have different concepts of what constitutes "choice" here.
    I am well aware of thoroughly documented cases, in recent times, of fathers being forced to rape their sons and daughters, or sons their fathers and mothers, at gunpoint. Or indeed, the infamous pyramid at Abu Ghraib. In one sense, of course this is a choice. The man can always choose to be shot instead - and undoubtedly some did. Did those who obeyed instead commit rape? Of course. But I would not say that they "willingly chose to rape". They do not need to be "cured" of an "urge to rape", because they never desired to. They may well need considerable assistance in coping with psychatric trauma though.

    Sergeant Bothari is ordered to rape Elena. If he disobeys a direct order, he can be shot. He could choose to refuse, as indeed he does over Cordelia - but he expects to be executed for what he does instead (and indeed, it is only the agreement to attribute his actions to Cordelia that precedents this). There is no Geneva Convention, or Nuremberg doctrine in operation to justify disobedience to orders. We have no evidence that, in a military commanded by Prince Serg, the order is in any way invalid. But unhappily obeying an order, in the expectation of being executed if one does not, is not "willingly choosing to rape".

    I presume that you have read far enough into The Warrior's Apprentice to have seen Bothari's service record? The sudden increase in discipline parades is, I think, meant to indicate Bothari trying to refuse orders to do terrible things (whether torture or rape). It is stated quite clearly that his commanding officer "broke him". He was never willingly complicit.

    And it is clearly stated that Bothari was picked by the Admiral to do his dirty work not just for his size, but because of his mental health problems. Bothari is aware that he has problems. He has resolved them by taking military service, so that he always has a superior officer to tell him what is the correct thing to do. That is why Aral is so good for him, and the Admiral so very, very bad. I see him as an abuse victim here.

    Bujold takes mental illness seriously. "Crazy" is never just crazy. Being forced to choose between two wrong options (rape or disobey), Bothari has mentally retreated into a delusional state.

    Given the awfulness of his childhood, Bothari is going to have very little reference point for what a happy, mutual relationship looks like. It is clear that his primary motive for begging Elena from his superior IS to protect her, and attempt to heal her.

    But Elena's mental defences against prolonged rape and torture have been a retreat into a semicatatonic state.

    We need to take into consideration the fact that Barrayan marriages are usually arranged. That means that a lot of consensual marital sex is going to take place in a spirit of acquiescence and duty, rather than arousal and lust. Bothari's mental image of normal newly-wed behaviour is not going to be that of modern Western culture. Confusing passivity for consent is easier if you come from a culture where sexual enthusiasm is not expected from a bride.

    I believe that Bothari's state immediately prior to treatment is that he remembers raping under orders, and is intensely distressed by this, but genuinely believes that his subsequent sex with Elena was in the context of a consensual relationship, and the act of a loving partner trying to comfort a physically damaged partner.

    Since he is so distressed by what he was ordered to do, I see no evidence that he needs curing of the urge to rape.

    If he did not simply remember Elena as "the enemy soldier that I loved" then he would not have tried so hard to retain those memories during treatment.

    The conversation with the Vorkosigans about what to tell his daughter does imply an element of fabrication. But I think what he is attempting to conceal is that her mother rejected her. He had an appalling mother; he does not want to give his daughter a reason to feel despised by hers. (And he does not know the reason that would justify that reaction on the mother's part.)

    That his accounts subsequently do not remain consistent are the result of confabulation. He has gaps in his memory, and tries to fill them in plausibly (to him).

    Bothari does have schizophrenia. Untreated, he hears voices and becomes delusional. And the delusions can make him harmful to others. But he does know and accept that he is ill. He is on medication to control it, and he recognises that he needs to take it. He needs supervision and he accepts that.

    I think we are meant to pity Bothari. He is a victim, not a perpetrator. But that never implies that his good intent makes him "safe". This is a realistic discussion of how to integrate those with mental illness into society - and of the dangers that their vulnerability can cause.

    There are some comments about Bothari that I found initially disturbing, but I will wait until you have finished The Warrior's Apprentice before raising those.

