Read any good books lately?

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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby capnnerefir » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:00 am

Oh thank god more Stormlight fans. I can't wait for November to get here.

Also, that reminds me: Sanderson's new Mistborn novels (starting with Alloy of Law) are more early-modern fantasy. Less military-oriented (more like Victorian era detective novels) but with the same sort of tone. Probably not surprising given that McClellan was one of Sanderson's students. Bands of Mourning was some of Sanderson's best worldbuilding with regards to the magic system he created. As I was reading it, I couldn't help thinking "now you're just showing off". After carefully establishing all the magical laws of his world, he exploits every loophole and twists them around in ways that don't even seem possible, but make perfect sense within the firm rules he established.
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:12 pm

I keep meaning to read the later ones. The Final Empire is the only book so good that I put it away, promising myself I would wait a long time to re-read it so that I could re-experience it fresh. I'm reluctant to read the new ones until I decide to return to the first one!
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:33 pm

I'm thinking about reading The Three Musketeers (and then perhaps some of Alexandre Dumas other work) but I'm not sure which translation or edition. Has anyone read it and feel confident enough to recommend which one they did?
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:09 am

I've recently been reading the Shanghai Book Traders prose-novel translations of Love Stories and Tragedies from Chinese Classic Operas. The seven of them I've finished so far (in the order I've read them) are:

    The Romance of the Western Bower
    Zhao the Orphan
    Snow in Summer
    The Palace of Eternal Youth
    The Peony Pavilion
    The Peach Blossom Fan
    The Phoenix Seeks a Mate

And I'm currently on:

    The Peacock Flies Southeast

I'm saving The Legend of White Snake and Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai for last, because I'm familiar with both of those stories from other sources; it will be interesting to see what gets done with them in these translations, though.

I'm actually kind of humbled by how much of actual Chinese history I'm learning that I simply didn't know before, just from reading the stories of these Chinese operas, even in prose translation. My wife is remarking that I seem to know more about Chinese culture now than at any time before, which is a little embarrassing. :oops: I'm also becoming more familiar with historical figures like Sima Xiangru and Hou Fangyu who were the subjects of these particular operatic works and tragedies.

Intriguingly enough, it's also colouring the research paper I'm doing on mid-Qing New Text Confucianism (particularly The Peach Blossom Fan), by providing some context to the utter upheaval and wreckage that accompanied the Ming-Qing transition. Again, aspects that I had no clue of before.

I may end up being more active here on account of them! Looking forward to discussing them, actually.
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Kong Wen » Mon Oct 30, 2017 1:02 pm

I finished the entire Dark Tower series this weekend. Now I'm sad. I miss it already. I watched the embarrassment of a film yesterday and hoo boy it was bad. There's talk of a TV series unrelated to the film, and I can maybe still hold out hope that they manage to make that one somewhat good... This series is so long and involved that a film or even a trilogy of films can't do it justice. It needs a 5- or 6-season HBO series.
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:04 pm

Kong Wen wrote:I finished the entire Dark Tower series this weekend. Now I'm sad. I miss it already. I watched the embarrassment of a film yesterday and hoo boy it was bad. There's talk of a TV series unrelated to the film, and I can maybe still hold out hope that they manage to make that one somewhat good... This series is so long and involved that a film or even a trilogy of films can't do it justice. It needs a 5- or 6-season HBO series.


I feel you buddy. I finished it several months ago and I'm still feeling a void in my life. I filled it for a while by using phrases like 'There'll be rain if God wills it' but ka keeps turning and all things get forgotten eventually.

Have you read The Wind Through the Keyhole as well? It's a novella set between book 4 and 5 which you might enjoy if you haven't already?

I've not bothered with the movie, I wasn't optimistic when Idris Elba was announced as Roland. He's a great actor but the character's ethnicity is such an important part of his relationship with Susannah's personalities that just didn't seem like they were respecting the source material. When I started hearing the reviews i just decided it wasn't worth my time. I'm quite excited by the TV series though - I just hope they do it properly!
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:40 am

Lost wrote:Since I don't think I've posted here yet, I'll say that The Stormlight Archive books by Brandon Sanderson are my favorite ongoing fantasy series.


Oathbringer has been published and I finished reading it last night. My tardiness in finishing it is because I decided to re-read the previous two, but only starting reading Way of Kings the day the new one came out. What did I think?

Reading all three books next together was intense, which means part way through the new one I burnt out. I think that's partly because the middle bit is somewhat slow. The start and the arrival in Urithiru is great and the ending is everything you expect from Sanderson. I couldn't put the book down for the last two hours!

Personally I found the stuff in Shadesmar and Kholinar dragged a bit.


