a list of books I read this year

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a list of books I read this year

Post Post #0 (ISO) » Tue Aug 01, 2023 7:09 am

Post by Dannflor »

I am attempting to read more this year as a general New Year's resolution. For some reason, getting a Bachelor's and a Master's in reading books made me read a lot less than I did before starting that journey. I've been somewhat successful this year in upping my reading time. I've certainly read more than I did last year. Yay me! Somehow I forgot how much fun it is to just lose yourself in a book.

This thread should be a hopefully fun thing where I just talk about the books I've read this year in maybe a review sort of format. I'm hoping it encourages me to keep this thing going and just acts as a fun outlet because I don't know many people who will let me talk their ears off about the books I read. What else am I gonna do, join a book club?
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Post Post #1 (ISO) » Tue Aug 01, 2023 8:03 am

Post by Dannflor »

The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller


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This book got super popular on BookTok when it first came out and since then I've heard a variety of opinions on the book ranging from "best book ever" to "terrible gay fanfiction clearly written by a straight woman."

I am an absolute sucker for Greek mythology retellings. The descriptor of the book feeling like "Illiad fanfiction" is probably pretty accurate, but I don't consider this a detractor of the book in any way. Probably, if I were a more hardcore mythologist, then I would not get the same enjoyment out of the book. But I think this modern retelling hits the sweet spot for a reader like me that has a more passing interest in the stories.

I really enjoy Miller's prose. It reads so simply but its so pretty (this aspect is probably part of the reason why this book went viral). This was a good book to help me get back into the practice of slowing down and enjoying the words instead of speedreading or skimming, because I found even the more banal descriptions and passages really pleasant to read. I also think Miller's writing is a good example of how prose and vocabulary doesn't necessarily need to be more complex to be pretty. It's pretty not because its overtly flowery, but because she takes the time to describe even the simplest things in new ways. Sometimes, admittedly, this fails and reads as trying too hard to sound poetic. For the most part, though, I find it makes for a very enjoyable read and suits the Greek retelling convention well. Not the prettiest example, but I landed on this passage when flipping through the book just now, "her words were like new leather, still stiff and precise, not yet run together with use."

I think my major gripe with the book is that Patroclus, the viewpoint character, is never really sketched all that vividly. Despite his viewpoint, this book is unerring in its focus as an Achilles character study. And, while I think that focus is probably intentional, that causes some issues when it comes to developing the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles. Achilles, meanwhile, is an wonderfully complex character and I enjoy his arc very much. But I do feel like I have to suspend my belief a little bit to invest myself in the romance between he and Patroclus, which isn't really something I wanted to do for an element that is such a large focus in the book. I think just a little bit more attention given to Patroclus would've gone a long way towards giving their relationship and the ending of the book the poignancy I wish it had.

There are other criticisms of
The Song of Achilles
that I don't quite feel qualified to touch on as a straight man. I haven't read enough queer fiction to comment on whether the relationship and sex scenes are too much "a straight woman's idea of a relationship between gay men." I will say though that I appreciated that the ending, though tragic, ultimately landed on an uplifting note. I think that element is both fitting to the world of gods and heroes established, and takes at least some of the sting away from the "bury your gays" trope.

Anyway, I still found it a very enjoyable read. And while I don't think it touched me emotionally as much as I was hoping given the hype, it was still quite touching even when I wasn't fully invested in the viewpoint character - which I think is a fine feat. All the characterization around Patroclus is just really good. I do think my experience was soured slightly by reading Miller's other book
Circe
first, which I think is just a much stronger outing. And I couldn't help but compare the two throughout the novel.

am I do ratings? maybe

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Last edited by Dannflor on Tue Aug 08, 2023 12:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post Post #2 (ISO) » Tue Aug 01, 2023 11:53 am

Post by Ythan »

I saw that at the bookstore today but didn't know what it was (ego)
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Post Post #3 (ISO) » Tue Aug 01, 2023 1:25 pm

Post by skitter30 »

oooh i like this thread! i've seen that book before and have been contemplating putting it on my tbr list
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Post Post #4 (ISO) » Tue Aug 01, 2023 2:26 pm

Post by Thestatusquo »

I know your join a bookclub comment was a joke of sorts but I actually did recently do something resembling a book club with some friends where we all read a book then meet at a bar for drinks and talk about it. We did Babel by RF Kuang and it was absolutely a blast.