    Thank you for an enjoyable discussion over interpreting this author. I have tried to keep my comments to the parts that you have read (with the exception of the one flagged episode from Barrayar), but I read all 3 books in rapid succession, so I apologise if I have anywhere misremembered which book something was stated in.
  • 232-pilgrim-
    jul 5, 8:06am

    >221 YouKneeK: Looking again, I noticed that you don't think that Bothari was necessarily saving Cordelia out of loyalty to Vorkosigan.

    I thought from the start it is clear that Bothari has a peculiarly intense love/hate relationship with Vorkosigan (as his superior officer), and that this causes him to be doggedly loyal to Aral.


    But I don't think the reason for this mixed reaction is ever really explained in the first book. (Once we get Bothari's backstory, it does make sense, but one does have to wait for the result.)

    233fuzzi
    jul 5, 8:37am

    I'm enjoying this discussion. 😊

    234Karlstar
    jul 5, 11:54am

    >227 YouKneeK: One thing I think does happen while video conferencing, is that people who tend not to speak up often or 'loudly' enough I think get shut out more. In a live meeting I'll notice when someone has something to say but hasn't been able to get into the conversation, I can't do that on a video conference, people are either too good at masking that or not using their video.

    >230 YouKneeK: Not getting stuck at the office at the end of the day is definitely a bonus, though now you're stuck in your home office without even the break for the commute. It happens though, sometimes a situation is too hot to walk away from.

    235haydninvienna
    jul 5, 1:26pm

    >234 Karlstar: Microsoft Teams has a way of putting a virtual hand up, but of course the “hand”still has to be noticed. For me, in real-life meetings I tend to be rather softly spoken and often get overlooked, but I seem to do rather better on line.

    236YouKneeK
    jul 5, 2:29pm

    >231 -pilgrim-: Regarding your first set of spoiler tags:
    You told me I was “wrong in stating that Bothari’s insanity had not been treated” when I never said that, and you also said all his memories of the entire period had been removed when that is not the case based on the text of Shards of Honor. That is what I was addressing with my reply.

    To address the point you bring up in this post, about whether the characters had reason to believe the treatment was effective, I disagree that this would be a reasonable assumption on their part. Cordelia and Vorkosigan are both intelligent people with basic observational skills. And like I said in my previous post, Vorkosigan says near the end of the book that Bothari will never be normal. I’ve now looked up the direct quote and this is what he said: “He’ll never be normal, as we think of it, but at least he has a uniform, and a weapon, and regulations of a sort to follow. It seems to give him an anchor.” That hardly sounds to me like Vorkosigan believes Bothari has been “cured”. It sounds to me like he believes Bothari is stable in his current situation. I also don’t recall any point at which any character in the book, not even a Barrayan medical professional, expressed belief that Bothari had been cured.

    Based on some of your comments in a later section regarding “curing Bothari of the urge to rape”, it’s possible we aren’t referring to the same thing when we say “cure”? At no point did I say he needed to be cured of the urge to rape and that is not what I was referring to. I was referring to his mental instability in general, as I said in my review, and which I expounded on further in my previous post.


    Regarding the second set of spoiler tags:
    I did not disagree with Cordelia’s choices. I agree she was in a bad position. As I said in my review, I was glad she tried to not jump into anything. Whether her choices make sense or not, I don’t think it makes the idea of marriage under those circumstances less disturbing. I think my main objection is with the trope in general. From what little experience I’ve had with romances (more in my teens than adulthood), this is an all too common romance trope. A woman falls in love with a man who at first seems threatening in some manner and/or who holds some sort of power over her, but it’s all ok because she soon knows him better than anybody else, despite barely knowing him at all. She knows he’s really a good person at heart and he’s just doing what he has to do for one reason or another, so they will of course get married and live happily ever after. And since we’re told this is so, we can’t argue with it – Vorkosigan clearly is written as an honorable character, and it appears that he and Cordelia will prove to be well suited for each other in marriage. I’d just like to see the more realistic outcomes receive better representation in novels.

