Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

2014 Revisited

Friday, January 2nd, 2015

2014 has gone by and before I start for the coming year I look back.

Like last year I am a bit behind on my reviewing activity. I lacked a bit of inspiration and time, being occupied with other things. The latter has been rather prominent in the last quarter of 2014, which saw a bit of a drop in my read and reviewing activity. Overall however it has been a good year regarding to my reading despite the fact that I feel like I am struggling to find new books and series to read. I am waiting more and more for favourite authors to publish new work. One reason for this feeling is some hard times hitting on some of my local bookstores here in the Netherlands. I used to visit those at least every 2 weeks or so but mergers, closures and reorganizations have left the book collections shrunken in size and what they have is mainly the popular or mainstream stuff, leaving me with very new interesting books to discover. I am left with the internet and checking out other review sites which is not entirely the same as holding the actual book in your hand.

To some extent it is thus quite amazing that I have read 13 more books than in 2013; that is 63, which is also one more than in 2012. Even more stunning is the total page count: 31.450. This means the average page count is 499 per book (I don’t count sections with notes, glossaries and extra’s, but as a sort of compensation I just take the pagenumber of the last page of the story). Funnily enough this is much less than last year’s average of 529 but it still means I prefer hitting the bigger tomes although I do not aim for them. As I like reading fantasy and science fiction this average probably won’t change that much. Because of that reason the number of different authors I have reviewed this year is relatively low. Many series and a couple of others of whom I have read several works.

As always the book count only covers those I review. As always I’ve read a bunch of non-fiction works as well. Those usually take more time to read but they are great if I can’t find anything to my liking.

Fortunately I am not lacking on my book pile. I still have much to read. Some books have been on my Currently Reading list for most of the year. Sadly this is because I am simply not in the mood to read them much. They are such specific works (in the matter of style) that simply prefer reading something else most of the time. I have more of such books and I need to watch out starting with more because it make me feel a bit disheartened. It’s not a good way to treat a book. It does not (always) mean they are bad, just particular to my (current) taste. Some stuff I would have read much more quickly 15 years ago.

I hope to add some reviews this weekend (obviously not one today anymore) and keep the flow going. Happy readings!

 

Non-fiction something

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Occasionally I have made comments on me not reviewing any non-fiction that I read. I have never mentioned before what kind of non-fiction that I am reading. I did not really consider it noteworthy as these were often quite specific works and of limited interest to anyone reading my blog. As I have now reached my 300th post, after 3.5 years of blogging, I think I can indulge myself a little.

So what have I been reading recently? The first is The Chronicles Of Pug (2013) by Raymond E. Feist. When I was in my teens I read every book they had, including a bunch of his Midkemia novels. When I got older I lost interest in the series as it did not live up to the quality I like in fantasy. I can manage a couple of books, but that many tired me out.

Feist has last year completed his saga and this work is, as Wikipedia mentions, a coffee table book. It contains a rough summary of all the events set up in a series of notes. Most interesting, to me, were the many maps and beautiful artwork, all in color. I did read the summary, as I was not planning to get back to the series any time soon, and unfortunately it made me cringe because of the poor quality. It was fragmentary in nature and it was a pretty crudely presented. It was somewhat boring.

Something totally different was Vanished Kingdoms (2011) by Norman Davies. It is a selection of histories of rather interesting nations of Europe which few know something about and if there are references then they are often quite different from their origin. Davies takes a rather broad approach, comparing current views of those old nations and the behavior towards them, and their actual history. He writes in a very engaging way like many good historians do and told some fine tales. A few were of lower quality compared to the others but it certainly was a worthwhile read.

As I have been telling a bit about my reading activities I can tell a bit about my current ones. I have managed to get back to one novel from my old reading list, The Chessmen Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Although his stories a interesting his plots are in general variations on the same theme, a girl in distress who needs to be saved. It has been long enough that I can enjoy the story again instead of the plot. I just have to take care not to start on the next one immediately after I finish it. I am currently also reading two other novels: The Age Atomic (2013) by Adam Christopher. It is a science fiction novel set within an alternate history. The other is Gambler’s Fortune (2000) by Juliet E. McKenna, the third book of five from the fantasy series The Tales Of Einarinn. A review of book 2 will be added soon, so I will not indulge too much about it.

So there is no lack of material for this blog of mine as long as there are books and I keep reading.

2013 Revisited

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Another year is gone. Time to look back.

