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Reading check ins 2020 > Week 31 Check In

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message 1: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 883 comments Mod
Hi everyone, sorry I forgot to post yesterday!

Hope everyone is doing well, hanging in there.

Book club: I have given up on getting my physical copies of the book soon enough, so I got the audio book from the library to at least refresh my memory. I'd really prefer the physical so I can more easily skim and re-read sections to pull questions, but I don't want to make everyone who's finished wait that long. I appreciate your patience! I'll try to at least get the first section of questions up soon.

This week I finished:

To Be Taught, If Fortunate - I liked this, I appreciate her writing a lot. Pretty open ended, but I think it worked well.

Randomize - Part of the Forward series on prime reads, short stories by prominent sci fi writers. This was alright, not terribly memorable.

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights - popsugar book with twenty in the title. this was just ok. I was having trouble finding something that looked at all appealing for this prompt. This SOUNDED interesting, but ended up feeling very dry and academic for a book about genies.

Exit West - this was interesting in idea, not sure it really worked for me. Read it for Read Harder book by or about a refugee. It was sort of borderline magical realism, but i think it didn't fit enough into a genre for me. They used some real-world place names, but never mentioned the name of the country the two main characters came from, it left it feeling like a big hole in the story, something that kept being talked around.

Currently Reading:

How to Be an Antiracist - slowly working through this one, i admit i'm struggling. I think I might have done better with audio, where I could just listen instead of trying to read it. I have trouble with nonfiction that doesn't have a strong narrative, like a memoir. I did Stamped From The Beginning on audio and got through it easier, even though the subject was difficult. Had to turn the wifi off my kindle because i ran out of time on it, even though it's not that long of a book.

The Fifth Season - audio re-read since that's what was available right now with no wait. My audio player keeps being weird though, jumping around and not remembering my place correctly. i'll try to get it finished and questions up soon.


Borrowing from popusgar again: Are there any characters you love to hate? Or perhaps characters that you love reading about, but would probably not like at all in real life?

I don't think I do love-to-hate much, I feel like I have to have a certain degree of respect for a character to care about them at all. But I do like well-written morally ambiguous characters, or characters who are just messes. Some examples would be basically any of Gillian Flynn's protagonists, she writes some gloriously messy women. Also I loved reading about Jude in Holly Black's fairy books. I'd probably really dislike her in person, but I liked reading about her ruthless machinations.

message 2: by Jen (new)

Jen (piratenami) | 227 comments This week, I finished:

Kingdom of Needle and Bone - I liked it well enough, but I think it could have done with a few more pages to really breathe. As it was, I kind of guessed one of the big reveals at the end about halfway through. This was my Popsugar medical thriller. It was really eerie with the parallels to the current pandemic situation, though.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking - Loved this fun, dark little YA fantasy. Apparently, Ursula Vernon started writing this in 2007, but its themes feel really relevant to today. This was my Popsugar book you picked because the title caught your attention.

Comics: Given, Vol. 1 - nice, but a little slow-paced. Interested to see how the anime version is.

Currently, I'm still working on Twenties Girl, my Popsugar book with twenty in the title. It's all right so far, but at about 60% in now, I'm really hoping the main character has a big transformation/eye-opening experience coming the second half of the book, because so far, I really don't like her much.

QOTW: The first name that comes to mind for "love to hate" is Umbridge from Harry Potter.

I can't think of any other specific names. I like a good anti-hero/morally questionable hero, and I really don't think I'd like many of them in real life.

I also really appreciate when authors take time to flesh out the antagonist(s) of a story and make them, if not sympathetic, understandable.

message 3: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 171 comments I knocked out another quick one from the bucket o' college books: La double inconstance. This is a comedy in the not-a-tragedy sense. There is satire of the 18th century French court, and some humorous bits, but overall I as a modern reader didn't find it terribly amusing. We can't all be Molière, I guess. This edition went a little wild with the footnotes, explaining many outdated phrasings that I found perfectly understandable as a non-native speaker.