    Regarding the third set of spoiler tags:
    Yes, you did state you shared my concerns about leaving a child in Bothari’s care, but then you went on to list your ameliorating factors, some of which were not in the text that I read, and some of which I interpreted differently. So I was responding to those points in terms of whether or not I agreed that they ameliorated my original concerns.

    You have said twice now that Bothari is closely monitored as a parent. I understand that, but this wasn’t in the book I read and reviewed. As I tried to gently hint at the beginning of my previous response, I do not want to know what happens in future books before I read those books for myself, not even minor things. I realize not everybody has the same problem with spoilers that I do, and that it may seem ridiculous to some people, but I hope you can respect my feelings on the matter anyway. I almost stopped reading your most recent post a couple of times because you were referencing things I have not read. I'm sure much of it was unintentional, and I definitely understand how difficult it is to separate out events from a series based on what happened in which book, but I had already pointed out in my previous post that some of the things you mentioned were not portrayed in the book I had read and suggested I would prefer to make those discoveries on my own by reading the books.

    I decided to keep reading your post despite what I perceived as spoilers, out of respect for the time you put into your post, but I want to give fair warning that I will not in the future. I’m sorry that I haven't read more of the series so that we can have a better discussion about it, but even if I was a person who didn't mind any spoilers at all, getting snippets of information without the deeper context of having read those books for myself would not be conducive to a proper discussion about those points. It's a bit like trying to play a game with somebody who keeps introducing new rules after the game has already begun.

    In any case, I think you misunderstood my point on the retconning. I didn’t say that the details of Bothari’s involvement as a father was retconning. In fact, I don’t think I even referenced his level of involvement in my reply? As I said, “the biggest disconnect between what you’ve said and what I’ve read is the question of how much Bothari remembers about what happened.” The things you said on that topic contradicted what I read in this book. I gave more details about that in my last post, including supporting quotes from the book.


    Regarding the fourth set of spoiler tags:
    We seem to be going in circles a bit here. If we back up to my review, my concern was with Bothari’s suitability as a father. You said in your previous post that Bothari was deluded that he had consent from Elena. I replied that, even if Bothari is unaware that he did anything wrong, this does not reduce my concerns about his fitness as a father. You expounded further in this most recent post by saying Bothari doesn’t have much reference for what a happy, mutual relationship looks like, and that passivity might have been mistaken for consent based on their culture.

    I certainly find it believable that Bothari didn’t understand what he was doing based on the points you've made, but that doesn’t mean a mentally healthy Barrayan would have made the same mistake. “Oh yes, this woman who has recently been raped by me multiple times and is laying here practically catatonic must surely want to have sex with me now. I know this because she isn’t speaking to me.” And of course the mentally healthy Barrayan would never have believed the delusion that he was in a loving marriage in the first place, if that is indeed what Bothari believed while he was taking care of Elena. At best Bothari shows poor judgement that might manifest in a different way while trying to take care of a child that can’t express herself clearly. Will he do better now that he's in a more stable situation? Maybe. But what happens if something disturbs his mental state again? Please remember that my review was written based on this one book, with no knowledge of how large a role Bothari would (or wouldn't) play as Elena’s father in future books.

    So to reply to what you’ve said here, yes, I agree that being ordered to rape doesn’t automatically mean it’s in his nature to rape. I never said that he needs curing of the urge to rape? Is I have explained, my reference to a cure was in regard to his mental instability in general. I can also see Bothari as a sympathetic character and, based on the things you’ve revealed about later books, I can understand where a reader might come to like him in that context.


    >232 -pilgrim-: Vorkosigan says at the beginning of Shards of Honor that Bothari hates him, but that he’s honorable “in his own twisty way”. My point wasn’t really about whether Bothari was loyal to Vorkosigan which I thought was not entirely clear, and I got distracted by speculating on that a bit. I wouldn’t have any trouble believing somebody who told me he was loyal. My point had been that I didn’t believe Bothari was making a moral choice not to rape, but rather made that choice because he was following prior orders. I don’t know if he followed those orders out of loyalty or just because doggedly following orders is what he does.