I don't think it needs to be so formal as an actual book club in order to work and also maybe the lack of formality made it feel less like a commitment and more like just a fun night out with friends for me.

(also, highly recommend babel)
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Post Post #5 (ISO) » Wed Aug 02, 2023 4:53 am

Post by Dannflor »

Under the Dome

by Stephen King


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This is the kind of book I pick up when I want something easy and breezy to read - don't mind the 1000 page count. Thrillers are like my comfort go-to when I don't feel like reading anything but I want to make myself read something. I think it's because they are usually such page turners that I know once I start it I won't be able to put it down.

Fun premise! A dome suddenly comes down over a town, utterly sealing it from the outside world. What happens to the town now that it is completely isolated from the outside world? Can anything get through the border? What happens to the air quality inside the dome? It's a fun plot and one of the strongest parts of the book is the advent of this dome and the immediate aftermath. The number of different perspectives and reactions shown feels very true to life (especially having experienced 2020). After that, the book loses some steam, but maintains a fairly good pace given its length.

I think the most impressive thing about this book is how King handles such a large cast of characters. I really feel like I got to know the entire town during the course of reading
Under the Dome
, which is both impressive but also necessary, as the point of the book really is about how this town as a character in of itself reacts to this apocalypse situation. The villain, Big Jim, is great. He reminds me of a lot of real life villains and the way he uses the disaster to take control hits almost a little too close to home.

Despite that praise, this isn't really the kind of book that's going to get a super high score from me. I probably would never reread it. I tend to value character over plot and while yes there are *a lot of characters* that are generally distinct from one another, none of the main characters really have arcs so to speak - which means the end of the book didn't really leave me feeling or pondering anything. I don't think every story needs protagonists who grow or learn something about themselves - but in that case the other characters to be changing around the protagonists such as in
Back to the Future
. But Barbie is no Marty McFly.

The ending is like fine. I don't take issue with
the whole alien thing
like I've seen others on the internet do. It seems fitting with the plot and thematically relevant. I just wasn't left particularly satisfied or affected by the end of the book. None of the characters stayed with me really, except for maybe Big Jim. And, while he's an excellent villain, I was also left unsatisfied by his ending!

Anyway, the book is fine! It works really well as a page-turner thriller and that's all I wanted it to be. It's well written and explores some interesting themes like mob mentality and how people take power in the midst of social panic. But it's not really anything special. I also think it could've been a hundred or so pages shorter. I also felt as the book dragged on the suffering on display got to be a bit gratuitous. This isn't really a book for the faint of heart and I found it to verge a little on torture-porn by the end of its massive page count. end review.

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Post Post #6 (ISO) » Wed Aug 02, 2023 4:55 am

Post by Dannflor »

In post 4, Thestatusquo wrote: I know your join a bookclub comment was a joke of sorts but I actually did recently do something resembling a book club with some friends where we all read a book then meet at a bar for drinks and talk about it. We did Babel by RF Kuang and it was absolutely a blast.

I don't think it needs to be so formal as an actual book club in order to work and also maybe the lack of formality made it feel less like a commitment and more like just a fun night out with friends for me.

(also, highly recommend babel)
that sounds so fun! I think the main thing holding me back from making my friends do something like that with me is the worry that I would be making my friends do it with me. But that's probably just a me issue. That sounds really fun and lowkey.

I'll add Babel to my list!
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Post Post #7 (ISO) » Wed Aug 02, 2023 5:06 am

Post by Thestatusquo »

Yeah I mean the key is knowing which friends to ask lol.

I just sent people I knew liked books this message

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Post Post #8 (ISO) » Wed Aug 02, 2023 5:11 am

Post by Ythan »

Oh they filmed the show of that here lol.
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Post Post #9 (ISO) » Thu Aug 03, 2023 9:26 am

Post by Dannflor »

love the dabbing unicorn
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Post Post #10 (ISO) » Thu Aug 03, 2023 10:01 am

Post by Dannflor »

Howl's Moving Castle

by Diana Wynne Jones


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I somehow never read this book nor watched the Hayao Miyazaki movie until this year. I still haven't watched the movie! Spoiler alert: the book is great!