It has been a relatively quiet year for this blog. The number of reviews went down 12, to 50, compared to last year. It is still a fair number and I need to add that I am 3 reviews behind currently. As this is typical each year, it is not really necessary to include them. The total number of pages is 26,447, which is an average of 529 pages per book. This is a stunning 100 pages more than in 2012, which total number of pages was only a little more than last year, so technically you could say I’ve read the same amount, just less books.

Compared to previous years 2013 has went by quite fast. I’ve been busy with other things than reading and this has hampered my reading activity, partially, and the lag in writing my reviews on time. On the other side I’ve been reading some more non-fiction than usual and these I don’t mention or review. There are also 4 books in my Currently Reading list at the moment, and they have been there for quite a while. I simply haven’t been in the mood to get back to them. Other books had more of my interest.

There is not much lack of books. I have a sufficient read pile and books I need to finish up, some time. I hope to catch up on my reviews soon, so there will be a good start of this new year. Happy readings!

Finding something to read

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Having a decent read pile doesn’t help much if you’re not in the mood to read any of it. It’s not that they are not good or hard to get into. I know I can read almost anything if I want to and am in the right mood. Unfortunately I’ve been stuck so I have to wait until I come across something new that I do want to read immediately. Lately I’ve become a bit more picky as I’ve had some books that disappointed me to some or extent do did not manage to appeal me into reading more. I know I will get back to that read pile eventually and catch up again.

A few weeks ago I managed to get a book from my Wanted Books list and today I got another. This one’s Red Country (2012) by Joe Abercrombie, a fantasy author who I’ve gotten to appreciate over the past few years so that I don’t really need to think before buying a new novel. Well, one doesn’t get books on my Wanted Books list for no reason. The second book I picked up is an oldie by E.R. Eddison, als a fantasy, called A Fish Dinner In Memison (1941). Just the title is already peculiar. Eddison’s most famous work is The Worm Ouroboros, one that I greatly enjoyed, so I hope this one will do too. As it is a book from the very early days of fantasy one is at least guaranteed a fresh take on the genre.

David Weber – Honor Among Enemies

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Honor Among Enemies (1996) is the sixth installment in the Honor Harrington series, a military science fiction by David Weber. The hard job when writing a subgenre novel within a genre is avoiding repetition. Finding a way to vary the story is done by giving the main character sufficient ups and downs that she, in this case, is moved in different ways and gets confronted with situations that otherwise would not have been encountered.

David Weber had sidetracked his main character in the previous novel, now on the way back he sidetracks her a bit more, exploring another part of the universe the story takes place in. The mission is different, the resources more limited than ever and the environment is rather hostile. That is how it seems. However, familiar characters rush to the main characters’ support so that the limitation in resources can be compensated. And the hostile environment? Not as much as it appears. Before long it’s business as usual and true danger doesn’t fall through. Weber adds in some minor storylines to spice things up, but they are quite predictable. In my head I had some interesting scenario’s but I didn’t see anything coming close except for one sequence that turned out to be just a game of power play that didn’t go all out. It is something I’m starting to expect from Weber by now. He doesn’t want to hurt his characters too much. It’s okay not to do so. It is just that he opens a broad window of opportunities that I don’t see that often in other stories and my expectations start rising high in anticipation. And then he hardly makes any use of it. It’s a choice and it could take the story development in far dramatic directions. These choices are why this series doesn’t manage to really rise above the mainstream. Not all of his novels have this, I need to add. It is this particular novel in which he takes his story to a new and different environment where it is made possible.

One other thing that I’ve started to notice after reading six novels within a fairly short space of time is that most of the different character rather talk much of the same. I know these books have been written rather quickly within a short span of years. It is just that as a writer one of the fun things in writing should be varying the way characters talk and behave to give them more body and character. I’m beginning to miss this, especially as the main character is joined with friends from the past which makes the interaction too easygoing and the stiff military speech is slackened a lot which drains the variation even more. One of Weber’s key phrases that stands out is “At any rate”, which is used by virtually any character. Weber also introduces another nickname which comes out of nowhere and simply does not work for me. I won’t make a real verdict on it.

