Book Recommendations?

Pacman wrote:
MannishBoy wrote:

I've avoided those so long because I disliked/was bored by the earlier book of hers I read. You guys will eventually talk me into reading these I guess.

I had tried one of her earlier books, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I think, and found it only alright. I did not feel compelled to go on in that series at all. But The Fifth Season, and the rest of the Broken Earth series, I would say are probably the best Fantasy series I have read in quite a while, and I would recommend them to pretty much anyone. So I wouldn't worry about not loving previous books of hers, these are very different.

As others have said, they are not light or cheery, but they are also not homework. They are very compelling and engaging, and (at least in my experience) pull you in very quickly.

This was my experience as well.

Does anyone have any seasonally spooky favorites they bring out to read for the Halloween season?

My book club usually tries for something monster-related around this time of year, and I'm looking for something different to throw into the hat. (Last year we read _Feed_; consensus was that it was a little too politics-focused for an escapist book in October 2016.)

It's a genre-fiction book club, so science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance are all fair game. (Related non-fiction would probably pass muster as well.)

Edit: as a group we really haven't delved into serious horror novels, so I'm not sure how something deeply horrific would go over. But that may just be my prejudice speaking -- it's not my genre of choice by any means. Let's just say that I'm not going to be the one suggesting "Let The Right One In", no matter how good a fit it might be for a creepy tone.

Katy wrote:

Does anyone have any seasonally spooky favorites they bring out to read for the Halloween season?

My book club usually tries for something monster-related around this time of year, and I'm looking for something different to throw into the hat. (Last year we read _Feed_; consensus was that it was a little too politics-focused for an escapist book in October 2016.)

It's a genre-fiction book club, so science fiction, fantasy, and paranormal romance are all fair game. (Related non-fiction would probably pass muster as well.)

Edit: as a group we really haven't delved into serious horror novels, so I'm not sure how something deeply horrific would go over. But that may just be my prejudice speaking -- it's not my genre of choice by any means. Let's just say that I'm not going to be the one suggesting "Let The Right One In", no matter how good a fit it might be for a creepy tone.

If comics will work then I recommend Wytches.

WYTCHES: A COMIC ABOUT MONSTERS, WHERE THE REAL FEAR IS BEING A PARENT

Katy, I'm not too into horror, but I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort, lo these many years ago. Simmons is a talented writer, and while I don't want to say too much about the book because it shouldn't be spoiled, I will say that he will probably surprise you multiple times.

I think it's been almost twenty years since I read it, and it still stands tall in my memory. I read so little horror that I can't really compare-and-contrast with anything, but just taken as a book, it holds up with almost anything I've read in any genre.

edit: I'm not sure it would be too suitable for use as a yearly reader; it's just too long and too intense for that. But it's an exceptional book.

@Katy - A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny is my go-to October book. It's a whimsical monster mashup told from the perspective of one of the character's dogs, and was one of the last books by a true master.

Tanglebones wrote:

@Katy - A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny is my go-to October book. It's a whimsical monster mashup told from the perspective of one of the character's dogs, and was one of the last books by a true master.

I don't remember much about this book other than it was a great read. Going to have to dig it out of my bookshelves now.

Malor wrote:

Katy, I'm not too into horror, but I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Simmons' Carrion Comfort, lo these many years ago. Simmons is a talented writer, and while I don't want to say too much about the book because it shouldn't be spoiled, I will say that he will probably surprise you multiple times.

I'd put his The Terror on my short list of ideas; we haven't read any Simmons as a group yet, and that one also looked good. I'll still add that one to my personal list, though -- Simmons has a lot of great stuff, and I haven't read that one.

edit: I'm not sure it would be too suitable for use as a yearly reader; it's just too long and too intense for that. But it's an exceptional book.

I'm not really looking for a yearly reader, per se, just something to read this year.

Here's my working list, with Goodreads links:

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Fevre Dream, George R. R. Martin
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
The Terror, Dan Simmons
A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny

I've read none of these personally, so looks like a big addition to the TBR pile in any case.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury comes to mind. I'd probably also pull out the Lovecraft and perhaps an anthology of Ghost/Supernatural stories.

Katy wrote:

Here's my working list, with Goodreads links:

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

This is my goto for this time of year. So good!

Graveyard Book is fun, atmospheric and quick. I totally recommend it for a group.

But I will say this - "Let The Right One In" is a great book and fairly lightweight in the gore/terror stakes. It's more creepy than anything else. And it's a great character-driven story as well.

What about "The Ocean at the End of the Lane"? Another Gaiman, very good story.

Annalee Newitz, over at Ars Technica, weighs in:

If you read one sci-fi series this year, it should be The Broken Earth

The haunting trilogy by N.K. Jemisin won Hugo Awards two years running and changed sci-fi.

Oddly, this might be an article that's best read via headline only, as it's a tiny bit spoilery. These books are good enough that going into them knowing as little as possible would probably serve you well.

I didn't recommend it as strongly as Annalee, partly because of the curse of high expectations; if you're expecting it to be absolutely marvelous, you may be somewhat disappointed. My goal was to nudge you just enough to start it, to give you the best possible chance of just being able to read it for what it is, rather than what you imagined it might be.