If I have one complaint about this book it's that the plot crashes into the climax a little suddenly. The reveal of the villain, the action climax, and the resolution of several different plot lines all seem to pile up on each other at the very end of the book in a way that made me wish it was just a little longer to let it all breathe. But it still works, and the story has a very satisfying denouement that leaves me excited to get into the sequels at some point.

It's just the quintessential children's book. Its got lots of familiar tropes but none of it feels tired or uncreative. I adore Sophie. Sophie, Howl, Michael, and Calcifer are all lovely characters that each get a lot of satisfying development. The setting is fantastical (reminds me of the Wizard of Oz but less horrible) and the Moving Castle itself is a great character.

I don't know that I have much original to say about this book. It's tightly written, really fun, and has a lot of heart.

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Post Post #11 (ISO) » Thu Aug 03, 2023 10:14 am

Post by Ythan »

I read it because the movie was so good, enjoyed the book too. On that note I actually saw a copy of Kiki's Delivery Service in a bookstore yesterday which I didn't know got a translation.
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Post Post #12 (ISO) » Fri Aug 04, 2023 4:43 pm

Post by Political Clout »

In post 0, Dannflor wrote: I am attempting to read more this year as a general New Year's resolution. For some reason, getting a Bachelor's and a Master's in reading books made me read a lot less than I did before starting that journey. I've been somewhat successful this year in upping my reading time. I've certainly read more than I did last year. Yay me! Somehow I forgot how much fun it is to just lose yourself in a book.

This thread should be a hopefully fun thing where I just talk about the books I've read this year in maybe a review sort of format. I'm hoping it encourages me to keep this thing going and just acts as a fun outlet because I don't know many people who will let me talk their ears off about the books I read. What else am I gonna do, join a book club?
You should consider reading Chinese fantasy specifically one novel called I shall seal the heavens. It's easy to access on an app called Wuxia in the app store. There is also a website with the same name. It is not for everyone and the fantasy setting is what I would call high fantasy.
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Post Post #13 (ISO) » Mon Aug 07, 2023 6:30 am

Post by Dannflor »

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Post Post #14 (ISO) » Mon Aug 07, 2023 7:23 am

Post by Thestatusquo »

Reminds me of this Jon Bois masterpiece
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Post Post #15 (ISO) » Tue Aug 08, 2023 12:39 pm

Post by Dannflor »

Gideon the Ninth

by Tamsyn Muir


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Gideon the Ninth
seems to be infected by that Whedon-esque Marvel-style humor that I blame
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
for infiltrating popular culture and hasn't really been done well in anything since
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
.

And I don't actually hate it in
Gideon the Ninth
! It's very close to becoming grating for me. I almost put the book down in the first chapter because I really didn't want to read another fantasy book that wouldn't take itself seriously and would undercut any moment of genuine emotion with a meta-joke. And, I think it does straddle the line - probably a bit too close for some people. However, the novel did enough to convince me of its sincerity that it kept my interest. It helps that the book is genuinely funny. And it doesn't forsake its dark, gruesome, genuinely horrible and genuinely touching moments for the sake of that humor.

I think of this book as a crowd pleaser. It's a murder mystery set in a haunted mansion with lesbian necromancers. It's cool! The only problem is that it takes like just a little bit too long to get to the meat of the plot promised. It's not until like 100 pages in that you actually get to the haunted mansion with the murder mystery, but once you get there, it's one of the best rides ever. And, to be fair, the start of the book does a lot of good work establishing the world and particularly the relationship between Gideon and Harrow, which is really the best part of the story.

The plot is tight, twisty, and engaging once it gets going. It couples that with a surprisingly large cast of fun characters. I feel some murder mysteries with an ensemble cast can struggle to get the ensemble feeling right, but
Gideon the Ninth
does a fantastic job at rendering the whole ensemble at the right distance. The action is gritty and fun and full of skeletons. It's a who-dunnit in a dark and grimy world that's balanced out by a humorous and lovable main character.

The relationship drama was a highlight for me, but I call this book a crowd-pleaser because of its rollercoaster of a plot and the fact that it feels like it has a little something for everyone. Aside from the humor potentially veering on grating at times and the somewhat slow start - this is a really solid sci-fi / dark fantasy book.