I loved the growth of the core characters: Shallan, Kaladin, Adolin and especially Dalinar is this books flashbacks focus on him. Their arcs I thought were strong. Szeth's chapters get stronger and stronger as time goes on - early on I groaned when I got to his chapters but by the end I was looking forward to them! However we have a lot of characters who get one or two POV chapters, often members of Bridge 4, and I didn't enjoy them as much.

I think partly that was because after Kaladin goes to Kholinar those characters started to be neglected other than the occasional POV chapter which was a shame as Bridge 4 is my favourite element in Book 1 & 2.


Also thinking I need to read the short story about Lift that is included in Arcanum Unbounded as she grows in to a more significant character as time goes on.
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Fri Mar 02, 2018 7:00 pm

I've just finished Inside Story by Philip Webster. Webster has worked for The Times as a political writer in various roles for over 30 years and this was a book about his experiences. Rather than being a traditional autobiography he write chapters on various stories he covered. Some were one off events, like John Smith's death, others were stories that spanned years, for example the Brown vs Blair struggle for Labour. Having read a lot of biography and diaries from the era (Major, Blair, Campbell, Mandleson among others) it was really interesting to see the story from the other side. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys following politics!
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Sun Fin » Wed Apr 25, 2018 9:21 am

capnnerefir wrote:If you like McClellan, you should try Django Wexler's Shadow Campaigns series. Very similar to Powder Mage in tone and environment. The same Napoleonic warfare with magical elements. I think Wexler generally has a better grip on the military aspect, with the magical elements being less prominent than in McClellan's work.


Based on capnnerefir's recommendation I've bought this series. I'm now on book 4, over half way through and so I decided to share my views on them so far.

Like Capn said Wexler's grasp of military, and I would add French revolution politics is stronger. Magic is also more subtle, this isn't a plus or minus in either direction in my opinion, both have constructed a magical system that works well in their respective worlds. My biggest criticism of McClellan is his tendency to go epic quickly. Where Wexler has spent 3 books slowly building up his characters and themes before we get a sense of an 'end of the world' vibe McClellan was there part way through book 1!

The first book ends with his character killing a god for crying out loud!


Most of Wexler's characters are great however I really can't stand one of his central character's love interest. I just don't understand what Winter sees in her.

That mild criticism aside I love the books and recommend them to any fantasy fan!
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Re: Read any good books lately?

Unread postby Aaron.K » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:26 am

Just started reading The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha: Monastic Warriors and Sōhei in Japanese History by Mikael S. Adolphson. Gives some very good information about warrior monks, and how their depiction in media and even in good history publications are far removed from their actual descriptions in primary source material (hint: warrior "monks" didn't really exist in Japan. The majority of individuals at temples that took up arms weren't ordained monks, they were lay workers and administrators). So far quite an intriguing read.

I've also read a recent academic paper by Stephen Turnbull titled The Ninja: An Invented Tradition?. Probably his best work by far, he's written it as a form of penance for his old book on ninjas that he wrote in the 70s, and he goes through quite a lot of information. Safe to say, most of what's written about ninja were invented in the Edo period, and what contemporary documents we do have suggest that they were exactly what I personally have long maintained. They were samurai who were good at certain tasks. He even goes into the myth about the men from Iga and Koka. Really convincing read. I still maintain my opinion about Turnbull's older stuff, but it seems as he himself is getting older, he's becoming more serious of an academic which is nice to see.

And then I'm also reading Swords, Oaths, and Prophetic Visions: Authoring Warrior Rule in Medieval Japan by Elizabeth Oyler. Thing that quite interests me is that Tomoe Gozen was probably fictional. She doesn't appear in any of the registers of temples that she supposedly joined later in life, she doesn't appear in contemporary documents, she's not in the Azuma Kagami, or even the records of the Wada family (this one is most telling). The version of the Heike Monogatari that she does appear in, was written 100 years after the earliest known version. Oyler examines a very compelling argument that pro-Minamoto/Hojo historians included her in that version of the HM to discredit Kiso Yoshinaka. Such as the Heiki commenting on his fitness to rule, as well as always depicting him in the company of women. Even in the story itself, Yoshinaka states that it would be dishonorable to die in the presence of a woman.

I'm very much convinced Tomoe Gozen is just a legend (albeit a cool one at that).

I've also picked up War and State Building in Medieval Japan edited by John A. Ferejohn and Frances McCall Rosenbuth, which is a collection of essays by a number of different historians such as; Karl Friday, Thomas Conlan, Tsuguharu Inaba, and Pierre Souyri just to name a few. Haven't started it yet, but I'm greatly looking forward to it, especially Souyri's essay Autonomy and War in the Sixteenth- Century Iga Region and the Birth of the Ninja Phenomenon.

Lots of amazing stuff about Japanese history has come out in English within this decade, kinda regret not paying attention to it earlier, but I'm glad I've got a lot of stuff on my plate. So far a lot is just confirming things I had already thought previously, but I've learned quite a lot of new things too.
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