Gotta say, I bought the double book of the graphic novel of The Graveyard Book. It was fine, but I can tell Gaiman is coasting on his own success.

Something Wicked This Way Comes, just for the writing alone, is delicious.

Just went through the Paper Magician series, three short books by Charlie Holmberg.

These are set in an alternate-England, very early 1900s, with working magic, and numerous anachronisms, like plastic. Magic is strongly regulated, with mages able to permanently bond themselves to a specific man-made material, and can then enchant that material to do various things. The protagonist, Ceony, upon graduating from a magical college, is required to bond to paper because of a shortage of paper magicians. She doesn't like the idea, but has little choice.

Unfortunately, the books become just sort of a standard love story, where she's trying to capture the heart of the dashing gentleman. It's interspersed, of course, with lots of magic, but at heart it's trying to be a semi-Victorian romance novel, and it didn't do a very good job of selling the period or the language. It feels very much like a modern American writer trying to write kinda-period English, set in London. Naomi Novik's Her Majesty's Dragon series, for instance, sold the language and the thought processes of the era to me much better. A very similar story, but also superior in most respects, would be Sorceror to the Crown, by Zen Cho. (I don't think that book has done all that well, which is a shame, as it's very well-crafted. Same basic plot, overall, but I enjoyed it a lot more.)

The Paper Magician series certainly isn't bad. It'd be fine airport reading. It's just... they're so formulaic that it's hard to get very excited about them, and the many anachronisms were distracting. I didn't feel like it was wasted time, but I wish she'd been more ambitious.

Katy wrote:

Here's my working list, with Goodreads links:

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
Fevre Dream, George R. R. Martin
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
The Terror, Dan Simmons
A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny

I've read none of these personally, so looks like a big addition to the TBR pile in any case.

Loving hearing all of your suggestions, because my book club struggled with this. We ended up going with Zone One by Colson Whitehead because it's most like our usual style and the group liked Underground Railroad. We'll see how it goes!

Others I tried, but couldn't get a consensus on:

The Troop, by Nick Cutter
Slade House, by David Mitchell
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Synthetic plastics were first mass-produced in 1907, under the trade name "Bakelite" (which I'm sure you've encountered) so I'm not sure that's an anachronism for this book. Other organic plastics were put on the market in the 1860's, and in mass production in multiple varieties by the 1890s.

Finished up Reaper's Gale (Malazan book 7) Friday afternoon. Consistently great. I'm still mourning some of the characters that got killed off, but that happens for a few days after every book.

Spoiler:

Trull!

I picked up The Fifth Season (Broken Earth book 1) for a change of pace, and since it was only $5 on Audible I didn't even have to burn my monthly credit!

Malor wrote:

Just went through the Paper Magician series, three short books by Charlie Holmberg.

These are set in an alternate-England, very early 1900s, with working magic, and numerous anachronisms, like plastic. Magic is strongly regulated, with mages able to permanently bond themselves to a specific man-made material, and can then enchant that material to do various things. The protagonist, Ceony, upon graduating from a magical college, is required to bond to paper because of a shortage of paper magicians. She doesn't like the idea, but has little choice.

Unfortunately, the books become just sort of a standard love story, where she's trying to capture the heart of the dashing gentleman. It's interspersed, of course, with lots of magic, but at heart it's trying to be a semi-Victorian romance novel, and it didn't do a very good job of selling the period or the language. It feels very much like a modern American writer trying to write kinda-period English, set in London. Naomi Novik's Her Majesty's Dragon series, for instance, sold the language and the thought processes of the era to me much better. A very similar story, but also superior in most respects, would be Sorceror to the Crown, by Zen Cho. (I don't think that book has done all that well, which is a shame, as it's very well-crafted. Same basic plot, overall, but I enjoyed it a lot more.)

The Paper Magician series certainly isn't bad. It'd be fine airport reading. It's just... they're so formulaic that it's hard to get very excited about them, and the many anachronisms were distracting. I didn't feel like it was wasted time, but I wish she'd been more ambitious.

Picked up 2 of these on the Kindle for free, but still haven't gone through them yet. Definitely on my soonish list.

bighoppa wrote:

Finished up Reaper's Gale (Malazan book 7) Friday afternoon. Consistently great. I'm still mourning some of the characters that got killed off, but that happens for a few days after every book.

Spoiler:

Trull!

I picked up The Fifth Season (Broken Earth book 1) for a change of pace, and since it was only $5 on Audible I didn't even have to burn my monthly credit!

The narrator is excellent.

One of my favorite October reads is The Gates by John Connolly. It's the first of a trilogy in which a young man sees his bored suburban neighbors accidentally open a portal to Hell. It's charming, genuinely funny (in the vein of Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams), and might be the only book to have alternating chapters taking place in a quiet English village and at the Large Hadron Collider.

DiscoDriveby wrote:

Others I tried, but couldn't get a consensus on:

The Troop, by Nick Cutter
Slade House, by David Mitchell
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Everything I've heard about the Troop says it's not a good fit for me. (I generally don't enjoy anything with more than light horror elements). I liked Slade House, but I'll read anything by David Mitchell. And I've heard a lot of good buzz about Girl With All The Gifts, but I just bounced off it when I tried to read it.