Besides these complaints of mine the story is entertaining enough and a fun read, flipping the pages easily. It is of a lower quality than the previous two novels so Weber rather returns to his minimum quality level and this novel certainly doesn’t add much to it. In the changed setting of the novel he rather sticks in familiar territory. The people encountered are not that much different than what the main character is familiar with. The culture is pretty much the same and all the rest is rather interchangeable. The series seems to be slowly amassing missed opportunities. Perhaps it is that the previous two novels were so much better that I’m complaining more than before. I know I am usually rather critical even when I enjoyed a novel and finished it within a short amount of time. I can only assume it has been a slow build-up which has reached its peak. For the series itself the novel is not the weakest and they are all not that far off from each other in actual quality. I am also not done with the series. There are more novels and I will pick them up eventually. I just bumped into my comment after reading the first novel that one shouldn’t read too many of them and keep some intervals between them to wear them off.

 

 

2012 Revisited

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

The year has passed already and it ended a bit low on my reading activity. The last two months there was little activity so that my good run didn’t come close to my score of the previous year. I managed to read 62 books (as usual not counting non-fiction) and a total of 26,789 pages, giving an average of 430 pages per book. It’s 15 books less than last year, although I have to add that I didn’t get to review a few books I read during the holidays. Still, I consider 62 books not bad. Most people read less and I don’t have an e-reader, which gives me a higher threshold to trying and reading new books. Although I love reading, I don’t want it to take up too much of my free time as I have other interests and want to have some bit of a social life as well. We will see what this year brings.

Fictitious histories

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

I like reading histories and a number of them I present in my blog because they were written before the time of the exact scientific historic research as we know it for the past few centuries. Before that time historians had much more limited resources. Often they used older histories which they then combined or updated and they didn’t have many ways to check what was true or not. To avoid this problem many histories thus wrote about their own times and as far as in the past as they had reliable sources or persons who could give them fairly accurate accounts.

As those historians wrote from their own perspective this meant that the histories were not very objective, at least not to the extent as we know today, although this can very per country. Nevertheless because they also wrote about their own times they write in a style that reflects their time and age. So besides reading the history one also can discover the nature of the society of the time. What does the historian consider important and in some cases he even expresses his opinion in an indirect way. One could consider this to be fiction, just as an author who writes contemporary fiction tries to tell a story based on true events. It is not just listing the facts, but also adding more dynamic and anecdotes which make it all come alive.

In some cases the histories can become fictitious, where the historian adds dialogues between important persons or speeches. Even so most historians tried to be true to the facts which allows us a good insight into those times. However there are some cases where a history was more fictitious than true. An example of this is the Augustan History (ca. 370). Supposedly it is a collection of lives of Roman emperors during the period 117-284, written by some five different historians. Extensive research lead to the conclusion that it was written by a single unknown author who didn’t want his own name attached to it. That contemporary historians also noted inconsistencies and that half of the work was made up is perhaps a reason for the author to do so. As it is the only complete history of that period it was only through matching the incomplete sources that the non-fictitious content could be extracted. Even so, this does not mean that the rest is all fake, just that some parts which seemed reliable could not be cross-checked. As I am reading this book (albeit only the more trustworthy first half of it under the name Lives Of The Later Caesars) at the moment I will discuss the details more extensively in the forthcoming review.

A large contrast to that work is a new one that I received today. This is The Chronicon (1018) by Thietmar of Merseburg, retitled as Ottonian Germany in this translation. This history covers the period 908 to 1018 of the early Holy Roman Empire. As the author lived in the latter part of the period he wrote about this is an example of a fairly accurate contemporary history. As Thietmar of Merseburg was a member of a noble family and a bishop he was also an insider of the politics of those times. Especially of the later history he himself who play a role, which means that it is not just a history, but also a partial autobiography, giving the book also a personal element.

So how do I find these peculiar histories? This particular one I found after reading the Crown Of Stars fantasy series by Kate Elliot, which takes place in an alternative Europe set in tenth century Germany. From the novels I noted the author must have researched the period well as it was described quite convincing. Next I started searching the web for interesting histories about this period that went into more detail. This I already have general histories, so I wanted something that went deeply into those times. Next it just finding the right key words when searching the web or online bookstores. I am happy with this addition to my collection, although I don’t plan to read it very soon.

2011 Page count

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

On the forum of BookBlogs, the community of blogs that write about anything related to books, of which I’m a member (see my sidebar), a question was posted on how many pages everyone had read for their blog post for the year (2011). As I like such data and I read a lot I went through the list of reviews I did in 2011, counting 77 books, checked the books for their page count (not counting glossaries and extra’s at the end) and came to a total number of 34,700 pages, which gives an average page count per book of 450 pages. That last number is no surprise as I read a lot of fantasy and SF and preferably those with many pages. As it’s a fun thing to have I’ve decided to add a book page count to my sidebar.