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Post Post #16 (ISO) » Thu Aug 10, 2023 1:10 pm

Post by hellbooks »

Ego !
why does your ferret thing have a waterfall?
your guess is as good as mine
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Post Post #17 (ISO) » Tue Aug 22, 2023 7:31 am

Post by Dannflor »

Harrow the Ninth

by Tamsyn Muir


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Harrow
isn't as much of a crowd pleaser as
Gideon
. In fact, it's not a crowd pleaser at all. In fact, if you told me you were going to follow up a fast-paced plot-twisty murder-mystery with a huge ensemble of well loved characters with a slow-paced confusing character study that brought back all the least fun characters from the previous book, I'd call you crazy! Well, I wouldn't, because that would be rude, but I'd think it!

It is fortunate that
Harrow
pivots into my tastes so well. While I tend to favor it over
Gideon
, I think a lot of people who read and enjoyed the first novel won't like the second. It's a very different kind of book. If you loved the character of Harrow from the first novel and enjoy slower paced character studies, this might be for you. But, as a warning, you also have to put up with being kinda confused for a while.

This is the kind of novel that opens up a lot of questions, and while it has some answers, it's much more interested in answering questions about Harrow's psyche than it is answering questions about the plot. The characters are generally less likable as an ensemble, but that's because by-and-large each character is built around Harrow and acts as a foil for her. I really love books like these. The book is slow paced, methodical, and full of interesting world building that builds on what was only scratched at in the first novel. But depending on what you come into the novel looking for, it's not a satisfying novel. I think it's really good, but if you speed through it looking for answers and immediate payoffs, it's not gonna be worth your time.

Still, this is the type of novel I love. I think I would sooner reread this one than
Gideon the Ninth
.

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Post Post #18 (ISO) » Mon Dec 04, 2023 8:09 am

Post by Dannflor »

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

by Elle Cosimano


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This was a light, breezy read that I picked up because my partner was reading it and I had been in a bit of a reading drought for a few months. I find that when I've fallen out of my reading habit or otherwise been struggling to make time for reading, that picking up an easy-to-read page-turner is usually my best bet at getting back into the habit of reading.
Finlay Donovan
was perfectly serviceable for that purpose, even if I'm probably not the primary demographic.

Essentially, the premise of the book is that Finlay, a single mom who is also a struggling author stumbles into a job offer as a hitwoman after someone after someone mishears a conversation Finlay has with her literary agent in a cafe. Does that make sense? It's a razor-thin plot justification to get the actual plot going, which basically follows with Finlay unintentionally getting herself involved in the dealings of a crime syndicate, while trying to juggle home-life and her kids, her relationship with her ex, etc.

It's a fun novel! And I'm not going to judge the thinness of the plot overmuch when the book isn't really trying to be an intricately plotted thriller. What it is trying to be is a fun novel about relationships and ridiculous situations, so I judged it more on the merits of those qualities.

The book reminded me a lot of the show
Dead to Me
, which if you haven't seen it is a fantastic black comedy starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini (swoon). It's a show about two women who form an unlikely friendship and bond over having to navigate their way through being unintentionally attached to a murder and getting involved in a crime syndicate... Sound familiar?

Finlay Donovan
has a similar relationship between its titular character and Vero, who is the young babysitter who helps Finlay manage her home life and acts as a foil to Finlay's neuroses. It's a really fun dynamic! In my mind, its kind of the cornerstone of the book - I just wish there was more of a focus on it. Instead, there's an awful lot of focus on a love triangle between Finlay, a young bartender, and a police officer (yuck) who all get involved in the plot at one point or another. Which is fine! I love a good love triangle as much as the next guy - but it didn't really have the drama to stay interesting for very long. The main issue though, was that it was completely overshadowed by Finlay and Vero's buddy-cop relationship, which really should have been the primary focus of the book.
Dead to Me
was at its best when it was focused on Judy/Jen, and I think this book both falls into a similar genre and similar conventions. The book is really a comic and heartfelt blast when its firing on all cylinders, primarily when Vero and Finlay are concocting a scheme together. It's at its weakest when Finlay is spending time with an overbearing and unprofessional police officer.

Overall, completely fine book! But I think its weakened a lot by not focusing on the strongest relationship in the book!

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