    237YouKneeK
    jul 5, 2:38pm

    >234 Karlstar: That’s a good point about quieter people having more trouble being heard on a conference call with fewer (if any) visual cues. I also suspect that some people who are less engaged in their job just flat out don't pay attention to the discussion. In my department we don’t usually activate the video and just do voice only.

    If I have to be stuck somewhere dealing with a work issue, I’d rather be stuck at home. If I’m at home, I can usually break away for a couple minutes to grab a proper dinner, or I can take the laptop into the kitchen with me. During moments of downtime when I’m waiting for somebody else to do their part, I can take care of other small things at home. I also like knowing that, once things are finally resolved, I’ll already be home and can just go straight into the personal things I need to do rather than having to drive home first.

    >235 haydninvienna: We haven’t adapted the use of the hand in our meetings. I’ve seen it used once or twice, but it mostly hasn’t gotten noticed. I could see it being really helpful if used, though! Some of the people I work with (and allow me to emphasize that these are usually people who work in IT!) seem to have trouble even telling who’s in their meeting and what their current status is. I feel like the attendance monitor sometimes, with people frequently talking to others who aren’t available while I explain to them why that person isn’t replying to them.

    One of the things I’ve enjoyed best about remote collaboration for major projects is when we have the sites use a Teams channel to report issues after a project goes live. In person, it’s harder to keep track of all the different in-person conversations with different end users, especially since they tend to come in and talk to whoever looks at them first, which means there can be multiple conversations at once with different people. Even when there's only one conversation, I tend to miss the beginning of it if I’m trying hard to focus on solving an issue already. When all the issues are reported in text on a Teams channel it has two major benefits: 1) issues are reported by the on-site managers, which turns them into gatekeepers. A lot of the basic training questions get filtered out because the managers already know the answers, or they learn them the first time it comes up and 2) everything is in text where I can go back and read it when I get time, and I can catch up on the entire conversation if people have already replied. In that format, I run circles around everybody in terms of picking up and resolving issues, and I feel much more in tune with what's going on. :)

    238-pilgrim-
    jul 5, 5:10pm

    >236 YouKneeK: Yes, I have drastically misunderstood what you were referring to as requiring "curing". I had definitely assumed that you were referring to the damage done during the course of Shards of Honor I suspect this may be a cultural difference. I do not come from a culture that believes that having a mental illness is, in itself, grounds for preventing someone from being a parent. We simply require that their condition is well-managed, stable and supervised.

    Vorkosigan states, during the first section of Shards of Honour, that Bothari has never been, and will never be "normal". He is stable then, and his condition is medicated, and is being supervised by a superior officer.

    Are you really stating that no schizophrenic can be allowed to be a parent (in our world)? Because we know that it is a condition that cannot be cured (currently). Note: the actual term is never used, but it is clear from Bothari's behaviour on ship (and elsewhere) that that is the mental illness being described.


    Apart from the quotation from Barrayar, which I noted in advance was from there, so that you could skip that point of you wished, I am not aware of having referenced anything that ocurred in later books.

    And in the second post I did reference the opening chapter of The Warrior's Apprentice - again forewarned - because you had stated that you were partway through that book by that point.

    If I have unwittingly made any other references to events outside what you have stated that you have read, I would be grateful if you could let me know which they were, as I would prefer not to repeat my mistakes.

    239quondame
    Redigerat: jul 5, 6:26pm

    >230 YouKneeK: Not that I ever noticed. They had good concealment skills in general, but for some reason it was clear to me that the calls I overheard had nothing to do with our business and that they weren't efficient enough resolving issues I was associated with for them to be putting all the obvious effort toward them. Why it wasn't generally known eludes me, but they were pretty good bullshit artists and I had good bullshit filters.