I saw The Angel of the Crows on John Scalzi's blog a while ago, and it said the magic words "Sherlock Holmes" and "crows", so I immediately put my request in for one of the library's preordered copies.
The author acknowledges that this was originally Sherlock wingfic that was recast for publication in a Victorian steampunk fantasy setting. That's a tough setting for mystery, given the potential for involvement of types of creatures, technology, or magic that have not yet been revealed to the reader. The author largely avoids this by taking the stories directly from the original canon and pasting a thin fantasy veneer over them. There were some mashups with characters from one story appearing in another, but the plots were largely unchanged. It's kind of weird to read it sort of knowing what happens but wondering if it'll be different this time. There's a big reveal partway through the book that's sufficiently shocking but ends up making no difference to events past or future, so it might as well not have happened. I didn't really appreciate the Jack the Ripper arc, as I feel kind of uncomfortable with fictionalizing the already sensationalized deaths of actual people. Also, no actual crows appear in the book.
All that said, as a person who regularly rereads the original stories, I did enjoy revisiting them in a slightly altered state. I appreciated the author's reuse of names from the canon for some minor characters as an apparent wink to aficionados. The writing was generally good and occasionally excellent. I have certainly read worse pastiches, and I would read a sequel if one were published.

Today I read Space at the Speed of Light: The History of 14 Billion Years for People Short on Time, which I actually purchased! with money! and now own! I bought this one because I have been following Dr. Becky's YouTube channel for a little while, and I wanted to support her. This was indeed a quick read, and Dr. Becky's voice was apparent throughout, so if you like her videos - or just want to brush up on space - check it out. I'll probably release my copy back into the world.

QOTW: I do not love to hate characters. I agree about needing to have some degree of respect for the protagonist, but my degree might be a bit higher; I found everyone in Gone Girl despicable.
As far as characters I wouldn't like in real life, I mean, I probably wouldn't actually enjoy hanging out with Sherlock Holmes, egotistical misogynist. Also I sometimes enjoy bubbly extroverts in print (or online) who would be way too much for me in person.

message 4: by Shel (new)

Shel (shel99) | 279 comments Mod
Not much to say this week for me - after giving up on Space Opera I've been keeping busy with other activities and haven't had much reading time. I finally just started The Fifth Season last night and am excited about it- everything she writes is just so good!

Still working on The Titan's Curse with the kiddo.

QOTW: I don't know that I have a good answer for this one. Maybe I'm just too brain-dead to think :)

message 5: by CJ (new)

CJ This week I've been into digital organisation. Ebooks, some subscriptions.

I finished the audio of The Constant Rabbit which I really enjoyed and got on better with it than some of the other audiobooks I've listened to. Seems pretty hit and miss what I get on with.

I read The Man Who Never Was about Operation Mincemeat in WWII. I've seen the film of the same name and have a bit of a WWII interest and found it when tidying mum's TBR pile. It was a pretty straightforward book as it wasn't so much a story as slightly fleshed out, story-style, military report. It was really interesting though and included more details than I expected.

Currently reading: The Devil Wears Prada Not my usual sort of book, but again I've seen the film and found mum's copy. It's a supremely frustrating book but the story is compelling enough to keep reading, plus I have an idea of how it ends up from the film.

QOTW: I'm definitely currently loving to hate Miranda Priestly (although in my head she definitely looks like the film not the actual book description). But you're definitely not meant to like her.
My other standard answer is Holden Caulfield who I could not stand when I read Catcher in the Rye. I used to be in a group that voted on codslapping (literally slapping with a fish) annoying characters in various creative sources. He was my vote.

message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Pace (space1138) | 127 comments Working on a resume packet to submit later this week. First one to go out since the COVID stuff started back in March. Between that and my reading pile for my Fellows program, no new reading to report on here.

No one specific that I personally really love to hate, but I really do enjoy a well written villain or antagonist! For me that involves having solid and believable motives for being how they are, something with more depth than just being "the bad guy." I also agree with everyone who likes a certain amount of sympathy, that one can identify with where they are coming from to a certain extent, even when not at all agreeing with them.

For the other half of the question, I can think of very few of my favorite characters that I would actually like in real life. Some are overly noble or hero complexes that look great on paper but would be annoying in reality. Others are too driven by emotion, or surround themselves by a circle of constant drama that I find frustrating and draining to actually be around.

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