Of the Paper Magician trilogy, I liked the first book the best (I'm kind of a sucker for stories about people coming in to their magic, so it was right up my alley), but I'd definitely agree that the pacing between the different parts of the story were a little strange. The worldbuilding was good; the long meandering heart quest was less so, IMO.

The worldbuilding was good; the long meandering heart quest was less so, IMO.

I wasn't so much worried about the meandering, exactly, although that's completely true. It was more that her overall goal was so small and formulaic.

The world is quite interesting, and there's a fourth book on the way (next year sometime, IIRC), with every possibility that it could transition to less derivative plotlines.

I'm into the second Arabella Ashby book now (what is with all the female protagonists of late, anyway? They're getting a bit overdone... half and half is fine, even 60:40, but it seems much more lopsided in the last couple years? Maybe it's just the ones I'm hearing about.) Anyway, these are the 1830-ish books with atmosphere between the planets, and the ability to sail between them with airships. This is yet another tale about a young society woman wanting to catch a proper husband, but at least in this case, it's not a heart quest; her beau is being held captive by Napoleon's armies around Venus, and she's charging off to rescue him. Instead of Jane Eyre, it's more Mario storming Bowser's castle, at least so far.

I'm enjoying it a lot more, though whether that's because the book is actually better, I don't know. It may just be my particular prejudices at work. But, yanno, clockwork, steampunk, air between the planets, what's not to like? It's not exactly meant to be serious, where Paper Magician is trying to be at least a little realistic.

I finished my first Diana Wynne Jones book, Fire and Hemlock. It was excellent. It handily ticked the "fantasy-with-early-'80s-punk" box. Really, it so believed handled the mundane aspects of the story that I forgot I was reading fantasy, and could hardly bear to finish the book to find out (rather than look it up early) how the things that were happening could have been happening. Then when all was revealed, it more than made sense, it felt natural, and sinister and inexorable.

Now I'm back to Harry Potter and the Fifth Book, with its goofy superficial magic and absolutely no mentions of jungle or Britpop. As soon as I finish this series, I'll be reading the Chrestomanci books for sure.

Malor wrote:

I'm into the second Arabella Ashby book now (what is with all the female protagonists of late, anyway? They're getting a bit overdone... half and half is fine, even 60:40, but it seems much more lopsided in the last couple years? Maybe it's just the ones I'm hearing about.)

Well, maybe if we go through about 50 years of all-female protagonists, we'll have the right to think it's being over-done. Otherwise, it's expanding the universe of stories in a way that only seems strange because we went so long with mostly male protagonists.

Just finished the Ashby book. Enjoyed the hell out of it. It's a completely silly universe (air between the planets, but gravity still works, so why doesn't all the air collect around the planets??) , with sailing airships, hot-air balloons, and magical clockwork automata that, at least in one case, can exhibit actual intelligence. It has faux-Victorian sensibilities, but features a hyper-clueful protagonist who sounds more like a liberal from 2017 than an aristocrat from the 1800s.

Despite how ludicrous everything is, though, it works anyway. It was a ton of fun to read. I was smiling when I put the book down. It's just popcorn fluff, but it's excellently done.

edit to add: And, for that matter, why the heck would the planets keep orbiting around the sun? Simple friction from all the air drag would have sent them spiraling to their fiery deaths long, long ago.

Like I said, it's a totally dumb cosmology. But it's a fun story.

Robear wrote:

Well, maybe if we go through about 50 years of all-female protagonists, we'll have the right to think it's being over-done. Otherwise, it's expanding the universe of stories in a way that only seems strange because we went so long with mostly male protagonists. :-)

By that argument, since we spent so long without tons of zombie stories, horror novels should be predominantly zombie stories for, I dunno, another thirty or forty years, to 'balance things out'.

I'd rather see speculative fiction focused on good storytelling, not on banging the same drum over and over. I love lasagna, but wouldn't want it for every meal.

Malor wrote:

Just finished the Ashby book. Enjoyed the hell out of it. It's a completely silly universe (air between the planets, but gravity still works, so why doesn't all the air collect around the planets??) , with sailing airships, hot-air balloons, and magical clockwork automata that, at least in one case, can exhibit actual intelligence. It has faux-Victorian sensibilities, but features a hyper-clueful protagonist who sounds more like a liberal from 2017 than an aristocrat from the 1800s.

Despite how ludicrous everything is, though, it works anyway. It was a ton of fun to read. I was smiling when I put the book down. It's just popcorn fluff, but it's excellently done.

edit to add: And, for that matter, why the heck would the planets keep orbiting around the sun? Simple friction from all the air drag would have sent them spiraling to their fiery deaths long, long ago.

Like I said, it's a totally dumb cosmology. But it's a fun story.

Dude. Magical clockwork automata. And you're questioning basic physics?

And you're questioning basic physics?

Um. Yes?

Malor wrote:
And you're questioning basic physics?

Um. Yes?

A clockwork wizard did it.

Happy?

If a clockwork wizard could do that, why was he bothering with clockwork?