    As for Cordelia's choice at the end of Shards of Honor - she was very aware that she knew something that could bring down the entire Barrayarn government, incidentally destroying Aral, which she absolutely did not want. As to her reinstatement with Beta, I don't think she was ever considered traitorous, just potentially damaged, and the Betans aren't going to blame the child for what the parent did in any case. As for sanity and Barrayarns, well that's the story, isn't it?

    240YouKneeK
    jul 5, 8:15pm

    >238 -pilgrim-: I don’t understand where you’re getting even the possibility that I might be saying a schizophrenic, or anybody else with a mental illness, can’t be a parent. As you’ve said, you’re talking about supervised care. As I’ve said, that information about Bothari being under supervision while interacting with his daughter was not in the book I read. I wrote my review based on the information I had from the book I had read. Maybe I should have extrapolated that this would be the case, but I did not.

    It seems like you’re trying to convince me to reassess the opinion from my review by giving me information from books I have not read yet, instead of allowing me to make those judgments for myself when I get to the relevant parts in the series. Why not simply say, “I understand your concerns about Bothari as a father, but I think you’ll find those concerns reduced if you proceed to the later books.”? I already said at the beginning of >221 YouKneeK: that it’s good to know that aspect of the story may be presented in a more palatable manner later. That is as much as I’m willing to judge about something I have not yet read for myself in its full context.

    It seems unlikely, but if you’re looking for me to say how I feel about schizophrenic parents raising children in general, I can’t imagine why you would possibly want me to assess something like that. I am the last person whose opinion on that subject would have any value. I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist nor a parent, nor have I had a close friend or family member in that situation. But if you want it, here it is. If there is proper supervision, and assuming violence was not an issue for the particular situation, I would not see any reason to be concerned, and I would imagine (again without any expertise) that it might be good and even necessary for both parent and child to interact with each other. This opinion is not final and is subject to change pending relevant knowledge or experience. :)


    I don’t recall making any reference to how far through The Warrior’s Appretice I am, besides mentioning in >219 YouKneeK: that I was starting it next? I’ve only listened to the first hour of it. If I remember correctly, I had just gotten to the part where Miles was trying to find information about Elena’s mother but I did not make it to the end of that section. I usually fit most of my listening time in during weekends, but I’ve been busy and it’s been all I can do just to find the time to respond to this thread. Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to have time to listen next weekend either, so it will be down to whatever time I can squeeze in on weekdays after work and while allowing time for other responsibilities.

    It’s very possible that you haven’t given as many spoilers as it seemed to me. I only know you referenced things that were not revealed in the first book. I’ve mentioned some of these things already. Maybe those things were details from later books, or maybe they were misconceptions or extrapolations on your part, although if they are extrapolations based on information provided in later books rather than the first book, I would consider that a bit spoilerish also. An example of something I already mentioned would be your statement that ”The medical treatment for Bothari removed his memories of that entire period.”. This is a direct contradiction with the first book, so I don’t know if this is a spoiler for how the story will be presented in a later book or if you had just forgotten some of the details from the first book.

    Another more recent example I hadn’t mentioned would be your comment that Bothari has schizophrenia, and all the subsequent information you gave about the delusions making him harmful to others, him being on medication, and his recognition that he needs to take it and needs supervision. You might have extrapolated his schizophrenia from the first book based on better familiarity with the symptoms than I have. If so, I wouldn’t consider that a spoiler. Regarding the next point, the first book only tells us he has hallucinations in solitary confinement. We know he has harmed others, but I recall no events that said his hallucinations were a trigger. So now I’m speculating about events that might happen in a future book in which his hallucinations cause him to harm somebody, and I’ll be anticipating something like that happening if conditions seem ripe. This may dilute my reaction if such an event does occur, or it may cause me unnecessary suspense and a failure to focus on the real intent of the scene if I'm anticipating it and it does not occur. The medication bit is obvious probably, but not explicitly stated I don’t think, especially not in the context of controlling schizophrenia. And we most definitely were not told that he recognizes he needs to take the medication or that he requires supervision, which gives me knowledge I shouldn’t have yet about his level of responsibility and awareness and will affect how I perceive him. I’m sure most people would consider those to be minor things, and I can understand why you might think I’m being ridiculous (I'm not saying you've implied that, because you haven't, but it has been implied by others in the past and I understand that is inevitably going to be the perception some people have), but these things do affect my enjoyment when reading a book. Sometimes something I was afraid was a spoiler turns out to have no impact on my reading of the book, but that isn't always the case, and my judgement of that impact doesn't always match up with that of others.

    Regarding the explicitly warned spoilers, I would just note that putting the warning of a spoiler and the spoilery content within the same spoiler tags is not a guarantee that I won’t have already absorbed the spoiler before I have time to avert my eyes. If the spoiler content is already visible at the same time as the warning, it’s easy to see and absorb both things simultaneously. It's also easy to absorb the content when trying to figure out where it ends. This may be more true for someone like me who's working with a large monitor as compared to somebody reading on a phone with fewer words visible at once on the screen. Additionally, as I alluded in my previous post, I find it very difficult to ignore somebody’s thoughts when they’re clearly putting a lot of time and thought into expressing them.

    >239 quondame: I just want to verify that second paragraph was a comment in response to the second spoiler tagged section in >231 -pilgrim-:, correct? Not to anything I posted? Your second sentence is not in anything I’ve read yet (aside from pilgrim’s comments), so I don’t have any opinions on it.

    241quondame
    Redigerat: jul 5, 10:05pm

    >240 YouKneeK: Yes, >231 -pilgrim-: seemed to leave out the most damaging piece of information Cordelia was hiding and as for the second sentence, seemed to over emphasize Cordelia's potential danger in Betan eyes. If you felt that Betans, at the time Cordelia fled, thought she might be a traitor, then I could be wrong, but I've no such memory but the slippers do stay in my mind.

    242YouKneeK
    jul 5, 10:13pm

    >241 quondame: In the first book, they believed she had been brainwashed into acting as an agent for the Barrayans. I love having a copy of this on Kindle because it’s so much easier to look things up that I *know* I heard and get the exact wording. Being unable to do that is sometimes a great frustration for me with audiobooks!

    Here’s a specific quote from chapter 13, shortly before Cordelia escapes. Commodore Tailor is speaking, with the psychiatrist Mehta in attendance. ”We’re afraid – we’re very much afraid that the Barrayaran mind programming you underwent was a lot more extensive than anyone realized. We think, in fact…” he paused, taking a deep breath, “that they’ve tried to make you an agent.”

    That was pretty much where things were left with that plot thread in this book, because she escaped soon after and she doesn’t have any further contact with her own people through the end of the book.


    These things are only so fresh in my mind because I listened to it recently. My short term memory of what I read (or listen to) is pretty good, but talk to me again in a couple weeks and I'll have new books filling up my head and probably won't remember anything about this one. :)

    243quondame
    jul 5, 11:55pm

    >242 YouKneeK: That's it then. Being Betan they wouldn't blame her exactly, just never trust her with state responsibilities, which isn't a likely issue.

    244YouKneeK
    jul 9, 10:04pm

    Ernest nearly scared me out of my wits tonight. I live alone, aside from the cat, and I take my showers at night a little bit before bedtime. I got out of my shower to the sound of somebody vacuuming my home. Now most of us know that Ernest has a Roomba fixation, so the explanation seems obvious, but he hasn’t done that in months because putting a blanket on top of it solved that problem. The upstairs Roomba was in fact still under its blanket, and he hadn’t disturbed it.

    However, I have another Roomba downstairs that he has always ignored. Until tonight. At least, I assume it was him, since I didn’t see the perpetrator in action. It’s possible that I had an intruder who breaks into homes to clean them or uses Roombas to mask noise made during ransacking procedures. Or maybe the machines are finally gaining sentience. So many possibilities.

    I did figure it out pretty quick, but there were a few moments of a shocked “what the heck is going on?!” reaction. My first impulse was to charge through the house and find out what was going on, but I was in the typical condition one might expect to be in immediately after stepping out of a shower, so maybe not the best state in which to confront an intruding and possibly psychotic housekeeper. By the time I was half dry, my brain had kicked into gear and I just yelled at Alexa to make the Roomba stop, which greatly reduced the noise level, then I got myself into a proper state before investigating the entire house. I only found myself and the cat. And a couple Roombas. The downstairs Roomba is an older model with a removeable bin, so I've now taken the bin out of that one and will keep it in a closet. The Roomba can't start up if the bin isn't in.

    245Karlstar
    jul 9, 11:29pm

    >244 YouKneeK: You know it was Ernest!

    246MrsLee
    jul 10, 12:25am

    >244 YouKneeK: I don't know, the state of my house, I think if a psychotic housekeeper broke in and started cleaning I would tiptoe out the back until they were done and gone to the next house.

    247Maddz
    jul 10, 1:01am

    >246 MrsLee: Pass them to me! I do my best, but housework is something I loathe and am quite happy to prioritise things like post on LT...

    248YouKneeK
    jul 10, 6:56am

    >245 Karlstar: Yeah, he’s guilty of most strange happenings around the house!

    >246 MrsLee:, >247 Maddz: LOL, I have to admit I wouldn’t have minded a psychotic housekeeper too much myself!

    I’ve actually given serious thought to hiring somebody to come in and clean once or twice a month, but haven’t yet gotten as far as getting quotes. It seems ridiculous to hire somebody to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing myself, but I never feel like I have enough free time as it is and I resent every minute spent cleaning. Plus there are some things I’m really bad at getting to. Dusting is probably the biggest for some reason. I also tend to forget things like the blinds and the baseboards. And the ceiling fans. The other day I remembered I had ceiling fans and cleaned off a nice layer of dust. It would be nice to just do the basics and let somebody else handle the stuff I most hate and/or forget. I'm just afraid I would end up doing all the cleaning myself in preparation for the housekeeper coming to clean because I hate having people at my house without having done a thorough cleaning first. :)

    249BookstoogeLT
    jul 10, 7:14am

    >248 YouKneeK: We have a ceiling fan too. I literally can't remember the last time it was dusted. We never use it (as we have central air and AC) so yeah, it has a thick layer of dust. One of the perks of being short though is that neither of us can see it :-D

    250YouKneeK
    jul 10, 7:23am

    >249 BookstoogeLT: LOL, the shortness factor works for me too!

    I do use one ceiling fan in the area where I play games on my Oculus Quest, because it feels good to have the air on me while I’m waving my arms around and ducking/dodging things only I can see. I never use the other fans though, since the AC takes care of the temperature and I don't really like them when I'm just sitting around.

    251Maddz
    jul 10, 10:28am

    OK, so is Mrs Danvers available to hire?

    252fuzzi
    jul 10, 2:27pm

    >246 MrsLee: bwahaha!

    >244 YouKneeK: does Ernest do bathrooms?

    253Narilka
    jul 10, 4:19pm

    >244 YouKneeK: What a sneaky, clever boy lol

    254YouKneeK
    jul 10, 10:38pm

    >251 Maddz: I had to Google that one, I've never actually read/seen it!

    >252 fuzzi: Ernest prefers to supervise bathrooms from on high (on top of the bathroom door) and watch his human rather than dirty his own paws.

    >253 Narilka: Haha, that describes him well!

    255Maddz
    jul 11, 12:02am

    >251 Maddz: I re-read the book fairly recently; I think I last read it in my teens.
    Been a while since I saw the Hitchcock film.

    256clamairy
    jul 11, 9:19pm

    That is hilarious. You're lucky your Roomba has WiFi so you could yell to stop it. Mine is one of the earliest models with no WiFi. It is still going strong, though. My cat has no interest in it, other than to avoid it when it's running.

    257YouKneeK
    jul 13, 11:58am

    >256 clamairy: The WiFi is convenient at times! Although probably less than it could be if I had a cat who shared your cat's lack of interest. :) Both Roombas now need manual intervention before I can run them, to undo the cat-proofing measures I've implemented.

    258YouKneeK
    jul 15, 4:53pm

    Audiobook Review: The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold



    This was another one of my series-sampling audio listens, to see if I might want to pursue it in print someday. In this case, I also listened to Shards of Honor, the first book published, which I reviewed earlier this month.

    If anybody is in the same situation I was in, preferring to read The Warrior’s Apprentice first either because it’s on the Goodreads SFFBC group shelf or because they ended up with a copy of it, or for whatever reason, I don’t see why somebody couldn’t start with this book and understand it perfectly fine. The writing isn’t complex, and each book tells a separate story. Some of the characters’ back stories do affect parts of this book’s plot, but the author provides enough details to understand what’s going on. If one doesn’t have a compelling reason to read out of order, then I would of course recommend starting at the beginning, but there’s nothing to prevent a reader from evaluating this book fairly on its own merits. As I had planned to do, they might then choose to go back and read the series in its proper order someday if they like this one well enough.

    Audio Narration
    The narrator is Grover Gardner, the same person who narrated the previous book. I don’t have much new to say about him that I didn’t already say in my last review. He still sounds like he’s straight out of some 60’s television show, but he doesn’t have any annoying reading quirks. I don’t think his voice was particularly well suited for the main POV character from either this book or the previous book, but one gets used to it pretty quickly and I didn’t have any real complaints about listening to him. Maybe his voice fits better for the later books.

    Story
    This story is set about 20 years after Shards of Honor. Some of the characters from Shards are in it, but it centers on a different POV character: Miles, (spoiler for Shards of Honor) the son of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan.

    I had mixed feelings. Miles is a fun, likeable character. He grew on me more than did the main character from the first book. As with the first book, there was some humor that made me chuckle. It’s also a little less full of romance. There’s a heavy dose of romantic angst, and it does get annoying at times, but it is more of a side story here whereas in the previous book it was so dominant that it felt like the main story. I thought this provided some improvement. I also liked that Elena’s reaction to Miles’ cringe-worthy declaration of love (maybe more cringe-worthy in the audio) was in line with her platonic treatment of him up to that point. I would have been highly irritated if she had accepted Miles’ marriage proposal. Of course, the marriage she jumped into with Baz instead wasn’t any more logical, but that’s their problem and fortunately I didn’t have to read/listen to much about it, except when Miles was whining about it.

    While the plot was often fun, this is one of those books where problems are solved through a lot of coincidences and luck and nick-of-time discoveries and solutions. This reduced the suspense for me. I was also frustrated with Miles who caused most of his own problems (and problems for other people) with poor choices. I know he was young and inexperienced, but I’m pretty sure I was better at analyzing risks vs rewards even when I was a toddler, although admittedly under different circumstances! Despite my frustrations with him, I did enjoy his personality and sense of ethics in general and I can see where he could become a great character if he matures.

    A minor nitpick: there were a few occurrences of people (I think usually Miles?) whistling soundlessly. Soundlessly, not tunelessly. A whistle is by definition a sound, so that’s quite a feat. I think I get what the author was trying to convey: the character probably had lips pursed in an expression used to generate a whistle, but without actually blowing air to generate a whistle. Still, that is not a whistle, and my brain went on a little rant every time I heard the expression.

    So in summary, I enjoyed it pretty well, but with some complaints. I think the series has potential, depending on which aspects of it the author emphasized in later books, and I can understand why it has so many fans. For me, it’s a “maybe” for whether I’ll pursue it in print someday. It’s just an awfully long series, and there are other series I’ve sampled that have suited my tastes better, so it will be a lower priority.

    259YouKneeK
    jul 15, 4:55pm

    I’ve just realized this thread is getting a bit long, so I’ll get the next thread set up in a few minutes. I’ll note my next audiobook over there.
    Den här diskussionen fortsatte här: YouKneeK’s 2021 SF&F Overdose Part 4